1. Enjoyed reading this info. Thanks for your work!
    Can I erect some larger logs for potential woodpecker housing? I live in a suburban habitat and would like to attract them and be beneficial to them.
    Again thanks!

    • Hi, Phil
      You’re welcome and thanks for contacting me.
      Sure, you can erect larger logs for the woodpeckers to make cavities. I checked on woodpecker cavity-making behavior in The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior (pages 380-381). David Sibley writes:

        woodpeckers excavate their nests in living or dead wood
        the tree must be wide enough so the hole does cut into the sap layer and cause the sap to run and fill the hole
        Woodpeckers won’t keep using a nest once shrubbery or other objects grow and provide a snake or predator easy access to climb into the nesting cavity.

      I would do some research to find out if the woodpeckers in your area nest in live or dead wood, and what trees they often choose. You can also go to a area where woodpeckers nest and see what tree species, size of trunks, etc. You would have the best chance of having a woodpecker nest in your logs. Good luck.

  2. 36 hours ago, my wife and I didn’t know these wonderful creatures existed. We’ve seen a few since yesterday afternoon. Also, this is the 2nd year in a row that I didn’t clear my yard of leaves until late April. After reading your blog, I wonder if there is a connection.
    Bill & Wanda

    • Hi, Bill and Wanda
      I am glad I could help.
      I wouldn’t be surprised if the moth overwintered in the leaf litter in your yard. They spend the winter as a cocoon. Perhaps the moth was a larvae on a nearby honeysuckle, hawthorn, cherry, snowberry, or plum. These plants are the larval hostplants.

  3. Thanks Donna. I much appreciate what you’ve shared. It’s been decades now, and you know what, my enthusiasm only grows, whether it’s seeking to cop even more shots that before, or the constant hope that a rare or locally uncommon butterfly will appear, which for me is OMG!! Maybe our trails will cross one day.

  4. We had to take part of a tree down but have a stump left about 8-9 ft tall and approx. 32-36 inches across. We’d like to leave it for the birds…do we drill any holes in it or let the birds take care of making their own home? Thank you for your help

    • Hi, Mary
      Woodpeckers usually drill the holes in trees. After the woodpecker finishes using the nesting hole, then other birds are free to move in.

      If you want to create holes for the birds I would use the standard sizes for making birdhouses and their openings. I have a downloadable pdf on my website that includes a page with hole sizes for various birds. Find it here https://donnallong.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/building-nest-structures2.pdf. See page 23.

      When building a wooden nesting box or birdhouse, you create a box/cavity for the nest. If you want to create a hole in a tree you would have to create the cavity for the actual nest to rest in. You also need to place the hole a safe height from the ground. The height is probably in the pdf also. It is doable.

      Or you can let the woodpeckers to it for free. It would be great to watch them and see how long they take to excavate a hole and nest.


    • Thanks, Nathan. Isn’t ‘Saunders’ the name that Winnie-the-Pooh lived under in the ‘Hundred Acre Woods’? I would like to check both those ares out someday.

  5. Hello Donna,
    The Great Crested Flycatcher is a cavity nest borrower here in South Carolina.
    Enjoyed your article,

    • Hi, George – Thanks for contacting me. Thank you for the addition. I’ll add it to the list.

  6. Hello your site is wonderful! We have recreated a vernal pool in our backyard in order to raise some tadpoles. They are doing great but we have mosquito larvae. Can you tell me if using mosquito dunks are safe? The company says yes but we have these taddies and all sorts of cool invertebrates in the water and it would be awful to lose them. Thank you.

    • Hi, Amy. – I have never used mosquitoes dunks with tadpoles. I have used the dunks in rain barrels and they did work. As the tadpoles grow into frogs or toads I bet they gobble up any mosquito larva. I would take the company at their word and try the dunks with the live tadpoles. If the company has a guarantee on their site, I would copy it. Do they have a money-back guarantee? I hope it works.

      • Thank you for getting back to me. My daughter and I are really enjoying your site from Long Beach CA.

  7. Dear Donna,
    we just discovered your site this minute! Can’t wait to explore and thank you for your good work. We have recreated a vernal pool in our urban backyard. It is supporting tons of life, including tadpoles we transported from a drying out ditch. We are in warm So Cal and so now also have mosquito larvae. I called the mosquito dunk people and they say their dunks are safe for tadpoles but I am very hesitant given how delicate they are and all the tiny invertebrates in the water. Do you have any experience with this?
    Thank you

  8. Donna,
    I was so happy to see this article! I live in Ohio and work as a naturalist for our local park system. I knew chickadees were secondary cavity nesters, but didn’t realize that they would use a human made bird box until this spring. Last summer, my husband painted a bird house and put it out in our tree off the front porch. I thought it was too small to attract any birds, but this past month chickadees starting checking it out and in the last week have been flying in and out of it with nesting material! If we can get a picture, I will send it to you!
    Amy Roell

    • Hi, Amy – Thanks for contacting me. It is great to hear you are providing free room and board to a family of chickadees. They are one of my favorite birds. Many people find the cavity nesting article helpful. I’m glad you did, too. I look forward to the pictures.

  9. I enjoyed your article about cavity nesters. One of your statements caught my eye:
    “Some woodpecker species will choose living trees with solid hardwood to drill new nests.”
    I remember reading a couple of years ago that a woodpecker made its cavity in a ‘healthy’ tree and took 2 or 3 years to do so. I have been unable to find that reference again.
    Can you please provide me what woodpecker species make their cavity in a healthy tree?
    Inquiring minds want to know!
    Many thanks.
    Jim Wilson

    • Hi, Jim
      Thanks for contacting me. I’ll get back to you on the woodpecker species. I don’t recall which one off the top of me head.

    • Hi, Jim
      Here is an answer to your question. I focused on the key idea of taking 2 or 3 years to excavate a nest cavity. The only bird that I found that takes that long is the Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picodes borealis) that nest in living pines. It is a rare and local bird of the southeastern U.S. It lives in mature Longleaf Pine savannas. It spends on average two years excavating the cavity because of the living trees relatively hard wood. I found this information in – wait for it – The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, 1st edition, p. 381 by David Allen Sibley.
      I am also updating the “Cavity nesters” post with all the other info I found. Thanks for an absorbing mystery to solve. Peace, Donna

      • Donna
        Thank you! I have the Sibley’s book on my shelf but I never thought to look thru it for an answer.
        I am enjoying reading your articles now that I have discovered them.
        Jim Wilson

    • Hi, Marian
      You are more than welcome.
      Yeah, I took way too much, too. I always thought the other birders or hikers were wondering what was wrong with me.

    • Hi, Anne
      I am so glad. I worked hard to make this post useful. Thanks for letting me know.

  10. I throughly enjoy reading your articles in the morning before breakfast. It makes me look forward to going outside after breakfast to revel with nature. Thank you.

  11. Thank you Donna. I am writing a novel set in a Celtic world and had become confused over the calendar. I had thought that May Day was the first of spring. I live in New Zealand but have early memories of southern England where I was born. A May Day custom was to dress as a chicken and act the laying of an egg. I made a costume of like kind to entertain preschoolers and laid a rugby ball.

    I can now untangle the old names for the full moons for each month, put Beltane in the right place and get on with my writing.

    Rosamund Clancy

    • Hi, Rosamund – You’re very welcome. I ‘m glad I could help a fellow writer.
      as it just so happens. I’m updating and expanding my post on seasons and natural calendars. It should be live tomorrow.
      Yes, here in Philadelphia we have Groundhog Day on February 1st, the equivalent of the British cross-quarter day Candlemas or Imbolc or the beginning of spring.
      Here in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast region of the eastern U.S., our climate (moist temperate climate) is not that far off from Britain. It is similar enough that the old Celtic names work here, too.
      We get so confused because the natural rhythms of the Earth continue to ignore human-made calendars. That is why I stick with the old Celtic and natural events. Thanks for contacting me. Good luck with the rest of your book.

  12. […] But, winter is also the time of aching joints and bad colds. We live seasonally without even thinking about it. The winter is a perfect time to start closely studying nature. It is easier simply because there is less stuff around. Fewer birds, fewer trees with leaves, just less going on. So, check out these winter nature journal writing prompts. […]

    • Without trees around, I feel alone and exposed. The forest is my universe and the way I process what happens around me. So, this quote rings true for me. Thanks for sharing, Kevin.

