Tag Archives: Agastache

Monthly Journal – July, 2016

July has been full of birds. We think our yard has never been as full of birds as this past month.  A cake of suet lasts about a day and a half and we’re filling large feeders every 4 days. Catbirds are everywhere, and we are getting up at sunrise to beat them and the robins to our ripening figs.

Birds are still fledging, and some bird houses up and down the street and on the Nature Trail are hosting their third brood of this season.  Two of the photos below, shot through our window, are of a baby catbird who wasn’t quite quite ready to fly and wound up in boxwood for a few hours.  His parents continued to feed him and eventually he got his wings and left.

What’s missing are butterflies and dragonflies.  They were everywhere this time last year and this year we are seeing very few.  Maybe the birds are eating the larvae.  We are hoping that mosquito spraying is not involved in their disappearance.

The last photo is of the newly resurfaced Nature Trail.  If you are in the neighborhood, you should go see it.

Monthly Journal – June, 2016

June was hot and dry.  Everybody’s looking for shade and water.  As a follow up to our last post, Bruce Hallett sent us three great photos of one of the juvenile Cooper’s Hawks enjoying his birdbath, which are below.  There is still nesting going on and the birdhouse on the Nature Trail closest to the garden area has a brood of Carolina Wren chicks.  They are keeping their parents busy and making so much noise you can hear them 25 feet away.  Remember there are those who are just beginning to nest, such as American Goldfinches ( see our blog from July last year Late Starters).

Monthly Journal – May, 2016

It’s May and, as always in this month, there’s a lot going on.  Pollinators are busy and some species of birds are raising a second brood.  We’ve seen a few Hummingbirds, but they are still infrequent visitors to our blooms.

The neighbor across the street reports that the resident box turtle was seen hiking up their driveway.  And one of the most interesting reports came from a neighbor on West Paces Ferry who sent us a photo taken in her yard of a Groundhog (aka Woodchuck or Whistlepig).  She contacted Georgia DNR who confirmed it as a Groundhog saying that while it’s unusual for them to be this far south in Georgia, it’s not unheard of.

Brown is Beautiful

Especially if you are foraging for food, Like the Song Sparrow below in the native grass.

We plant for color and to attract pollinators in the spring, summer and fall.  But when winter comes and the garden turns brown, leaving plants with seed heads will provide much needed food for all manner of wildlife – especially birds.

Like this row of river oats beside the path.

Goldenrod’s spectacular fall display leaves much in the way of food.

Seeds in the heart of spent Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans are a bonus.

Even plants in pots on the deck can provide good foraging material.

Late Starters

Female Goldfinch on Agastache

Female Goldfinch on Agastache

You thought nesting season was over for this year.  And, except for goldfinches, you’re right. The American goldfinch begins its breeding season later in the year than any other finch and later than any other native North American bird except, occasionally, the sedge wren.  Their breeding season is tied to the peak of their food supply, beginning in late July, which is relatively late.

Male Goldfinch on Agastache

Male Goldfinch on Agastache

The pictures of the two Goldfinches eating Agastache seed on our back deck were taken on July 17, 2015.  The male is the brighter colored of the two.  Notice that the beak of the female is pinkish, indicating that she’s breeding.  You can see a short video we took in July 2013 of two Goldfinches eating from the same Agastache plants.

The American Goldfinch is a granivore and adapted for the consumption of seedheads. Its diet consists of the seeds from a wide variety of plants, including weeds, grasses and trees, such as thistle, dandelion, ragweed, goatsbeard, sunflower, and alder.  It also consumes tree buds, maple sap, and berries. Goldfinches will eat at bird feeders, particularly in the winter months, preferring Nyjger seed (nyjer is different from thistle: it comes from Africa and will not sprout). In our yard, they especially love the bird feeders as well as the dried seedheads of Agastache, Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans.

Their nest is built in late summer by the female in the branches of a deciduous shrub or tree at a height of up to 30 feet.  The inside diameter of the finished nest is about 2 1/2 inches.  The rim is reinforced with bark bound by spiderwebs and caterpillar silk, and the cup is lined with plant down from milkweed, thistle, or cattail. The nest is so tightly woven that it can hold water, and it’s possible for nestlings to drown following a rainstorm if the parents don’t cover the nest.

American Goldfinches at bird feeders

American Goldfinches at bird feeders

The chicks hatch 12–14 days after incubation begins. The hatchlings develop quickly, opening their eyes after three days, and completing the growth of olive-brown juvenile plumage after 11–15 days, at which time they begin to practice short flights close to the nest. Then, they join their parents at bird feeders, which is why you’ll notice a spike in the number of Goldfinches in August.

Who’s That Humming?

Native Columbine

Canadian Columbine

Local wisdom says when the Canadian Columbine (a native) booms the hummers are here.  It’s certainly true this year.  We have already been buzzed by a few, but no visuals yet.    Atlanta Audubon’s check list for Atlanta lists four Hummingbirds: Ruby-throated, Rufous, Black-chinned and Calliope.  Only the Ruby-throated is common here and only in the Spring, Summer and Fall; the rest are rare.  Enjoy them while they’re here, because in the fall they’ll be headed back on the long flight across the Gulf of Mexico  to Central America.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeding on Agastache

Right now they are building nests and gathering fuel to recharge after their long flight.  Nectar from flowers and flowering trees, as well as small insects and spiders are the main food source.  Young birds are fed insects for protein since nectar is an insufficient source of protein for the growing birds.

They prefer flowers that are red or orange.  This is where, with a little planning,  you can have something blooming that will provide them with food throughout their stay.

If you decide to feed them with a sugar solution, do not color the water since the dyes are bad for the hummers.  Feeders should be checked frequently in warm weather, and daily if it’s really hot since the sugar water will ferment and make them sick.

We received this from Audubon two days ago: “Download Audubon’s Hummingbirds at Home app and join a network of citizen scientists working to help hummingbirds now and ensure them a bright future.”  There’s a link at the top of the page to download the app.