What’s Bugging Your Jersey-Friendly Yard? (2021 Webinar Series)

Hi Gang,

There is so much to learn about beneficial insects. Many individuals get excited to plant native milkweeds to benefit Monarchs, then panic when Milkweed Bugs and Milkweed Beetles appear that also need Milkweed. Here is a great opportunity to add to your understanding and education — learn about beneficial insects drawn to our wildlife gardens and in need of our help.

Jersey-Friendly Yards has a terrific Line up of speakers and topics as part of their 2021 Webinar Series: “What’s Bugging Your Jersey-Friendly Yard?” Bug experts will teach how to recognize beneficials versus pests, show how to manage pests safely using non-toxic methods, introduce attendees to the buggy relationship between plants and insects, and teach how to build a buggy web of life in your yard using native plants. I am honored to be one of the speakers along with Heather Holm, Kelly Gill, Dr. Dan Duran, and others.

The 2021 Webinars will be free and provided via WebEx Events. They will be held on the second Tuesday of the month from January to June at 7:00 pm.   The first one is coming up on January 12, 2020.  The live sessions will be an hour long with time for questions. To join the webinars, you will need either a computer, tablet, or smartphone with speakers. You must register to attend these webinars. After each webinar and with presenter permission, Jersey-Friendly Yards will add a link to a video recording of the webinar on their “What’s Bugging Your Jersey-Friendly Yard?” website.

For full details and to register go to the Jersey-Friendly Yards 2021 Webinar Series: “What’s Bugging Your Jersey-Friendly Yard?” Website HERE

(While you are on the Jersey-Friendly Yards Website, be sure to explore all the wonderful resources to help you create a healthy, native, wildlife-friendly landscape)

Here are the 2021 Webinar dates, topics, and presenters:

January 12, 2021 — Getting to Know the Good Guys: Beneficial Insects in the Landscape — Not all bugs are bad, so let’s meet the beneficial insects in your backyard. Predators, parasites, and pollinators—learn about how to recognize these good guys, their biology, and how to keep them happy in your yard. Presenter: Sabrina Tirpak, Principal Laboratory Technician, Rutgers University Plant Diagnostic Laboratory.

February 9, 2021 — Myth Busters: The Truth About What’s Bugging You — Insects are the most diverse group of animals on Earth. With over 1 million described species, insects account for about 75% of all animal species. Insect diversity is essential in maintaining functional ecosystems, productive natural areas and working lands, and overall biodiversity. However, human perceptions of insects are often negative resulting in insects being misunderstood, underappreciated, and in some cases, unnecessarily feared. This session will cover a variety of “insect myths vs. truths” with the goal of reversing common misconceptions. Presenter: Kelly Gill, Senior Pollinator Conservation Specialist, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; Partner Biologist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Mid-Atlantic / Northeast Region.

March 9, 2021 — Cultivating Respect for Insects: An Overview of the Ecosystem Services That Insects Provide — Simply put: all life on earth depends on insects, for more reasons than most people realize. This talk will explore some of the immeasurably important ways that insects keep ecosystems functioning, including nutrient recycling, pollination services, and trophic interactions. It will also cover ways in which we can conserve much-needed insect diversity in our own yards. Presenter: Dr. Dan Duran, Assistant Professor, Rowan University Department of Environmental Science.

April 13, 2021 — What Lurks Above and Below: Spotted Lanternfly and Crazy Worms — The invasion has begun! Two non-native species: spotted lanternfly and Asian crazy-worms have already made it into New Jersey’s agriculture, yards, gardens, and forests. Learn the tools to how you can fight back, including their identification, biology, impacts, research, and control measures. The talk will also include how non-native pests have a serious negative impact on ecosystems and their health. Presenter: Paul Kurtz, Entomologist, NJ Department of Agriculture

May 11, 2021 — Attracting Bees and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants — Most insects have a positive impact in our landscapes. Native plants can be selected to attract specific bees and beneficial insects including predatory and parasitic wasps, beetles, flies, true bugs, and lacewings. Learn about the predator-prey relationships of these flower-visiting beneficial insects and how they help keep problem insect populations in balance. The life cycles, diversity, and nesting habitat of native bees will also be discussed along with examples of native plants for different site conditions. Presenter: Heather Holms, Author of the books Native Plants for Pollinators and Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide.

