Grass with Dew

BEE a Naturalist

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Anyone can be a naturalist, a person who likes to learn about the natural world. Join author P.K. Butler here for nature photos and links to informational web sites that will start you on a wondrous journey of discovery.

April 22, 2022

Celebrate Earth Day by Planting

Mother Earth, like most mothers, enjoys a gift of flowers, so why not give her some? Not the cut flowers you buy in the grocery store, but flowering plants that you put into the earth to grow for the benefit of her many children, including us. Who doesn't like the beautiful colors and sweet smells of flowers? I happen to know that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are a big fan of Bee Balm, or Monarda, a flowering plant in the mint family. 

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Monarda is a perennial, which means that once established, it will grow back each season of its own accord. (Above is a photo of my bed taken today.) And because today is Earth Day, I started a new bed of Monarda (purchased from a nursery) in another location of my yard. Why all the bother? You'll understand why when you see this showy flower in bloom (left). No wonder it's irresistible to hummingbirds.

April 15, 2022

Update on My Grand Experiment

A few short months ago, on January 2, 2022, I posted on a "grand experiment" to start from seed two beds of wild flowers native to Pennsylvanian--one for wild geraniums and the other for cardinal flowers (to read more about these, scroll down for my original post below). While I can identify wild geraniums as a blooming flower, I don't know what they look like as seedlings, just sprouting from the earth. I searched online for an image but could find none.

However, the photo presented here of seedlings in my geranium bed do not  (sadly) appear to be geraniums, given their leaf shape. Oh well, learning is about trial and error. I'll simply need to learn more about creating the proper soil conditions . . . and get these into the ground in the fall rather than in early winter.

As to the cardinal flowers, which bloom from July through September, the ground is still bare, no seedlings in sight. But I'll keep an eye out and update you if and when anything sprouts!

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March 27, 2022

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Day 8 in Spring!

I love the season of Spring so much that I keep track of every passing day so that I don't waste a single one. Luckily, I have two big dogs that demand frequent outings to our favorite place. (To learn more about this place and to see what we did on Day 3 of Spring, see my most recent blog . . . a Blogger Icon in the header of the home page will take you there.) This morning we headed out around 9:30 am and were the only ones about except for the birds and this Great Blue Heron stalking the pond bank in search of a Sunday

mid-morning meal. So as not to disturb him, we took a detour, and he or she was nice enough to pose for this photo. There's only 86 days left to Spring; be sure to get outside as often as possible because you never know who or what you'll see!

March 14, 2022

Spring Equinox Is Coming Soon!

March 20th will usher in the first day of spring, when the length of the day is equal to the length of the night.  Spring is my favorite season because everything is bursting with potential! Today I took my dogs Rosie (a chocolate lab) and Henry (a pointer/border collie mix) out for a walk to one of our favorite places, the site of the Emanuel Harmon Farm in Gettysburg. This is about a 100-acre tract of land with a pond. Willoughby Run (a tributary of Marsh Creek) also runs through this tract of land, which gives the dogs two opportunities to get wet!

Here are two images I took on today's outing. Rosie was checking out the mallards in the pond . . . and thereafter Henry had to wade into Willoughby Run (so did Rosie, but Henry chose a more interesting spot for the camera)! 

Here's hoping the first day of spring is a pleasant one for getting out to enjoy the best season of the year!

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January 13, 2022

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Feed the Birds

If it's within your family's budget, consider feeding the birds. Finding food in the winter can be difficult for birds especially when most people convert their properties into carpets of sterile turf (lawns). These lawns provide no seeds, berries, or insects for birds to feed upon. And if you do want to help birds, choose black oil sunflower seeds as your "go to" seed as this suits more birds than any other type. Too, an open tray feeder like the one pictured allows 

ample space for several birds to eat at once, though here we see a lone house finch who, just for a moment, doesn't need to share. Hang the tray feeder from a tree branch high enough so that a jumping cat can't reach it but low enough so that you can to refill it. Also place the feeder a good distance from the house (about 50 feet) because otherwise birds might fly from the feeder and into your windows, which can stun or kill them. But if you take these precautions you and the birds can be happy neighbors.

January 2, 2022

A Grand Experiment!

It’s a New Year, and you know what that means: time to start planning your spring garden, whether flower, vegetable, or both! In fact, it’s a bit late to plant some seeds, the very ones I want to plant. In early, December I sent away for flowering plants native to Pennsylvania, and most were to be seeded in the fall. I hurriedly planted a few since winter did not technically begin until December 21. Now, I am embarked upon a grand experiment to see if these lately seeded plants will germinate in the spring.

