The number of individual hummingbirds in the GNG has increased dramatically as of late. At any given time, there will be anywhere between 30-50 birds on the feeders. And as expected this time of year, Anna’s Hummingbirds and Allen’s Hummingbirds are the only species represented - but we always keep alert for something unusual!
Sometimes a beautiful insect is not a welcome guest in a garden. This species of Eucalyptus Longhorned Borer was first documented in California in 1995 and is now well established throughout the state; along with non-native plants come non-native insects. Luckily, this very large beetle is so closely associated with eucalyptus that it is not known to use any other tree species as a host. But when non-native insects find themselves with no natural predators, they can run rapid. To combat this particular beetle, natural enemies of the borer (Avetianella longoi, a Phoracantha sp. host-specific wasp) were introduced from Australia and have reduced the number of trees this borer kills. Lets hope these “natural enemies” stick to attacking only Eucalyptus Longhorned Borers…
Mimicry is one of many interesting strategies for survival in the animal kingdom. This Syrphid Fly is a European Honey Bee mimic. Honey bees have the ability to sting, so this fly’s disguise will get it respect from many animals. But the question arises; why would a mimic for a European bee species be in the GNG? Because this fly species hitchhiked across the Atlantic and is continuing it’s ruse along side honey bees throughout North America.
This male Townsend's Warbler thought taking a bath during a brief rain shower today was a great idea. So pleased was he that many soft warbler chips were sung during his late morning rinse. Townsend's Warbler’s breed in the moist forests of the Pacific Northwest and can be found wintering along Southern California’s coast to as far south as Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
When outside, be sure to look everywhere for life, including up.
This unusual congregation of Common Ravens was a special moment for us. Unlike American Crows, ravens are not a corvid that normally congregates in large social groups. This overhead party was quite unusual. Usually, ravens are seen in groups of 2s to 5s. The GNG happens to have a large group of 7 ravens that patrol the area. But the well over 100 birds in this brief playdate was something never seen before by us! This whole gathering lasted less than 10 minutes; they came from every direction, played, socialized, vocalized - and then disappeared as fast as they arrived.
Be ready for nature’s surprises – something spectacular will play-out before you eyes when you least expect it!
A butterfly not yet seen in the GNG was found today, a Western Pygmy-Blue. This beauty is the smallest butterfly found in the United States and one of the smallest butterflies in the world - its wingspread scarcely makes half an inch! Although fairly common in California, this butterfly is easy to overlook due to its tiny size and it's near to the ground flight.
Milkweed plants are host to more than just Monarch larvae. Many types of insects make their living on milkweed, including the beautiful Large Milkweed Bug. You should not be alarmed by the appearance of these “true bugs”, as they are a sure sign of a healthy milkweed garden!
The bounty of Monarch larvae in the GNG formed their chrysalis’s weeks ago and nearly all have finished emerging as adult butterflies. The garden is now full of adult Monarchs, but it didn’t come without some drama. The majority of larvae and chrysalis stayed healthy and produced adults, but nature never allows for a 100% success rate. Monarchs have many natural obstacles to avoid; birds, mammals, parasites, protozoa and virus to name a few.
Tachinid flies are present in most all garden environments, and the GNG is no exception. These flies lay their eggs on caterpillars, including the larvae of Monarch butterflies. Once the tachinid fly larvae hatches it immediately bores into the host’s body and proceeds to eat the caterpillar from the inside out. When the larva is fully developed it emerges from its host, falling to the ground to pupate. When they exit the caterpillar or pupae, a long white strand is left hanging, evidence that this parasite was present.
Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) is a protozoa that caterpillars can ingest when feeding on milkweed. It’s spread through microscopic spores coming off the bodies of adult butterflies. When an OE infected female lays her egg, the newly hatched larvae is sure to contract the pathogen. Once ingested, these protozoa multiply inside the caterpillar and will cause weakness and sometimes an untimely death. When noticed, OE infection is usually seen during the chrysalis stage when the pupae fails.
For the past few weeks there has been construction in the east end of the garden. As a result, only one nocturnal mammal species has been caught on camera lately – Striped Skunk. Apparently, they are okay with chaos, although the skunk in the bottom image looks like it’s about to spray something just out of the frame!
The transition between daylight and darkness is a magical time to be in the GNG. Here a well-camouflaged Great Horned Owl lurks in the shadows, getting in a few more winks before a night of hunting begins.