August 1: Here we are in fall tracking season already, summer seems to be flying by. Also flying by today was a beautiful Hummingbird moth, our first of the season. They're easily mistaken for a hummingbird from a distance and this one nectared on the monarda for quite awhile.
August 3: I continue to find beautiful moth caterpillars around the property each day. A white-marked tussock moth caterpillar was working it's way up on the cedar siding, but I moved it out to the woods where it has a better chance of not being spotted by a bird. Although I'm not real sure a bird would want to mess with such a spiny-covered caterpillar. Those spines are not just for show and can cause allergic reactions when touched.
August 4: The cardinal flowers are once again in full bloom along skunk creek, rising up from the damp understory like tall stop signs for hummingbirds.
August 5: Speaking of hummingbirds- I spent part of the afternoon sitting out near one of the nectar feeders where a female (or juvenile, hard to tell) was literally pinned under the feeder by the male for a short time while he buzzed around her in a territorial tizzy. He spends so much energy and time guarding all of the feeders and flowers and those angry squeaks of his can be heard clear on the other side of the property. What a warrior.
August 6: The mourning cloak caterpillars that I collected hatched today. I'll be releasing five beautiful butterflies tomorrow.
August 13: Many birds are busy tending to their second brood of fledglings and many more are starting to show up at the feeders again. Hummingbird activity has really increased and we're starting to see birds flocking together, in preparation for fall migration. I've been sugarbating for moths over the past week & have documented many more species this month. Despite the storms that rolled through our area this afternoon, a beautiful White-lined Sphinx moth landed briefly on the garage, our first of the season.
August 16: Spent the afternoon/evening at the county fair, one of the best we've ever attended. The colorful sights & loud sounds were invigorating, and on the drive in we were delighted to watch Eastern Bluebirds perched on a fence-2 adults and 3 juveniles. Many Common Nighthawks were swooping over the parking area at dusk. It was such a beautiful evening with a bright 3/4 moon and cool breezes, so we drove around the backroads of Selkirk and parked near the river for awhile just to listen to night sounds, including a Great Horned Owl. We came across a large porcupine waddling down the middle of the road. It didn't veer off to the shoulder until we stopped the truck, and even then it wasn't too concerned with our presence.
August 17: Birded in RRRA this afternoon and the bird of the day was Eastern Kingbird. They seem to be everywhere right now, most of them feeding and tending to juveniles yet. The park was at capacity today, so we didn't visit our usual trails but we had a good number of species. Area telephone & power lines are crowded with many Tree and Barn Swallows grouping together.
August 18: We're having such beautiful weather, so took advantage of the cooler temps and walked the milkweed- filled ditches nearby and sighted many butterflies. Quite a few Viceroys, Monarchs, Red-spotted Purples and many skipper species. Clouded sulphurs are numerous everywhere and the hayfields/clover fields are alive with tiny yellow wings hovering above the flowers and grasses. Aphrodite, Great-spangled and Silver-bordered fritillaries made their appearance on our property this week and today brought our first Leonard's skipper of the season.
August 20: Well, the inevitable has happened: West Nile virus has been confirmed for our county. We sighted an American Crow yesterday that obviously was not well- it was on the side of the road and just hopped around a bit instead of flying directly away like they usually do. When it did fly, it didn't fly far then just sat and peered at us like it wasn't sure what to do and it's whole attitude was that of a sick bird. Crows are usually very suspicious and wary birds, so I wondered all day if this bird was possibly infected. I certainly hope the birds acquire an immunity to this disease soon, it's disconcerting to know that we could have an infected bird right on our property. For ourselves, we're being a bit more cautious than usual until the first frost when most of the mosquitoes will be killed off. We also had a window strike Black-capped Chickadee today, but I was able to get it off the ground quickly and held it until it flew. We haven't had a window-strike in quite awhile, and I sure don't miss them. My heart always falls to my knees anytime I hear those thunks. But.. the day was not all 'doom and gloom', the hummingbirds are still so active and we're seeing more signs of migration each day. Tonite, while out with the moths, I heard familiar calls from quite a distance away. The beautiful yet somewhat melancholy calls of Tundra Swans passing over the tree tops. For a brief and clear moment, 5 large shadows appeared above the house, low enough to hear the powerful wingbeats- following a trail only seen by them, as they moved towards the southeast and the light of the waxing moon.
August 24: Spent some time birding near the rifle river today- one of the first birds sighted when pulling off the pavement was a juvenile N. Goshawk that had been sitting on the ground in a small clearing- he immediately flew flew up to a nearby tree about 40 yds. out, giving us a nice long look before he took wing again..
August 29: The weather has been just delightful with comfortable days and cool nights. We're getting down to just the 'lbm's" (little brown moths) now for the most part, although a few Catocalinae species are still active and last night there were over 25 Large Tolypes on the garage/driveway. An adult Barred Owl swooped silently over the driveway while I stood listening to Canada Geese honking overhead. American Goldfinch numbers are increasing daily, with many juveniles now coming in to the feeders and pond. Many second-brood youngsters around including T. Titmice, N. Flickers and W.B. Nuthatch. A few Common-yellow throats and several Chestnut-sided Warblers passed through late this afternoon and the Pileateds were very vocal all day- the two juveniles are venturing out on their own more all the time. Common Grackles are threatening to eat us out of house and home, with huge flocks of well over 200 birds coming in and swarming over every feeder on the property. We still have 3 hummingbirds entertaining us, and we've had to put out wasp traps to try and catch all of the biting yellow-jackets and nasty balled faced hornets that chase the birds and make it hard for them to feed at the nectar.
August 31: While scouting for salmon beds along the rifle river we sighted many bird species. A flock of 10+ Cedar Waxwings feeding on bugs over the water, Belted Kingfishers, Marsh Wrens, Willow Flycatchers (with young) and many more. Unfortunately the river is also full of canoers for the holiday weekend, so we didn't have the opportunity to explore as long as we would have liked to. While out mothing last evening, I was surrounded by the calls of Barred Owls- 4 of them. The adults were calling to the juveniles and it was the most exhilirating feeling to hear them in 'surround sound'. I always turn off my headlamp and flashlight when I hear them in the immediate area, so I don't alarm or spook them in any way. I'm going to try and record their calls tonight, with any luck they'll be in the area again.