1. Donna, your garden is an absolute gem! It’s incredible how you’ve maximized the space to create a beautiful blend of native plants and thriving vegetable patches. I am so fortunate to have met you, as you are one of the people who have inspired me to create an enchanting oasis of my own. Thank you for the tour!

    • Oh Paulina that is so kind and sweet. Thank you for your kind words. I know your garden will be magical. See you soon.

    • Hi Paulina – sorry for the misspelling of your name – it was autocorrected.

  2. Hi Donna, Thank you for your thoughtful reflection on Earth Day. It will only reach 48 degrees in Minneapolis, the sky is cloudy and rain is expected. The trees are not even close to leafing out yet, but I’ve been watching a crow carry nesting material to it’s nest site nine stories above ground – quite a feat when the branch is nearly as big as the crow.

    • Hi Patty – the trees are completely leafed out here. And a Robin is incubating her eggs in a nest under my front porch eaves. Stay posted for baby chicks photos coming soon!

  3. I live in the country surrounded by trees. I don’t have a lot of flowers. One day a few years ago my back yard was full of humming bird moths. There were hundreds of them and they were different colors. They were only here a day or so. Guess they were migrating through. I saw several last year but never saw them as thick as they were the first time. We have pink flowers we call wild sweet Williams that they liked.

    • Hi Patsy,
      What an extraordinary sight! I started Sweet William seeds last week. Maybe once the flowers bloom next year, I’ll be lucky enough to see Hummingbird Moths in my backyard, too. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I live in Ontario Canada, does anyone have photos of possums prints in snow. Would like to verify mine,I live on water,now see some coming up & looks like staying under my deck that is snow packed except for trail to it ,& quite a hole.
    Have not seen one this year, Lots of ferrel cats ,but these are strange. Thank you.

    • Hi Patty – thanks for trying to order – I’m working with tech for a solution

    • Hi Marian, LOL. Your comment made me laugh. I hope my writing continues to bring you joy. Cheers.

    • Hi Marian, Thanks for your comment. I checked out your website. We both are educators and worked with adolescents. Being a naturalist and keeping a nature journal was my refuge from my sometimes stressful jobs. Yes, running high school libraries can be stressful. I just finished proofreading my 37-page guide of nature journal prompts. I’m so grateful I became a naturalist all those years ago. It gave me peace. 🙂

      • Wow it was great to hear from you. I just learned that you are a librarian. I still enjoy working with adolescents. Are you going to publish your journal? I love journaling.

      • I am putting the finishing touches on a downloadable guide of nature journal prompts. It is full of images from my journals. I would like to publish a nature journal in the near future. Thanks for asking.

  5. Hello Donna, we’re the publisher of the “not Peterson” folding reference guides. I love your site – it’s full of great information. I tripped over it looking for tree species lists. That said, I see that you have many very old images of our folding guides. If you are interested, we’d be happy to send you updated images. Best regards, Jill

    • Hi Jill,
      Thanks for contacting me. Sure I’d love new images of your folding guides. I’ve been using the guides for years, probably since they first came out.
      I love supporting independent publishers.

      Wado (Thanks)

  6. […] The Celtic fire holidays are a few days to a week earlier than the actual cross quarters. Celebrations of Imbolc tend to fall on February 1 or 2 in the Northern Hemisphere (and around July 31 or August 1 in the Southern Hemisphere) But the astronomical halfway point between the Southern Solstice (0° Capricorn) and the first Equinox (0° Aries) is 15° Aquarius, which tends to fall around February 4 or 5. […]

  7. Excellent information on migration and the trees, flowers, shrubs even ground cover that attracts Hummingbirds, and the scientific study on migration north happening when certain plants/trees are blooming is just what I was looking for!

  8. Thank-you for the beautiful post Donna. We have great horned owls that nest in a park in my dense suburban neighborhood in Eastern Massachusetts. Last year the mating pair sat in a tree in my yard calling to one another. The whole community was thrilled when they hatched two chicks in a location visible from the walking path and people came to watch them grow learn to fly and begin to fledge and practice hunting – then the Female and the two owlets were all found dead due to internal bleeding from rat poison. The exterminators who put out these hemorrhagic poisons in bait boxes claim they are bird and pet safe, but they are not. The poisons take a while to kill the rodents and the slowed down creatures become easier prey for a harried mother owl trying to feed her owlets, or for pets allowed outside. There are alternatives to poison and everyone should be aware that there are no safe rat poisons, they will kill pets and raptors. Raptors, such as beautiful Great Horned Owls, are much more effective at rodent control.