  13. You know, after all these years in woods and on the water I never thought about salamanders after they hatched until this morning. Frogs and toads are all over the Northeast but salamanders are more rare and good at hiding . . . I have seen them in the spring while skiing in the woods on 2 feet of snow pack searching for a vernal pool for mating. Doesn’t much matter the weather, when nature calls in springtime things start moving.

    Thanks for the tutorial and pics, Donna of the Smokies !

    Keep up the good work. We desperately need folks to reconnect to nature, from whence we've come . . . And need to return.

    FredoftheNorth (Cape Cod and NH)

    • Thanks for your kind words, Fred of the North. There are salamanders here in Philly and the surrounding area. They aren’t that hard to find. My brother kept newts as pets when he was a boy. Newts are semiaquatic salamanders for those who don’t know.
      We need to heal our relationship with Mother Earth, I just try to do my part.

  14. I really enjoyed the simplicity of how to make my garden thrive. Though I’m not adept to Evolutionism I share the authors care for little birds.

    • Hi, Gabriel
      Thank you for your comment. I am glad you received good tips. I am not a evolution “believer”. I think there is more to existence than what science can ever know.

    • Hi, Joe
      You are so right. I haven’t seen too many Clearwing Hummingbird Moths since this post. But plenty of Hummingbirds.

    • Ugh. Thanks for letting me know. I am using a new website plugin feature and it is NOT working. I am working on correcting the problem.

  15. Thanks for “recycling” older blog posts, Donna! I would miss some of these past ones otherwise. As always, thanks for passing along what you have learned, so we all get to benefit from your studies. Great work, and well done images. Looks like you’ve been working with a macro lens.

    • Thanks for the words of encouragement. I reposted the Red Admiral post because I have been spotting so many of them in the last few weeks. When I reread the post I was reminded of my late cousin Vanessa. My family all miss her, deeply.
      The photos – no separate macro lens just my old but trusty 2006 Canon PowerShot SX1IS with macro and zoom features – I can’t be trusted to actually make the effort to change a lens. 🙂

  16. Your article brought back memories of finding toads when I was a kid growing up in Abington. Now living in Oregon, near Portland, I haven’t seen toads. Apparently they are only found in Coastal, Great Basin, and in eastern mountain regions of the state. I will have to settle for frogs in this area 🐸

    • Hi, Jane
      Thanks for the comment.
      How interesting about the toads and where they are found. The American Toad is an upland toad, occurring in the Piedmont Plateau region where I spotted this one. I think I like toads because of the children’s book, The Wind in the Willows. I loved Toad and Toad Hall.

  17. Dear Donna, this link no longer works, and a simple search request on the site did not turn up anything on “Donna Long.” You may have been sent to the ether winds! Or perhaps they have merely moved you to a more convenient place??

    • Thanks for letting me know. The PA Master Naturalist organization separated from PICE/Wildlife Leadership Academy several years ago. I guess the interview articles was “lost in the move”. But the Pa Master Naturalist website is using my photo from the article on the website That’s me with the flowers. 🙂 https://pamasternaturalist.org/volunteer-resources/

  18. Thanks, Donna, for yet another “that’s new to me!” moment. I knew flies were effective pollinators but not why. I do hope folks are reading your helpful posts, and thinking more about the amazing world around us.

    Being from a Toronto family, I was interested to see that Allison Parker, a grad student at the University of Toronto, had, with others, modeled the results, from the flower’s perspective, of flies versus bees as pollinators. Seems, at least in their study, that flies take much less pollen, and therefore make possible more visits by more pollinators than visits by bees. Good to see women, just as yourself, working with insects! Thanks so much!

    Here’s a link to a post on the UOT study.
    And a link to one of Alison’s papers on the ‘cost’ of pollination for a spring ephemeral wildflower.

    • Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. I love those, “that’s news to me” moments, too. Here the “news to me” moment you helped me with.
      I went to the seeds of science website and read the article. So, bees may be better pollinators in situations because they don’t take pollen but add pollen to the flower on their visits. Bees collect the pollen and take it back to their nests. The pollen removed can’t be used to fertile other flowers. That is really something to think about as I add plants to my backyard naturalist’s garden. Thanks!

  19. Well done, Donna! You take a not well-known, and not often written about aspect of the natural world, and write engagingly about it. With good links, and specific information. It would be wonderful if you wrote a bit about the consequences of so much human eradication of vernal pools, and for your Pennsylvania readers, links to pages about the vernal pool indicator species might be helpful. Thanks for writing an helpful us be more alert to the world around us. Great work!

    • Thank you for your encouragement and suggestions. Both are very much appreciated.

  20. Donna, that is a ambitious list! Wishing you the best for your discoveries at each. I hear and agree with your caution/concern about the affects of the shutdown. An unfortunate situation for all living creatures…

    • Hi, Jane
      I am glad you like he post. I don’t plan on visiting all the refuge’s in one year. I’ll try to see maybe one or two new ones a year. I have something to do for the next ten years! It’s just knowing all the options that’s useful. Let’s hope the shutdown ends soon.

      • Yes, I do hope the shutdown ends soon. Scary that you replied on the 12th, and here I am on the 23rd with my chat back… and the Country is still such a mess. Having your list of adventures is a positive, though. Always good to look forward. Best wishes, Donna.

      • Thank you, Jane. It is so cold here in Philly that I just stay bundled up inside. But, I am dreaming about going to some of the refugees in the spring. Hopeful in Philly, Donna

    • You are more than welcome. It’s so warm here in Philly, it doesn’t seems like Fall will never come. The leaves are due to change in 2 weeks!

  21. Just discovered your blog as I was trying to id the butterflies in my yard (in Maryland). Thank you for all the great information.

  22. For Midwestern homeowners, gardeners and landscapers I recommend two books by me, Charlotte Adelman and my co-author, Bernie Schwartz,. These books suggest native alternative plants to choose that resemble or look exactly like, and share cultivation requirements with the nonnatives so many people love. These books are: The Midwestern Native Garden – Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants, An Illustrated guide, and its companion volume, Midwestern Native Shrubs and Trees-Gardening Alternatives to Nonnative Species, an Illustrated Guide. A unique feature shared by both books is the Nature Notes following each native plant entry that provide information about the wildlife, such as bees, Lepidoptera (butterflies/moths) and birds that use the plant for food, shelter and reproduction. The books are published by Ohio University Press and are also available on Amazon.

    • Hi, Charlotte
      Thank you for the information. I haven’t read the books but they seem very useful. I’ll leave the comment up for any Midwestern gardeners who may read this.

  23. I am also enjoying your blog! I notice with butterflies that if I startle them when I approach they frequently come back to the same flowers if I don’t move for a minute or two.

    • Hi, Heidi – Yes, I have seen butterflies do the same “flee-n-return” behavior. The flower must have nectar too good to give up. 🦋

  24. Donna,
    Thanks for sharing the article. So much of the African American contributions go unheralded.

    • You’re right Stephen. We only have one planet. We are one people. We all are responsible for Earth’s care. Peace.

  25. hi donna, it’s nice to meet you and i love your work and your blog. thanks for reading and following mine and i look forward to reading more of yours. best, beth

  26. Hi Donna! Love your blog! I was wondering if it was alright to pin some of your images to Pinterest? My husband is a Dr. of Entomology in the US Army and I enjoy finding exciting and interesting articles on the insecta of the world, to share with others. Our American species are of course, of particular interest, so running across your blog was a wonderful treat. Thank you for considering this request. Most sincere,
    Tami Schuster, San Antonio, Texas, US ARMY, spouse. 😀

    • Hi, Tami
      Sorry for the late reply but, my email for this blog is wonky. Sure, feel free to pin some of my images to Pinterest. And thanks for asking.

  27. Beautiful collection, Donna. I recall seeing many of these at my mother’s home near Abington. (In the smaller end of your scale.) She had a wooded lot that had once been part of a Boy Scout camp.

