Not really gross, but actually quite beneficial!
Through my camera’s lens, I thought this sweet little Song Sparrow was hopping around with a breakfast of leaves until downloading the photos. Rather, his mouth is stuffed with what appears to be the larvae of the Winter Moth, those annoying little green caterpillars that dangle from trees, which pupate into the dreaded adult Winter Moths, which are destroying trees and shrubs throughout the region. So, thank you Song Sparrow!
The Song Sparrow was most likely bringing the caterpillars to its nestlings. Although adult Song Sparrows prefer seeds, to a newly hatched bird a plump juicy green caterpillar is easy to digest and rich in nutrients. As a matter of fact, most songbirds rear their young on insects. The Song Sparrow photo illustrates yet another reason why it is so important not to spray trees with pesticides and herbicides. When a landscape is pesticide free, a natural balance returns. Insects are bird food!
Blossom to Fruit ~ With all the delicious smells associated, from the heavenly sweet scent of apple blossoms wafting on the breeze of a bright spring day to the fresh aroma of fruit ripening in the warm September sun, not to mention pies and tarts baking in the oven!
Have you noticed that the foliage of pear, cherry, and apple trees looks exceptional this year? This is a far cry from the past several years when the winter moth took a tremendous toll on the trees. The very cold winter of last has put a damper on the moths devastating effects. A repeat of cold temperatures will give the trees and shrubs, such as maple, blueberry, and apple, which are most heavily afflicted by the moths, a second season to recover and grow in strength.
Read previous posts about the winter moth here:
White-throated Sparrow and the Winter Moth
Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata)
The following recipe was published in 2010 and is on my website; the post also includes a number of uses for vinegar and water formuals for use in your home and garden (including cleaning bird feeders and deterrent to Winter Moths). Click to read full post. Here’s a shortcut to the recipe:
After only a very little experimenting the following is a recipe with which I am quite satisfied:
4 parts canola oil (or olive oil)
2 parts fresh lemon juice
2 parts white distilled vinegar
Optional: a few drops of almond and/or lemon extract
Combine all ingredients and pour into a recycled squeeze-bottle container (a plastic mustard squirt bottle, for example). The almond and lemon oil extracts are optional and only added because they smell super delicious. Shake vigorously before each use. Pour a small amount onto a clean, soft cloth (thinly-worn pure cotton t-shirt). Apply in the direction of the grain of the wood. Let the mixture soak in for a few minutes, then wipe and polish with a dry, soft cloth. I have satisfactorily used this recipe on everything from hundred year-old burled walnut veneers to contemporary pieces of fruitwood and cherry wood. Make the polish in small batches and store any remaining for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. With caution, first try this formula in an inconspicuous area.
Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata)
I’m sure you’ve noticed them everywhere the last couple of days. Driving over to Magnolia last night for the Magnolia Historical Society opening of Art in the Schoolhouse with Charlie Carroll, it was like driving in a brown blizzard. They are pictured here all over the front door of the place at 46 Magnolia Ave. Also pictured are some of the partygoers at the opening. If you missed the opening, stop by Saturday and Sunday (12/7&8, 14&15 or 21&22) from 10:00 – 2:00. The moths may or may not still be there but the great artwork, cards, prints, calendars, books and more still will be (whatever hasn’t been sold anyway).
Now more about the Winter Moth.
The Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata) is a moth of the family Geometridae. It is an abundant species of Europe and the Near Eastand one of very few Lepidoptera of temperate regions in which the adults are active in the depth of winter.
The female of this species is virtually wingless and cannot fly, but the male is fully winged and flies strongly.
Winter Moths are considered an invasive species in North America; Nova Scotia experienced the first confirmed infestations in the 1930s. The moth is now found in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine. In Massachusetts, the moths have attracted the attention of several media outlets due to the severity of the infestation. In northern Rhode Island, damage to fruit orchards has been attributed to winter moth, and it is now reported in mid-southern Rhode Island (Bristol/Barrington area and Warwick). Efforts at biological control are underway. There have been unconfirmed reports of infestations in southern New Hampshire.
Here’s a link to an article Kim Smith wrote about the relationship between songbirds
and the Winter Moth, back in 2010. http://kimsmithdesigns.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/white-throated-sparrow-zonotrichia-albicolli/
White-throated Sparrow and Winter Moth
White-throated Sparrow Dining on Winter Moth Larvae
Last May my husband and I were delighted to discover a large flock of White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicolli) rumpusing about our garden. A chorus of choristers chortling My Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada or alternatively Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody, their clear, elegant notes were heard for several days and they were easily spotted rustling about the hedge, dining on safflower seeds from the ground below the bird feeder, and feasting on winter moth caterpillars in the trees. I believe it to be a fairly rare occurrence to observe a flock migrating this far east through Cape Ann. My East Gloucester neighbor Jen, who has a lovely garden even closer to the easternmost edges of the peninsula, reported same. Her flock also stayed for several days enjoying the winter moth caterpillar banquet found in her yard. Rather than walk or run, White-throated Sparrows hop, and we delighted in our all too brief encounter with this beautiful and entertaining “Whistler of the North.”
Click here to Check out the rest of the entry at Kim’s Blog- http://kimsmithdesigns.wordpress.com/