    • Hi Laura, Thanks for you comments. The story of the Owl family is heartbreaking. Thanks for reminding us, owls are more effective at rodent control that the poisons humans create. 🙁

  9. Reading your blog on a foggy New Year’s Eve morning in Richmond, Virginia. Thank you for sharing your many observations about this season. In addition to those that you mentioned another I look forward to is the day in January when the sunrise starts getting earlier. At my latitude that is January 13. We have more light even as the winter season depends.

    • Good Morning Carolyn, Thanks for commenting. It’s a foggy morning here in Philly, too. I keep reminding myself, this is what walking through a cloud feels like. I’m watching the fog drift across the ground. The visibility is very low. From my desk I can just see the chimneys of the houses across the back drive just over 150 feet away. I love fog. Misty and otherworldly, fog is a veil between two worlds. I think Philadelphia and Richmond are about the same latitude. I didn’t know the January 13th date. Thanks for that.

  10. Thank you for your amazing collection of resources and info. I’ve recently started leading a senior citizen nature journaling group in southeren California and your blog articles will be of great help!

    • Hi Pat, Thank you for contacting me and you kind words. I’m just getting tomorrow’s posts ready. I’ll be publishing a booklet in February (fingers-crossed!) with the best of the nature journaling articles from this blog. Best wishes to my fellow nature journalers. And I think you sent sunny warm weather our way. The next few days will be in the 60s – in Philly, in January! Climate change – oh my.

  11. Thank you, Donna, for a nicely-written take on a common bird that offers a lot, and especially for including your personal experiences.

    • Hi Steve – thanks for your kind words. I do love crows. It’s raining this morning in our area, I wonder where they are hiding out?

  12. Maybe your morning doves spent the summer at my house in Arlington, Massachusetts, nesting in my overgrown rhododendrons? They left a while back, but I am hoping to see them in the spring again, as usual.

    • Hi Laura, Thanks for amusing your comment. I wondered where they disappeared to over the summer. Now I know. 🙂

    • Good morning Gwen. Thanks for your question. An indicator plant is what is used as a benchmark. We note when it blooms, sets fruit and seeds, and shed it leaves. What goest on at the same time? When the shadbush blooms in April in my backyard, the shad fish are returning to the Schuylkill River in abundance. It is a good time to catch shad. The shadbush blooms a couple weeks before the last spring frost and the Pleiades will reappear in the sky soon, signalling the beginning of the growing season. My post on Phenology and Collecting Phenology Data explain the concepts in more detail.

  13. Great post. I would add one other work to your list of references: the indie video game “Golf Club Wasteland,” which is an excellent and moving satire of The Mindset.

    • Hi Alan, Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve never heard of the game but it sounds like I’d enjoy it. Readers will see your suggestion in the comment section. 🙂

  14. In my experience with black swallowtail cats, the chrysalis over winters suspended from a stick, not in the dirt.

    • Hi Mary, That is good to know. Your Swallowtail larva picked a plant to cling to. I bet the one you saw was during the summer season when green plants abound. The larvae currently on my dill plants, won’t have a green plant to pupate and hang from in a few weeks time as the frost date is October 30. The dill plant will be dead.
      The lepidopterist, James Scott says in his book (The Butterflies of North America), the Black Swallowtail pupates on the ground or on a green plant. We know to look in both places, on host plant stems and the ground probably in leaf litter near the hostplant. It depends on the time of year, summer or autumn.

  15. They also don’t typically get or carry rabies due to their super low body temperature. We currently have one we are rehabbing.

    • Hi Suhotra – This post was first published in February 2018, and updated numerous times. The last update was July 2022.

  16. I saw this beautiful bug in my garden for the first time today. There are several on the Cleome plants. I was sure it was a beetle. Your informative article on Harlequin bugs helped me identify it and the differences between a bug and a beetle. Thank you.

    • Hi, Anradale – You’re welcome. I’m glad you found the information helpful. The Harlequin bugs returned to my garden this growing season and devastated my horseradish plant, violets, and nasturtiums. They are lovely but will suck the life juices from a plant. Handpicking was my best remedy to save my plants. 🙂

  17. My mistake typing on my phone – the hummingbird moths in my yard are Snowberry Clearwings. Whatever their name, they are spectacular creatures.