June 8, 2021 — Ferocious Dragons and Dainty Damsels — This primer to the winged jewels known as dragonflies and damselflies will cover the most common species, their natural history (life cycle, seasonality, what they prey on, and who preys on them), and how to identify one from another. Sutton, a long-time successful wildlife gardener, will share how to lure these ferocious mosquito predators into your own yard by creating a no-fuss wildlife pond. Presenter: Pat Sutton, Educator, Naturalist, Author

I know I’ll be virtually attending every single Webinar. “See” you there?

Happy Wildlife Gardening,

Pat

2020 VIRTUAL Tours of Pat Sutton’s Private Wildlife Garden

2020 VIRTUAL Tours of Pat Sutton’s Private Wildlife Garden (43 Years in the Making)

Our wildlife garden has evolved over the last 43 years from a lawn and very few plantings (a Lilac bush and Day Lilies) to probably 100+ native plants and many different components (perennial garden, pocket meadow, shade trees and gardens, wildlife ponds, native woodland, living fences, etc.)  that all lure in and benefit wildlife.  Read this brief history to learn more.

This was the 4th year I led tours of my wildlife garden for CU Maurice River, a non-profit organization doing great work in South Jersey.  With Covid-19, the 2020 Tour was filmed on July 2nd and folks could join the tour VIRTUALLY on Tues., July 14, 2020.

If you missed this garden tour, there is a 2nd opportunity to join me for this Virtual Tour.  It will be one of many fun offerings as part of the 2020 Wheaton Arts Virtual ECO WEEK.  Details follow:

2020 Wheaton Arts Virtual ECO WEEK
includes

WHAT
VIRTUAL GARDEN TOUR
of Pat Sutton’s Private Wildlife Garden
40+ Years in the Making

WHEN
Friday, August 21, 2020
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

WHERE
From the comfort of your home

Registration for this event is FREE!   But you need to click on the Registration Link HERE.  This Virtual Tour (a narrated video tour) will be followed by a Live Q & A session and is sponsored by CU Maurice River.

After you register, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining this selected Zoom webinar. Participants may join and rejoin the webinar at any time during the scheduled presentation.

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About the VIRTUAL Tour of Pat Sutton’s Private Wildlife Garden in Goshen, NJ (Cape May Co.), largely a NATIVE PLANT OASIS (filmed on July 2, 2020)

I’ll bet many of us have gardened more than normal this year, the year of Covid-19. Our wildlife garden and working in it has kept me sane during these uncertain times. I must give some credit for my sanity too to all the garden visitors I’ve discovered, learned about, and enjoyed this year. There have been so many fun sightings perhaps because we’ve been home a lot, out in the garden more, and savoring more. I hope this has been the case for you too.

I enjoyed sharing my garden with CU Maurice River on July 14th and am looking forward to sharing it again during the Wheaton Arts ECO WEEK.  If you should join me and see the footage, keep in mind it hasn’t always looked like it does now. Like each and every one of us, I have made some serious mistakes over the years and paid dearly for them. I love sharing my garden, not only because it is packed with Nature Happenings, but also because in doing so, I might help save others some of the angst and frustration I went through. I love sharing my garden also because I have learned so much about wildlife gardening and how wildlife responds to habitat. Truly, create it and they will come!

We see so much in our little 1/2 acre for many reasons. We barely have any grass left to mow. There are robust native perennials and understory trees and shrubs under all of our trees, not lawn. Rather than fight their thugishness, I am thrilled when shade-loving perennials I’ve planted like Common Blue Wood Aster seed further and further out into the lawn each year. More native plants and less lawn equals more habitat. One section of what had been lawn is an itty bitty meadow instead (12 feet x 12 feet). The meadow of native grasses and perennials compliments the formal perennial garden and hosts nectaring and egg-laying butterflies and other pollinators, nesting Box Turtles, and more! Our woods take up about one-third of our property and are filled with native trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, grasses, a sizable brush pile and many smaller brush piles, a butterfly house (made of overlapping branches with roofing shingles in between to keep weather out), and a seating area that is always cooler than the garden and overlooks a busy Hummingbird feeder (Meghan got footage of a hungry female during our virtual tour from this seating area). Many of the butterflies that nectar in our garden lay their eggs on native trees, shrubs, grasses, and vines in our woods. The woods were an impenetrable wall of Multiflora Rose until 2009 when we reclaimed them, so many of the native trees and shrubs are eleven years old. In ridding the woods of invasives the seed bank of natives had a chance. The transformation has been complete, but does take routine vigilance because the very birds we attract are eating invasives elsewhere and sprinkling seeds of those invasives in our woods and elsewhere on our property.

