Fall Insect Life

The coral mums are attracting a lot of insect action.  Some visitors may be looking for nectar and some may be attracted to the deteriorating plants.

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Ailanthus webworm moth

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The mums are beautiful from a distance, but many flowers are past their prime.

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A honey bee of some sort coming for nectar.

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Spotted cucumber beetle

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This hover fly appeared to be mostly dead and the fly was checking out both the flower and the insect.

Below are other creatures I saw on the mums yesterday.

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Above are various flies and moths that I captured in pictures on the mums.  Some were too small or fast moving to catch.  There was one giant bumble bee near the geraniums that moved to quickly to catch in a photo.

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I noticed that there were tiny insects on the nasturtium flowers, too.  The nasturtiums have really been beautiful this fall.

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 I took a little time yesterday to use twisty ties to attach the raspberry vines to the fence.  Earlier in the summer I cut off this years vines when they had finished producing fruit.  Now the vines that grew this year will have raspberries next year.

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 In early October I noticed a lot of aphids on the swamp milkweed plants.  I wondered what predator would come to feast on them.

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Yesterday I saw a half dozen lady bugs running up and down the branches of the milkweed, without an aphid in sight.  I love it when these beneficial insects take care of the problem with no cost to me or harm to the environment.

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I will throw in a picture from a walk at the Little Red Schoolhouse path in the forest preserve last week.

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The yellow and orange leaves of this sassafras tree caught my attention.  There was a little stand of sassafras trees, which is not that common in this neck of the woods.

Back to another week of work, but I really enjoyed getting out in the autumn colors this weekend!

September Birding and Wildlife

September Birding and Wildlife

The fall bird migration season is a great time to get out and do birding in our area between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River in Illinois.  I recently joined IBET (Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts) and I get numerous emails each day from birders who are announcing what birds they are seeing around Illinois.  This has given me ideas about new areas to explore.  This morning we ended up at McGinnis Slough in Orland Park and never got to the other places we planned to explore.  It amazes me how many beautiful natural areas there are right around us that we have not even explored yet!

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Wood ducks and American coots at McGinnis Slough.  We walked very quietly down the path in order not to scare the waterfowl and saw quite a few beautiful wood ducks, but the pictures I took of them were not the greatest.

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Most of the brown ducks are mallards, but I wondered if the brown one in front is an American wigeon or something other than a mallard.

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I didn’t really count how many coots there were.  I would say at a minimum there were 40, but maybe quite a few more.

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Great egret up in a tree above McGinnis Slough.

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McGinnis Slough.  This time of year there are high marsh grasses surrounding the water as well as a beautiful forest area.

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Orange sulphur along the path

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Can you see the dragonfly?  I think it is a darner, but after some research I am hesitant to clearly identify what type of darner.

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Female yellow-rumped warbler at Lake Sedgewick in Orland Park, IL.  She is just migrating through…

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I made a quick stop at Lake Sedgewick yesterday and hope to explore here soon.  One of my IBET emails said that a group of 25 American white pelicans stopped for a bit on one of the islands in the lake as they migrated through this week.

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Male downy woodpecker.  These birds stay in Illinois year round.

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Another place where I made a quick stop yesterday was Orland Grasslands.  An IBET email mentioned that a mink had been seen here several times this week.  The grasses are tall now and I hope to get back to explore soon.

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Male northern flicker searching for ants at Cranberry Slough Nature Preserve.  We sat in our car for a while and watched the little meadow filled with morning bird activity early last Sunday morning.

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Deer in morning light.  Restoration has been going on at Cranberry Slough Nature Preserve and much of the overgrown shrub undergrowth has been cleared out to restore sunlight for more native plants to flourish.

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Back in our yard the goldfinch was snacking on coneflower seeds.

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Mystery bird in our chinquapin oak tree.  Can anyone identify this bird?

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Hummingbird on clothesline.

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Mute swans at Lake Katherine last week.

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Stephanie walked around the lake with me last week and she tried out the new giant adirondack chair in the back meadow.

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The forbes at Lake Katherine were tall and attractive.

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Aster

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Back home again, this is a painted lady butterfly, I think, on an orange zinnia.

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Common green bottle fly on yellow mum.  Yesterday when Dan and I were walking at Lake Katherine we saw for the third time a man with his camera in the weeds.  We stopped for a while and he is a specialist at insect photography.  We had a fun time talking about insects and the best ways to take pictures of them.  He recommended some reading for me.