  28. Hi Donna, I’m enrolled in The University of California Naturalist Program, in Davis, California, and through this program we will be using the Grinnell System of nature observation. Two years ago I wanted to enroll in this UC Naturalist program but couldn’t get in. But, my research on the Grinnell System brought me to your web site. So, your site was hidden away in my bookmarks for a couple of years. Now, I’m back, and in the program. I enjoy reading your entries and your insight into nature. Thank you so much for creating this blog. I’m reading your words everyday, now. I wish you well on your new adventure. It sounds exciting and a touch bit scary, but go for it. I had a big change in my life when I was forty, it was scary for about a year or so but I’m so happy, now, that it happened in my life. Good luck, Mike Stewart

    • Hi, Mike
      Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I’m glad my website was useful to you. How exciting! I bet the University of California’s program is top notch. The resources available to you must be awesome. I hope your naturalist program exceeds all your expectations. Congratulations!
      Life is full of changes and we change with it. I have started what I have always wanted to do. I am working on publishing booklets on natural history topics. I have been thinking about this for probably fifteen years. No, I am free to make it happen. I hope to have my first booklet ready by the end of the year. Good luck to you, Mike.

    • Hi, Jane
      Asking someone at Longwood Gardens is a good idea. I have never heard of irises that bloom in October. The flowers are so out of season that it bothers me.


  29. Hi, Donna.

    Thanks for your blog. Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been using your posts on nature journaling in the Writing as a Naturalist class I teach at Rutgers. They’ve been very helpful as encouraging examples and an excellent resource of information on strategies and systems.

    • Thank you, so much Donald. This really warms my heart. I am a Rutgers grad, 1989, Master of Library Science. Rutgers is an excellent school. I would love to take your class!

  30. I love your journal pages! I was just shown the Grinnel Journal Method and I’m going to try it. I want better journal pages, not just lists.

  31. I’m creating a training on Phenology for Philly K-3 teachers to help them lead studies of weather and life cycles. Do you have any more resources to share or brilliant ideas I can use?

    • Hi, Elizabeth. Thanks for reading In Season.

      Sorry, it took some time to get back to you. I was in South Carolina experiencing the Total Eclipse.

      Besides the Phenology is Deep Ecology page, you might want to read Collecting Phenology Data and the Project Budburst website. Have fun.

  32. There is a great nature study book: Nature In Miniature, by Richard Headstrom. It is available as a paperback with a different title.

  33. Dear Ms. Long,

    I have had a Bausch & Lomb 10x Hastings Triplet Magnifier for many years. It is extremely sharp, with a very flat field. I don’t know if this lens is still in production, but I also have a 10x Nikon magnifier that is also very good. I think that Zeiss makes a magnifier like this, that may cost close to $100.00

    I keep mine on a cord, never set it down, and don’t let anyone borrow it. I have an inexpensive folding magnifier (also on a cord) that I let other people use.

    Edmund Scientific is a good supplier of magnifiers, located in Southern NJ

    This business of lending precision instruments is a headache. I’m a mechanical engineer, and when I was about to buy a Starrett vernier caliper, which, if my memory is correct, cost about $200.00, back in 1981. An old machinist warned me that everyone will want to borrow it, and do you really want to be in a position of saying no to your co-workers? It wasn’t nice.

    The caliper was in my desk drawer, where I found the case badly damaged one morning. My boss, who was a wonderful person, worked late and had a bad drinking problem. He never owned up to the damage, and I never said a word. The caliper itself was not damaged.

    Good Luck,

    Steve Lepp

  34. Delightful article and excellent photography! Thank you for the links, heading to the migration tracker now!

      • Your photography has always been so good! As a matter of fact, I found your blog on an image search! The interesting photo is what made me click on the link. Wish I could remember which one it was – going to look back on my saved photos 😀! Hope your August is full of beautiful late summer light and shooting stars!

  35. I wish you all the best Donna. I’ve always found both you and your posts to be so inspiring.

  36. Congratulations on your new direction. Look forward to reading your future notes on your garden.

  37. Yes follow your soul, follow your bliss! Life is too short to be working in a place that does not bring you joy. I am looking forward to learn more about Cottage Gardening.

    • Thank you Sara. I am following my bliss. And I am so much happier. Tomorrow’s post will be on the cottage garden and our natural way of life. With more posts to follow. I geek out on this stuff.

  38. I have been looking for owls around to no avail. One day, I swear, it will happen. It has become my new mission in life.

  39. Very interesting! Love your velvet ant, good artistic choice! Want to study all the noisy insects this summer, and learn to differentiate their songs! Happy Spring!

  40. Thanks for your article. It was very helpful and enabled me to identify a butterfly that I saw today – 20.Feb.2017. It was a mourning cloak that had obviously overwinteredas an adult. It was flying in a woods edge on a sunnt 55 degree day in Chester Springs, PA (near Phoenixville).

    • Hi, Rich
      Thanks for contacting me and letting me know. And thanks for reading In Season.
      I can’t believe you saw a Mourning Cloak this early! Then again the snowdrops that have naturalized in my garden have been in full bloom for two weeks now.
      Happy Spring,

  41. I have lived in Allentown, Pa for 47 yrs. all of a sudden there are a pair of red tails perching in my tree. The male is a beautiful color and the female is a plainer brown. I do have bird feeders. Are they after my birds or my Shih Tzu dog which seems to interest them? What do you devise? I want my song birds and I don’t want my dog hurt. Will they attack?

    • Hi, Sandra
      Thanks for contacting me. The red-tails are hunting at your feeders. The feeders are like “A Old Country” buffet for them.
      Red-tails eat birds, reptiles and small mammals like mice, chipmunks, etc. And cute little dogs qualify as small mammals. Your dog MAYBE too big or maybe not for the Red-tails to tackle, but you never know. Better to keep the dog well away from the hawks.
      In the meanwhile you get to take plenty of amazing photos.

  42. Hello, I live in the East Passyunk Crossing neighborhood of South Philadelphia, and spotted what looked like a Cooper’s Hawk on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. (12/24/2016)

    • Hi, Chris – You probably did see a Cooper’s. They are in this area during winter. I have had a Sharpie feeding in my NW Philly backyard feeder. Thanks for sharing.

  43. Hi Donna,
    This is just to say that I always follow your post. I love the way you write and I miss when I don’t hear of a new post. Thank you for doing such an amazing job! Happy Hollidays,

    • Hi, Christina
      Thank you for the kind words.
      I have been spent the last year or so building my business, but I am ready to start blogging again.
      Happy Holidays to you Christina.

  44. My yard is a flutter with the 20 zebra swallowtails I’ve hatched in my home and.set free. This being the third litter, how do I know what will be the last generation before winter and how should I overwinter the chrysalis?

    • This is a very interesting question. I researched for an answer a found this one in, The Butterflies of North America James A. Scott.

      “Sometimes eggs, larvae, or pupae go into diapause in the laboratory and refuse to develop further. This can be prevented in many cases by shining a light on them constantly. Individuals in diapause can be overwintered using large clay planting pots purchased from garden centers ( the unglazed kind semipermeable to water); plug the hole in the bottom, place the individuals in small open containers in the pot (cheesecloths prevents their escape from the containers), bury the pots three-fourths of the way into the ground, and cover it with with a lid (the saucer for a larger pot). Avoid a sunny hot place where they will cook or dry out, and in drought water the lid occasionally. This pot will provide natural temperatures and moderate humidity. When the food plant is available in late winter or early spring, bring them indoors and they should develop normally.” pages 510-511, The Butterflies of North America: A Natural History and Field Guide by James A. Scott, Stanford University Press, 1986.

      So, making sure the butterflies do not have light shining on them constantly so they can naturally enter diapause. When the butterflies go into diapause (a kind of hibernation) then place them in the clay pots and following the instructions should keep them until next spring. The butterflies can tell the season just like we can. Good luck They will naturally know the time of year.

  45. Hey Donna I need to send you a picture of the ones we have in the garden. They are a deep black purple and so beautiful. Unfortunately it’s exam time but I will try to remember when I get home. This is a beautiful time of year. take care

  46. Just beautiful, and timely for Memorial Day and Summer flag days ahead! Thank you for your lovely pictures and interesting seasonal postings.

  47. Incredible ! We will be using your site to help the children who use the Sharon Hill library to start and maintain their pollinator garden.

  48. These are magnificent phtoos! I just love the little creatures it looks like one trick to getting them to pose is to put out dinner! Thanks so much for posting them they truly are lovely.

  49. Love the photographs, especially the rose hips. Thanks for the card and please know everything is well. Hope we can get together soon. Have a wonderful Christmas.

