m is for mayapple


Each May I keep watch for my favourite woodland flowers, especially the mysterious Mayapple.

In frequent pilgrimages to the woods, I see Squill showing their colours, and spiders starting the summer with feasts of midges.

Lavender Squill

Forest Web

Then one day the Mayapples are shooting up out the ground, fully formed.

Mayapples at the foot of a stump

Within a few days the above-ground part of the plant has unfurled. Those that will blossom and then bear fruit have two leaves and one flower bud, visible as soon as the unfurling begins.

Mayapple after rain

I’m surprised to see a snail has climbed to the top of a Mayapple. But a closer look reveals no one is home in that beautiful shell. The empty shell was simply lifted from its winter resting place as a Mayapple emerged from directly underneath.

Snail at the summit

Over the next two weeks I visit the woods several times, eager to find the Mayapples in full blossom.

On dewy mornings, short grasses along the way have gone to seed and are happily soaking up moisture.

Jewelled grass

In the shade near Mayapple patches, Wood Geranium flowers bloom in shafts of sunlight that streak through the spotty springtime forest canopy.

Wood Geranium

A small branch at my feet, long since fallen away from a tree, is growing beautiful arcs of fungi.

Arc of fungi

At last, when I get down low and gaze through the dim light near the forest floor, I see white flowers.

Forest Canopies

Beneath the tall tree trunks are Mayapple leaves, beneath those are Mayapple blossoms, a few inches lower are Trillium blooms, lower still are Trillium leaves, and lower still, you’re getting close to the forest floor.

When you get close enough to a Mayapple blossom you are treated to a strangely rich scent, a foretaste of the delicious fruit that will soon form. If you’re lucky, the squirrels might leave one or two ripe fruits for you to taste in late July or early August. (You don’t want to cheat by grabbing an unripe fruit, which is poisonous along with all other parts of the Mayapple plant.) And if you don’t manage to sample the fruit, just getting a sniff of the flower is a worthy consolation prize.

Mayapple blossom

going the distance


In September many migratory species head south from these shores. Not all of them have feathers.

The birds that nest here, but spend winters in warmer climates, cross paths with those which nest further north and only stop here in passing.

Autumn is sweet, with many opportunities to see and hear these beautiful friends before the quiet winter. Autumn is scary, too, with growing uncertainty whether each species will find safe travel to a winter haven, safe travel north again in the spring, and a safe place to nest and raise young next year.

Killdeer beside still waters

The elegant Yellowlegs, which often spends a few weeks around here in the fall, is one of my favourite visitors. In recent days a pair of Yellowlegs worked a mudflat favoured by Killdeers. On a single high-pitched signal they all took off in the same instant, circled around, and then landed together on a nearby mudflat. (I believe the bird pictured below is a Lesser Yellowlegs and not its larger cousin the Greater Yellowlegs.)

Dance of the Yellowlegs

A juvenile Green Heron landed beside the shorebirds but was after larger prey than insects, and it soon moved on.

Sharp left

Lurking in the shadows nearby, a furtive Swamp Sparrow briefly crossed a bare rocky patch.

Swamp Sparrow on the rocks

As the sun set a juvenile Sora cautiously stepped out from reedy cover.

Sora at sunset

On the migratory flightpaths, birds are joined by smaller and more delicate creatures.


If I am correct that the above picture shows a Black Saddlebags, it is one of a dozen dragonfly species that conduct a multi-generational annual round trip from north to south and back.

The Green Darner, below, famously migrates to the southern US states, Mexico, or Caribbean islands.

Green Darner on Burning Bush

A tall clump of pink aster in our yard has been particularly attractive lately to migrating butterflies.

Pink Aster Sky

Monarch on pink aster

For weeks we have had many monarch sightings every day. All of them continued to move west, likely heading around Lake Ontario before flying south to Mexico.

On a couple of afternoons, though, the monarchs were joined by a smaller butterfly with similar colours.

American Painted Lady on pink aster, 1

This appears to be the American Painted Lady, part of a family known for migrations on and between several continents.

American Painted Lady on pink aster, 2

May all our winged relations, with or without feathers, find safe passage into a new season.

close encounters


A severe restriction can sometimes be a blessing in disguise – at least when it comes to noticing beautiful sights.

Deep Well (squash blossom)

So it was for much of this summer, as eye trouble encouraged me to focus on small things, close at hand.

Where does the bee stop and the flower begin?

