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  1. “December’s moon is call the Cold or Long Nights Moon.”

    I love the descriptive names humans give La Luna. Here’s a slight alteration:

    “December’s moon is called the Cold or Donna L. Long Nights Moon.”

    Would that be so wrong?

    • Hi, Sherry – that’s funny. The Long Family would love to have a moon named for them. My aunts would think it is only natural.

  2. Donna, you are such a treasure! Not least because you connect us to what others treasure. I started making a nature journal about 30 years ago, modeling it on what I had learned from others. I later learned that my great grandmother not only left behind her own journals, starting from age 10 (in the1850s), but that she kept alive the nature observations of the women who came before her, going back to her own grandmother. (These thoughts were recorded in an essay she wrote called The Daughters of Eve.) I think my own nature journal has kept me alive. Through my work with Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers, observational notes about nature take on a different form, as “data.” But the spirit and the concern for those who come after us is the same.

    • Wow Steve. To have you grandmother’s journals – what a treasure. My journals have kept me sane, without any doubt. Thanks for your comments.

  3. Thanks for all the great information. We have five mature walnuts on our property and several smaller trees growing up in the neighboring field. Wish I could send you a whole sack of walnuts!

  4. Hi Donna! I found your article in a Google search after seeing a male and a female cardinal eating the red calyxes of a Seven Sons tree outside my window! I was wondering whether this was common behavior for cardinals related to maintaining their color. Very interesting!

  5. Very helpful — thank you. I was able to use this page for my daughter’s homeschooling Astronomy course. I really liked the mythological story of Cassieopeia and her daughter too!

    • Hi, Val – I glad the information was useful. Cassiopeia was my favorite star story when I was a young girl. Probably because Cassiopeia is one of the easiest constellation to find in the night sky. Happy Autumn to you and your daughter.

  6. I am getting too old to maintain my native garden, so I’m looking for ways to simplify. I like your list of clumping plants! Thanks.

    • Hi Sharon- I know what u mean. I am revamping my garden too. I glad u found the clumping plants useful.

  7. Enjoyed reading your observations. September is a sweet month, with clear sunny days and crisp cool nights. I think this holds both in New England (Boston area) where I live now, and in the Delaware River valley where I lived 1989-2002. Vegetable and pollinator gardens are in billowy abundance. The shorter days are a reminder to look back in gratitude for summer, hopefully well spent, and to look ahead to the seasonal change to come.

    • Hi Joseph. Well said. I look forward to the changing of the seasons. There is a high of 86 degrees today. Too warm.

  8. HI Donna, It was nice to read your post today- I have missed them, but I’m so glad you took the break you needed for restoration and contemplation. I won’t be surprised if there is a bountiful ‘harvest’ from that growing season. I loved your information about the moon, which has been a beautiful cresent low in the sky in the clear evenings the last two days. Up here in Massachusetts where I live we are getting crisp evenings already.

    • Hi, Laura – I know you are enjoying the crisp air. The high is 86 degrees today. Last night was 76. Please send cool air down my way. Thanks

  9. Hi, I enjoyed reading about your ancestry. When I was in high school in the 70’s, a book that we read was The Light in the Forest, by Conrad Richter. It was first published in 1953. I am wondering if you have read the book. I feel like we are so much more enlightened today about Native American portrayals and it may not have stood the test of time.

    • Hi, Marjorie – Thanks for your comment. No, I haven’t read The Light in the Forest. I read books and watch tv/films by natives about natives. The current hit show “Reservation Dogs” on Hulu is a good example. These types of portrayals are much more realistic.

      • Thank you. Your posts are just so awesome! I am a retired biology teacher and love that you are providing these educational posts.

  10. I have what I thought was a woodchuck but one of them has a white stripe down it back & another has more stripes. What have I been feeding?

    • Sherry – I really don’t know. The only North American mammals I know of with white stripes down their backs are skunks and chipmunks. If they aren’t one of those, I would take some photos and take the photos into your local animal control to identify. They could be escaped critters. If you have the time I would love to know what they are. Contact me if you can. My contact link is on every page of this site in the upper right corner. Good luck and stay safe.