So, join me if you can for this 2nd airing of a 2020 Virtual Tour of my Private Wildlife Garden. CUMR’s Meghan Thompson did the filming.  I’ll be narrating the garden tour, which will include some of my favorite garden still shots from this spring and past magic moments. This virtual presentation will showcase many of the pollinators and sights from this season.

You may also want to download and print the latest update of my “Gardening for Pollinators” Handout (CLICK HERE), which includes lots of sage advice, Chocolate Cake nectar plants month-by-month, and sources of helpful signage.  It will prove very helpful during the Virtual Tour and afterwards!

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For twenty-three years (1991-2014), I led “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” in Cape May County  

Pat and Clay Sutton’s garden during the July Tour 2014

For twenty-three years (1991-2014), I led “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” in Cape May County.  I saw these tours as one of the best ways  to “grow” more wildlife gardeners.  You can see the excitement in the photo above as tour participants find, study, and share with each other butterflies, spiders, caterpillars, native bees, frogs, turtles, hummingbirds, and the beautiful nectar plants, host plants, wildlife ponds, water features, and habitats that have attracted them.

Initially I led these tours for NJ Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, where I worked as the Program Director.  Between 2007-2014 I led the tours for NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May.

Many of the owners of these beautiful, private, wildlife gardens had taken workshops with me and / or attended these tours.

Many garden owners shared with me that a personal goal was to have their own garden included on these tours.  The number of wildlife gardens grew and grew.  Eventually there were so many educational gems to share that I broke Cape May County into three regions and led back-to-back tours, covering different parts of the county each day.  I led these tours in July, August, and September so attendees could see first hand the different “Chocolate Cakes” in bloom month-by-month and the variety of wildlife attracted.

On the final tour, garden-owner Gail Fisher presented me with my very own Chocolate Cake made by her Mom (it was delicious).

And to further spoil us on that final September 2014 garden tour Gail Fisher served homemade Chocolate Cupcakes.

TAKE A VIRTUAL TOUR OF PRIVATE WILDLIFE GARDENS

Many of the gardens that were included on the Cape May County tours can be seen in the photo galleries below.  These photos (taken over the years) truly record the evolution of these private wildlife gardens and may give you some great ideas for your own garden.

  • South Tour (Cape Island: Cape May, Cape May Point, West Cape May, and Lower Township)
  • Mid-County Tour (North Cape May, Villas, and Erma)
  • North Tour (Cape May Court House, Goshen  . . . including my own garden, Dennisville, Eldora, South Seaville, and Ocean View)

NJ Legislation Addresses INVASIVE PLANTS

Purple Loosestrife and other invasives are commonly sold at nurseries throughout New Jersey

Hi Gang,

Have you called your legislators yet?

Have you called your legislators yet about this desperately needed legislation to address invasive plants in NJ?  I e-mailed each of mine (I live in District 1) via the legislative website and DID NOT get an acknowledgement.  Others told me the same, that they have not heard anything back.  So, I wrote snail-mail letters to each of them and called their local office today (December 4, 2018).  When I asked the office staff about my concerns not being acknowledged, I was told  that sometimes they get 100s  or 1000s of e-mails and letters and do the best they can.  Let’s hope that those 100s or 1000s of e-mails and letters they are receiving about this bill are from those of us concerned about the growing, selling, and planting of invasive plants and not from the nursery trade and Farm Bureau pleading economic hardship!  If you haven’t contacted your legislators yet, it might be best to call and write via snail-mail (rather than e-mail).  Let’s DO THIS!!!  Details below.

November 28, 2018 — my 1st post about this:

I am writing to you about some key legislation that New Jersey desperately needs regarding the regulation of invasive plants.  As a wildlife gardener and native-plant-enthusiast, the overwhelming abundance of invasive plants spreading through protected lands – plants that are still being sold at nurseries and big box stores and being planted by landscapers – is almost too much to stomach.

Two bills have been introduced to the NJ Legislature and will be discussed this term concerning the sale, distribution, and propagation of certain invasive plant species in New Jersey.  In addition, each bill allows the Department of Agriculture to expand the list in the future to include invasive plants not yet listed.  Also, each bill would require better labeling of invasive plants – so that consumers are warned.

