Bumblebee (Bombus spp.)

We have a pollinator-friendly yard. Actually, you could say it is pollinator-welcoming. We haven’t ever used pesticides in our yard and, over the 10+ years we have lived here, planted a lot of native flowering plants. We also don’t use weed killers so our lawn is full of dandelions and creeping charlie along with other flowering “weeds”. We keep our lawn mower blade at a height that allows most of those flowering plants an opportunity to bloom. And we have a lot of flowering trees. All in all, our yard is welcoming and supportive of pollinating insects.

Despite all the bees visiting our yard, I have found it is difficult to get good pictures of them. So I was excited when a bumblebee was willing to let me photograph it while it gathered pollen from a flowering tree. Below are some of the photographs.

Bumblebee (Bombus spp.)
A bumblebee (Bombus spp.) gathering pollen from a flowering crab.
Bumblebee (Bombus spp.)
A bumblebee (Bombus spp.) gathering pollen from a flowering crab.
Bumblebee (Bombus spp.)
A bumblebee (Bombus spp.) gathering pollen from a flowering crab.
Bumblebee (Bombus spp.)
A bumblebee (Bombus spp.) gathering pollen from a flowering crab.

Gray Treefrog (Dryophytes versicolor)

Yesterday morning we found a gray treefrog (Dryophytes versicolor) resting on a foot stool on our patio.

Gray treefrog (Dryophytes versicolor)
A gray treefrog (Dryophytes versicolor) resting on patio furniture

Another view of a gray treefrog (Dryophytes versicolor)
Another view of a gray treefrog (Dryophytes versicolor) resting on some patio furniture

It started out the day looking green with dark gray but by late afternoon it had changed color to mottled tan.

Gray treefrog (Dryophytes versicolor)
A gray treefrog (Dryophytes versicolor) resting on patio furniture

Lizzie Chasing Squirrels

As I wrote previously, Lizzie likes chasing squirrels. I recently placed our game camera so it would capture some of the action.

The buffet line is a table we have placed next to our fence. It is frequently visited by American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) and Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis).

Red squirrel eating seeds
An American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
A gray squirrel eating seed
An Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) eating seed.

Lizzie often watches for squirrels from a futon we have next to a window. Sometimes, she sits under trees watching the squirrels run around.

Lizzie watching a squirrel in a tree
Lizzie watching a squirrel in a tree

If they don’t come down after awhile, she barks at them, almost as if to say, “Come down here and play!”

Lizzie barking at a squirrel
Lizzie barking at a squirrel

If she is lucky, they come down to play and run along the fence for her to chase them.

Lizzie chasing a squirrel
Lizzie chasing a squirrel

Staying-at-home

Minnesota is entering its third week under a stay-at-home order as issued by our Governor, Tim Walz, in response to the SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic. The stay-at-home order has closed all bars and sit-in restaurants, while leaving open gas stations, delivery/pick up services, and, thankfully, liquor stores.

The McGerik household is well-suited for the stay-at-home order. We had been utilizing online ordering for pickup and delivery for many years prior so we are familiar and comfortable with them. I had been slowly transitioning to working-from-home full-time and had reduced my work-in-the-office schedule to two days per week approximately a year ago so I was already of the mindset to work remotely.

The biggest beneficiary of the stay-at-home order has been Lizzie! She is loving having both of us home more. Upon getting Lizzie, we had made the decision to not go out as often so we could be home with her but the stay-at-home order has dramatically re-enforced that decision. Kat was low-needed, which means she was sent home from work because they didn’t need her. She normally works in the clinic three days per week but last week she worked only one day in the clinic. Which meant Lizzie had both of us home every day but one!

Being home with both Kat and Lizzie for so many days has been great. I have really enjoyed our days together. Kat has her productive hobbies, such as making protective masks, which keeps her occupied while I work, so we rarely get in each other’s way. We often enjoy a cup of coffee on the couch in the morning with Lizzie cuddled up next to us. I find it a great way to start the day.

With both of us recently at home so much, I wonder how Lizzie will react when either one of us returns to a more frequent work-from-the-office routine. I’m hoping I’ll be able to continue to work from home full time. I wonder if I could plead the case that our dog needs me to be home with her. I have greatly benefited from being with Lizzie this much, so maybe, I could plead the case I need to be home with her.

