Saturday, August 29, 2015


Today when I went out to the Milkweed Garden to check for Monarch Butterflies I came upon these little red guys on a couple of the Milkweed pods.   

Here's a closer look.
 Upon a little delving I discovered these are the nymphs of the Milkweed Red Bugs which very often accompany milkweed.

There are two kinds of Milkweed Bugs and they are called the Large Milkweed Bug and the Small Milkweed Bug.  Both are red and have a slightly different arrangement of  black spots.

Milkweed Bugs are specially adapted to eat Milkweed as are Monarch Butterflies but for most of the rest of  us the Milkweed "milk" is toxic.

And because the Milkweed Bugs feed on Milkweed, snacking on them is not recommended, and therefore they are fairly safe from predators too.  The same goes for the Monarch Butterfly, whose larvae also feed on Milkweed, which makes the adult also safe from most predators. 

The chemicals in the Milkweed latex is toxic. The latex contains cardiac glycosides.  If a predator eats one of these bugs, the predator will more than likely vomit.

And who needs that?

And if you or another predator ate a lot of the bugs (or a lot of Monarch Butterflies for that matter) or the Milkweed itself the cardiac glycosides, which are cardiac arrestors could stop your heart besides tasting really bad.  

Which I have to admit is worse than vomiting. 

Take my word for it.  I tasted Milkweed Sap as a child and it tastes BAD.  No, I didn't vomit.  I spit it out.  I'm no dummy.


Happy Hawking (which we will be back to with the next installment of the Red-tails vs the "Little Bird" Mystery)

Donegal Browne

Monday, August 24, 2015

Part II of The Mysterious Screaming Red-tailed Hawk Battle

 All times PM

Part II
6:10:26  We left the female screaming in flight and that is how she continued.  On second thought what is more likely going on rather than my earlier surmise is that she is a female Red-tailed Hawk who's  territory has been broached, she has been attacked, and she is having none of it.  

Somebody is going to pay if they aren't extremely

 6:10:27 The camera's view.
6:10:28 The formel (I think) has circled round and is now coming toward the trees she had been chased into moments earlier by the small bird.
6:10:28  Suddenly her wings crook and she lets out a blood curdling scream...

6:10:29 She flaps with vigor toward the trees.  I surmise she has seen what she is looking for. 
 6:10:30  Formel narrows her focus...

6:10:31 She heads into the trees.
 6:10:31 This is my view through the camera...therefore I didn't see...
 The assumed formel has perched on the tip top of the first highest tree.  Now look at the next set of high boughs to the right.  Is that brownish shape, the attacking small bird, its mate, or a leaf?

As I didn't catch the apex perch of the Red-tail,  I then spent the next few moments scanning the sky for her and NOT taking pictures of the above area.   DRAT!

 6:10:36  Five seconds later I see a Red-tail coming in from the left.  Now I ask, is that the perched Red-tail's mate?  Has the previously perched Red-tail circled around?

                                        TO BE CONTINUED!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The "What Bug Is This" Mystery Is Solved and The Mysterious Screaming Red-tailed Hawk Battle Comes To the Fore!

This is one of the main participants in the Mysterious Screaming Red-tailed Hawk Battle but before we get to that there is the previous mystery....the What Bug Is This Mystery.
It was blog reader  Marion Palen who came up with the goods-
​I'm no entomologist, but for the fun of it, I did some web "research"-- 
After a false start Marion identified it...
It's a Squash Beetle.
And so it is.  Which makes perfect sense, as it was found on a pumpkin vine.  Many thanks to Marion Palen for the ID.

Next up!  The Mysterious Screaming Red-tailed Hawk Battle.

I was on an errand driving in the rural countryside pushing 6 PM when I heard Red-tailed Hawk screams.  They were loud, repeated, and there was obviously some kind of crisis going on.

I pulled the car over, jumped out, and searched the direction the screams  where coming from. 

5:56:58 PM  Far in the distance, beyond a cornfield and above a wooded area what I take to be a Red-tailed Hawk is flying madly back and forth.
Periodically she would dive into the trees and then reappear almost immediately.  
 Screaming and screaming and screaming over and over again. I had truly never heard anything of such duration and what seemed like desperation or fervent  anger or both.
5:58:44 PM  She continues to focus on the same small area.  Sometimes diving.  Sometimes flying back and forth in short spurts and glides.  I begin  to think is not just she who is screaming but also another Red-tail in the same general area as well.
5:59:21 PM  I have cropped the photo and increased the contrast  in order to show that far left and right smaller birds have appeared out of the trees.  After looking carefully, these may just be bystander smaller birds that have been flushed from the area as they don't appear  to be attacking the visible hawk.
 5:59:42 PM Look carefully and you will see the hawk disappearing into the distance center.  I start scanning in all directions.
 6:01:15PM    Is that a hawk on one of the poles following the  railroad tracks to my right?
                                   Maybe, I can't really tell.
6:01:37 DRAT!  I start walking as fast as I can along the road which takes me closer but also farther away in another direction due to the angle of the road.  I begin to think it is definitely a Red-tail.

 And when I got home, cropped, and lightened it up, it WAS a hawk!  But that didn't help me much at the time.  Because when I finally did manage to get closer after passing behind other trees...
6:04:59 PM  This is what I saw.  No hawk. She/he waited until my eyes were out of view.... and flew.  But I didn't know that.   I took photos of all the other poles in view.  Nothing!

6:07:59...Nothing.  I keep walking on the road towards the railroad tracks glancing up at the poles and wires. 
I follow the road, watching the poles down the line carefully.   

6:09:50  When I  get to the railroad crossing and look nearly directly  up at the pole by the road...
Unbelievable there she is.  How can one not love Red-tails.

She gives me "the look" or is it any rate 7 seconds later...
6:09:57 PM  She has something else to deal with besides me.  Note her beak.  She is screaming again. See her beak. Is it the hounding of the little bird that has set her off or is she warning a mate about me?  Her mate has to have seen me...must be the little guy.  And upon looking at the photo of the "little guy"  I begin to wonder if that bird is a Kestrel.  A Kestrel can kill a Red-tailed hawk.

6:09:57 (within the same second as above)  The Red-tail takes off  for the trees.
 6:09:57 PM Also within the same second.   Okay all you birders out there.  What species is  the bird almost totally in silhouette, chasing the Red-tail and causing it to call?   I'm thinking Kestrel...look at the crook in the wings.  Very falcon like.

6:10:23 PM  26 seconds later, a Red-tail reappears.
6:10:24 This looks like the same Red-tail.  She still has an eye on me.

6:10:25  The camera's actual view.
6:10:25  The next frame as she is pursued, she once again begins to scream.  It is almost like she has begun to panic?