  11. Dear Donna, your words and your heart are the cool breezes to my sultry July days.

    Phlox and a lot of other meadow natives thrive in my urban parkway, which is the space between the sidewalk and the street. Because it is in the city, I have to keep an eye on their height. Your comments on pruning confirm what I’ve found to be good pruning advice from Michigan State University Extension and Robin Sweeter at Farmers Almanac (generally 1/3 in May, maybe 1/3 in June and if needed once more before July 4). I have had powdery mildew in the past so May 12’s phlox experiment was to pinch back weak stems to the first set of leaves to let more air in. So far they seem pretty happy about it.

    Local paparazzi have descended upon the garden. July is dressed up and playing her tune. It’s a multi-species love fest!

    • Hi Sherry, I like your guidance on prunning and your Phlox sound beautiful. I enjoyed reading about your flowers. Thank you.

  12. If you should find yourself near Deptford NJ, you need to check out the Clement Oak behind the Deptford Wal-Mart near Big Timber Creek. There are signs to lead you to the tree. They estimate it to have sprouted between 1555 and 1615. It is massive in girth and height. I noticed that at some point copper grounding conductors added to help protect the tree from lightning damage. Other than that, I bet few people know it exists.

    • Hi Mark, Thank you for the information. We can just imagine when massive trees were the norm.

  13. I was pruning a multiflora rose on my property about a month ago when I came cross the Spotted Lanternfly nymphs in their first or second instar. Since they are leafhoppers, it was difficult to get them so I sort of developed various strategies as I encountered more of them. Since then I have been scrutinizing along the fence daily and have found that these nymphs seem to be partial to Virginia Creeper and Oriental Bittersweet. I have been finding the nymph (now in their early third instar) on the more woody parts of the Virginia Creeper at a height between two to five feet above the ground. My latest strategy is to suck them off the vines using my small shop vacuum cleaner. I removed the regular filter inside and wrapped window screen around the filter cage. Afterward, I remove the bugs from the tank and add them to my collection in order to quantify the extent of the infestation in my yard. So far I have not seen them anywhere else on my property except the plants noted above.

  14. I have always enjoyed plucking off a dried milkweed pod in late summer and liberating them during a windy day. The child in me would come through watching the wind carry them high and far. My hope was for more milkweed to become established elsewhere, and with those; more Monarchs. Then one year I noticed that all of the seeds were destroyed in every pod I came across. Talk about disappointment. I’ve seen the milkweed bugs plenty of time; however, I had not realized that they were the culprit until I read about them. I’ve read of one gardener who covers their milkweed seed pods with homemade “socks” fashioned from fine netting. I would imagine that something like Tulle fabric would work well to keep those critter out of the pods.

    • Hi Mark – I was fascinated by the Milkweed pods, too. Still scatter plant seeds around. I would like create Seedbombs like Josie Jeffrey does in her book, SeedBombs: Going Wild with Flowers.

  15. I live in Glassboro NJ and have been feeding birds in my backyard for 30 years. I recently stopped offering bird food when I learned about this disease. Fortunately, I’ve not witnesses this eye disease in any of the bird who still frequent my back yard. There baby robins just fledged this weekend and none had any signs of disease.

    • Hi Mark, I haven’t seen signs of the disease either. I took down my feeders and hope to put them back up soon. The two feral cats in my neighborhood like my feeders too much, anyway.

  16. Donna, I just read your article when I looked up what makes male cardinals so red. Since I started working from home as a result of COVID-19, I decided to put bird seed out on my balcony. I was getting mostly sparrows and chickadees, so I changed the food to try to attract other birds, including cardinals, and it worked! I love the vibrant red of the cardinals and their crest and beak. I also now have some red finches. I find the bird activity fascinating — so does my indoor cat! I live in Washington, DC. Best, Debra

  17. Hey Donna. I enjoyed your article and the questions you raised. I actually wrote a poem last year about the how the milkweed bugs and monarchs share colors. I do wonder if theres an explanation other than coincidence.

    • Hi Alex, We see the same color combinations over and over in the natural world. It probably has some significance we may never know.

