Since we continued to have some warm, sunny days during the first weeks of October, I was able to observe insects and birds in the garden later in the season than usual. To my surprise, there were still a lot of pollinators out on aster and goldenrod flowers. I was also astonished to see so many bird species still visiting the stream.
First Junco of the fall eating Blue Grama seeds (October 1, 2022)
This is the first Dark-eyed Junco I spotted in the yard this fall. As short-term migrants, Juncos breed in the Boreal Forest but spend the cooler months a bit further south. A little flock will hang out in our yard until early spring.
This male Junco came to the stream for a bath, a drink, and to snack on Blue Grama seeds. Blue Grama is the only grass I’ve ever seen birds eating. That’s probably because it is by the stream. It grows in tufts and is less than a foot tall, so it’s easy for birds to reach the seeds.
Through the front window: Goldfinches eating Brown-eyed Susan seeds (October 5, 2022)
A Goldfinch family was in the front garden this morning eating Brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba) seeds. I had to snap a few photos through the window.
16 bird species visit the stream in an afternoon (October 5, 2022)
Today was a lovely day to sit and watch birds at the stream. As I opened eBird to start a list, it dawned on me that I could share a photo list with you. I saw a total of 16 bird species — which is pretty awesome for October 5th and in the middle of the city.
I saw most of the birds in about an hour at mid-day, with a few others spotted later in the afternoon. The photos are from today, with the exception of 3 birds that I missed when my camera battery ran out, so I included substitute photos from another day.
I can’t figure out how to add captions to photos in a slideshow, so here’s a list of the birds:
- Blue Jay,
- Black-capped Chickadee
- Chipping Sparrow
- Eastern Phoebe
- European Starling
- American Goldfinches
- House Finch
- Dark-eyed Junco
- Mourning Dove
- Red-eyed Vireo
- American Robin
- Swainson’s Thrush (I think)
- White-throated Sparrow
- Yellow-rumped Warbler
‘Fireworks’ Goldenrod: a late bloomer (October 5, 2022)
Two years ago, I posted a series of photos of insects visiting Zigzag Goldenrod. This year, I decided to watch for insects on a different late-blooming goldenrod — Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’, a cultivar of Rough Goldenrod. There were mostly bumblebees, Honeybees, and flies, all of which are active pollinators even in cooler temperatures. Although I did see a variety of pollinators, the Zigzag Goldenrod remains the winner for attracting a diversity of insects.
This ‘Fireworks’ Rough Goldenrod was the first goldenrod I ever bought, when I was inspired by Piet Oudolf gardens to create a naturalistic, meadow planting. At the time, I hadn’t discovered native plant nurseries, so it was the only goldenrod I could find at a conventional nursery. I think most of the nursery staff thought I was crazy to want to add goldenrod to my garden. This goldenrod has quite a chaotic growth habit with stems shooting out in every direction, hence the name ‘Fireworks’.
The insects in the first 3 photos are bees, the following 4 are flies, and the last one is a weevil.
Facebook memory: admiring and collecting seeds (October 6, 2020)
Designer Piet Oudolf encourages gardeners to appreciate brown as a colour in the garden. No wonder. These seeds and pods are almost as pretty as flowers.
Smooth Aster: a showy late-bloomer (October 6, 2022)
Smooth Aster is one of my latest blooming, and showiest asters. Its pale bluish flowers combine well with the yellows, oranges and reds of fall leaves and flowers.
Elusive Northern Flicker (October 6, 2022)
For several weeks now, I’ve been hearing a Northern Flicker. The Merlin bird sound ID app confirmed what I’d been hearing. I heard it in neighbouring yards and in our back hedgerow, which includes a couple of dead Ash tree trunks.
I finally spotted the bird in the back after hearing its commanding, single-note call. Of course, I didn’t have the camera; I was frantically trying to plant the last of my native plant seedlings that had been languishing in the greenhouse all summer.
I ran back to the house to get the camera and snapped a few pictures of it on a nearby hydro (electricity) pole. Such a pretty bird. I also included a better photo of a Flicker from 2021 to show its feather patterns and red patch.
Honeybee on Mistflower (October 6, 2022)
Over the past couple of years, I’ve grown a few plants that native to more southern parts of North America. After reading that Mistflower is an attractive nectar source for late butterflies, I grew a few plants. I have never seen a butterfly, or any other pollinator, visiting the flowers — until now. Two Honeybees were meticulously working their way around the flat flower heads.
Mistflowers are a striking, electric, bluish-purple colour. Mine don’t get very tall, so they’ve an eye-catching edger.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet hunting for insects (October 12, 2022)
This morning, while it was still too cool to sit outside, we watched birds through the back window as they visited the stream and hopped around the nearby garden. The highlight was a male Ruby-crowned Kinglet flitting around the trees and herbaceous plants looking for insects to eat.
I was surprised that Kinglets are still around. According to the Merlin app, this is actually peak fall migration time for Ruby-crowned Kinglets. I will have to keep an eye out for more of these adorable, active little birds.
House Finches eating Aster seeds (October 12, 2022)
Yesterday, for the first time, I watched House Finches eating plant seeds. Five birds jockeyed for positions on Heart-leaved Asters by the back window — the same asters that a Ruby-crowned Kinglet visited in the morning while hunting for insects.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been growing more asters and goldenrod to support birds in the fall by attracting insects and providing seeds. I’m delighted to see that this is working. Since Heart-leaved Asters grow in some shade, I planted seedlings all over the place.
Aromatic Asters: a short late-bloomer (October 7, 2022)
Aromatic Aster is another late-blooming aster that I use a lot. It is only a couple of feet tall, but flops over to create a shorter cookie-shaped mound of bluish-purple flowers. The flowers attract a lot of bumblebees and honeybees.
This aster is native the prairies, but I grow it here anyway as an attractive edger. It blooms prolifically until it snows. Last year, I even had to dig in the snow to collect its seeds. I have never detected a fragrance, despite this plant’s common name.