Fall Colors and Lots of Birds

It was partly cloudy, a little breezy and chilly outside (about 46º); nice for walking… We went over to William Land Park and walked through the WPA Rock Garden and around the two larger duck ponds.  I was surprised to see that some of the shrubs and roses bushes in the garden are still blooming, and while in there I came across a caterpillar I’d never seen before.  I looked it up when I got home.  I was a Red-Humped Caterpillar Moth caterpillar (Schizura concinna).  Apparently the little critters are considered “pests” because they can skeletonize Liquidambar trees, nut trees and cherry trees when they hatch and are really hungry; and they’re seemingly immune to a lot of different insecticides.   In the fall, the mature caterpillars are getting ready to shut down for the year.  They drop to the ground, spin cocoons around themselves, and then stay there (buried slightly underground or among debris) until the spring.  The moths are rather nondescript, and can lay up to 200 eggs.  The caterpillar I saw was sitting on a twig with its butt up in the air.  Apparently, this is a normal stance for them, and when disturbed they can spray attackers like a skunk!  Good thing I didn’t bother it, huh?

There was some fall color around the ponds that was pretty, and we got to see all the usual suspects like Scrub Jays, Grayleg Geese, Chinese Geese, Canada and Cackling Geese, Mallard ducks and all the weird hybrid ducks around the water.  There was a Great Egret in one of the ponds.  I didn’t see it at first because it was hiding behind one of the fountains; then it peeked out and posed for me for a few minutes.  I also got shots of a Northern Flicker, and several shots of a small group of bird fighting over one of the sprinkler towers.  (It was still oozing water and they all wanted to drink from it.)  One of them was a red House Finch, and the others I think were a kind of Goldfinch with bright white-and-black bands on their wings and tails.    In the larger of the two ponds, we came across one pair of Wood Ducks (a male and a female).  Usually, the brightly colored males are very shy, but this guy let me get some close ups of him while his girlfriend watched…  The dog and I walked for about 2 hours and then headed back home.