  18. Have a bird that looks like a sparrow, grey, with brown maybe black that is excavating my dead tree. What is it

  19. I have been raising 9 opossums. 3 have survived. They are almost a year old. My male got loose . He has been gone for 36 hrs. I wonder if he will come back home?

    • Hi, Jennifer – Thanks for your comment. 9 opossums, that’s quite a feat. The male may be following instinct and looking for a mate and to establish territory. Maybe it’s their time to breed. Maybe like a lot of young he just wants to strike out on his own.

    • Marjorie – Thank you. I’m glad you find the information useful.

  20. You should add (WEB ADDRESS REMOVED BY THIS WEBSITE) to your link list. They’re a non-profit with a comprehensive list of PA native plants with pictures and identifying info!

    • Hi, Derek – Thanks for the info. I looked at the website, and the pages were full of stock text and stock photos. Perhaps, when they are up and running, I can add them to the list. I removed the web address from your comment so this blog’s readers wouldn’t go there needlessly.

  21. I am glad that we have understood this hopefully in time. The audacity of colonialists to think that they understood better than these people who lived with the land for 12,000 + years. Silly really. The book 1491 speaks a great deal about the land management of indigenous people across the Western Hemisphere prior to Europeans getting here. It amazing what they did with ‘low tech’ compared to the mess we have made with ‘high tech’. I appreciate your thoughtful approach here and reminder, sometimes others know more than we do, we should listen on occasion.

    • Hi, Ron
      Thank you for your thoughtful response. I agree with you 100%. We have to start now, even if the future looks bleak. In a hundred years, things could look much better. We can look toward the seven generations that come after us and give them a better future.

  22. Thank you so much for this great list! My daughter caught some tadpoles but she thought one looked just like an axolotl. I showed her that they near extiction, but then we started researching whether it is a salamander larvae, as we have many around here in Oregon. She is very excited now to go search for the items on your list with her magnifying glass. So appreciative of your observations!

  23. A very lovely article, wonderful analogies and thought- provoking.
    We have these in our back yard, planted generations ago by my wife’s grandmother.
    In fact they’ve encroached on my lawn so I’ve taken to transplanting them to other cool and shaded areas around my property.
    I was surprised to see the cover photo was most definitely not an Ostrich fern, but no matter, still a very nice article.

    • Hi, Kevin – Thanks for the comment. I planted the Ostrich ferns as part of my ‘sleath food garden’, providing food from indigenous cultivated plants. They do spread. I double checked the cover photo and I am pretty sure it’s an Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). It is the only fern I’ve planted in my backyard garden. And I bought it from a native plant preserve back in 2013. I wish I had room for more ferns, but limited space means limited choices.

  24. Very interesting! I learned some facts again, that I once knew! Quite the reward, and I thank you! Stars are tranquil to many of us, and sometimes they remind us of someone, during the quickly passing days of our lives! Those things and many more! What ever it is, don’t forget to visit them, whenever you need them! I can almost bet, they’ll be waiting on you 😊

  25. Donna – thank you for speaking up so plainly and clearly on this issue, and thank you for your beautiful photographs, which helped me get through the hard truths in your prose. I’m afraid that as humans we are really bad at long term imagining and really good at telling ourselves stories to justify what we want. Thanks for reminding us to honor our mother.

    • Hi, Laura – Thanks for your kind words. The stories we tell ourselves define how we move through the world. We need to tell ourselves new stories.

    • Hey, Omar – Thanks for the comment. As I have joked to my friends – We can’t get our act together down here. We don’t need to take this show on the road.

  26. Enjoyed reading your post. Sometimes I find it depressing how many people buy into the lie but I try to remember that it’s true that we have to be the change we want to see in the world. Hopefully our actions and arguments will persuade them them they are wrong, and if we all just get one person to change their behaviour then that is one more person looking after the Earth than before.

    • Hi, Anne – Thanks for your comment. I do hope for change, but I develop my “Plan B” in case human foolishness wins out.