  18. In my yard the leaf litter remains, and I have seen Clearwing Hummingbird moths here for several years. This year for the first time I see Cloudberry Clearwings, and also their caterpillars on Dogbane which emerged as a volunteer this spring in my meadow. This is on Long Island’s south shore; reading up on them so far says they are more common in the west? In any event it is so exciting to watch them and know they have found a good environment here.

    • Hi Nell,
      Thanks for your comment. Wow two Clearwings species, what a treat. I saw a big moth I thought (hope) was a clearwing zooming around my garden. For me they are a sign of hope.

  19. Can you provide an example of the “daily observation checklist”? Thank you!

  20. I have been teaching about field journals for more than 30 years, but only now have I found you. THANK YOU for having a robust online presence, for articulating the Grinnell method, and for providing an alternative to Steve Herman’s invaluable book (which I cherish, just like you). I’ve been wondering if anyone had contacted his family about reproducing his book, but I think your solution might be perfect. (I haven’t downloaded it yet and will try to purchase a hard copy too.) His book inspired me to focus my graduate work on field journals and their uses by scientists, artists, and activists. One of my profiles was of an activist who used his field notes to save one of the first urban wilderness areas; he now lives in Philadelphia. I hope you get this and find my comments interesting enough to reply. Carolyn Duckworth, July 31, 2022, writing from my home near the Chickahominy River, just north of Richmond, VA. It’s raining lightly and about 80 degrees. Male ruby-throated hummingbird at the feeder now.

    • Hi Carolyn, Thanks you for taking the time to contact me. I appreciate your words of encouragement. Teaching about field journals for thirty years is impressive. I’ve taught workshops in the past and miss teaching them. They students were so committed to natural history.
      I was in Tappahannock, VA along the Rappahannock River in April. The Chesapeake Tidewaters is such as beautiful area. It is just different enough from my home base to feel exotic. Keep up the good work. Donna

  21. Hi , we have two groundhogs living in my yard. Initially I tried to recover the hole the first one had built to no avail. He kept digging it back out. I gave up, one tunnel goes under my manufactured home. This one is like a silver and grey color. The other one who came as a young kit is brown and tan. His tunnel goes under my shed. Their homes are across from each other. The Young one will poke his head out and listen to me when I talk to him..We feed them carrots, apples, lettuce, cabbage and a variety of fruit. I do keep my distance from them, just helping them out as well as the squirrels and birds. We also have flying squirrels that come out each night when it gets dark. I leave the shelled walnuts on our front porch railing. They come every night and make chirping noises that sound similar to birds. They fly from one tree to the big one that is right next to my railing. At first I thought they were chipmunks but soon learned otherwise. These animals are endangered from what I understand. Anyway, I have had the fortune to enjoy this experience of helping nature along as so many struggle to survive out there and the groundhogs are very smart.j

    • Hi Karin, It sounds like an exciting backyard habitat you have going. The flying squirrels are phenomenal. I think there are flying squirrels around here, but I’ve never seen them. I have a National Wildlife Certified backyard Habitat and I proudly display the sign. Is your backyard certified? NWF has a sale on the sign until July 31, 2022. Thanks you for sharing your conservation efforts.

  22. Thank you for another interesting post.

    Have you noticed temperatures getting hotter where you live? I live in the UK and average summer temperatures over the last 30 years have increased by almost 1 degree C and our winters are getting much wetter causing flooding. I know that in some countries (Pakistan & Iraq) temperatures have been very high this year, on the brink of what human life can survive It is very worrying and sadly there seems to be a lot of talk but not much action. I’m glad you posted some good news stories to remind me it’s not all bad news.

    • Hi Anne, Thanks for your comment. I’ve heard about Pakistan & Iraq, too. My heart is heavy when I think about the suffering there. I was talking to a climate-denier I know and I reminded him that space has no oxygen, no water, you have to take all your own food, and that astronauts say space has a burning smell. He was genuinely shocked. There actually are people here who think they will escape the coming troubles because they are not poor, not a person of color, don’t live in the southern hemisphere, they’ll immigrate to another planet and that God likes them best. Not kidding. Our climate has warmed here in Philly. About twenty years ago the USDA changed the gardening zones here in the US. The higher the zone the warmer the climate. Climate not just weather. Philly went from 6a/6b to 7a/7b. It warms up so fast in the spring, there are cool season crops I no longer try to grow. The first week of this past May, saw a 97 degree F (36 degrees C) day. It’s usually in the 70s (21 C). To ease anxiety I focus on preparing for the events that lie ahead, Plan B.

