This week in the garden: July 10-16, 2022

The sunny, hot weather is drawing lots of birds to the stream. When I’m not watching birds, I’ve been mulching and watering recently planted shrubs and native plant seedlings to get them though the heat wave.

Wet Red-eyed Vireo (July 14, 2022)

There are at least 2 Red-eyed Vireos ‘bathing’ the stream. These photos prove that their super-fast diving in and out of the water actually does work.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak visits the stream (July 14, 2022)

Yesterday, I saw the Grosbeak visit the stream. They dislike sharing the stream. After squaking at a Grackle, it sat and waited patiently until the Grackle left.

Clean-up crew under the feeder (July 9, 2022)

There must be a lot of sloppy eaters at the birdfeeder. The Grackles and chipmunks are happy to clean up sunflower seeds that fall onto the ground. The Chipmunks still try to climb up the pole, but the cylindrical baffle stops them.

Bumblebees buzz pollinating Partridge Pea flowers (July 15, 2022)

While I tried to work in the front garden this morning, I was distracted by the bumblebee frenzy at Partridge Pea flowers. The flowers of this prairie annual only offer pollen, which apparently requires buzz pollination to collect. This annual self-seeds aggressively, so each spring I question why I continue to grow it. Now that the flowers are opening and attracting bumblebees, I’m glad I left some plants.

Once again, I got excited about a bumblebee thinking that it might be a Rusty-patch. It’s probably more likely that I would spot a unicorn running past. It turns out that it is a Common Eastern Bumblebee. I would never have guessed that. The more I learn, the less I know.

Sunny spider web (July 15, 2022)

Even though it’s hot, I’m still trying to tidy up the garden for an upcoming tour. This morning I got up really early, but ended up spending part of my time taking photos in the softer morning light. This spider web caught the light beautifully while the sun was still low in the sky.

Colour in the shade (July 14, 2022)

There don’t seem to be many native plants that bloom in the shade in the summer. However, Woodland Sunflower (1st photo), Red Baneberry (2nd photo), and White Snakeroot (3rd) are putting on a good show right now.

Purple Prairie Clover (July 11, 2022)

Bumblebees and leaf-cutter bees have been visiting the Purple Prairie Clover flowers to drink nectar and collect orange pollen. The flowers look like purple tutus. Even though the plants are short, they have a tendency to lean over without neighbours to support them. Since they have tap roots, I can’t move them to a better location.

I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the bumblebee in the first photo because I thought it might be a Rusty-patch Bumblebee. Of course, it isn’t because they don’t even exist here anymore. I guess it is a Two-spotted Bumblebee.

Not a Goldfinch (July 14, 2022)

Lots of American Goldfinches visit the stream, so I figured this yellow bird was another Goldfinch — until it started hopping around the crabapple and plants by the pond. This is insect-hunting behaviour, but Goldfinches are vegetarians. Upon closer inspection with the camera’s zoom lens, the yellow bird turned out to be a Yellow Warbler. They do look an awful lot like female Goldfinches, but their different behaviour easily sets then apart.

Blue Mud Dauber wasp (July 12, 2022)

While this big, metallic blue solitary wasp is scary-looking, but not aggressive. It will visit flowers for nectar, but collects spiders for its nest. In the southern part of its range, it’s known as a predator of Black Widow Spiders.

Curious White-breasted Nuthatch (July 13, 2022)

We affectionately call nuthatches ‘Upside-down Birds’ because they walk down trees looking for insects. It’s fun to watch them visit the feeders collecting seeds and hiding them in nooks and crannies. This curious White Breasted Nuthatch was looking for buried seed treasures on the shed. It then looked for insects in the corners of our Shademaster canopy where we were sitting.

Robin leaning and cleaning (July 13, 2022)

After watching this Robin leaning and cleaning repeatedly, I looked up this behaviour. Apparently, birds sit in the hot sun, sometimes spreading out their wings, to disturb and kill lice that live in their feathers. Once the lice move around to escape the heat, birds can pick them out (and eat them) more easily. For details, the National Audubon Society has a good article called “Hot, Bothered, and Parasite-free: Why Birds Sun Themselves”.

Bumblebees in the lavender path (July 13, 2022)

Several years ago, we stayed in an AirBnB house in an older Toronto neighbourhood. Another house on the street had a lavender-lined path to its front door. There were so many bumblebees visiting the lavender flowers.

When we returned home, I decided to make my own lavender path in the backyard. I needed a lot of plants, so I grew them myself from William Dam seeds (Hidcote Blue Apex). Right now, my lavender flowers are covered in bumblebees and honeybees. It smells wonderful too.

Last winter, I lost several lavender plants and some others died back to the ground. I am growing replacements from cuttings.

The lavender path divides the backyard mini-meadow. The bench is a good place to sit and watch Goldfinches eating seeds in the meadow later in the summer and fall.

Tadpoles: new residents (July 11, 2022)

Today I was given some tadpoles. They seem happy in the sloped, shallow end of the pond that we call the beach. I hope they enjoy their new home.

I am making toad houses out of rocks and broken clay pots around the back garden for when they’re mature enough to leave the pond.

Prickly Pear Cactus flower (July 10, 2022)

My first and only Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus flower. This cactus is native to SW Ontario and is endangered.

A few years ago, I bought a few pads from Make It Green Nursery. It took me a while to find a good spot for it in the front pollinator garden. I put lengths of metal fencing from Dollarama around it to prevent people of dogs from getting spiked. I also keep the area around the cactus well weeded to prevent competition.

It’s hard to believe that a cactus is hardy here in Ottawa. It looks shriveled and mushy in the spring, but soon plumps up again.

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