  27. Thank you for this candid reminder that we are born and bond to Mother Earth. And that we are poisoning that relationship. We will be change our environment for good or bad, that will be our legacy born from our decision. If we are deceived it’s because we want to be. I am broken hearted at your reminder. That my people, our people, would so cheaply sell our mothers gifts and squander them. I love our world, it is beautiful and wonder lies around every corner. I will fight with you where I am able, this good fight. There is hope.

    I love reading your posts and am grateful that you take the time to write them. Please know some one reads your words and is stirred.

    Thank you so much,
    Ron Smith

    • Hi, Ron – Thanks for the kind words. We try and keep trying. But, I do think we who are wide awake and aware need to develop “Plan B” in case humans keep marching down the road to self destruction. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

    • Hi, Marjorie
      Thank you for the words of encouragement. I glad you found the info here useful.

    • Hi, Marjorie
      How kind you are. Thanks for the words of encouragement. I’m glad you found the words here useful.

  28. Thank you for this wonderful article Donna. I spent a lot of today watching pelicans dive into the ocean for fish, and have now spent several hours reading through some of your studies on different natural phenomenons that people like myself often wonder about but usually don’t bother to follow through on. I share your fascination with the natural world, and admire your initiative in creating a blog to post about the different things that tickle your mind. I hope everything is well for you and your loved ones during this difficult time 🙂

    • Hi, William – Thanks for the supportive words. I am glad you find the blog useful. We are well and you stay safe, too.

  29. Hi Donna- So nice to see what’s happening in your backyard. You are so right about the big swings in temperature being a sign of spring. I need to remind myself of that so that I don’t get too impatient with the 30-degree days. I love your photo of the garter snake and wondered whether I might use it as a reference for an upcoming workshop I have “Spring Into Nature Sketching” with kids. It’s via Zoom, so I’ll be using some photos and some things I collect from my yard. Let me know…thanks. — Jean

  30. Hi Donna, thank you for sharing your beautiful memories of nighttime at your grandparents’ home. I could see and feel the soft, peaceful evening settling in around you and your brother. I grew up in a city, but my mom always took us out to the porch on summer evenings before bedtime. There were so many fewer lights in the ‘60s and most of us didn’t have air conditioning, so we kept the lights off or low to keep it cooler. I still live in the city and it saddens me that we’ve lost so much darkness. On a good night we can see the planets, Orion, a few bright stars and, of course, the lovely moon; very different now. Anyway, thanks for your beautiful thoughts.

  31. I just read a paper from 2015 that concluded that Samia cynthia is now extinct in Philadelphia. I know that for years it was very common in the city. Do you have any first hand accounts that it has been found in Philly recently, and if so, where?

    • Hi, James

      Thanks for contacting me.

      When I look for an account of Samia cynthia on the butterfliesandmoths.org website, the moth is listed as extinct.

      The moth was brought here from its native China for silk production, The host plant is the Chinese of Heaven, an invasive tree that people have actively been removing from forest, gardens, parks, etc.

      When a species is introduced and its host plant is an invasive species, the insect won’t have much of a future. I am not surprised it didn’t last.

      Check out these two sites for information.

      The Lepidopterists’ Society https://www.lepsoc.org/ – Perhaps if you contact them they may be be able to answer your questions.
      Butterflies and Moths of North America https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Samia-cynthia

      Hope this helps.

  32. Thank you for your beautifully written insights! We and the rest of the animal kingdom need darkness; the science suupports this,but your language brings it home. Have a lovely first day of spring!

  33. Love the insight into darkness and can easily picture the images you describe so beautifully. Thank you.

    • Good morning, Catherine. Thank you for your kind words. You’re welcome.

  34. Donna, Much enjoyed this post. Those snowdrops, do seem to bring joy to you, so your decision is expected. The garlic mustard though, once pulled, may not be . . . gone. It may take years to eradicate, if the wind doesn’t bring it to you from neighboring spots. That effort is worthy though, very worthy. Your Columbine is sweet looking, and bees love and enjoy it.
    Nice post, for we all can benefit from your share.