    • Thank you for your generous and kind words of encouragement. Good luck in your endeavors.

  23. A search for “groundhog golden coat” brought me here. Your photo of a reddish-gold groundhog is the only one I’ve found online that resembles a creature living in or near my yard for at least a year. I don’t have a good photo; I’m sure it’s a groundhog/woodchuck as it’s shaped and behaves exactly like the typical brownish ones around here, except it has a gorgeous palomino-colored coat, very pale gold. It is really striking. Can you tell me if this is a known coat variation for these really interesting characters?

    • Hi Nell, Thanks for your questions. I’ve seen groundhogs (woodchucks) with taupey-brown coats and individuals with more of a golden tint. I think they have a range of hair colors. You didn’t say where you live, but groundhogs are widely distributed throughout the eastern US and Canada. Yellow-bellied Marmots are found widely in the western US and southern Canada. I do think it a groundhog, and it sounds like a beauty. Please keep taking photos!

      • Thank you for answering and your insights. I live on the south central Long Island NY coast, about 100 feet from protected wetlands and a creek flowing into the bay. Groundhogs/woodchucks occasionally visit my yard but I think this golden one lives in or near it (I keep the yard pretty “natural”) because I see it so regularly. I’ll keep trying to get a good photo though I’m not much of a photographer. Your photos are gorgeous and the website is full of important helpful information, I’m glad I stumbled on it. If I can get a decent picture or video, how do I share it with you?

      • Hi Nell, Thanks for your offer of sharing a photo. Once you have a good photo, use the contact form in the upper right corner of the blog. I’ll send you a link to upload a photo. Have you thought about sharing your photo with the world by uploading to Wikimedia? When I need a photo of something and don’t have a good one. I use Wikimedia. Just a thought. 🙂

    • Hi, Marina – I’ve seen a few juveniles in my garden this past week. Too bad there isn’t a reward for catching them. Say $1 per insect? In their native China, they like fruit trees and roses.

  24. I was wondering if a Groundhog would chase a Possum out of it`s home under a tool shed and take over because I had a Possum for over a year I only see the Groundhog now using the same entrance that the Possum used .

    • Hi, Geraldine – Thanks for your question. I’ll answer both your questions in this one reply. When you spoke to it froze instead of its famous tactic of “playing possum’ which means playing dead. Opossums roam. They don’t have a set home/den site that they return to night after night. They sleep in a den for a night then sleep somewhere else the next night within their home territory. The opossum that visited your yard probably included it on its’ nightly rounds. I doubt it lived in your yard for more than a night/day or two. It might return because they rotate their denning spots. Since you haven’t seen it for months it may have moved on to another area or died. – Groundhog are active in the day and opossums at night. Opossums like to den in trees, groundhogs underground. They could probably occupy the yard and not cross paths. They would smell each others scent, though. Were they cordial neighbors, probably. Donna

  25. I had a possum in my yard and I was feeding it on a regular basis I came face to face with it one evening last summer when I was later than usual with the food I spoke to it but it just froze .A few weeks later I saw a big Groundhog walking by my patio mid afternoon I have not seen my possum now for several months i I was wondering if the Groundhog would kill the Possum because it is living where the Possum used to be or would they live in the same place just maybe a different area under the sanme building ?

  26. I planted milkweed for our Monarchs here in Minnesota and it was attacked by aphids.I tried everything I could find on the web to get rid of them with poor results. I even bought bag of ladybugs that seemed more interested in reproducing than eating aphids. Now spring is upon us again and I would like to plant more milkweed but feel it is useless. Any ideas for an old farm boy?

    • Hi Roger. Thanks for your comment.
      I’d plant the milkweeds anyway. You could start the milkweed from seeds. Packs are less expensive than potted plants and you could raise as many plants as you want. If the aphids were in the backyard, maybe put your new plants in the front. Or maybe the aphids won’t return as numerous as before. And pest and disease attack undernourished or stressed plants. Feeding your plants (not overfeeding) may help. Feeding is as simple as applying an 1-2 inch layer of compost around your plants.
      Other remedies
      To give you an answer from a expert, I turned to the book, The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn’t & Why by Jeff Gillman. On pages 116-118, he discusses releasing predators like ladybugs in the garden. Basically it doesn’t work if the infestation is in full swing. The predators have to be released before a infestation takes hold. But ladybugs are transient, they fly off. Expect that only a few will stay in your garden.
      And if they reproduced last year maybe you have established a colony in your garden for this year. And the ladybugs will have a head start on the aphids and keep them down. Fingers crossed.
      GIllman states the most appropriate method is the hose-off method using a stream of water from the garden hose. This is effective with a small number of plants. Another remedy is spraying with soapy water mixture. I like the Safer brand of insecticidal soap purchased at my local nursery. Good luck to you and the Milkweeds.