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Huge bee on the nasturtiums.  I am not sure if these big bees are bumble bees.  They are much bigger than the other bumble bees in the yard.  Rather than entering the flowers from the front they just bite the outside of the flower and sip the nectar that way.

Hope you enjoy your little corner of the world this week!

Autumn Garden Color

I have quite a few fall blooming plants, so I am really enjoying the color now.

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Zinnias – summer solstice – keep spreading by the east fence.

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Dwarf cushion mums – bronze.  These have been slowly blooming since I planted them in the spring, but seem to be happier and healthier now in the fall.

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I love nasturtiums and am glad that they are finally growing well and seemed to have survived the frost.

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The pink mums are finally starting to open.

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A fly for each flower.  These pink mums have always attracted pollinators.  The leaves in the background are from the fothergilla bush that is a blaze of color.

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This is what the fothergilla bush looked like about a week ago.  It is really hard to capture the beauty in a photo.  This is the second year this little bush is in the garden, I think.  It definitely did better with the cooler summer this year.

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The American hornbeam on the left is turning yellowish with a bit of orange.  The spice bush is turning yellow behind it.  In between them the goldenrod’s yellow color is fading.  In the front is the other fothergilla bush.  It changes color later, maybe because it is a different cultivar or maybe because it gets more sun.  The pink color in the back is from the red miscanthus seed heads.  All the ornamental grasses have their seed heads now.

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Leaves turn from green to yellow on the spice bush.  This bush lost a lot of branches during the long winter, but has come back strong.

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The leaves on the chinquapin oak were beautiful today.

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Many of the oaks in the neighborhood are a pretty orange color.  Our town has declared ‘oak wilt’ a nuisance and has started cutting down oaks that are infested.  I think it is spreads through the roots to nearby oaks, so many yards have to cut down multiple trees.  Not good.  The burning bushes are bright red now.

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Last night was a significant frost, so yesterday I brought in most of the tomatoes and peppers.  I cleared the dried beans off the pole bean stand.  I need to shell those beans.  I brought in a little more parley to chop and freeze.  We still get a few strawberries if something does not eat them before me.

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Of course, some vegetables can handle the frost.  There are three kinds of kale here.  I picked some today for my pasta, beans, and greens dish that I cooked up.

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The robins did a lot of harvesting/feasting on the viburnum berries this week.  Sometimes I would see six robins working over the bushes.  This is ‘raspberry tart’ viburnum.  In front are the seed heads from panicum-switch grass.

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Often the robins looked up at the berries and then made a little jumping, flying motion to nab a hard to reach berry.

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On the left you can see a lot of blue berries on the Chicago Lustre viburnum bushes.  Those are almost all eaten now.  And yes, the rabbit is still with us.  I hope it is “Peter” and not one of his sisters, Flopsy or Mopsy.

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One day I looked out of my office window to see the rabbit stretched out for a nap in the lawn after a good lunch.

Sedum’s Visitors

The sedum is in full bloom.  I often take a break and go out to see what has come to visit on sedum’s sweet landing pad.  Talk about pink!

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Red-spotted purple butterfly on sedum.  This one had fresh, beautiful wings.  While I was taking this picture there was another red-spotted purple butterfly on the sedum that had torn, dull wings.  It looked like it had been around for a while.

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Spider hiding in sedum.  I might not have noticed this spider, but when I was filling up the bird bath I saw this spider run out and unsuccessfully try to nab a wasp that was on the edge of the sedum.  It looked like this spider had a fly in his web that he had already caught.  There are so many flies on the sedum that it seemed like a great strategy.  I have seen quite a few other spiders around the garden this week.  I only like spiders from a distance!

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Bee, maybe a carpenter bee, on sedum.  Aren’t those tiny flowers beautiful?  I can see how all the pollinators would be attracted to this area where they can just walk around and graze on the sweet nectar.

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Silver-spotted skipper on sedum.  Here you can see the open flowers on the left and the almost open flower buds on the right.

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This year I planted my pole beans at the end of the sedum bed.  In the back on the left you can see the blooming blue caryopteris, which is also buzzing with bees now.  If you want to plant a sedum bed, just visit a friend with sedum and break off four to eight stalks.  Stick the bases of the stalks in the ground and water it until it gets established.  You may have to water every day or twice a day and then slow it to just once a week.  Now I never water them.

