An Accidental Birder's Journal ⎕

A Feast of Aphids
in my Peach Trees at Las Vegas, San Miguel Co, New Mexico
in May 2014

I have been meaning to make an account of this incident for some time now and this is the time and the place.

Bullocks Orioles in my peach trees eating aphids   May, 2014

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4/24/2016   Walking north in Gallins Park I spot the first Chipping Sparrow of the year. He is inspecting the underside of emerging elm leaves. Is he looking for aphids? For very nutritious aphids hang out there and on cottonwoods secreting the excess sugar from their diet of tree sap as honey due.
4/28/2016   Again walking north I see Blue Flax in bloom, a Bullocks Oriole and a female Yellow Warbler. Then there are numerous small birds rapidly flitting from branch to branch high in the Elms, all unidentified. On the way back I see a flock of Chipping Sparrows on the ground. The migration is on! This particular association of birds reminds me...

14-16 May, 2014     One of the accidents that precipitated my descent into birding was the infestation of our two peach trees by aphids in May 2014. The trees had recently gone through three years of hard drought, then drenching rains, then that spring a hard frost took the blossoms and they were so infected with aphids that I was worried for there continued existence.
    I was in the house, probably getting ready for Willy's and my daily walk in Gallinas Park when K came running in from the back. "Come look! The trees are full of beautiful birds!" I grabbed my brand-new camera and followed her out back to the peach trees. She was not exaggerating, the trees were full of colorful birds busy gobbling up those aphids which were busy sucking up the life juices of our trees.

    The primary gobblers of aphids were maybe ten orange and black Bullock's Orioles (Icterus galuba bullockii) accompanied by several of each of yellow Wilson's Warblers (Wilsonia pusilla), Yellow Warblers (Dendroica petechia, tiny gray Lucy's Warblers with russet cap and upper tail coverts (Vermivora luciae), gray Virginia's Warbler with yellow around tail (Vermivora verginiae), russet crowned Chipping Sparrows (Spizella passerina) and for the last day of the orgy at least one House Finch adding a bit of red to the festive feast.

Those birds really needed to refuel after their long flight north. They ate aphids for at least three days. I only took pictures, no notes so I am not sure and of course my daily walks where I saw plenty more recent arrivals such as grackles, American Goldfinch, Barn Swallow, Blue Grosbeak, White-crowned Sparrow. The trees did ok, few peaches but that was the frost, a common occurrence. The cat Gray Baby, one of our feral cats which we feed and neuter, is a real born-to-it Birder! She eats mainly cat food from a can with a very occasional Rock Dove which the Red Tailed Hawks do not miss. We have sufficient. In spring it easy to tell when the hawks are migrating through, there are pigeon remains all over town.

Braking news! Sun May 1 10:31am, light snow falling c.32°
    A flock of Chipping Sparrows have just now flown through from the Vargas yard, checking the snow covered peach trees and the ground underneath for aphids and anything else fit to eat and quickly departing through the Roman yard. We wish them well.

Coming soon: more on aphids and butterflies!
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Peter Wait That's all for now,

this 29th day of April, 2016