  27. Male cardinals and female cardinals eat the exact same diet. So how to explain the differences in color between the two?

    • Hi Fred, thanks for the comment. Human males and females can eat the same diet and their bodies will be different. I think it just boils down to genetics, sex differences, and DNA.

  28. This was a fabulous article. I learned quite a bit about bird houses.

    • Hi Marian, I am so glad the information is helpful. Didn’t Rob do a great job?

  29. I’d like to know if Tomlinson teaches the Naturalist’s Notebook as an online course.
    How can I contact her?

    • Hi Jackie,
      I couldn’t find any current contact info for Ms. Tomlinson. I searched the Internet for any website, blog, etc. If she was currently teaching I would assume her information would be on the Internet. I copied the info below from her profile.

      “Susan Leigh Tomlinson is a geologist, writer, artist, and faculty member of Texas Tech University, where she teaches courses in the Environment and Humanities minor in the Honors College. She lives in Lubbock, Texas. ”
      Do you know about John Muir Laws?
      Good luck to you.

  30. I was standing on the dock of Undine Barge Club on boathouse row on Saturday April 2nd and saw a beaver swimming ten feet from me. It drove then popped up and then swam under the ramp. Amazing to see that.

    • Hi George – I was so surprised the first time I saw beavers in the river. It gave me hope.

    • Actually, earth worms can drown in heavy downpours or soaking rains. That brings them to the surface and that’s why robins often congregate, picking worms up that have emerged from the sodden soil. And yes, they do absorb oxygen through their skin. But, oxygen diffuses about a thousand times slower through water than through air. The worms can’t get enough oxygen when the soil is flooded, so they come to the surface to breathe.

      • Hi Denise. Thanks for your comment. Before I wrote the post I read scientific explanations on earthworm behavior during rainstorms. The scientists said earthworms don’t drown. They came to this conclusion from experiments and they offered several findings which I wrote about in the article. Do you have a scientific source you can share?

  31. Donna – very interesting article and site. I searched for this because I found 3 new holes in a tree in a tree (we have many). So naturally I’m curious – the top one is squarish and now I’ll check the chips per your article. Maybe stick a camera down there to see who did the work. We’ve been hearing an owl early in the mornings lately but your article told us their home is elsewhere.. Thanks again

    • Hi Bob, I glad you found the information useful. I’ll be publishing a question and answer interview with a maker of bird houses that feature video cameras in the near future. If you have any questions please add you questions to my contact form. 🙂

  32. […] Stargazing is perhaps the easiest activity on this list, as all you need are your eyes, a car, and maybe a blanket. However, it may require a trip outside of the city for the best experience. Most areas in and around Philadelphia are extremely light polluted at night, meaning that nearly all the stars in the night sky are invisible to the people in these areas. If you are able to get away from the hustle and bustle for a night, it may be one of the best experiences of your life. The first time I went stargazing, I was completely blown away by the number of stars out there! They seemed to be twinkling and I saw a shooting star about every 5 minutes! While not everybody’s first time will be this great, you will undoubtedly be able to see the Circumpolar Stars, which are visible all year-round. To see what stars and constellations you may be able to see this winter, visit Donna’s article about circumpolar stars here. […]

  33. I relocate opossums in a trap. because they get under my trailer and tear up the insulation to make a home. They have always been very nice, they just hiss a little, and look at you with concern. So I just take them down to a local wooded area, and let em go, after giving them a little cat food. In hopes that they dont make the long jouney back.

    Really cool animals though. I didnt know they had a pouch and the young have to climb into the pouch. awesome!!!

    • Hi Stephen, Aren’t they cool. I like the quiet way they go about their business not bothering anyone. They will survive long after us humans wipe ourselves out.

  34. Thank you, Donna. I love learning all you write. I’m sorry for the locusts, too. Sounds like it’s time to plant new trees:)

    • Hi Vera, thanks for your comment. I’m glad you like my writing. I would love new trees, but my neighbors work so hard I doubt they have time to think about.