  50. Donna, thank you for your thorough explanation on how male cardinals have at times such beautiful red feathers. I found your article fascinating. So interesting to learn about the organic chemical compounds – melanin, porphyrins and carotenoidsI love birds and often observed them in my garden.

    • Thank you Marlene.

      Everytime I research how or why something happens I am awed by the wonder of the life all over again. The fascination with this world never, ever gets old.

      (Forgive me for not including the proper accent with your name – I don’t have access to it in the reply section.)

  51. Hi Donna,
    I follow you for quite a while now and I’m sorry I never told you how much I love your blogs. Simple, well written! You’re a truly nature’so ambassador! Thanks for sharing.

  52. Wonderful gallery of seasonal birds! Am i right? It also give me an idea or give me a view to watch birds which gather in a special person of season. Just like it’s summer time in my country India, and lots of birds attracts to seasonal tree and flowers and some local migratory birds are there too. I’ll collect all these informations. Thanks Donna!

    • Hi, Sanjay

      Are the birds eating insects, feeding insects to their young, or sipping nectar from the flowers? Which birds are doing what? Here in the U.S., our native birds feed their young mostly insects. And the native insects here only eat native plants, not imported plants from some other land.

      Your notes on the birds and their habits can be very useful to scientists.

      Keep me posted on what you learn.


    • You are unfortunately so right. It is so cold and six inches of snow forecast for tonight. Philly isn’t used to this. This aren’t snow-hardened Minnesota. I’ll post photos.

      • Our photos this week will be on opposite ends of the spectrum. In Portland, Oregon we are expecting sun and 60F weather. I bit warmer than usual for us…
        I will keep you and my mom & sister in mind… all in Philly.

  53. Lovely, Donna. I like your idea of city parks planted with native plants to attract native wildlife. Sadly, many parks are planted with exotics. I hope the mayor of Philadelphia will achieve his green space goal this year.

    • Hi, Jane
      There are new parks created regularly. I am glad Mayor Nutter even thought of the idea. The natural areas of Philadelphia parks by city ordinance must use local native species in habitat restoration or re-plantings. I have seen many native plants in the parks and public gardens. I do hope that trend continues.
      Happy New Year,

  54. I have a perennial plant I was told it is alum.? I can’t find a picture of it anywhere. I cut the flower heads off and dryer them they came apart with what looks like seeds, so I need help to know what to do.

    • Hi, Dona

      I understand your dilemma. Who hasn’t driven themselves crazy trying to identify a plant. First look up the alums (plants in the onion family with usually big ball-like seed heads). Look at native plants first. If the plant doesn’t match one of the ones you see. Then try to a book on common perennial or annual garden plants. these are usually non-natives.

      If you still can’t find it save the plants parts, try to draw a rough sketch of what the plant looked like while in bloom and tuck it away in the back of your mind. You may come across it again in the future.

      With so many non-native plants brought into the the country, a plant found growing in your garden could be from anywhere around the world.

      Good luck,

  55. Here in Verdunville W Va I had a lot at first but not now I don’t what could have happen to them??I keep them fill up and clean

    • Thanks, for the info Rhonda. I bet the humerus are in the area. Maybe they are deeper in the woods or near a steady supply of insects to feed their chicks.

  56. Donna: Carpinus caught my eye, since I’ve just recently memorized it. I double checked and it’s hornbeam. I didn’t check the rest of the list. Thanks for your posts

    Dana Sullivan

  57. Hello Donna-
    This is all very good advice! Managing a natural area to provide habitat can be a lot of work, but it is SO worth all the effort. I enjoyed reading your “how to” steps and reasons why decisions like leaving leaf-litter are so important.

    I am in the next stage of invasive plant removal on our wetland nature habitat. Last year the focus was on Himalayan Blackberry removal. This spring, I am removing Reed Canary Grass/ Nightshade. In the process I’ve already discovered a sizable Skunk Cabbage patch, and an area where spike rushes will likely take hold as the invasive grass is removed.

    Our Clean Water Services utility supplies 20 native Oregon plants/year to landowners that live within 100 feet of a riparian zone. The plants they gave us will be planted in the cleared property! 🙂 I’ll have a blog entry up soon to share some before and after photos.


    • Hi, Jane

      Thanks for the comment. I am looking forward to your update.

      No, I have never been to the west coast but would love to see the redwood forests.

      Abington is not far from my favorite place in Philly, Wissahickon Valley Forest and the Schuylkill Environmental Center.


      • Hi Donna-
        My project update is under “Earth Day Project!” At the end of the post is a link to the first Earth Week celebration at Belmont Plateau. You might find the article of interest:)

        Thank you for following my blog… it will be fun to be an East-West Coast connection. Your posts often bring me “home”.. after growing up in Abington, I can still recall many of the places you mention!

        Have you been to the West Coast?

  58. Donna I have had Hummingbirds around for several years and tried all kinds of feeders, and the one you have pictured is the best! I love how easily it cleans. It’ great and the Hummers love it !!

  59. Great post! I found your blog through Donna @ Gardens Eye View, and I loved the topic so I hopped on over. Juncos are a different indicator for me. When they show up in my garden I know that winter is around the corner. And then they disappear when spring starts to get warmer–usually in April. I saw some today still, but their behavior seemed different. They were very still and seemed to be resting a lot–maybe considering their migration plans? I have two Shagbark Hickory trees, and they’re definitely indicator plants for me, but a little later in the spring. It’s a joy to track these things–especially in a garden that one knows very well. 🙂

    • Hi and thanks for reading In Season. The Juncos indicate the seasons the same way for me, too. For me they arrive as the Shadbush turns a brilliant red in the fall. They were still in my garden this past weekend. I am sure they are ready to fly north.

  60. Hi my name is Rose I’m here in Slidell la.I live quite close to lake Ponchartrain,it’s a town right outside New Orleans,I’m wanting to get back to having Humming birds come around again,do you know when they will be around these parts or are they always here ? Or do you just have to put out their feeders? Any info would be appreciated Thankyou!

    • Hi, Rose

      Thanks for reading In Season. Given how far south you are, the hummingbirds probably never left your area. You can put your feeders out now. If they did migrate further south, they will be in your area soon.


      • Here in Philadelphia, we never put out feeders and the hummingbirds are here all day, all season long. Just plant salvia, Mexican sunflowers, and basically any flower that has nectar they can get to and they’ll be there.

      • Hi, Jon

        Thanks for reading In Season.

        Yes, the hummers certainly flock to nectar plants. The hummingbird feeders provide people without gardens a chance to feed and watch the birds.
        In my Philadelphia garden, the hummers visit the Mexican/Texas Red Salvia and Philadelphia native Trumpet Flower. Here is a list of native plants for hummers here in Philly.

  61. Beautiful photos! Now, I am wondering how many times I may have thought a Hairy was a Downy or Vice-Verse. I’m still a little confused, but that’s just my brain, because you have done a great job at identifying them. I will come back to this page with my photos in view.

    Nice to come upon your beautiful blog!

  62. Amazing how snow brings these lovely little ones out of the wetland grassy areas on our property and up to the feeders. The song sparrows were busy feeding on ours today as blizzard-like snow fell most of the day in the Willamette Valley.

  63. We’re preparing for another cold snap here… but no snow for the Willamette Valley forecasted with certainty…yet!

    I went in search for precursors to spring today after my sister texted a big snow photo from Ambler, PA. Thought they might cheer her up. 🙂

  64. Boy our arrogance just keeps getting worse…if we look at our DNA and our origins we are all hybrids…and without that hybrid would we even be alive? I doubt it…thanks for bringing this article to light Donna.

  65. A beautiful story Donna and similar to one of my own childhood memories of Christmas in NE Philly in one of those row houses…the one night we saw Santa…and the snow and rare blizzard my sister dreamed of…all that snow….may you have a Very Merry Christmas and Peace all the New Year!!

