Backyard Wildlife

I’ve had some interesting visitors to my yard so far this summer. I haven’t added any new birds or mammals, though I did see one new species of hover fly and one new lady beetle! The usual squirrels (many!) and chipmunks (up to three) visit me daily, looking to steal the peanuts out of my bird feeder. Two of the black squirrels are recognizable; one has only half its tail, while the other has a broken paw. The one with the broken paw has been visiting me over a year now, although she doesn’t come very often any more. I have also seen up to three rabbits in the neighbourhood, two large adults and one smaller one that I presume is a juvenile. I’ve seen the two adults in my backyard on a couple of occasions, usually early in the morning or at dusk when they come to feed on the weeds (this makes me wish they lived there full-time!). One morning while I was heading out to go birding I saw one of the rabbits sitting on my front lawn. Instead of eating weeds I was dismayed when he started nibbling on my Coral Bells.

Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Cottontail

I was surprised to look out the window early in the morning on June 13th to see this lovely Striped Skunk rooting around beneath the bird feeder. I am not sure whether she found anything to her liking, for she slipped under the fence shortly after that and has not been back since.

Striped Skunk

Striped Skunk

I rarely see skunks any more (live ones, at least) so not only was this a new mammal for my year list, it is the first one I’ve seen in a few years now.

Striped Skunk

Striped Skunk

The neighbourhood birds are regular visitors to my feeder. I see Mourning Doves occasionally, a single Song Sparrow almost daily, and the Northern Cardinals and American Goldfinches from time to time. House Sparrows, Common Grackles, and Chipping Sparrows are regular visitors that come throughout the day, sometimes bringing their young.

Juvenile Chipping Sparrow

Juvenile Chipping Sparrow

I got a new birdbath earlier this summer, and the birds actually do use it. The adult grackles discovered a new use for it, though – they take the peanuts from my feeder, then dunk them in the water before flying off with them! This happened frequently before their newly fledged young started showing up with them, so I presume the adults were taking the soggy peanuts back to the nest.

Common Grackle

Common Grackle

This juvenile grackle found a better use for the birdbath – it actually used the water to bathe!

Common Grackle (juvenile)

Common Grackle (juvenile)

Common Grackle (juvenile)

Common Grackle (juvenile)

The Eastern Chipmunks frequently stop by to get a drink.

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

The House Sparrows also drink from the birdbath occasionally, and a couple of times I’ve seen the goldfinches there as well.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

I haven’t seen too many interesting insects in the yard. Some of the usual moths are around, though it seems I haven’t seen as many this year as I have in previous years. I haven’t seen any odonates, and there seem to be very few butterflies around, too. The best bugs this summer were a 14-Spotted Lady Beetle and a couple of Oblique Stripetail hover flies in my backyard, presumably attracted to the aphids growing on some weeds. Both lady beetles and hover flies feed on aphids, so I am happy they are around to combat the problem! Click the photo for an enlarged view.

Oblique Stripetail (Allograpta obliqua)

Oblique Stripetail (Allograpta obliqua)

I am lucky to know someone in my club who is officially studying hover flies (also called flower flies), and he confirmed the identity of this one for me and told me its common name. Many hover fly species do not have common names yet, and he is one of the scientists working on developing names for them!

So far I’ve enjoyed all the wildlife around my tiny suburban townhouse yard. It’s great to hear all the birdsong in the morning and see the birds and mammals enjoying the food and water my yard has to offer.

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