April 26, 2016

Species in My Yard


I had another post scheduled for today but after yesterday's incident with the cardinal eggs, I thought I should share the wildlife using my yard. I currently live in Arlington, VA and the house we rent has a yard. The lot is triangular in shape, fairly close to an isosceles triangle in form. Now imagine the triangle on its side with the house sitting towards the base leaving a large side yard.

Azaleas, hydrangeas, roses, and rhododendrons grow in the front yard. Redbuds line the sidewalk. A large holly grows behind the house. We are attempting to grow a vegetable garden in the back yard, too. (A bike path runs behind the house. Numerous back yards filled with large-stature trees and gardens line both sides of the path. Crows are often chased up and down the path by bluejays and mockingbirds.) A Bing cherry, lilac, and two dogwoods grow in the side yard. Much of the wildlife action occurs in the lilac, the cherry, and the holly. When the holly first came into flower, it was buzzing with bees. Mourning doves like to roost in the soil below the holly. The cherry sees a lot of bird action. Robins, bluejays, mockingbirds, and cardinals eat the fruit and sing and all from the branches.

Image: Cardinal nest, one egg remaining of a clutch of three
A cardinal pair made a next in the lilac. Yesterday, I tiptoed close to the nest but didn't spy the female through the leaves. As I continued my approach, a bird did not fly out so I stepped next to the nest and noticed a few things: (1) the female was absent; (2) only one egg was in the nest and it was broken; (3) the other two eggs were on the ground, intact. I asked on Twitter for advice and thanks to Metro Field Guide and Must-see Birds, I removed the broken egg from the nest and returned the other two eggs to the nest. I also propped up the nest. I am sad to report that one of the two intact eggs is missing. There are no signs of it on the ground. Only one intact egg remains in the nest. Very disheartening. Cardinals make 1-2 broods per nesting season and each clutch contains 2-5 eggs. I am hopeful that these eggs are part of the first brood but now I remember that when I first noticed the nest, there was only one egg in it and later two were laid, so in fact, the egg pictured above might be from the second attempt of this nesting pair. Snakes and bluejays are among the predators of Northern cardinal eggs and nestlings and I've observed in and around the yard. Actually, we saw one snake last fall, but there are many bluejays in the neighborhood. Other predators include red squirrels, chipmunks, and cowbirds. I haven't noticed either of these animals.


Other signs of life in the yard are wasps, carpenter bees, rabbits, and bats. There is a bat box on the chimney, installed by a previous tenant or the owner. Two weekends ago one night, my husband called my attention to small bats circling above the house. The rabbits are back! I have seen so many this week. Last weekend, we watched two leaping and frolicking in the yard, literally by starlight. There are at least two wasp nests in the deck railing (see the top photo). I used the selfie function on my phone to photograph one. My attempts to examine the railing have been thwarted by the insects. We don't feel comfortable with active wasp nests on the deck we use this space regularly. Yesterday when I went to the shed to take out my daughter's scooter and helmet, I observed a carpenter bee burrowing into one of the wooden window frames. New additions to the yard nature have been butterflies. In recent days, we have observed small whites and monarchs.

I would love to hear what's blooming, buzzing, nesting in your yard or greenspace.

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