    • Hi, Jeff
      Thanks for your comments. Yeah, I have been fighting Garlic Mustard for years now. I snip off the flower heads when I see them. I pull the plants up, etc. etc. A friend suggested making pesto with Garlic Mustard. I tried the pesto but I don’t like the taste. All Hail Queen Garlic Mustard!

  35. Planting a tree (or many) is perhaps the best way to leave a living legacy. And we all know the best time to do it: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now” – usually attributed as Chinese proverb.

  36. Thanks for this great post – your writing is beautifully evocative! I was looking for some more info on how chipmunks spend the winters under my garden. My resident chipmunk has just popped up through the snow in the last week, which feels like a harbinger of spring (I’m up in Massachusetts so its going to be a little while yet). Laura

  37. In the beginning of February 2021, we began seeing 2 different owls, as we live at the foot of a large mountain. They’re hungry. I began putting a bowl of water and (dry) quality dog food under some fallen trees and was surprised, to see an owl dive down & spend considerable time at that spot. Both owls have began to fly down and land near me when I’m walking out back at the edges of the woods. They know I have food/water & they want it! Pretty sure, one’s a Barred owl. The other, I’m not sure. It looks like a snowy owl BUT it’s not the pure white color. It’s more off-white. Neither owl has visible ears. We’re in Western Pa- only 2 miles from NY state line. We also have various hawks always hanging around. So the mice/moles are over-hunted. Breaks my heart to see the birds-of-prey, preying on my much-loved, squirrels & chipmunks! But they need to eat & feed their babies, too…. All of the poor wildlife is hungry this time of year. In 20 years of living here, this is the 1st time, I’ve even seen owls at all. They must be near starving to come so close & to eat Blue Buffalo, grain-free dog-food!

    • Hi, Mattie

      Thanks for sharing your news. Two owls? Lucky you!

      It sounds as if the owl in your backyard is probably a Snowy. How exciting! Snowy Owls aren’t all pure white, especially juveniles. . I don’t see why the plumage can’t be off-white. Congratulations, it sounds as if you’ve made friends with a Snowy Owl!

      The Audubon Society website has photos of Snowy Owls.
      Link on Audubon.org – https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/snowy-owl

      It sounds as if an irruption is happening. Your nearest Audubon chapter could probably tell you if there is an irruption to your area. Here is a link to my post on Winter Bird Migrations and Irruptions (with video).

      Regards,
      Donna

    • Thank you, Q. I try to keep it simple without too many scientific words. It keeps information accessible to folks on many levels of knowledge.

  38. Beautiful, beautiful, sacred, my soul walks in beauty with you and ancestral and present native peoples and all animals great and small, and the spirit-that-moves-through-all-things in rock, cloud, tree, sky, earth.

  39. I stumbled across your blog and have to say I am very thankful. I am enjoying it. Thank you.

  40. Enjoyed this article, thank you! We pampered our chipmunks this past summer and fall. They would come sit in our hands to eat. Unfortunately we are moving this winter, so we’re sad that when the chipmunks come out in early spring, they won’t have us around.

    • H, Chris
      Perhaps, the new folks will pick up where yu left off. Or the chipmunks will find other willing humans to give them a helping hand.

  41. This is a really clear and interesting explanation of the two regions and how they affect history and life in Philadelphia. It’s interesting to note that early water-powered mills were usually located in spots where the Piedmont drops off into the Coastal Plain, providing gravity-powered energy.

    • Hi, Steve

      Yes, and look what happened to the Falls of the Schuylkill we both know so well. Wouldn’t it be great to have that waterfall in its’ natural glory? It has always bothered me that we aren’t taught about our local ecosystems and how they work. But, there would be an informed citizenry that refused to let their land be treated badly.

  42. Nice, I love the thought of the vessel openings on leaf scars. The idea of so much organization in a tree is really cool.

    Thank you
    Ron

  43. very nice
    except for the nosy neighbors
    that don’t appreciate birds, butterflys and
    anything someone wants to feed

  44. Stumbled across your lovely blog and introduction to Nature Journaling. Will be interested to learn more about it as i am a retired medical educator living IN the Tucson Mountains only about a mile from the National Park West with typical Sonoran desert vegetation.Our neighborhod has two persons with “waterholes” with night cameras to follow the desert wildlife. Some picutures are uploaded local wildlife groups on FaceBook.
    Roger Eddy.

