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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Monarchs - The Next Generation and a Bird Rescue

I had been looking forward to getting out in the garden and tidying up the milkweed.  It's looking scraggly and it's covered in aphids and other unidentified blobs.

I thought I was all done with caterpillars now and could trim off the yucky bits and have time for some new growth and blooms in time for the fall migration.

Shows you what I know.

Earlier in the week, when I was putting out birdseed, I noticed a tiny little caterpillar, not even half an inch long.  As I looked around, I noticed more of them.  I couldn't get photos at the time because it was early morning and the light was bad.

But I was able to get some photos today.  They've doubled in size already and are looking quite healthy.  They don't seem at all worried by the amount of "crud" all over the leaves they are steadily munching on. 

The earlier caterpillars were all in the front garden, but these are in the back.  We may have more out front, I didn't check yet.

This particular milkweed (below) is a different variety to most of the others in the garden.  It has yellow flowers when it's blooming, while the others all have red/orange flowers.   Can you see how many caterpillars there are on this one plant?

I circled some, but I may have missed some.

I have a HERD of caterpillars grazing in my back yard! 


Remember my recent post, Serendipity?  Well yesterday evening, Serendipity struck again.  While I was refilling the bird baths in the back corner of the garden, I kept hearing fluttering behind the Savannah holly.  It sounded like there was an injured bird back there.

I squeezed in as far as I could and didn't see anything, so I went back to filling up the bird baths.  Then I heard it again.  Definitely an injured bird, I thought.

I so squeezed in there again and, ignoring the prickly holly, moved some branches out of the way and suddenly I saw what was making the noise.  A bird was stuck!

At first I thought it was stuck in the cleft of two branches. But then I realized there was a little metal plant stand back there I'd forgotten about and the bird  had apparently got caught in the leg of the stand where it narrowed. 

Without thinking, I slipped my hand underneath the bird and lifted gently till I was able to cup it in my hands and carry it to safety.

It was a juvenile female cardinal, her beak not yet turned orange. I don't know why I happened to be wearing my gardening gloves to fill the bird baths but I'm glad I was because this frightened young lady showed her gratitude by chomping down on my thumb and forefinger. The gloves saved me from some painful bites!

I was concerned she might have injured a wing and was considering my options as she settled down and just sat in my hands while I talked to her.  My husband came out to see her too and would have got the camera for a photo but just at that moment, she decided it was time to move on.

She started fluttering in my hands and I didn't want to hurt her by holding on too tight, so I opened my hands and she took off and flew to the Vitex tree.  At the same moment, an adult female flew in from the left and joined her in the Vitex -- obviously a worried Mom.

The little one sat in the Vitex for a few minutes, preening her feathers and then they both took off and headed to the hedgerow in the fields behind our house.

I'm so glad that, once again, I had been in the right place at the right time. 

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.


Steph@RamblingWren said...

Maybe I should get some yellow Milkweed. I have 4 healthy plants (they finally established a root system), but no caterpillars. Hopefully, this fall there will be some. Lucky that you were able to rescue the young cardinal. Love those birds.

Carol said...

How cool to help a bird, since I take so much jop from them, it would thrill me. Cardinals are my favorite. They have really hung out around my tomato plants this year for some reason. Enjoy your weekend! Carol

Jayne said...

I've had caterpillars on both types of milkweed that I have this year, Steph. I've had more caterpillars this year than I've ever had before. It's been very exciting.

Jayne said...

Thanks Carol - I hope you're enjoying your weekend too. Cardinals are one of my favorite birds and it really did thrill be to be able to rescue one. I dread to think how long she might have struggled if I hadn't heard her.

Birdwoman said...

Congratulations on your fortuitous rescue. Feel really good, doesn't it?