  66. Hi Donna , thanks for all your great memos , we are blessed with a plethora of winter birds , having said that my wife’s favorite bird is the cardinal and unfortunately there aren’t any on Cape Breton Island , as for wood peckers my favorite is the hairy ( harry ) :-)) we are musicians and you can check out a song we wrote and devoted for our beloved wood pecker , proudly named “Harry Hairy Who” you can listen to it by going to our music web site http://www.aamusiclab.com

  67. OK thanks for the suggestion to poke the little guys and see them wave their osmeteriums about. I think I smelled the stinky substance too, but maybe by the time it got to my nose it was so diluted (?) or whatever reason, it smelled *good*: kind of fruity like pineapple soda or pineapple candy! did it a few times on different days, consistent smelling results… –Lorel

    • I thought the same when I poked this other different looking caterpillar, the smell was delicious, by no means was it foul smelling. He actually was munching on my “Guanabana” tree, which smells delicous as well, but it has a different scent/aroma than the one emitted by the fellow. He also changed in color, he had colored rings, and he could change them from yellow to orange as he would evert his osmeterium. It was amazing, but I wasn’t sure if that scent was safe or not.

  68. I have just written a Children’s Book about the Blue Dasher Dragonfly. Thanks for the info as it
    helped me with the story line!


  69. HI i live in Philadelphia Pa and have noticed a nesting pair of soaring raptors. i can tell they are raptors by the way they are soaring. the are nesting on top of a water tower in neighborhood. it was high up but it seemed like a silverish color with white stripes on its wings it was hi in the sky. the one i seen sitting at the nest also pretty high up had what seemed to look like a white chest and silverish to grey wings. thety been there all summer long but today was the best look i got at them. any clues to what they may possibly be?? thank you! Rich

    • Hi, Rich

      The two raptors I see the most in Philadelphia and surrounding area are Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures. Of the two Red-tailed Hawks could be the birds you are seeing. Red-tails are in our area year around.

      I am assuming these are rather large birds you are watching. Broad-winged Hawks are here for the summer and also fit your description. Smaller hawks here in summer would include Cooper’s Hawks.

      Cornell University’s “All About Birds” has photos to help you decide what bird you saw. My bet is on a Red-tailed or a Broad-winged Hawk.

    • Hi, Donna

      From the photo on the back flap, Mr. Leopold looks like a real down to Earth, fun guy. I always wished I could take a class from him.

      Working with him would be even better.

  70. That would be awesome. I’ll definitely check out Cape May this fall. Thanks for the tip (and the welcome) Donna! 🙂

  71. We recently moved here from SE Michigan – where there were plenty of Monarchs – and I have yet to see a monarch here. Right now there are a dozen or so yellow swallowtails out at the Buddleias, but NO monarchs. I actually found your site by googling “why no monarch butterflies in Philadelphia”. Good to hear that there are some, but where oh where?!

    • Hi, Steve

      I haven’t seen any either. I and some of my naturalist friends have been reporting for the last couple years the lack of butterflies.

      But during the Fall migration, you can see thousands as the migrate southward through Cape May State Park in New Jersey. You can see Painted Lady Butterflies migrating, too. Check out the Cape May State Park websites for details.

      And welcome to the area.

  72. Hi, Tanya

    The link at the bottom of the post links to the original post on the Cornell Ornithology blog. I copied this info from the original post.

    ” Image is a collage of European Starling by simonglinn via Birdshare, and murmuration photo by ad551 via Creative Commons.”

    Image is a collage of European Starling by simonglinn via Birdshare, and murmuration photo by ad551 via Creative Commons.)”

  73. Donna, Please help us with a question. I have a friend that says Hummingbirds are poisonous. Is the true? And if so, What makes them poisonous.
    Thanks for your help.

    • Poisonous? I have never heard that Hummingbirds are poisonous. What would be poisonous? They don’t have teeth or fangs. Their claws are tiny. I can’t imagine what on them would be poisonous.

      I will say no, hummingbirds are not poisonous.

  74. Greetings we reside on Cape Breton Island Nova Scotia Canada , we have lots of humming birds returning every year. We are looking for some advise as to when we should place our feeders out? Thanks in advance.
    Kind Regards
    Ken & Arnaly

    • Hi Ken and Arnaly

      I actually visited Nova Scotia several years ago. It’s a very lovely place.

      Put your feeders out now. It is good to put the feeders up before you see the first hummingbirds. There is always that early soul who shows up early to stake out territory.

      And keep them up probably into September. Nova Scotia weather seemed a bit mild even though it much further north than I am. I guess it’s the moderating influence of the ocean.

      The hummingbirds probably start south in August were you are. But they tend to hang around longer than humans think they should.


  75. Some pretty good info although not completely accurate, one thing I will point out is the plumage. There are numbers of brightly colored raptors, namely Aplomado falcon, Tiercel Kestrral falcon, Orange brested falcon and bat falcon to name a few and many more.

    • Hi, Tim
      Are you referring to raptors that live on the east coast of North America? Because those are the birds I am focusing on. I don’t know the Orange brested falcon or bat falcon. Are those real birds? Or are you pulling my leg? 🙂

  76. Thanks for reminding us of the beauty and therapeutic effect of nature. I knpw I need to pay more attention to using all five sense to take advantage of all that nature has to offer.

  77. “like the squirrels again”……funny! And that is a daily occurrance for me! My husband always buys me new feeders, the kind with the center tube that is surrounded by a cylindrical cage that protects smaller birds. He does it to be nice, so I don’t complain. The squirrels take the lids off even if I wire them down. The sad part is that this renders the feeders dangerous. I had a cardinal fall inside one tube and die and I had a squirrel trapped inside another. One time I even had a baby squirrlel squeeze inside the cylindical cage and had to cut an opening to get him out! Just wanted to share with you my experiences with “squirrel-proof” feeders. Just signed onto your blog and look forward to the next installment. Keep up the good work and thanks! Lenore

  78. That is so interesting. The next time you come out to Tyler Arboretum I’d love to meet you there and have you tell Chris about nature. The Arboretum is right down the street from our house. We can walk there.

  79. Hi Donna,
    We live in a mostly surburban area but with quite a lot of woods that support deer, fox, and bob cat. My husband and I see many different types of birds in our area, but we are puzzled by an extremely large bird in our yard with a 8 foot or more wing span. When workers on our property first discribed it we told them that it is most likely a Turkey Vulture. Now I have been seeing the same bird and it is too big for that. It hides in the large trees on our property and I mostly see it’s shadow on the lawn (when I am working outside or viewing the garden out of the window) and have supprised it out of our trees several times. It is black like the vulture but much larger, what could this be?

    • Hi, Lisa

      Is it a Black Vulture? Black vultures are large like Turkey Vultures but the head is black. But, Black Vultures can be a tad smaller than Turkey Vulture.

      You didn’t say where you are. If you are in North America there are several choices.

      An immature Bald Eagle (mature birds have a white head, immatures a dark head). An photo of an immature is further down on the Wikipedia page.
      A Golden Eagle
      Or even a California Condor. A huge bird with a similar ugly head like a Turkey vulture.

      This all sounds very exciting.

  80. Wow. What great camouflage. I wouldn’t have guessed these were anything but old bits of tree hanging on to the branch. I’ll have to see if I can find some!

  81. Do you guys have like a place i can go to get 25 picturees of plants native to Pennsylvania, I need the pictures for my class project for Honors Biololgy. Please Helppp!

    • Hi Caterina

      A good place for PA native plant photos is the USDA Plants Database. http://plants.usda.gov/. Take a list of plants (like the lists on this blog) and search by common name or scientific name. Most of the photos on the site are public domain-copyright free but some are under copyright. But, you can use the photos for educational purposes (like your project) and not worry about copyright. Just remember to give credit where credit is due and include the name of the photographer and where you got the photo. Good luck and I hope your project turns out well. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Donna

  82. I absolutely LOVE this swamp and can actually imagine being in heaven there. Your photos are so good and really bring out the beauty and serenity of the place – what an absoloutly grand time you must have had…precious!

  83. Mulch volcanoes are horrible and idiotic. I had no idea they are also an insidious form of planned obsolescence as well.

  84. What a wonderful side trip!! Thanks so much for sharing your experience and pictures! Having lived in the midwest all my life, seeing what is special and unique to other parts of the country are interesting and educational.

    • Hi, Sean
      Yes, the cypress knees may provide support in a hurricane. And trees in a large group, such as a forest, are able to withstand gale force winds better than a tree all by its’ self.