With my better eye out of order (temporarily, I hope), and strict doctor’s orders to avoid physical exercise throughout recovery from retinal surgery, I tried to make the most of reduced vision.

Hanging on Pink

With my particular type of myopia, I can see well when focusing on fine detail at very close range. Thus I spent more time than usual gazing intently at flowers in our own yard – and if I stayed motionless for a while, a pollinator often landed right in front of my eye.

Heat Wave

Day Lily Reflects the Sun

Cranesbill Geranium Spire

These photos were taken in our back yard over the past two months, as cool and dewy summer mornings finally gave way to a real summer heat wave once September had arrived.

Hoverfly on Sylphium

Wasp on Porcelain Vine

Since I like flowers, and I also like to eat, I’m happy to admire a wide variety of pollinators going about their rounds.

Crystal Ball

Wet Pigment

Many insects, of course, are in precipitous decline. In this locale that certainly seems to apply to dragonflies. I was pleased to spot this Green Darner resting on the still-wet grass on a chilly morning – and especially pleased that it took to the air once the sun had warmed it and given it strength.

I gazed at this dragonfly through my one good eye, while it gazed back with its thousands.

Dragonfly at rest, 1

Truly a sight for sore eyes.

Dragonfly at rest, 2


in the weeds


Most of the summer slipped by and I didn’t get out to the marsh … but at least I saw a Bittern.

Over the past two weeks I’ve made several excursions, hoping to see a few of the sandpipers that like to run along from lily pad to lily pad. Or a beaver, plying the placid waters while chewing on fresh greens. Or dragonflies, or … well, the marsh often has surprises.

Wapato flower

One of my first discoveries was the flowers of the Wapato, which I hadn’t noticed before.

The more obvious white flowers, scattered across the marsh’s surface, are lily pad flowers. In late August, the flowers and lily pads are home to countless tiny insects, which attract the bigger insects that eat them, which attract birds and fish fingerlings and frogs and turtles.

Circle Segments

Still Life with Painted Turtle

Refracted Reflection

As I’d hoped, telltale motion along the lily pads alerted me to Spotted Sandpipers darting about and gobbling insects.

Spotted Web

In addition to the adults, several juveniles – still without their spots – were out hunting on their own. (If the bird in the photo below is not a juvenile Spotted Sandpiper, I’m grateful to anyone who can let me know the correct ID; just send me a note through the Contact link.)

Spotless One

Then an odd motionless shape protruding from the lily pads caught my eye. Zooming in, I saw it was a juvenile Least Bittern.

The smallest of the heron family, the Least Bittern is zealously secretive and usually stays hidden in the reeds. I’m not positive I’ve ever seen an adult, but the juveniles seem to be less cautious and I see one every year or two.

Step by Step

I watched quietly for an hour while dear Bittern fed from floating platforms. A step here, a step there, an occasional jab, and down the gullet went a dragonfly or a minnow.

Step One

Step Two

In one moment the Least Bittern appears stout and stocky. The next moment, it is clear that most of its body is just a storage compartment for the feathered slinky that is its neck.


At Least I Saw a Bittern

It was encouraging to learn that somewhere nearby, a pair of Bitterns had nested and fledged a young one this summer.

Could there have been a better way to spend a Sunday morning than watching a Least Bittern explore the marsh?

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Heron (III)

Photo at top of page: Poised Pose (click here for full-size view)

bumblebee and scilla


Which is prettier, a Wood Duck or a Bumblebee? The reddish orange of a Robin’s breast, or the orangey red of Staghorn Sumach fruit? The sunrise or the sunset?

This April there’s no need to pick answers to silly questions – there’s a different beauty around every corner.

Closest to home, at just a few meters from my office window, a Downy Woodpecker makes quick rest stops on convenient branches.

Downy Woodpecker takes a pause

The Red-Winged Blackbird is named for two simple colours flashed by the male, but on an early-spring evening the female shows a richer palette.

Blackbird Evening

Long-Tail Ducks are beginning to show some of the rich colours they will wear when they arrive in their breeding grounds far north of here.

Long-tailed Duck times two

Though only scattered hints of green are visible in the marsh, life is stirring.

Muskrat Wave Mirage

A recently-arrived Killdeer checks out a muddy island in Westside Marsh.

Killdeer on mudflat island

Across the marsh a black-and-white Ring-necked Duck catches sunlight and reflects back red and brilliant green.

Ring-necked Duck in Westside Marsh

Mute Swans are establishing territories and building nests, but not all of them have paired off.

