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Friday, June 29, 2018

Short Eared Owls at Forbes Field 2018



All of the owls in this video were seen the last week of March in 2018 at Forbes Field Airport. Up to 8 owls were seen one night. They seem to winter in the area because of the short grass around the airport is ideal for hunting rodents. You hear eastern meadowlarks singing in the video. I was most amazed when a commercial jet was approaching the airport to land and it flew right over the owl. The owl wasn’t even bothered.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Bee Fly on Beebalm 2018



This bee fly was spotted in my Topeka KS yard on Jun 27 2018. A bee fly is a fly that mimics a bee. I slowed this video down so you could see its behavior. See its long beak like mouth part (proboscis). Well it uses that to feed on long tubular flowers, like those of this beebalm. Amazingly its beak is as long as its entire body. I love how they can hover. They are amazing. This insect is a member of the bee fly family (Bombyliidae) which is made up of 100s of genera and 1000s of species. And the bee fly is a parasite of other insects. The female bee fly will lay eggs on its host insects’ eggs or larva. When the bee fly eggs hatch they will consume the host insect killing it in the process.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Rose-breasted Grosbeak on Platform Feeder 2018



On May 5, 2018 a male rose breasted grosbeak visited my Topeka KS yard. Later I also saw two females. These birds are only seen in my yard during spring migration. They winter in Central and South America but breed in eastern North America. The grosbeak is eating sunflowers that I serve in a hanging platform feeder. The feeder hangs from a shepherd’s hook that has a squirrel baffle on it. You hear a house wren singing in the background throughout the video.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Squirrel Outwits Baffle on Bird Feeder



In April of 2018 a squirrel kept getting on my feeder in my Topeka KS yard. The feeder hangs from a shepherd’s hook that had a squirrel baffle on it. I’d seen squirrels on the feeder when they could jump to it from a tree branch or some other structure. But this feeder had no branches nearby. I just couldn’t figure out how he was getting to the feeder, so I set up the camera and after many tries caught him in the act. Watch as he leaps past the baffle. I had to slow down the video to see exactly how he was getting past the baffle. Squirrels are truly amazing. I remedied the situation by repositioning the pole so it was perpendicular to the ground.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Spring Migrating Warblers Visit Pond 2018



From May 2 to the 12, 2018 these are some of the birds that visited the marsh area of my backyard pond in Topeka Kansas. I have a backyard pond and a shallow marsh area underlain with a liner. The marsh is backfilled with dirt and is very shallow. The warblers were coming to the marsh area to drink and bathe. Warblers seen in the video include Nashville, Yellow-rumped, Yellow and Blackpoll.

Desert Biscuitroot 2018



These are the flowers of desert biscuitroot (Lomatium foeniculaceum) growing in my Topeka KS garden on April 19 2018. This plant has a variety of common names that add confusion to its identity. Other names it goes by are wild celery, carrot leaf lomatium, fennel leaf desert parsley. Maybe you know it by another name? Biscuitroots are members of the Parsley family (Apiaceae). Like other members of the Parsley family its inflorescence is an umbel, like an umbrella, made up of many individual flowers. Desert biscuit root is native to western and central North America. In Kansas it tends to grow on thin rocky soils with short vegetation. It is a prairie ephemeral only appearing in the spring. By summer it will be completely dormant with no trace of its existence. The leaves are finely dissected and taste just like celery. The root is a long starchy tap root that was used as a substitute for flour, hence the name biscuit root. WARNING: Never consume plants unless you are 100% positive on its identity as there are lookalike plants that are highly poisonous. Look for this plant on high quality native prairies in Kansas. It makes a great rock garden plant and is a host plant to the black swallowtail butterfly. Cattle readily graze it and it will disappear with early spring overgrazing.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Great-tailed Grackles 2018



It’s May 5 2018 and the great tailed grackles have returned to Topeka for the breeding season. They are not common in the county and the only reliable place I know to find them is along highway 24 west of highway 75 in an industrial area with ponds, trees, and turf grass – their preferred habitat. The great-tailed grackle has been increasing its range as it benefits from agriculture and urban areas. The male is an iridescent purple and black with a large tail. The female is much smaller than the males and are drab brown with a pale underside. Males and females have yellow eyes.