This week in the garden: June 12-18, 2022

This week I had more time to sit by the stream, so I took lots of photos of birds. The highlight was a small flock of Cedar Waxwings that hung around the yard eating berries and visiting the stream.

Sick Swamp Milkweed plants (June 12, 2022)

I continue to battle Milkweed Yellows Phytoplasma, a bacterial disease that is spread by leaf hoppers. Diseased milkweed plants are stunted and the leaves are edged in yellow (1st photo). It has affected Swamp, Butterfly, and Common Milkweeds in my garden.

Last year, once I realized that some of my precious milkweed plants were sick, I dug out and composted the affected ones. [Edit: In the future, I am going to throw diseased plants in the garbage, in case the bacteria survives in compost.] Unfortunately, I discovered more sick plants this year.

I am glad that I grew lots of new milkweeds to give away because I will be keeping a lot of the seedlings for my own garden. Unfortunately, the seedlings are a lot smaller than mature Swamp Milkweed plants (2nd photo) and they won’t flower this year.

I am avoiding planting new milkweeds in the same spots as the sick ones in case the bacteria remains in the soil or in any remaining plant tissue or roots. I am also disinfecting my shovel with 1 part bleach in 10 parts water solution. These practices are recommended for dealing with Hosta Virus X, so I’m using them for Milkweed Yellows too.

Robin bathing (June 14, 2022)

This Robin dad needed a break from feeding his hungry fledgelings that are following him around the backyard. He had a very vigorous bath, followed by some serious preening. I think he was glaring at me because I was taking too many photos of him. He looked pretty comical.

Busy House Finch dad (June 14, 2022)

Bird dads were very busy in the backyard today. I wonder if the moms are prepping for second clutches of babies. This pretty House Finch dad was dutifully feeding a couple of fledgelings. Here they are in the lilacs next to the stream.

Cedar Waxwings eating berries (June 13, 2022)

We’ve been hearing Cedar Waxwings around, but haven’t seen them much. Yesterday, I finally spotted them eating berries from our front garden Serviceberry and Red Elderberry shrubs. They don’t seem to mind that the berries aren’t even ripe yet.

Pass the berry (June 13, 2022)

Not only are Cedar Waxwings the coolest-looking birds, they’re also a lot of fun to watch. They’ll do just about anything to get the berry they want — stretching, hanging upside down, and even hovering in the air.

Cedar Waxwings are very social, hanging out in flocks wherever there are berries. They also like to share. I’ve read that these birds will line up on a branch and pass berries along the line, so they all get to eat, not just the guy closest to the berry bunch.

A few days ago, I witnessed a charming courtship behaviour in which a Cedar Waxwing pair passes a berry back and forth. I often see Cardinal males offering seeds from the feeder to their sweethearts, but this Cedar Waxwing behaviour is new to me. I’m not sure which one ended up with the berry.

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