Two-Swan Takeoff

McLaughlin Bay landing

A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers have lingered close to the lakeshore on several recent mornings. Even in monochrome backlight they cut striking profiles …

Merganser pair in monochrome

… while in another light their colours really sing.

Mergansers swimming in colour

Still, in this area no other water bird competes with the Wood Duck in the colour olympics.

Wood Duck says Wake Up

The unseasonal warmth of early April brought a few flowers into full bloom. You need to get right down to ground level to fully appreciate the beauty of Scilla.

Scilla above and below

Will any pollinators be awake to visit these early blooms? I wondered. But in the afternoon warmth a huge Bumblebee hovered near, grabbed onto a tiny blossom, rode the swing down, then quickly moved to another and another.

Bumblebee and Scilla may sparkle together again next spring.

Bumblebee swings with Scilla

Photo at top of page: Robin feeds on Staghorn Sumach (full-screen image here)

waves of spring


Spring comes with a splash, and it comes with a sigh.

The first Red-winged Blackbirds and Robins arrived several cold weeks ago. On calm mornings the air rings with the songs and screeches of many recent arrivals, but nest-building is just beginning.

Even the cold-weather stalwarts – gulls, the winter ducks, geese and swans – are picking up the pace of activity.

Searching the waves

A quick bite

Scaups, long-tails, ring-necked ducks and goldeneyes dive in the marsh, the creek and the lake.

Winter Duck Medley (Long-tailed Ducks, and Ring-necked Duck at lower left)

Stiff afternoon breezes shape sand into waves that shape the sunset.

Perpendicular Log

In sheltered, sunny spots succulents like Autumn Joy Sedum are poking through the leaf litter.

Autumn Joy in Spring

Some of that leaf litter may soon be part of a Robin or Grackle nest.

Just One Robin

Goldfinches compete at the feeder just as they did all through the winter – but now their plumage is taking on much brighter colour.

Five Finches

Still, each warm spell is followed at this time of year by another quick reminder of winter. With two days before April another fierce snow squall brought a coating of white. There are some around here who pray this will be the last snowfall for many months.

Westerly wind on beach

Goldfinch, gold grass, snow

The Snowdrops take it all in stride, having lived through several winter reruns in just the past six weeks. By an hour past dawn they are already melting off the previous night’s snowfall.

Snowdrops in March sunshine

Hooded Mergansers show their spring colours against the backdrop of the marsh.

March’s Mergansers

On this beautiful morning in this beautiful place, the music of a Song Sparrow sounds just about right.

Reaching for a high note

What we know, and don’t know, about bees

Also published on Resilience

It will be several more weeks before bees start visiting flowers in my part of the world. But while I wait for gardens and meadows to come alive again, it’s been a joy to read Stephen Buchmann’s new book What a Bee Knows. (Island Press, March 2023)

Buchmann sets the scene in his opening chapter, describing how a ground-nesting bee cautiously emerges from her nest after looking and listening for possible predators:

“The female bee briefly shivers the powerful flight muscles within her thorax to warm up. Ready, she launches herself skyward and hovers in midair. Performing an aerial pirouette, she flies left, then back to the center, and then to the right of her nest. She repeats these back-and-forth, ever-wider zigzags, all while facing her nest and flying higher with each pass. In fact, she is memorizing the locations of the physical landmarks around her nest. These could be small stones, live or dead plants, bits of wood, or similar debris. She quickly creates a mental map of her home terrain. In less than a minute, she has memorized all the visual imagery, the spatial geometry, and the smells of her immediate surroundings.” (What a Bee Knows: Exploring the Thoughts, Memories, and Personalities of Bees, page 2)

Bees use a wide range of senses to navigate through the world, sometimes in ways we can scarcely imagine. As a pollination ecologist with decades of research experience, Buchmann is an ideal guide to this world, at once both familiar and alien, in our own backyards.

Let’s start with that word “knows”. Buchmann cites his own experience and the work of many other researchers to make the case that bees form, memorize, and use mental maps; they can count; they feel pain; they can react to changes by enacting new plans, even when the plans will not bear fruit for most of a bee’s lifetime; and they can likely pass some cognitive tests that are beyond the ability of dogs and cats. All very impressive, for a group of insects whose tiny brains have hardly changed in structure for a hundred million years.