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The bean pole structure is heavy with beans, but did not fall over this year with the added support. Almost three weeks ago I got stung by a bee or wasp on my foot while I was picking pole beans.  I am not exactly allergic, but don’t do well with bee stings so I decided to stop picking the beans, since we still have plenty of yellow wax beans to eat.  Of course the pole beans kept coming.

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Pole beans and ‘Incrediball’ hydrangea.  My first idea was just to leave the beans until they dry on the vine and then cook them like dried legumes.  However I read that you can also shell the beans before they get completely dry and it is a little like shelling pea pods.  That way you can avoid the tough outer skin, but not need to soak the beans before cooking them.  The hydrangeas were looking pretty good, so I just brought in another batch of them to dry in the house.

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I bought some ginger at an Asian market this spring and stuck it in a pot to see if it would grow.  It was slow going, but now the base is bulging some and it looks like I will have ginger to eat before long.  I am not sure what a good recipe would be….

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Here is the view from the patio, where I read and took a nap today.  The abundance of mosquitoes this year has dimmed my appetite for much gardening.  I am keeping my eyes on the ‘fireworks’ goldenrod in the back center of this picture that is just starting to turn yellow now.

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This is the time of year when I really enjoy that flowers along the walkway to the garden in the back of the yard.  The yellow mums have been blooming since I planted them in the spring.  The orange zinnias are getting going and there is always a lot of alyssum.  A few petunias and hosta flowers add a blue touch and in the front I still have a few coreopsis tickseed blooming.

Time to cook:  We have a tiny cauliflower that grew from a shoot after we cut out the big cauliflower.  That will go into the weekly stew of garden vegetables.

Standing on Holy Ground

Sometimes stepping into the garden on a summer morning is a little like stepping into something holy, or sacred, or mystical, or magical, or whatever word you would use.  I like being out around 9:00 am once the dew has mostly disappeared and the bees and butterflies are actively feeding on all the sunny flowers.  It’s full of life.

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  Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Sun’, Agastache blue fortune – anise hyssop, and Russian sage.  It might be a metallic green bee on the heliopsis.  The bees and flies are starting to discover the agastache – which will soon be a huge attraction in the garden.  This arrangement is in my “drought garden” right off the patio.

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If you want to see butterflies, moths, and other interesting creatures head to the northeast corner of the garden where coneflower, joe pye weed, and liatris spicata are blooming.  These native flowers are always buzzing with life.

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Joe Pye Weed ‘Gateway.’  Once the bees start working the flowers they look a little frazzled.

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Quite a few times this week I have seen clearwing moths – hummingbird moths – on the liatris spicata.  It is hard to get a good close-up.  They move quickly!

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A small brown moth was carefully working over this purple coneflower – Echinacea purpurea.  Can you see the tiny yellow flowers at the tips of the cone spikes?

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It looks like some kind of skipper butterfly is resting or sunning itself on a bok choy leaf.

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The black-eyed susans are starting to bloom now.  Here a fly is resting.

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Speaking of flies..  In seven or eight spots on the asparagus plant the flies seems to be having some kind of orgy or group experience of some kind.  They have been in this position for the past 24 hours….

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Juvenile robins being territorial or bossy.  I usually post pleasant pictures at the birdbath, but there is a lot of ‘king of the hill”  that happens here.  As I sit in my home office during the week I have a good view of the birdbath, and it is interesting to see who is waiting in line and who is being bossy.

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These zinnias are also easy to see from my office window.  I have both shorter and taller zinnias planted here.  They bring in gold finches and butterflies, but right now they are not nearly as exciting to the wildlife as the native flowers.  Still their beauty across the yard really cheers me up while I am working and they bring beneficial insects near the vegetable garden.

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The vegetables need to be picked and dealt with every day now.  This was probably the fifth huge cauliflower we picked and cooked.  It is purple from the nearby mulberries where the birds had been visiting.  Today I had a big bowl of cauliflower soup with new potatoes, kale, and green beans from the garden, mixed in with some cans of beans and a few other ingredients.

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We still have some everbearing strawberries blossoming, since we have had a lot of cool, wet weather.  The delicate colors caught my eye as I walked by.  Most of the berries are done now, though I have still been trying to forage for mulberries in the easement each morning for my cereal.

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I picked up a cheap white table on sale yesterday to put under my umbrella.  Now I can sit and read in the shade at lunch without balancing things on my lap.  I also repotted some of my house plants yesterday.  It was a good day to play with water from the hose as I cleaned up.  No problem having a green lawn this year.