Our legislators need to hear from us that we support these bills in order for these bills to have a chance to move forward and become law.  They are essentially the same bill:

NJ Assembly Bill 4460 (sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr. of District 7, Burlington)  – Click HERE to see this bill.  To TRACK this bill’s progress go to the NJ Legislature page for this bill and click “TRACK” (the 7th box under the bill name).  Here is the LINK to TRACK this bill.

NJ Senate Bill 3086 (sponsored by Senator Linda R. Greenstein of District 14, Mercer & Middlesex)  – Click HERE to see this bill.  To TRACK this bill’s progress go to the NJ Legislature page for this bill and click “TRACK” (the 7th box under the bill name).  Here is the LINK to TRACK this bill.

398 Invasive Plant Species in Cape May County

Cape May County, where I live, is the county with the highest number of invasive plant species in New Jersey with 398 species (found on thousands of sites and continuing to spread).  Cumberland County has 292 invasive plant species spreading across the county.

These scary facts are from the University of Georgia’s Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, which maintains EDD Maps (early detection and distribution mapping system) that show real-time tracking of invasive species occurrence.  You can look up the number of invasive plants in your own County HERE .  At the top of the page select “plants (only)” then scroll to the bottom of the page to see the list county-by-county.  If you live in another State, select your State at the top of the page.

The spread of invasive plants is impacting our natural areas, wildlife dependent on those areas, native plants, wildlife dependent on native plants, and the very integrity of our protected lands and of our state.

On my own ½ acre property I have to remain vigilant to stay ahead of English Ivy, Burning Bush, Multiflora Rose, Japanese Honeysuckle, wisteria, Tartarian Honeysuckle, and many other invasives that are seeded in my yard by resident and migrating birds that have eaten their fruits elsewhere.  As a long-time wildlife gardener and educator I am knowledgeable enough to recognize invasive plant seedlings.  Heaven help others who are not as informed and are frequently victims, as their properties become more and more smothered by invasive plants.

Nurseries are not policing themselves; instead they are growing and selling highly invasive and problematic plants to unsuspecting members of the public and making the situation worse and worse by the day.  The same is true for landscapers, who are heavily utilizing these invasives.   Since the nursery trade and the landscape trade is acting irresponsibly, it is time for checks and balances to push these growers, sellers, and landscapers to be more mindful of our natural environment.

Horror Stories

I have heard horror stories from many of you over the years.  Share your personal story when you write to your legislators: (1) whether it is a back-breaking, long-term fight to keep Bamboo or English Ivy or another invasive out of your yard that keeps straying from a neighbor’s yard, (2) a landscaper you hired to put in a butterfly garden of native plants who charged you a fortune to instead plant a garden of invasives (identified as invasives by a friend after the fact), (3) or, one of my favorites, a landscaper you hired to put in a wildlife habitat of native plants and instead they planted invasives; when you questioned why they didn’t plant native plants, they said, “What?  These are native, they’re everywhere!” proving they didn’t have the knowledge base to take on the job in the first place.

Protected Lands Overrun With Invasives

Wisteria smothering a Nature Conservancy preserve in Cape May County

I take a walk nearly every day at one or another of the preserved lands near where I live: the Cape May NWR, a Nature Conservancy preserve, or one of the state Wildlife Management Areas.  The spread of invasive plants at each of these areas is so disturbing that I feel like I need to take clippers along.  I fear that the land managers are overwhelmed and have given up.  And who could blame them?  The very same invasives that are spreading across the lands they manage are still being sold in nurseries and planted on adjoining properties.

The ecological damages done by invasive, alien plants are far larger than most of us realize:  fewer pollinators, fewer birds, some bird species winking out (N. Bobwhite for example), outcompeted native nectar plants and native berry-producing plants, less healthy habitats, uglier landscapes, and impenetrable lands.

What You Can Do To Help Move These NJ Bills Toward Law:

  1. Identify your State Senator and two Assembly Members here: Find Your NJ Legislative Representatives (click on underlined text to follow link)
  2. Write snail mail to both of your Assembly representatives and your State Senator (or, BETTER, phone them!) to ask that they sign on as co-sponsors. (It’s too early to urge them to vote.) Add a reason or two why you care about the bill in your own words.    ****  To those of you who live in District One, your support can have special impact!  Your Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak is Chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, where the bill is up for discussion this term.  (District One:  all of Cape May County; and Corbin City, Estell Manor, and Weymouth Township in Atlantic County; and Millville, Vineland, and other municipalities in Cumberland  County).   As Chair, it is probably inappropriate to ask Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak to co-sponsor the bill, but you can certainly urge him to push the bill forward through his committee and to the Assembly.