That brain must manage a range of sensory inputs. A bee’s eyes – far larger, proportionally, than ours – see in three colours, ultraviolet, green and blue. In some respects a bee’s vision is low-resolution, but it provides high-speed imagery which allows a bee to distinguish flowers, and other insects, while zooming through meadows at 20 kilometers/hour or faster.

Honey Bee at Borage flower. Buchmann writes: “Compared with the size of their heads, bee have immense faceted eyes. Their vision, however, is much coarser than our own; they can recognize the shape of a flower only from a few inches away. Bee color vision is shifted into the ultraviolet (UV) part of the spectrum, but they are blind to red colors. Astonishingly, they can recognized patterns of polarized light across an otherwise uniform blue sky.” (What a Bee Knows, p 47)

Nearly all species of bees are vegans, though they evolved from predatory wasps. These wasps dined on tiny thrips, which tended to come with a tasty dusting of nutritious pollen. Over time, the prevailing theory goes, proto-bees learned to stop chasing thrips and just go straight to flowers for meals of pollen and nectar. Today bees attach a tiny ball of “bee bread” – a mix of nectar and pollen – to each egg, and this supplies all the nutrients a hatching larva needs to develop into an adult flying bee.

Though most flowering plants need bees and/or other pollinators, and bees need flowers, the relationship is complex.

Bee laden with Yellow Salsify pollen. Buchmann writes: “we need to remember that plants and bees have very different evolutionary goals. Bees must collect pollen and nectar to feed their larvae and themselves. … Flowering plants want to minimize pollen wastage.” (p 77)

Flowers need to ensure someone will carry pollen from one flower to another of the same species. That service comes with costs:

“About 3 percent of a flowering plant’s total energy budget is invested in the production of nectar. Pollen, floral oils, resins, and floral scent molecules are even more costly for plants to produce in their strategies for attracting, keeping, and rewarding pollinating bees.” (p 86)

Bees will happily move from flower to flower, picking up and losing pollen along the way. But if a bee takes pollen from a salsify flower, visits a fleabane next, then goes to a dandelion, not many of the pollen grains will make it to the right blossoms to fertilize those flowers. From a flower’s point of view, it’s important that a bee visits mostly flowers of one species on a given day.

Bumblebee on catnip. Buchmann writes: “[Researchers found that] bumblebees had an intermediate level of floral constancy. Bumblebees are considered to be less faithful foragers than honey bees.” (p 137)

Richly attractive scents help flowers keep bees coming back. But how does the bee detect that scent? More to the point, where is a bee’s nose? Buchmann tells us:

“The honey bee’s paired antennae are her nose. Both antennae are covered with thousands of sensory hairs, most of which respond to airborne odors. … Bees’ antennae … provide directional information. Think of smelling in stereo. Their antennae can move independently; therefore, unlike us with our fixed noses, bees can get a three-dimensional impression of an odor field.” (p 59-60)

But if flowers smell so good they keep bees coming back to their species, and only their species, that brings up another problem for bees to solve. How can a bee ensure, before she zooms in for a landing, that another bee hasn’t recently made off with all the pollen?

The answer may be that bees, which pick up a positive electrostatic charge while flying, are able to sense changes in the electrostatic charges of flowers – allowing them to sense which flowers have been recently visited.

Honey Bee on Aster. Buchmann writes: “Plants typically bear flowers at or near their growing tips, and these tips develop the strongest negative charges over an entire plant’s surface. Positively charged flying bumblebees and likely other bees can detect the negative charges on flower surfaces. Across their petals, stamens, and styles, flowers possess fine patterns of differing electrostatic charges.” (p 68)

What a Bee Knows is stuffed with fascinating information. Why does a male bee (drone) have no father, though he does have a grandfather? (It’s because a queen bee lays some fertilized eggs and some unfertilized eggs. All male bees are born from the unfertilized eggs, while all female bees, including queens, are born from fertilized eggs.)

How do honey bees make precisely-engineered, energy- and material-efficient honeycomb cells from beeswax? (Partly through careful teamwork in producing, chewing, and depositing tiny flakes of wax – and partly through the emergent, self-organizing physical properties of beeswax when it is heated to a range of  37°–40°C.)

We might guess that for a scientist with a career in bee research, one of the most satisfying recurring phrases in the book is “we don’t know” – many mysteries remain for bee students to explore. I wish, though, that the book were not so wholly reliant solely on the western scientific tradition, or at least that it had clearly acknowledged that many peoples around the world have likely known things about bees long before any western-trained scientist “discovered” these things. Indeed, much knowledge about bees has likely vanished in recent centuries, along with the traditions and languages of many human cultures.

