Each year in my native landscape I discover many new types of wildlife from small insects to large birds. As I build my native landscape by planting a diversity of local plant species, I am always amazed at what is different from year to year as the landscape evolves and matures.
This year has been the year of predators. Perhaps because I’ve successfully attracted the prey in previous years by providing the right habitat and food sources.
Here’s some 2011 highlights from my 2/3 acre landscape as the season winds down.
These medium sized birds impale their prey (birds, small mammals and reptiles) on thorns or small branches.
I hope this means that I’m providing good habitat for small mammals by leaving the plant stems and prairie grasses up for the winter?
Great Horned Owls
Great Horned Owls are common in our area in late winter and early spring but we had more sightings and evidence that they were hunting in our yard.
The regurgitated owl “pellets” of small rodent prey were abundant on the snow and leaf litter.
More Wolf Spiders were spotted foraging in the leaf litter this spring. In June, I captured a Spider Wasp dragging a Wolf Spider back to its nest. Spider Wasps paralyze Wolf Spiders, drag them to their ground nest and feed the spiders to their young.
This warbler was seen over a two week period in our yard. It was always spotted on Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) foraging in the flower buds.
I plan to investigate the Red Elderberry more carefully next year to see what exactly the warbler was eating.
An Ichneumon Wasp (left) was among the many native bee species pollinating the early flowering Bloodroot and Hepatica.
A first sighting ever and in our yard. This sparrow stopped by to feed on the seeds on the ground from our prairie grasses and forbs.
First sighting of a Brown Thrasher foraging on the ground at the edge of our prairie species and shade trees.
More Migratory Birds
Three migratory birds, the Chestnut Sided Warbler, an unidentified wood warbler, and American Redstart all forage for insects on Ironwood trees (Ostrya virginiana) in our yard.
A Wasp species takes a short cut for nectar in the Hairy Penstemon flowers by chewing a hole near the base.
Several new types of Robber Flies hunted in the yard this year. Voracious predators of other insects including ones larger than themselves. They are often mimics, the one on the left resembling a bumble bee.
This predatory beetle has the most fascinating and gruesome lifecycle. The beetles lay their eggs on flowers where wasps visit for nectar. The larvae hatch and grab hold of the wasps and hitch a ride back to their nests. They then parasitize the wasp larvae.
These beetles were abundant on the Spotted Horse Mint (Monarda punctata) and only this native plant.
These predatory bugs were also abundant on my prairie natives. They wait on flower petals for nectaring bees and flies. They grab them with their sickle like forelegs and pierce the their bodies with their long tubular mouthparts.
Another intriguing insect mimic. This is a fly dressed like a wasp. I spotted this fly hanging around some wetland natives in my raingarden. It waves its black forelegs to mimic the antennae of wasp.
These bees were much more abundant this year as I had added more Gray Headed Coneflowers (Ratibida pinnata) to the prairie area. This seems to be their favorite native to nectar on. The Jagged Ambush Bugs would also hide where the petals attach to the cone, waiting to catch one of the bees.
A new wasp sighting. This is a ground nesting wasp that liked nectaring on our Boneset. It hunts True Bugs to feed their young.
This moth caterpillar looks very much like a Monarch in coloration. It was feeding on our grape vine. I only saw one caterpillar, and when I looked it up in the field guide determined that we’re at the very northern edge of its range.
Our late season flowering natives seem to play an important role for this moth. A first sighting in our yard, I saw it nectaring on both Aster and Goldenrod species.
It’s very similar in appearance to the Virginia Ctenucha Moth which is slightly larger and has blue coloration on its thorax.
What new discoveries did you make this year?
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