Pictured here are small plots I’ve chosen for wild geranium and cardinal flowers, surrounding the bird bath. The cardinal 

December 20, 2021


The Winter Solstice: December 21

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flowers require a wet soil while the geraniums need a drier soil, so attempting them both in close proximity is another part of the grand experiment. My thinking is that with daily changing of the bird bath, the cardinal flowers will get the extra water they need. But we’ll have to see. 

 

If you’re wondering who is attempting to dig up this fresh soil . . . that’s my cat, Ursula. She’s fun to have around but also something of a troublemaker. Hence the screens you see to protect the seed beds.

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December 20, 2021


The Winter Solstice: December 21

The Earth's orbit around the sun can be divided into four quarters based on the sunlight that reaches its surface: the spring equinox, the summer solstice, the fall equinox, and the winter solstice. Because the Earth's axis is titled 23.5 degrees, our planet is either  pointing toward the sun or away from it (the solstices), or it has reached the midway points between these two opposites (the equinoxes). The image provided (from Wikipedia) demonstrates this.  This year the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year) falls on December 21, 2021. Learn more about it at  . . . 

https://www.almanac.com/content/first-day-winter-winter-solstice

December 2, 2021

Become a Birder!

Anyone can become a birder especially with the numerous web sites devoted to this pursuit. My first "go to" location is 

allaboutbirds.org (link below), a web site produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology located in Ithaca, New York. The easiest way to start is to recognize that you already know many different birds on sight. For instance, do you recognize the birds in this photo as Canada geese? If so, you're right! I took this image just a few days ago. Of course, you'll want to learn more about the Canada goose and can do that easily enough. Make a visit to the link below to discover a world

of information about this commonly seen goose. It's about time you get to know him or her a bit better.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Canada_Goose/overview

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And I almost forgot . . . you can also learn about new birds by visiting my Bird Blog. I post to this blog about twice a month on whatever bird I'm lucky enough to capture on camera (I'm no photographer) and even those I can't. For instance, today I posted on the Northern Harrier that  I saw while driving. Since I didn't get her photo, I had to rely on one granted through permission. You can find this post and others by clicking on the Blogger icon in the header of my home page.

November 19, 2021

The Full Moon in November is the Beaver Moon

Native Americans gave each full moon throughout the year its own name, a name relating to the characteristics of that

particular month. The full moon name for November is the Beaver Moon  for that animal's activities preparing for winter. 

I waited until this evening to  attempt a photo of the full moon, the Beaver Moon. The first image was a blurry disc surrounded by clouds (very moody) and framed by the shadows of tree limbs. I took another and noted how the shutter button "stalled" when I clicked it, catching a clear image, but without a background. I'm sure there's a technical name for it, though I don't know it.  But I like my picture and want to share it.

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NASA has a  cool web page for kids devoted to the moon. Check it out.

https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/search/moon/

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Today on my dog walk with Rosie and Henry, I spotted four crows who kept me under surveillance. Here's a close up of two. I absolutely LOVE crows, but after visiting the The Old Farmer's Almanac for Kids (link to the right), I love them even more, if that's possible!


November 3, 2021

Gift-giving Crows!

When you see an American Crow, you can be sure it's seeing you, too. Crows are clever birds who keep better track of people than people do of them. They're the most intelligent bird, and I know that they collect shiny "things," but I didn't know (until today) that crows are also known to give these trinkets as gifts! If you want to watch an incredible story about crows who consistently give a young girl gifts as a "thank you" for her gifts to them of food and water, then you must watch the embedded Youtube video within this web page about crows.

https://www.almanac.com/kids/curious-crow-friend-or-foe

October 16, 2021

Still Busy Working

I took this photo of a worker honeybee on October 8. Notice the "pollen basket" or 

corbiculae on her thigh? (Scroll down two strips to see a bumblebee with one.) Here in Gettysburg, I still see honeybees out looking for pollen and nectar though the flower selections are getting slim. On the website National Geographic for Kids, I just read 10 Facts about honeybees. Can you guess what fact rated as #1? If you said (or thought) . . . Honeybees are great pollinators . . . then you're right!  But there's a lot more to know about them, so why not check out this cool web page. You'll be glad you did (and so will the honeybees).

https://www.natgeokids.com/za/discover/animals/insects/honey-bees/

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October 4, 2021

It's Raining Nuts!

