Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blue Jay Fledgling

A young, disgruntled looking Blue Jay was hopping around the cabin's property last weekend. Every time someone walked by or its parents flew over, it'd open its mouth wide open begging for food (and increasing its funny, curmudgeonly look).

Being on the ground is typical for fledgling birds; many of whom leave the nest before they can fly. Blue Jays, cardinals, robins are some of the most common species to do this.

Note that the fledgling is just developing its flight feathers and tail feathers. They simply do not have room to do this packed into a nest with other brood members. So, they flop out of the nest around day 14 and spend 6-8 days on the ground learning to look for food, how to evade predators and practicing short flights. The whole time the parents will be around, feeding and protecting them.

In about six days this little guy should be flying, harrassing its parents at our feeders!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is it Winter? A Leucistic Goldfinch

For the past month, every time I look out the window and see a goldfinch I think to myself: "Wow! He's super yellow. Wonder why..."  Duh. It's summer.

My slowness on the change of seasonal molt is due to the fact that one of our most active goldfinches is a very pale male. He still looks like he's in his winter colors, which has lead my slow mind to be surprised whenever I see our normal, brightly-colored finches. We noticed him for the first time in late February, when the other male finches were starting to get their yellow patches.

The finch is leucistic meaning that its regular pigmentation is washed out. Sometimes this happens in splotches, sometimes it's an overall wash. In this bird's case it's an overall wash of his yellow feathers (with some whiter areas) - the black feathers are normally pigmented.

The funny thing is, the nape of its neck is dark. You would expect it to be the same washed-out yellow:

Even though goldfinches have two molts a year, his feathers will not improve with a molt as leucism is a genetic mutation.

Add'l Reading: Cornell's Lab of Ornithology has a great article explaining the differences between albinism and leucism. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Meet Milbert

This has been quite the year for butterflies so far. Seems like every day there's a new visitor to the yard. Or two. Or three.

Today's visitor: Milbert's Tortoiseshell.

It doesn't look that impressive closed, but when it opens it's very distinctive:

We've now spotted in our yard all three tortoiseshells that are found in Minnesota (Compton's, Mourning Cloak and good ole Milbert).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Great Spangled Fritillary Larva

While weeding around our poppies I found this caterpillar at the base of a violet clump. (I love violets and tend to leave them, until they form large masses, then out they go.)

Glad I left them! Violets are the main food source for the Great Spangled Fritillary larva, which I was able to ID thanks to the wonderful resources at

Thursday, May 10, 2012

An Agreeable Moth

Hanging on a friend's white door the other day was this intriguing moth.

It was agreeable to handling and let me photograph it before transferring it to a protected area of the porch.

A bit of research turns up that it truly was an Agreeable Tiger Moth. Yep. That's the actual common name of it. Or at least I'm 99% sure this is an Agreeable Tiger Moth. There are three very similar moths (Virginian Tiger Moth and Pink-legged Tiger Moth being the other two). Please offer comments on the ID...

I must remember to start photographing the abdomen of moths to assist with ID'ing. The agreeable has an orange wash at the base of its forelegs and there's a bit of that showing on the close-ups of this moth (whereas the Virginian doesn't have the orange marking).

Here's a pretty cool head-on photo of an Agreeable Tiger Moth.

While the moth appears to be pretty widespread in the Eastern U.S., I couldn't find much information about this moth online. Will have to pick up the new Peterson Guide to Moths, co-authored by Seabrooke Leckie (@seabrookeleckie)!

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Wow. What timing. I've been incredibly busy and have neglected spring preparations. Saw posts today on MNBird Listserve and on Twitter about hummingbirds moving and thought to myself "oh oh. Better do it while I have the time."

So glad I made nectar and hung a couple of our favorite feeders this morning before heading out to meetings: We just had a couple male Ruby-throateds at our favorite window feeders (these photos are of the same bird).

Thank you network, for keeping me on my toes! (and keeping our hummingbirds happy and fed)