  35. Those squirrels certainly are clever and persistent. After my own failed attempts at keep squirrels from emptying my feeder, an employee at Wildbird Unlimited recommended safflower seed. Squirrels dislike the taste. I’ll sometimes set up a special feeder for the squirrels with peanuts or corn. I’ve also had trouble with grackles devouring my suet cakes that contain corn, and scaring off more timid birds. I’ve found grackles don’t care for pure beef suet. This setup has its drawbacks, but it works for me—maybe it might work for someone else too. Thanks for sharing your love and knowledge of the outdoors.

    • Hi Rachel – what good tips. I’m sure another reader can benefit from your experience.

  36. I really enjoy your, quiet, careful, informative writing. Thank you.

  37. Hi Donna and Jean, I’m enjoying reading your email and comments. I too gathered some walnuts from an old tree in a public space and the squirrels got mine too. I remember my neighbor as a child in VA. gathering the walnuts and drying them on a screen, then cracking them, the flavor was so earthy and memorable, I haven’t been able to enjoy that taste again in all the many years I’ve been looking for it and buying organic walnuts …my neighbor way back then was an older woman from the country in Texas,I don’t remember how she did it, if she husked them first or dried them and then shelled them, it’s a tough nut to crack and clean! I had a couple the squirels missed and tried to remove the husks and what a tough messy job, they really stain and I can see how the walnuts and wood can serve many different functions from food to wood working, I saw the Irish chef on PBS an he said he was enjoying the walnuts from his tree he had planted 10 years ago and was waiting for the tree to bear nuts and another friend said it was 70 years to use the wood!

    • Hi, Karen – Thanks for your comments. I am looking forward to foraging walnuts and acorns. Apparently, those two tasty nuts are the most common here in the east. I am looking forward to next fall and a bountiful harvest. Happy New Year!

  38. There is a brand new Peterson nest guide that just came out late this year that I think you might enjoy. It’s a phenomenal update to the classic Hal Harrison guide. It is the Peterson Field Guide to North American Bird Nests by Casey McFarland, Matthew Monjello, and David Moskowitz. Here’s a nice interview with Casey McFarland on it:

    • Hi Eric, Thanks for letting me know. I certainly will check it out. I’ll also let this blog’s community of readers know, too. 🙂

    • Funny – I think badgers are pretty exciting. Maybe because I love The Wind in the Willows.

  39. Thank you for this terrific article Donna. It was very informative. I was confused by other information but you answered my questions.

    • Hi Heather – Thank you for your uplifting comment. I’m glad the info was useful. 🙂

  40. This is a fabulous article, Donna! Thank you so much for your research and recommendations…

  41. “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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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!

  44. 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!

  45. 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.

  46. 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’m glad u found the clumping plants useful.

  47. 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.

  48. 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

  49. 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.

  50. 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.

  51. 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.

  52. 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.

  53. 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.

  54. 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.

  55. 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.

  56. 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

  57. 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.

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

  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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!

  63. 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.

  64. 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 😊

  65. 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.

  66. 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.

  67. 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.

  68. 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.

  69. 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

  70. 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.

  71. 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 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 – Perhaps if you contact them they may be be able to answer your questions.
      Butterflies and Moths of North America

      Hope this helps.

  72. 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!

  73. 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.

  74. 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!

  75. 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.

  76. 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

  77. 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 –

      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).


    • 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.

  78. 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.

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

  80. 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.

  81. 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.

  82. 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

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

  84. 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

  85. 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. 🙂

  86. 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 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

      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.

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

  88. 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.


    • 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.

  89. 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.

  90. 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.

  91. 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!

  92. 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.

  93. 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.

  94. 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.

  95. 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.

  96. 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. 🙂

  97. 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.

  98. 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.

  99. 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. 🙂

  100. 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.

  101. 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.

  102. 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.

  103. 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 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.


  104. 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.

  105. 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.

  106. 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.

  107. 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

  108. 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.

  109. 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.

  110. 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.

  111. 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.

  112. 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.

  113. […] 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.

  114. “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.

  115. 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.

  116. 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.

  117. 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. 🙂

  118. 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.

  119. 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. 🙂

  120. 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!

  121. 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.

  122. 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!

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

  124. 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.

  125. 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. 🦋

  126. 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.

  127. 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

  128. 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.

  129. 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.

  130. 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.

  131. 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!

  132. 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.

  133. 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.

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

  135. 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

  136. 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!

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

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

  139. 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.