      We can also think about the mistake that landscapers make when they deliberately add what is commonly referred to as “mulch volcano” mounds around the base of trees. The landscapers know that the flare at the base of a tree trunk needs to remain uncovered and that the tree breathes through the roots just beneath the soil surface. Landscapers know that the tree is suffocating under the mounds and will die in three to five years. They can replace the tree and charge for the purchase and planting of a new tree. An former landscaper told me that the landscapers know full well what they are doing to tree with the volcano mounds.

      Sorry, Sean but your comment lead me to a pet-peeve of mine. Thanks again.

      I think the Bald Cypress are much like most trees and need their roots to absorb oxygen from the air, hence the cypress “knees”.

    • Hi, Melissa

      Sometimes, I can only share what I see on my blog readers. In Philly, some folks hyperventilate at the mere though of a “wild” animal anywhere near them.Luckily, there are folks here in Philly who are just as thrilled with “wild” critters as I am.

  85. Although we live in the woods (Indiana), we only get to see the local foxes when the lake upstream from our creek freezes over in the winter causing the ducks to move downstream to our creek which continues to flow due to springs. The fox come to stalk the ducks on the sandbanks, hoping for a meal. We enjoy these rare sights and someday hope to have our camera with us to get a picture.

    • Last year, when I went to the Lakota Wolf Preserve, I learned some humans tried to keep red foxes as pets. In the house. The smell, not to mention the scent markings, must have been unbelievable.

  86. How very interesting!!! I really enjoyed getting to know this dragonfly through your blog. It does make me wonder if they migrate like the birds or maybe like some butterflies, overwinter under bark or rolled up in leaf litter.

    • Hi, Heidi

      Thanks for the comment. The extraordinary lives of dragonflies proves to me that no matter how much humans think we know, we really don’t know very much at all. It keeps me humble.

  87. I like the picture of the one with the broken wing. Seeing beat up butterflies and other insects always makes me wonder what they have been through and where they have been. Also, great shot of the nymph stage! Keep up the good work!
    Sean at thesanguineroot.com

    • Hi, Sean

      I like seeing butterflies and dragonflies who are a bit bedraggled. The look as if they have led interesting and action-filled lives. Much like human beings.

  88. I am new to phlox. I didn’t know until recently it was a native. I am THRILLED with how 3 phlox I bought this summer have performed through the drought here in IN. I am going to buy a lot more next spring and enjoy them the whole season!

    • Hi, Heidi

      I agree. Phlox did so well here in Philly this summer even with long stretches of little rain, that I wanted to let others know.

      Natives plants truly are adapted to the local climate.

  89. These are stunning little bugs. I really appreciate your comprehensive observations and especially like seeing those barrel eggs and hatchlings.

  90. Such amazing birds… I wish I had some so bright and yellow like those warblers in my garden in New Zealand…

  91. I had no idea Concord grapes were actually native to the Americas…

    I really love that you focus on Native American culture and history in your nature study. It’s really inspired me to learn more about the history of the Coast Salish in my region.

    Great garden!

  92. Hey, fantastic post, Donna–I love the new look! Your environmental ed center looks really awesome. The shots of the forest are just delicious–that’s my favorite kind of habitat right there! Really love the amphibian shots. Glad you had a good time!

  93. Wow, really? Maybe I’ll get to see it! I’ll have to get my bins rigged up into a pinhole projector–I’ll bet my brothers will like this. Thanks for sharing!

  94. Outstanding post, Donna.

    I really like reading your ideas about land use ethics and ownership of place. It would really be something if everyone took responsibility for their whole communities, wouldn’t it?

    Great mental map of Philly, too. I’d love to see something like this in more travel guides…

    • Thank you, Sonja.

      Yes, if we all (or nearly all) people took responsibility for our community, we could create beautiful and abundant places to live.

  95. As interesting as what I see down here on Little Crum Creek is what I don’t see. This is one of the latter. Hope that changes soon!

    • Hi, Scott

      No, it isn’t my hand, it’s the hand of a fellow master naturalist. The photo was taken at Silver Lake Nature Center in Bucks County. It was a hot, hot day in July and the butterflies were landing on many of us to sip the salt from our perspiration. I did take the photo though.
      Vampire butterflies!

  96. Donna, This past week has reallly felt like the end of early Spring from a light perspective. It corresponds with Mayday.

    • Hi, Sean

      I know. There is that moment in spring when the season seems to flip. You can feel it.

      Right now it is early summer, here in Philly. By time the summer solstice arrives (June 20th) summer is half over.

  97. I love these butterflies, though I haven’t seen any yet. In the NW we usually get them in summer and fall, though I’m sure they’re around in appropriate habitat at the same time, since it’s so mild.

    I also liked your link about the swallowtails. And your new background is great!

    • I like Mourning Cloaks because they just seemed relaxed. They don’t scurry around but take their time shopping for nectar.

      Thank you, for the compliments.

  98. Donna, this is great, but the row of specific pollinators got shifted one table-cell to the left, so “BATS” is under “TRAITS” and each pollinator is above the wrong column. This should be an easy fix (I hope).

  99. Great pictures, Donna. I really do love Turkey Vultures, too. I read once that some native american cultures referred to them as ‘peace eagles’ because they only/mostly eat dead animals. It’s appropriate that they fly with their wings in a dihedral (‘V’ for turkey vulture or maybe a peace sign!).

  100. Hi, Donna —

    I stumbled upon your blog while looking up backyard birds on Google and I’m so glad I did!

    My husband and I hung a couple of bird feeders in our side yard (hoping to confuse the squirrels) and it looks like we have visiting chickadees!

    Thanks for the links to the various local parks. I’m a regular at the Wissahickon but haven’t been to some of the other parks in years.

  101. I visited the Lakota Wolf Preserve on my trip to New Jersey. Wolves are my absolutely favorite animals!!! I loved to hear all the packs howl! It was the most beautiful noise that I have ever heard. I also learner allot while I was there. It was a great expierence. 🙂

    • Hi, Megan

      i know what you mean. It is one thing to read about an animal it is something else entirely to stand a few feet away. By visiting the Preserve, my admiration and respect for their lifestyle and dedication to family and community, deepened.

      Wolves are truly wonderful beings.

      Thank you, Megan for the comment.

  102. Thanks for the news and the gorgeous photos. I did not know about the earlier blooming of the Eurasian plants – very interesting. The three bulbs you named – crocus, daffodil and snowdrop – are such fixtures in our landscape now that it’s hard to imagine spring without them!

  103. donna- read your robin report this morning, but realized that you are seeing them in philly, and earlier than we see them in minnesota….then at noon i looked out my window, and down by the pond was a flock of robins! robins have arrived in shakopee, minnesota! thanks for the robin info. jennifer

  104. hello my name is kevin potter I live in Marysville wa. the last 2 years I have seen what I thought was a pair of bats white one’s .
    over the last 3 week’s I have seen then agin . they make a sound like a click and a sweek .
    but last night I got a better look there was only one and this is at night but the wing;s came to a point and it’s wing span was more then a sea gull and the boby was wider but all white from tip to tip did not see it’s back .
    so what I would like to know is there a hawk like that around here
    And if you know anything about bat’s I would like to know if there are any bat’s of the same size
    thank you

    • Hi, Kevin

      You could try the All About Birds” http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/browse/ac. This page shows birds profiles.

      From what you write, the birds you saw may have been a swallow or accipiter hawk. They have a pointed wing shape.

      But swallows fly at dusk and accipiter hawks are day-time fliers.

      Try the website above to eliminate the possibilities.

      I don’t know much about bats but there are white-bodied bats in North America.

      A trip the local library and looking in a book on bats should help. Or you could ask a local birding group or nature center or park ranger.

      Good luck and thanks for contacting me.

  105. That’s a great poem.I love slqrrieus. The black ones outnumber the gray ones in our yard by far. We do have one red squirrel. He’s my definite favourite, small, quick, and tougher than the other ones!Squirrels are one of my favourite city critters. They are very smart. We had to install a baffle on our main bird feeder to keep them away. Funny thing is, I still see them around that feeder. They haven’t given up. I know they’re planning something… doing the physics in their head.I’ve seen them pull some crazy stunts in our yard. Even play with our toys. (Check out of a black squirrel in our backyard. It still makes me laugh.)