    • Hi, Roger. Welcome. I hope you find nature journaling an enjoyable pastime. The American deserts are on my bucket list. Flying over the desert on my way to Las Vegas doesn’t count as a visit. I hope the resources on my website are helpful to you. If you have any questions you think I can answer, feel free to contact me. Donna

  45. Donna, your offerings are a really amazing combination of the the science, the art, and the spirit of our connection to nature. Keep ’em coming!

    • Such kind words. Thank you so much. The time I spent doing habitat restoration with WRV deepened my understanding of invasive species and the importance of native plants. Thanks to Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers for providing the opportunities to help heal the Earth. 🙂

  46. Thank you for this very informative post. I was interested to see that you grow many of your plants in pots. I don’t have a garden and have to grow in pots; I am not very successful at it. I made a resolution this New Year to make my garden more wildlife friendly and this post has been an inspiration for me.

    • Hi, Anne – Thanks for your comment. This is the second year I’ve taken growing in pots seriously. I’m still learning. Here are some items that helped me. The links are Amazon.com affiliate links.

      What has been a game changer for me has been actually using the Soil pH Moisture meter I bought years ago. Now I no longer overwater. If that is also one of your problems here is a meter like mine on Amazon.com.

      I also have improved after after reading The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible by Edward Smith and Sunset Books Container Gardening. A book I read last month was The Gardener’s Guide to Compact Plants by Jessica Walliser was also I big help. The Edible Balcony by Alex Mitchell just arrive the other day. It is one of my favorite books to show the possibilities for container gardening.

      I bet with a little more experience you can create a fabulous container garden. I look forward to one day seeing some photos. Good luck and Happy New Year.

  47. The wind blowing through white pine trees is a unique sound and is very soothing. Thanks, Sam

  48. Thank you Donna for this virtual walk among the pines, which I so love. And thank you for reminding me of the Thanksgiving prayer/statement which I have used before with my youth outings as well as my Healing Our Earth group at church.

      • Thank you so much for the calm inspiring words. You’ve helped me find my center again today. I love walking among beautiful pine trees, they feel like the near places of old.

        Ron

    • Hi, Marion – Yes, It think it does. Suet (animal fat) is high calories just like all fats. Those high calories give you a lot of energy for a small amount of fat. Which is why we humans avoiding eating more fat than we need to create energy. The extra energy we don’t use stays with us on our body.

      When birds fatten up for the winter, they create a layer of brown fat underneath their feathers for insulating warmth. I bet that where any extra suet fat ends up. It becomes an insulator and an energy source.

  49. I had an earlier edition of her book long ago, and I’m delighted to see she’s releasing another. Such a lovely book. Thank you for this.

    • Hi, Lisa – You are more than welcome. I also have an earlier edition and will be buying this one.

  50. Your manage subscription and unsubscribe is not functional to use. Clicking on either one gives you a block of jibberish you cannot use.

    • Hello, If you want to unsubscribe or change the frequency, let me know what email address you use and I’ll try to remove it on my end. 🙂

    • Hi, Alison – They maybe. They are definitely a type of aphid. The aphids did disappear quickly after I saw them. I do have ladybug larva and adults in my garden.

  51. Wow this is so interesting! It’s really neat to read about the snakeroot plant. Also the spotted lantern fly oh no! I didn’t realize they were in the US! Apparently a few were found in California (eeek!) I looked them up but couldn’t find out if they were established. I wonder if the fires will delay their coming here.. Anyway, I hope you are enjoying the beginning of autumn!

  52. Hi Donna, very refreshing website. Enjoyed reading your intro and our need to categorise things. Good inspiration to learn and explain more about our wonderful butterflies. Despite living in Australia your family descriptions were insightful and provided a good benchmark for a talk I’m soon to give on a 20yr journey of monitoring butterflies. Keep up the good work – Bryan from Australia

    • HI, Bryan – Thank you for contacting me and your much appreciated and kind words. Thank you for fighting the good fight down under.

