Wildlife at Anderson Gardens

Wildlife at Anderson Gardens

By By Rod Myers, Naturalist

There’s plenty of life at Anderson Gardens, 318 Spring Creek Rd., and some of the life is wild. I’ll start with the spring bird migration; 104 species of birds were seen this spring, ending with the sighting of a Rufous hummingbird on June 20th. It was first seen by a visitor who reported it to the Anderson Gardens naturalist, who saw it briefly minutes later. The Rufous hummingbird is a rare visitor from the northwestern states and British Columbia.

A merlin was seen in mid-May at the Gardens. A merlin is a falcon that breeds in pine country about 150 miles north of here and up. It is larger than a kestrel or sparrow hawk but smaller than a peregrine falcon. The merlin feeds on small birds; it is an agile, fast flyer with a temper. I once saw one harassing a Cooper’s hawk while the Cooper’s was harassing an adult bald eagle near a lake in northern Wisconsin. Other interesting birds seen this spring were hermit, gray-cheeked and Swainson thrushes. I left out two thrushes that are still being spotted there because they’re breeding in the area. They are the veery and the wood thrush.

Red-breasted nuthatches were regulars this spring, obviously because of all the pines at Anderson Gardens. Two red-breasted nuthatches stayed through the first week of June but haven’t been seen since. Employees were hoping the pair were going to breed at the Gardens, but that didn’t occur. They moved north as expected to raise a family in a hollow in an old pine, most likely in northern Wisconsin or parts farther. The red-breasted nuthatch is related to the white-breasted nuthatch, but the red-breasted is smaller and has a rust-colored breast.

As for the summer time, more than 30 bird species nest on or very near the Anderson Gardens grounds, birds such as the green heron, yellow warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, redstart, cedar waxwing, song sparrow and Baltimore oriole.

Toads made their presence known at the Gardens this spring. In May, the reflection pond was a “trilling” place to go, as one could hear the trill call of at least a dozen mate-calling male toads. The toad’s trill call is one of nature’s most appealing calls, and it’s a true audio signal that spring is in full bloom. The mating season turns the male toad, who is usually hard to find and secretive, into a highly visible triller who seeks more publicity than Michael Jackson, or at least more than the bubble-throated male on the next aquatic plant pod.

Butterflies and dragonflies are making the Gardens a home. At least eight species of butterflies including the Summer Azure and a supposedly common, yet notoriously hard-to-spot Banded Hairstreak butterfly, are found there. This latter species likes meadow areas adjacent to forests.

Chipmunks are common at the Gardens, with fox squirrels coming in second. Flying squirrels are probable because they’re common just blocks southeast of there. No one has seen a deer mouse yet this year, but they are there. I suspect there is an undetected list of small mammals. Eastern cottontail rabbits pop up occasionally, and there’s no doubt that opossums and raccoons walk the paths at night, along with an occasional fox or possible coyote.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!