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Ducks at Lake Katherine, where I take walks several times a week.

If you have made it this far you know that I put in a lot of pictures this week!  This was because I did not blog last week, so I was choosing from 179 photos that were on my camera.  It is a beautiful time of year and impossible to capture and share everything that is going on.

Butterfly, Caterpillar, and a Mystery Bird

If you get out in the garden on a sunny day you can find sun loving insects and flying creatures if you can stand still for a while.

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Little wood satyr – Megisto cymela.  I saw a number of these little butterflies on Saturday morning.  This one was in the unmowed meadow.  While I was standing there I saw what I think was an eastern comma butterfly sunning on the raspberry leaves, but it got away before a was able to focus, so I can’t verify what it was.

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Pollinators on aruncus – goatsbeard, which is just going past prime now.  There were a lot of flies, but also small bees, wasps, and the tiny red creature at the top of the picture is either some kind of spider or tick.

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Black swallowtail caterpillar on curly parsley.  This guy was chewing away one evening.  I did not see it the next morning, so it is either hiding, eaten by a bird, or off to make its cocoon.  I saw a black swallowtail butterfly a while ago apparently dropping eggs on this parsley, so I have been keeping my eyes open for the caterpillars.

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Spike speedwell – veronica spicata ‘royal candles.’  Just throwing in something that is flowering this week.  In the background the black-eyed susan foliage is getting taller, and behind that is miscanthus ‘morning light.’  Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’ grass is on the right.

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This little brown bird spent about 5 minutes on this spot this morning and I wondered if it was a juvenille version of a common bird from around here.  When I look at the pictures I took the one leg is holding all the weight in all the pictures and I wonder if there was an injury or if that is normal.  In the background sedum in blooming yellow.

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Here is a side view.  If anyone recognizes this bird let me know.  On the right is what I think is a juvenile robin.  They were looking at each other for a while below the bird bath.

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The first coreopsis (tickseed) bloomed.

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The clover is blooming in the lawn, which makes a lot of bees happy.  It is also good for the lawn as it is a nitrogen fixer – that is it obtains nitrogen from the atmosphere and fixes it in nodules on its roots.  So it is a kind of fertilizer.  The Chicago lustre viburnum bushes are starting to bloom in the background.  And if you look closely you can see one of the clematis flowers on the back fence.

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Clematis bloom on back fence.  We have two clematis vines and they are pretty wild right now.

Viburnum, Foxglove, and Raspberrry

It is June 1st and the weather is hot.  I took a lot of pictures, but here are a few of the plant subjects that caught my attention this week.

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Flowers bloom on blue muffin viburnum.  On the top left the fuzzy strings are from the cottonwood fluff that is floating around the neighborhood these days.

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Here is a picture of the blue muffin viburnum this morning.  This is the first of my four viburnum to bloom.  It needs another viburnum blooming around the same time in order for it to produce its blue berries.  The raspberry tart viburnum is getting ready to bloom, so I might get a few berries on this bush for the birds.

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Fly resting on viburnum flower on a hot afternoon.

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Fly catching the morning sunlight on a fresh green leaf of the raspberry tart viburnum.  I am not sure, but I think this is a different fly species from the picture above.

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Prime time for blue hill salvia, which attracts a lot of bees.  In the background is the raspberry tart viburnum.  It is supposed to be about four feet tall, and I think it has already surpassed that.  It has really widened out in the past few years, and is an excellent shrub.

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The foxglove is blooming this week.  One evening as I was taking a picture of this flower I noticed that the hummingbird was working on the pink columbine flowers in the back of this picture.  While I was trying to focus, the hummingbird flitted around and spent the most time on the raspberry blossoms, behind the fence in this picture, before it flew away.

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Raspberry blossom – a favorite of the hummingbird this week.  All the fruiting plants could use a good rain now, as it has been dry and hot this week.

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Here is the foxglove with another background – the meadow where we don’t mow the grass.  Somewhere in that grass coneflowers, bee balm, liatris blazing star, and possibly some sunflowers are trying to rise above the grass to bloom.  In the back you can see our last two viburnum – viburnum dentatum chicago lustre arrowwood, which flowers later.

Berry update: The strawberries seem to be struggling this year.  I hope all works out and we get a good crop.  Half the berries on the serviceberry bush look dried out.  You can always count on the mulberries, though, which will be ripening up before long!