Lizzie Watching a Squirrel Eat Peanuts

Lizzie, being a typical dog, likes to chase squirrels. While I let her chase them because she enjoys it so much, I put Lizzie at the disadvantage by warning the squirrels, usually by making extra noise when I open the door. I enjoy watching her chase the squirrels but I don’t want her to actually catch them. Truth be told, I like squirrels, particularly the Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). I enjoy watching them and they are, for the most part, harmless.

This winter I noticed a dearth of gray squirrels in our yard. We normally have 3-4 gray squirrels and an occasional American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). I have seen Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) come through our yard so I suspect they have reduced the squirrel population. The situation became so bad that entire weeks would go by without me seeing any squirrels in our yard. Deciding that I had to do something to help the squirrels (and keep Lizzie entertained), I began placing food out for them. I put the food in locations that they could easily access without putting them in undue danger of predators.

Lizzie watching a squirrel eating peanuts
Lizzie is watching a grey squirrel eat peanuts on a Tiki statue we have in our backyard.

Today, Lizzie and I looked out a window to see a gray squirrel eating peanuts on a Tiki statue in our backyard. Despite her penchant for chasing them, she quietly watched it eat. Perhaps she too understood that she can’t chase squirrels if there are no squirrels to chase and, therefore, let it have a meal.

Budding Maple Trees

Maples (Acer) are one of the earliest plants in Minnesota to bloom in the spring and, as a result, are an important source of food for pollinating insects.

Flower buds on a maple tree
Flower buds on a maple (Acer) tree.

Because the flowers are normally high up in the tree, we don’t see the flowers. On our evening walk, I was excited to see that our neighbor’s maple tree was in bloom at a level I could actually photograph.

A flower bud on a maple tree
A flower bud on a maple (Acer) tree.

Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica)

One of the first plants to bloom in Spring is Siberian Squill (Minnesota Wildflowers – Scilla siberica). It’s a pretty flower scattered all over our yard.

Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica)
Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica) flowers in bloom.

Unfortunately, it is considered an invasive species. I have no hope of eliminating it from our property. To do so would require extensive remediation for which I have neither the time, nor money, nor the energy.

Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica)
Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica) blooming next to the foundation of our house.

Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos)

Every Spring a pair of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) temporarily makes our yard their home. There is a small creek at the bottom of hill in our backyard. In the spring it has sufficient water flowing in it for mallards to float around on it. It usually dries up at some point in the summer but mallards find it a comfortable place to hang out in for a few weeks.

The mallards will often come up to the top of the hill and wander around near our house and garage. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a photograph or two of them. Having keen eyesight, they are quick to spot me, even when I carefully peak through a window.

A drake and hen mallard pair
A pair of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos)

On Thursday, I saw a hen and drake eating corn near one of our critter feeding stations. I quickly grabbed my phone but they, having seen me, ambled away before I could get a good closeup photograph of them.

A pair of mallards
A pair of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) wandering through the yard.

First Observations of 2020, Part 1

This is the second year in which I recorded the first observations of the year. The following are a few of our observations:

  1. On Sunday, March 1, 2020, I saw a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) investigating a nest box I had filled with pine shavings the day before. The next day, I could see they were preparing it by removing shavings. Nuthatches are cavity nesters. They will often stash shavings and chips they remove from a cavity in the bark of the tree they are working in. I saw a lot of shavings stashed into crevices in the bark of the tree the nest box is attached to.
  2. Kat noticed buds on the maples and oaks on Monday, March 2, 2020. One of our neighbor’s trees has large buds on it. I don’t recall seeing that large before.
  3. It appears that as of Saturday, March 7, it is still mating season for the Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) mating season. I saw a squirrel being chased by another in a manner suggestive of one being a female in heat and the other an interested male.
  4. I saw and heard the first American Robin (Turdus migratorius) of the season on Tuesday, March 10. It was perched in a fruit tree adjacent to our patio.
  5. While walking with Lizzie on Friday, March 13, we heard Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) singing near the pond on the north side of the street.