One other question kept coming to my mind as I read through the book: what about the widely-reported problem of diminishing pollinator populations, which I can see even in my own back yard? As Buchmann reveals in the Epilogue, he too has been concerned about this problem – for decades. In 1996 he co-authored a book entitled The Forgotten Pollinators, and in past twenty-seven years, “unfortunately, things have only gotten worse for pollinators.” (p 211)

For 100 million years, bees and their relatives have made the most of their marvelously capable sensory organs, and a relatively simple, efficient brain. They have adapted to changes in ecosystems while also engineering changes in those ecosystems.

The great majority of flowering plants, including those responsible for most human food, depend on bees and other pollinators – but by our actions we are rapidly killing them off.

As Buchmann puts it, “It’s simple: we need bees more than they need us.”

Will some species of bees find ways to survive, either in spite of us or after we are gone? Will we humans carry on with the practices that are driving so many species towards extinction, thereby promoting, also, our own extinction? The answer to those questions, too, is simple.

We don’t know.

Photos used for this review taken by Bart Hawkins Kreps in Port Darlington, Ontario. Image at top of page: Green Metallic Sweat Bee on Echinacea flower (full-screen image here).

three gulls before sunrise


It might be daybreak or it might be day’s end, when sunshine suddenly streaks across the autumn landscape.

Even on a cloudless afternoon, a low-angled sun heats up the remaining flowers for just a few hours.

But rain or shine, on the wide expanse of mudflat in the marsh clusters of dabbling ducks are feeding. The smallest of the lot, the Green-Winged Teal, came within camera range late one afternoon, minutes before sunset.

Green-Winged Teal on mudflat

Green flash on mudflat

Green-Winged Teal feeds on mudflat

Slurping primordial soup

A lone White-Throated Sparrow preferred the mid-morning hours for forays beyond the thickets and onto the mudflat.

White-Throated Sparrow on mudflat

White-Throated Sparrow on mudflat

At the marsh edge a forest of inky cap mushrooms sprang up, spreading their rich stain on anyone who reached out to touch, before withering back to earth a day later.

Inky Cap mushrooms

Inky Caps at marsh edge

On the marsh edge, too, I found another treasure: a cracked, fragile, translucent clam shell. When washed by ripples at the lakeshore the shell channeled many colours of sunlight.

Standing shell

When a wavelet toppled the shell into sandy water it appeared a whole new creature, ready to swim away.

Swimming shell

For a few days in the last week of October, the bright air warmed enough in early afternoon to activate bees and hover flies.

Green Metallic Sweat Bee on Rudbeckia

Green Metallic Sweat Bee on Rudbeckia

Hoverfly on Calendula

Hoverfly on Calendula

Back in the marsh a Mute Swan found a patch of water deep enough to float in.

Mute Swan on marsh

Stretch, swan

A small flock of wading birds – I believe these are Pectoral Sandpipers – preferred to feed in very shallow water at the far edge of the mudflat.

Pectoral Sandpipers at Bowmanville Marsh

Pectoral Sandpipers

Like many other pipers who stopped here this fall, they seem now to have departed for points south.

Pectoral Sandpipers in flight

Pointing this way

The gulls, though, will stick around for the winter, sometimes all together on the marsh, sometimes in congregations on the waters of the lake, sometimes strolling quietly in early morning along the shoreline.

Ring-Billed Gulls at sunrise on Lake Ontario shoreline

Three gulls before sunrise

At last, suddenly, the bright light rises out of the lake.

Sunrise at Port Darlington breakwater, Lake Ontario

Sunrise at Port Darlington breakwater, Lake Ontario

september’s shine


“If I were a Hudsonian Godwit, I’d probably take advantage of this chilly north wind and be on my way today,” I said to myself on Sunday morning. After all, the Godwit has a long way to go en route to its wintering grounds in Argentina and Chile.

It was presumptuous to think I could read the mind of Godwit, of course, considering I had never seen a Godwit until two days earlier. That’s when I had learned, from avid birders who had come to Bowmanville Marsh in late September, that the famous and rare visitor they were hoping to see was a Hudsonian Godwit.

Hudsonian Godwits only nest in a few small areas along Hudson’s Bay, the Beaufort Sea coast, and Alaska. I’m told they don’t typically stop in this area during their migrations. So the reports of sightings quickly made waves among birders.