 
Today my dogs (Rosie and Henry) and I were out enjoying a walk on the Gettysburg Battlefield, which took us down the long dirt lane to the historic Slyder Farm. Along this lane grows a black walnut tree that was dropping a few walnuts as we passed, and one nearly hit me on the head! These nuts are not small--about the size of a tennis ball. But it's officially autumn, so you have to expect a few falling nuts. In fact, a couple weeks ago, when Rosie and Henry and I were walking downstream in Marsh Creek, we were treated to a shower of acorns, plunking into the water all around us. At the time I thought, It's raining acorns! I need to use that line as a closing sentence in my next book (you heard it here first--ha!). But back to black walnuts . . . 

I did a quick search on the web to learn what animals depend on black walnut trees . . . some of which I knew (squirrels, for instance) and some I didn't (the caterpillars of many species of moths and butterflies). To learn more, visit this informative site . . . and watch out for falling nuts!

https://the-natural-web.org/2013/11/22/in-praise-of-black-walnut-trees/

September 23, 2021

 

Some Buzz on Bumble Bees
 

I took this image from my deck of a bumble bee on September 12, almost two weeks ago. Fall has arrived here in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and when the flowers die, bumble bees (and other bees) must make their plans for the winter. Some (the queens) will hibernate, but most will die. Learn more in the article  "Where Do Bees Go in Winter." 
 

https://www.buzzaboutbees.net/Where-Do-Bees-Go-In-Winter.html

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Did you know that there are 21 species in the eastern states of the US? Currently, I can't tell one bumblebee from another. In fact, I sometimes confuse carpenter bees with bumble bees. That said, I'm ever eager to learn. 

I love this image for its view of the bee's dangling appendages--so cute! But something more interesting still . . . see the orange area above the hindleg? These are "pollen baskets" or corbiculae where the bee stores its collected pollen.

I found a wonderful PDF (published by the US Fish and Wildlife Service) titled "Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States." The link provided below is specific to a particular endangered species, but if you scroll all the way down, you'll find a link to the resource noted. It's full of incredible images, facts, and illustrations.

September 12, 2021

Meet the Female Yellow Garden Spider

Once you get to know Yellow Garden Spiders, they become less scary. I suspect that spiders give most people the creeps, me included. But after learning to identify this orb-weaving spider . . . and where I might find her (in my garden) . . . I lost most (not all) of my "jitters." Just recently I had two encounters with the female of this species. I spotted the first hanging in a circular web adorning one of my front windows! This was not an ideal placement for me because I don't like to see other insects struggling in the web. So, with apologies, I lifted her gingerly on the end of a broom and placed her within the flowers below my front porch. Then, just a couple days ago, I spotted and photographed the one you see here. I didn't evict her since the garden is her rightful home.  Learn lots more about this large, colorful spider in an article published by Savvy Gardening:

 

https://savvygardening.com/garden-spider/

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August 27, 2021

 

Butterflies and Bees Need Nectar and Pollen

Not all flowers produce nectar, the sugary liquid that we associate as food for butteries and bees. Only those plants that depend on animal pollinators (butterflies, bees, and others) produce nectar as a "reward" to pollinators for carrying pollen (made by the male parts of a plant) to fertilize the female parts of the same plant or another. So when planning your garden to help butterflies and bees thrive, be sure to first make sure the flowers you select will provide both nectar and pollen. 

I discovered a great article on this topic! Get started learning about flowers and pollinators now so that you can begin a beautiful garden in the spring.

 

https://www.gazettenet.com/Ask-a-local-master-gardener-What-s-the-difference-between-nectar-and-pollen-25855711

August 21, 2021

Get to Know Your Summer Neighbors

Ever notice how most people mow their lawns to look like green carpets?

The problem is that butterflies, bees, grasshoppers and all sorts of living beings need to eat and drink, just like you, just like me. That's why we should plant gardens to support them.

I took this photo many years ago. You can see a grasshopper of the top leaf and a butterfly on the stem. (I can't make out the little fellow in-between.)

 

 By the way, want to know how you can distinguish between a butterfly and a moth? Here's a great web page on the physical and behavioral characteristics that define each.
 

https://www.loc.gov/everyday-mysteries/zoology/item/how-can-you-tell-the-difference-between-a-butterfly-and-a-moth/

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