  53. I’m leaning towards Nashville warbler. They are common enough in that vicinity,and it’s not unusual for a lot of migrants to move over water. It does look close to a first year bird.

    • Thank you Kirk! I thought it maybe a young bird. I’m going with Nashville Warbler.

  54. Hi I’m new here. I’m really enjoying your blog! My guess is a female American Redstart but I’m on the west coast and have never actually seen one so I probably got it wrong. I hope you figure out what it is! At least it was a cute pretty little bird!

    • Hi, Sonya! Welcome. Kirk (another reader) thinks it maybe be a Nashville warbler. But, your guess of a female Redstart – I think is pretty darn close. Maybe it is a warbler mashup of Nashville and Redstart (both warblers). Thanks for joining in.

      • I guess that yellow on the secondaries threw me off. That’s a difficult distinction! Most of the warblers I’ve encountered out here are pretty easy to distinguish so I don’t have a lot of experience with the hard ones!

      • Thanks, Sonya. If the readers of this blog can’t figure it out, I guess it will remain a mystery.

      • Sonya – your knowledge has been very helpful. Thank you.

  55. Donna, Enjoyed the read. Me? No help at all with birds, though my Sibley guide to US butterflies remains firmly on the bookshelf, dust gathering.

    • Hi, Jeff – Thanks for the comments, though. Nice to hear from you. Let’s see what others guess.

  56. They love the flowering plant (i have found) Cleome. The plant makes it’s own seeds fr next spring but with the cold, rain, birds (who I also love) I usually buy packets of Cleome seeds in the Spring at the plant store.
    I too was fascinated watching them mature – thank you for the wonderful picture. This is the first year that I haven’t seen a single one (2020) and I am so disappointed. I don’t know why they are not here – but I miss seeing them. When the plants die – i have managed to keep them alive longer by putting out cabbage all over the middle of the fence where there is a railing. But then I wonder if I’m keeping them above ground and they will be stuck in the cold – – so I stopped that and let nature take its course and hope that they burrow into the ground. Thanks again for your post and lovely pictures – I am in DC.

    • Hi, Nancy – Thanks for contacting me. You won’t keep them from getting ready for the cold season. Like many insects their bodies respond to length of daylight and low temperatures. Certain substances will be made by their bodies as preparation for the cold. The insects can’t ignore that and keep eating. Whatever life cycle stage they overwinter during, they will overwinter when the time comes. If Harlequin bugs overwinter as eggs or larvae, then the adults will die as the autumn season progresses. So, keep feeding them cabbage leaves if you want to. 🙂

    • I’m glad it helps. They are very colorful and pretty insects but don’t let that deter you.

    • Hi, Annie
      I don’t see these moths very often. But, when I do I am always amazed with how beautiful they are. You are lucky to have them visit regularly so close to home. 🙂

  57. I have 2 possums that come onto my patio every night to eat the sunflower seeds I put out for them and drink water from my glass dishes. Sometimes my cat and my neighbor’ cat are lying around out there too and all ignore one another. Now and then a skunk joins a possum and they bump into each other while eating but there is never a “discussion”. These animals cause no harm, only come at night, eat then go back to the woods. I’m happy to have them around. There was a female a couple of months ago loaded down with babies but have not seen her – or she has left the babies somewhere else. She could barely walk! To anyone reading this I ask that you do not harm our wildlife. It’s tough enough for them without our also being predators. Thanks!

    • Thanks for your information. I have had possums in my backyard for decades. I always enjoy seeing these slow, gentle relatives. They like to eat my strawberries. So, do the skunks.

  58. This is a lovely intro to these butterflies. I’m interested in the blues. Do you travel to Hawaii? Btw the first comma (after wings) is in error.

    • Hi, Elizabeth
      Thank you for your kind words. No, I haven’t travelled to Hawaii. I would love to see the natural places, the waterfalls, and volcanoes. I imagine there are many butterflies there I’ve never seen before.