  106. This looks like it was a really fun evening, Donna! Too cool. Jackson’s a real beauty. 🙂

    • Hi, Donna

      Great Blue Herons live here in SE Pennsylvania all year-around. We see them in the marshes, rivers and sometimes farther inland. They are rare to uncommon in the winter which is probably why I saw just one.

      They probably are along the Delaware coast and a little further south during the winter.

      We had snow on Halloween and not a flake since.

  107. That looked like the perfect day for a walk as well. I love winter days like that with the crystal clear blue skies. Time is moving at a pace though and nature is getting on with things.

    Good post.

    Kind Regards

    Tony Powell

  108. I used to find the strange, hard masses like the one in your first photograph when I lived east of the Cascades and I could never figure out what they were until Gerald Durrell’s Amateur Naturalist revealed they mantis egg cases!

    Great post, Donna. Have you read Bernd Heinrich’s Winter World?

  109. Bluebirds are our state bird and frequent visitors to my garden all year…now if I had seen red-winged blackbirds I would have been jumping for joy since they only appear when it is spring…

  110. Do you ever see Eastern Bluebirds up your way? I never see them down here in Delaware County, PA. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places.

    • Hi, Scott
      There are Bluebirds in Fort Washington State Park and at Schuylkill Enviro. Center and if I go where their boxes are I see them in the summer, but I never hear them sing.
      In fact I don’t know if I have ever heard them sing.

      I never thought about it until you pointed that out.

  111. I can’t wait to get started. I have tried to be diligent with the NPN and phenology so I could report my observations, but let life and work get in the way. This will be another way to combine both and see what I see…it has been interesting in my garden since I have been adding more natives and replacing ornamentals…I’ll let you know how I do…

  112. What a terrific idea, Donna. I’ve never heard of a seasonal round, but love the concept. I can imagine teachers might want to adapt this for different ages of young people as a way to connect them to their local environment.

  113. Donna you have me very intrigued…I think it is the teacher in me…I will be researching this a bit more and I think I may use it for my harvest as well as maybe focusing in on a couple of critters in the garden…

    • Hi, Donna

      I am glad you found the article interesting. To me seasonal rounds reflect a people more than just about anything else. What would seasonal rounds about the typical American community say?

      • Good question Donna. I am not sure but I have a feeling it would reflect more the society and what we do based on common practice/calendars/holidays/economy and some weather but less on nature…maybe I would be wrong…depends…I may have a better answer once I get going…

  114. I tried this when I saw it on the Cornell Lab’s website and found it’s very addictive–worse than Tetris or jigsaw puzzles, and for a good cause!

  115. This is very interesting, Donna, especially the information about raptor eyelids. You know, that old movie & TV trick of using a red-tailed hawk call with footage of eagles used to confuse me. I’m glad you mentioned it. Finally, I’m happy to have had a bald eagle pointed out to me at the Rose Tree Park hawk watch in Media, Pa a few weeks ago. Apparently they’re common over the nearby reservoir, but I hadn’t noticed them before. You’re right, lots of magnificence around us!

    • Hi, Scott

      I never did get to see the nesting Eagle pair at Tinicum but I did see several last winter.

      Have you ever been to Conwingo Dam on the Pennsylvania-Maryland? The place is crawling with Bald Eagles in December. They fish on the Susquehanna river.

      Here is a link to some photos I took in December 2010.

      Conwingo Dam info

      • Those are cool shots of the eagles at Conowingo Dam. I haven’t been there yet, but do hear great things about it.

    • I think it is a mushroom, also. I narrowed it down to type – cup fungi. But I can’t tell exactly what species. But, with so many non-native species brought into the land, this could be from Tibet.

      The mushrooms were growing on shredded hardwood mulch beneath a Red maple tree.

      If anyone knows exactly what this is, please let me know.

  116. Hi Donna,

    Your blog looks beautiful! I write a blog about urban wildlife, mainly in New York City. You commented on it once upon a time, when I wrote about my visit to Philadelphia. I am just getting to the point of exchanging links with others. Would you like to do that? Just let me know if you do. I would be thrilled to link to your lovely pages. Best regards, Julie

  117. Wow! This is gorgeous! I wish I could see these–the alders around here just sort of turn pale and flop off the trees. 🙂

  118. Brilliant! Gold is the predominant color in my little patch of the world. Maples & ash mostly. But even the red maple, after showing some red on its leaf edges, goes all yellow.

  119. Hi Donna, I wish I could attend this, but simply can’t get free. Are you at the conference? If so, I will look forward to reading about it on your blog. It sounds like a wonderful event.

  120. Here in the Pacific northwest the most visible migrants are turkey vultures and osprey. We usually see osprey heading south, sometimes far from water, singly in late September and early October, while turkey vultures come together in huge ‘kettles’ that roost together, then rise on thermals before coasting southwards together.

    It’s really interesting to watch!

    • Thanks, Sonja

      Here is an interesting tidbit – Birds that depend on thermals to travel can’t travel over water, because there are no thermals over water. That is why you see the Ospreys far inland.

  121. Nice!

    I had a little Selasphorus (probably a rufous) hummingbird female at our fuchsia patch. I had a lot of fun watching her antics, but I missed her when she departed for migration. Luckily a little Anna’s came to take her place!

  122. Belated congratulations, Donna! Hurrah for you. I just became a Certified Naturalist in NY State, and hope to fulfill the requirements for Master Naturalist in the coming year. I agree with you: there is so much to learn, study and wonder at in the world.

  123. we are feeding 5 at a time and have seen 7-9 flying around at once. the texas drought with lack of flowers may be attributing to this. we have never seen this many at once. when should we pull the feeders so they will continue south before winter? we live in se tx. thanks

    • Hi, Lillian

      Keeping your feeders out will not stop the hummingbirds from migrating. You can keep them out until no more hummers visit them.

      In Texas they just may not migrate. Recent studies have shown that hummers stay around in the deep south far later into the year then most people realized. The explanations range from, “we weren’t looking for them therefore we didn’t see them” to “maybe the birds have changed their habits”.

      Either way the birds will move along when they are good and ready.

      It is great that you are feeding them, they probably are glad to get the nectar.


      • Thank you so much for the information. We did have 1 bird last year that stayed through the winter. We had to bring the feeder in some nights so it would not freeze and put it out the next morning for it again. We love watching them and appreciate your assistance and web site of great information.

    • Hi, Sandra

      Thanks for asking the question.

      Ruby-throated Hummingbirds stay in the our part of the east through late October. In West Virginia I would keep the feeders out until the end of October.

      Don’t be surprised if you see a hummingbird later than that. Studies have shown that hummingbirds stay in the area later than we think. We often miss them because me don’t expect to see them. People in my neighborhood don’t expect to see hummingbirds and are surprised when I say the visit my garden all the time.

      The changing climate also might have something to do with the hummers sticking around.

      Good luck.

      • Thanks for the input Donna. I am hoping here in Cleveland, Ohio, they will stick around, at least til late October. I do know too, once a hummer has found a reliable feeder, it returns to it year after year. This was my first year. More hummingbird to you.

  124. I live in Willow Grove and cannot believe that I have never visited this museum. I will take a trip there as soon as it reopens in September. Thanks for this article.

    • You and me both. My shame is I knew about it, attended Temple University a couple blocks away for four years and took twenty years to get off my back side and go.

  125. And don’t forget to mention that wonderful resource: Bugguide.net, http://bugguide.net/node/view/82.
    You can narrow it down to Philadelphia county: http://bugguide.net/adv_search/bgsearch.php?user=&taxon=82&description=&location%5B%5D=PA&county=Philadelphia&adult=&immature=&male=&female=&representative= and you can use a google map from that link.
    I use it all the time. I have contributed a few images of moths from Southeastern PA to this site; but I tend to take more pictures of bees and flies than moths.

  126. Thanks, I can really use these resources. It looks like BAMONA welcomes submissions of pics to help with ID. I just might avail myself.

  127. Even here in the during the August heat wave in the low country of SC, I’ve spotted the same! Nuts are falling, a few leaves are changing color, the Beautyberry berries are turning their wonderful magenta color….. It always surprises me. I expect these things in August in the North East, but I thought that since we have longer seasons here, these changes would appear later. Don’t you just love the rhythm of nature? 🙂

    • Hi, Pam

      I find it very interesting that the changes are happening in low country SC about the same time, because spring starts there earlier than here. “Tis a puzzlement.”