The Godwit was only one of September’s highlights. For much of the month I was focused on the many stunning flowers – for some reason, most of them yellow – that light up the early autumn.

At the side of one busy new road, a great variety of Rudbeckia had taken root in the gravel and come up through tangles of vetch and thistle.

Chocolate Kiss

Ring of Pollen

Double Beauty

Calendula just keep on giving from August into October. Here a fly seems to have used its brush-like antenna to paint delicate outer tips around the flower, and then paint itself onto one of the petals.


Some flowers provide colour long after they’ve bloomed and dried – in this case by providing a perfect perch for dragonflies.


The resident population of monarchs grew during September, joined by a stream of butterflies gathering for their migration to Mexico. They were still in the cool of early morning, but especially active in the warmth of afternoon.

Waiting for Warmth

September’s Shine

On one such warm late September day a small flock of birds surprised me by landing just a few feet away on the marsh mud flat. Fooled by the distinctive black polka-dot eye, I first assumed this was some variety of grackle.

Rusty Blackbird

But it was a Rusty Blackbird sporting its gorgeous autumn plumage. I haven’t seen one before, but I dearly hope I will see one again. Allaboutbirds.org says this bird is “in steep decline” with populations having dropped from 85 – 99% over the past 40 years, adding that “scientists are completely puzzled as to what is the cause.”

Low water levels this fall make for extensive mud flats on the Lake Ontario marshes. For a lot of migratory birds all that mud is a magnet.

Mudwalkers IV

The Yellowlegs are a reliable spring and fall visitor here.

You loom large in my life

Two Yellowlegs

There were many more members of the sandpiper class stopping by recently, and one attracted wide notice.

Godwit & Yellowlegs

The Godwit, pointed out to me by a birder on September 30, stands a good bit taller than the Lesser Yellowlegs.

One Godwit seemed to favour the same small region of mudflat day after day.


When a cold north wind arrived early Sunday morning, and I couldn’t spot the Godwit anywhere all day, I guessed it had departed for a stopover further south. I guessed wrong.

In Monday’s sunshine it was back in its spot. As the sun sank low the Godwit preened its feathers, oblivious to the commotion caused by a couple of Northern Shovelers.

Godwit & Shoveler

It’s a great trick, to stand in soft mud on one foot and scratch your ear with the other foot.

Godwit, very clean

Watching all the preening and cleaning, I thought perhaps the Godwit was getting itself in tip-top shape for a long flight. But you’d be better off asking a bird who knows.

Mirror Gaze

Photo at top of page: Tall Godwit (larger image here)

attention to scale


It’s a great idea – but does it scale? 

“Warm-blooded flying dinosaur” is not only a time-tested concept, but one that works at a wide range of scales. This post stars the tiniest bird in our neighbourhood – but a distant relative a thousand times as big also makes an appearance.

If we expand the view beyond birds to include the smallest insects one can see clearly with the naked eye, I guess we would need two or three more zeroes to express the scale range.

But enough of arithmetic.

At the foot of a hummingbird

We leave plenty of room in our garden for Bergamot, not only because the long-lasting flowers are gorgeous, but because we can expect Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds to drop by many times a day to sip the nectar.

When there are no hummingbirds to be seen, we might spot equally beautiful, though much smaller, flying insects.

Dragonfly on Bergamot

Angel Dance (Hoverfly on Bergamot)

This year the Hummingbirds have become quite accustomed to our presence, and now that the fledglings are also feeding we can watch from a distance of just a couple of meters.

Totally tubular


A clothes-line proves a perfect resting place with a great view across the gardens.

Clothes-line with Hummingbird

Due to the nearby marsh we see many damselflies and dragonflies in the garden, including this male Long-Tailed Skimmer.

Long-Tailed Skimmer

It can be difficult to get away from the gardens at this time of year but there was a special show in the marsh one recent evening.

Gathering of Swallows

Scores of Northern Rough-Winged Swallows were chattering up a storm, with many swooping low over the water in pursuit of insects, then suddenly switching places with others to sit on slender reed perches while they groomed themselves.

Judging by the vivid highlights on their wings I’m thinking some of these were juveniles, said to have cinnamon streaks which the adults lack.

Sitting Swallow

As the sun sank low that evening a Great Blue Heron flew by.

Blue Streak

And as the sun rose over the garden in the morning, a hummingbird was waiting in a cherry tree.

Morning’s glow