  59. Thanks for this info, Donna. I am going to share with my sister who lives in Ambler.
    Luckily, we haven’t seen these in Pacific NW. -Jane

    • Hi, Jane – I doubt we can contain them before they head your way. They move and fly, fast. I find insecticidal soap slows them down and kills them. If I can spray them before they leap away. 🙂

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

      • or….perhaps…it migrated in.
        I have seen several of these moths on a purple sage at work, imitating bumble bees. In fact two years ago two appeared from no where. I named them Jet and Prop. Jet was smaller and faster. Prop was bigger and slower and more like a prop driven aircraft =)

        Then after two days they disappeared.
        I live in Vermont and these moths came thru the valley I live in at the same time as the flocks of Geese appear over head and the monarch butterflies come by flying south.
        I have to suggest that these moths might migrate south at least even if they don’t live to fly back north. a half cycle migration?

        I love these moths ! I have seen the green hummingbird moth too and they are amazing critters =)

      • Hi, Thomas – the first time I saw these moths I was speechless. It’s like they should be in the tropics and in a David Attenborough documentary.

  62. 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.

  63. 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.

      Regards,
      Donna

  64. Great list. Saunders woods and the Bridlewild trail are winners in Delaware County 🙂

    • 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.

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

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

  66. 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.

  67. 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

  68. 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.

  69. 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.

  70. A very timely post- this year one of my New Year Resolutions is to make my garden attractive to wildlife and your post has given me lots of information to help me start.

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

  71. 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.

  72. 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.

  73. […] 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. […]

    • Thank you, Anne – I wrote it in the hope that you and others would find it useful.

  74. “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”

    John Muir

    • 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.

  75. 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.

  76. 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.

  77. 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. 🙂

  78. 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.

    • You are more than welcome, David. Thanks for such a valuable resource.

  79. 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/

  80. 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.
    http://theseedsofscience.com/2013/06/16/87/
    And a link to one of Alison’s papers on the ‘cost’ of pollination for a spring ephemeral wildflower.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4984495/

    • 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!

  81. 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.

  82. 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!

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

  84. 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.

  85. 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. 🦋

  86. 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.

  87. 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

  88. 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.

  89. 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.

    • Hi, Jane Thanks for the comment. Some of the larger mammals are in the city’s wooded areas.

  90. 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.
      Donna

    • 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.

      Donna

  91. 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!

  92. 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.

  93. 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.

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

  95. 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

  96. 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!

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

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

  99. 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.

  100. 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.

  101. 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!

  102. 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,
      Donna

  103. 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.
      Donna

  104. 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.

  105. 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,
    Cristina

    • 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.
      Peace,
      Donna

  106. 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.

  107. 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

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

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

  110. 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.

  111. 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.

  112. 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.)

  113. 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.

  114. 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.

      Donna

    • 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.

  115. 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.
    ~Jane

    • 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,
      Donna

  116. 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,
      Donna

  117. 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.

  118. 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

  119. 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.

    Jane

    • 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.

      Donna

      • 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?
        Jane

  120. 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 !!

  121. 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.

  122. 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.

      Enjoy!

      • 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.

  123. 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!

  124. 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.

    • I agree. I think harsh weather brings out many species not often seen during decent weather. It is a good time for photos and bird watching in the backyard.

  125. 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. 🙂

  126. 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.

  127. 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!!

  128. 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

  129. 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.

  130. I thought this video of hummingbirds and butterflies in our Philly backyard might be of interest. We have hummers every day, all day,despite the fact that we never use feeders. “Our” hummingbirds love salvia, Mexican sunflowers, and honeysuckle…
    http://youtu.be/PfvUykxvryA

  131. 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!

    MKJ

  132. 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.

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

  134. 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.

  135. we have a mother great horned owl and 4 owlets in the back yard. They are so very cute.

  136. 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.)”

  137. 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.

  138. 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.

      Enjoy!

  139. 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? 🙂

  140. 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.

  141. “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

  142. 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.

  143. 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.
      Donna

  144. 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!

  145. 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

  146. 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!
    blessings
    Deep~Glade

  147. […] Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) (donnallong.com) […]

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

  149. 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.

  150. It is also possible the cypress knees provide stability to the tall trees in the case of hurricanes.

    • 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.

  151. 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.