      The night are cooler here around August 15th. Good sleeping weather. And if you have been in Philly on a July night, know know just have wonderful this is. The cool nights started over a week ago, a little early, but I am not complaining.

      Us naturalists are never bored. There is always something new and something to investigate.

      See ya, Pam

  128. Looks like a great place to go, Donna. I’ve been researching cross quarter days today and found your older nature journal site with a great link to ‘archaeo astromony’ – Thanks for sharing the link. 🙂 Wow, you have so much info there. I can’t imagine the hours you’ve spent. Fantastic job, Donna. It’s good to run into you again!

    • Hi, Pam

      It’s so nice to hear from you.

      I am glad you found the information helpful. I really like the Celtic calendar of nature holidays. They make so much sense.

      I took down yournaturejournal.com and added the useful material from that site to this blog. This blog is much easier to maintain and less expensive. And it is fun.

  129. Beautiful photos, Donna!

    Unfortunately, I recently learned the cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) is in fact an exotic introduced from Europe around 1860, which potentially competes with our native veined white butterfly (Pieris marginalis) to it’s detriment (http://crawford.tardigrade.net/bugs/BugofMonth01.html).

    I’m now on the hunt for the veined white, myself!

    • Yeah, the Cabbage White is non-nattive. And it is one of the few white butterflies here on the east coast. Cabbage Whites feed on Garlic Mustard, a invasive weed just about everywhere here in the Philadelphia area.

      Two white butterflies are in my area. The Checkered White (Ponita protodice), a local native white butterfly, is rarely seen. The Falcate Orangtip (Anthocharis midea) is more common.

      The Veined White Butterfly, you mentioned, is a west coast species. So, I never see it here in Philadelphia.

      I don’t know anything about the Veined White, but perhaps you can find out it’s larval host plants, plant them and help the species along.

  130. I really like how you wrote that there are so many things to journal, you had to become choosy.
    That’s really settles the mind when it knows what to seek & find. Thanks for your great instructions.


  131. Hi Donna,
    Just discovered your blog. Most interesting. It’s always good to see what other nature-oriented bloggers in other urban areas than one’s own are doing. I also like your book list.

    Adrian (Chicago area)

  132. I find them readily on my Florence fennel plants. Which is in the same family as carrots and dill….

  133. Cool that you’re attracted fruit-eaters to your garden. That’s definitely a versatile wildlife plant!

    Funny about the thing about berries named after fish not being totally appealing. Here in the Pacific northwest we have salmonberry. Wildlife can’t get enough of them (the other day we watched a young black-headed grosbeak chowing down with gusto at a heavily-laden bush), but, admittedly, they’re not very good. 😛

    PS: How do you make your vegan ice cream?

    • HI, Sonja

      Making vegan ice cream

      I use the recipe from a book I bought last year. The recipe call for just five ingredients. vanilla flavored soy creamer, vanilla soy milk, arrowroot powder, sugar, and vanilla extract. The recipe is in the book, The Vegan Scoop: 150 Recipes for Dairy-Free Ice Cream that Tastes Better Than the “Real” Thing,

      Basically you combine 1/4 cup vanilla soymilk and 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder, set this aside to thicken. Mix 2 cups vanilla soy creamer and 3/4 cup sugar in a sauce pan and cook over low heat. Once this mixture begins to boil, remove from the heat and immediately add arrowroot mixture. The mixture will thicken up right away. Then add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator (can be up to 3 hours). Then pour the mixture into your ice cream maker, churn and voila, delicious vegan ice cream. Low fat, low calories, no animals parts.

      The book the Vegan Scoop has 150 recipes, but I haven’t gotten past Vanilla, I like it so much. I fiddled with the mixture, adding the vanilla flavored soymilk and soy creamer. Enjoy!

  134. You got me thinking there when you mentioned this caterpillar’s host plants. A little digging revealed it is indeed a native eastern butterfly. I started racking my brain to come up with native carrot family members and the only ones I could dredge up were Queen Anne’s lace (the wild carrot plant) and poison hemlock (a deadly toxic herb that resembles Queen Anne’s lace; not the hemlock tree). I’m not sure what the range on these plants are, and I’d certainly love to learn if they’re other, native parsely/carrot member?

  135. Violets are so pretty and I love how they just pop up …I had never noticed the seed head and will look for it…recently someone posted about all the violets in their neighbors lawn and that this person had too many….I don’t think you can have too many..they are a short-lived ground cover and a beautiful one at that…

    • Maybe violets are so under-appreciated because a person has to get down on hands and knees to really see how beautiful they are.

      To take these photos I practically had to lie on my stomach. What did the neighbors think!

  136. Donna I appluad your devotion to natives..I came to them after I had already started my garden…so I add them to the gardens and replace plants with natives…I too love them; their colors, flowers and foliage…I created a meadow with wildflowers that are native as well…

    • Thank you. I would love to have a meadow, alas, no room. I think gardening with natives ties you to the land in a way that exotic flowers never can.

      • I so agree…gardening with exotics is sterile…with natives you feel connected to nature, to the cycles of life and heck they adapt so well and never let you down…you can be freer with them and let them occur as they would…designing with them is fun too

  137. i am happy to be living with my sis in wynnewood and she has a pretty ok garden which i am learning to help with … i’ve liked hummingbirds since i was a little kid in the adirondack mtns. new york and thought at first they were giant bumblebees.

    anyway i have gotten a feeder which drips sugar water/humm’nbrd ‘food’ all over the place (do you know a GOOD one?) … but after a few weeks of no action and my sis
    telling me wait until it’s warmer i gave up temporarily …. but yesterday evening 4/29
    i finally saw one investigating my sis’s azealeas, so i quick filled up my feeder (too late) but hope to see a return tomorrow.

  138. Lots of Philly’s goldfinches were reportedly seen during February’s Great Backyard Bird Count. Maybe try a thistle sock. They love that out here on Little Crum Creek.

    • Thanks, Scott

      I keep my nyjer feeder out all winter and still no Goldfinches. The Goldfinch in the photos ate mostly from the njyer feeder. I just think they must winter in nearby woods.

      I did the Backyard Bird Count and no Goldfinches.

  139. ah, they winter at my house. We usually have 15-30 at my feeder in the winter with a few pine siskins mixed in. We live in TN.

  140. Whoa–that’s a dark song sparrow. Are they all so sooty looking in Philly? Over here west of the Cascades they’re overall a lighter brown and the facial markings contrast a bit more.


    • Hi, Sonja

      I used a public domain photo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The notice is very light in the caption underneath the photo. I didn’t have a good photo of my own handy.
      It is not a Philly Sparrow. Good detective work!

  141. Donna I applaud your efforts and am inspired by them…I was born in Philly but moved when I was 5…my family is from there and their family and so on…nice to see such lovely parks still…I too try to garden more responsibly and continue to learn more every day…wonderful post…

    • Hi, Donna

      As you moved when you were five, you probably would not remember much. But, your birthplace is a city on the move. The energy is very exciting. We are planting trees to restore tree canopy, rejuvenating parks, have good sustainability plans and so much more.
      Philly is a good place to be if you care about the environment.

  142. Thanks for this handy list! Redbud Nursery was great to me last spring. Staff took time to show me around, make suggestions, & help me pick appropriate plants.

    • Thanks for the feedback Scott. I find the staff very helpful, too. I like that fact that the nursery only carries plants native to the mid-Atlantic region. And the staff knows their plants!

  143. Donna, I love your photos and comments…you are still ahead of us by a month or so, but thanks for the beautiful taste of what is coming soon….that woodland garden is absolutely breathtaking!

  144. I found your website through your Magnifying Glass interview, and was so pleased to see that you were a local naturalist. Our family loves living in East Falls with access to so many wonderful natural areas. I look forward to learning more about the natural Philadelphian world by following your blog.

  145. Hi, Scott It is great to find another Philadelphia nature blogger. I hope we can create a webring of area bloggers, that let our fellow residents know of the wonderful land we live in.

  146. Hi Donna. I just discovered “In Season” through the Nature Blog Network. I enjoy browsing your resourceful, insightful posts. They inform my own explorations in the suburban wild just south of Philly.You're right–just 20 minutes (and probably just twenty steps from your door) — what a world awaits us!

  147. <