Thank you for caring about the natural world and its health.  And thank you if you have already reached out to your representatives!

You can begin your letter to the two Assemblymen in your District, “Regarding NJ Assembly Bill 4460, I am writing to express my strong support for this bill and to urge you to co-sponsor it.” ****

You can begin your letter to the Senator in your District, “Regarding NJ Senate Bill 3086, I am writing to express my strong support for this bill and to urge you to co-sponsor it.”

Please share this with others who are as concerned as you are by the unchecked sale, planting, and spread of invasive plants across New Jersey.

Thank you!

Pat

MEGA Monarch & Dragonfly Flight, Cape May Point, NJ, October 3, 2018

Hi Gang,

It is the peak of fall migration!  Any time the winds are from the Northwest, you can bet your bippy there will be birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and bats galore migrating through Cape May Point.  The Monarchs will continue to migrate through all of October and, if conditions are right,  even the first few days or first week of November.

October 3rd the winds were gentle from the northwest, perfect for migration, so Clay & I decided to “take our walk” at Cape May Point.  We got down there and never left.

A blizzard of Monarchs on Seaside Goldenrod at Cape May Point, October 3, 2018. A day for the record books!

The floodgates opened and a river of Monarchs and dragonflies was flowing down the dune line, right over the dune crossovers in the town of Cape May Point.  That was the place to be.  A steady movement of Monarchs floated by while others nectared on the Seaside Goldenrod in the dunes.  Some pulses were huge!  A steady movement of dragonflies zoomed by including mostly Black Saddlebags and Common Green Darners with some Carolina Saddlebags mixed in (about 1 in every 10 saddlebags).  The numbers were uncountable.  Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of Monarchs and dragonflies.  I’ve included some photos with this post to share with you the spectacle we witnessed on October 3rd, truly a day we’ll remember forever more.

Thousands of Black Saddlebags and Common Green Darners migrating down the Cape May Point dune line over nectaring Monarchs in the Seaside Goldenrod.

Many Monarchs reach the tip of the Cape May Peninsula  on winds like those that blew on October 3rd from the northwest.  These winds blow migrating Monarchs out to the coast.  Rather than get blown out to sea, they turn and follow the coastline south, and reach lands end, Cape May Point.  On days with the right conditions (gentle winds from the northwest), numbers build and build.  Sometimes we’re treated to a late afternoon and evening roost where Monarchs gather by the thousands.  The next morning can be quite a spectacle, when they are warmed up by the rising sun and lift off to continue their migration.

Talking with Mark Garland, who heads up the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project, he did not expect that there would be a huge roost or roosts of Monarchs the evening of October 3rd in the town of Cape May Point because it was so warm (80 degrees).  He shared that those huge roosts usually form in the late afternoon on the colder days when temperatures are 50 degrees or cooler.  He thought there would be lots and lots of little Monarch roosts around Cape May Point instead, with 10 Monarchs here and 10 Monarchs there.  From what we hear, that was the case.  We couldn’t stay that evening to see for ourselves.

We headed back down the next day, October 4th to see what was left over from the flight the day before.  The winds switched in the night from northwest to south, so we weren’t expecting too much.  Indeed the south winds were not bringing new Monarchs to us, but it was a beautiful day for a walk.

This fall, respond to weather predictions.  If the winds are to come from the north or northwest, get to Cape May Point!  Just do it!!!

Monarchs nectaring on Seaside Goldenrod with the Delaware Bay beyond. Please don’t flush them for a photo. Their migration is hazardous enough!
All these photos were taken on October 3, 2018, from designated trails and dune crossovers in Cape May Point. Please don’t walk up into the dunes for photos. For one thing it is illegal and very poor etiquette.

If you should encounter roosts of Monarchs, please do not approach so close that you flush them.  Remember that they’re holding on for their lives.  The next stop is a big stretch of water and that can be treacherous for Monarchs.

There are many dune crossovers in the town of Cape May Point that take you right next to blooming nectar full of Monarchs.  And there are nectar-rich stretches along the dune trails (between the dune and the Plover Ponds) in both the Cape May Point State Park and the South Cape May Meadows.  All these sites offer terrific photo opportunities.    Please do not leave dune crossovers and trails to venture into dunes for photos; it’s illegal for one thing and disruptive and just poor etiquette.

There are also 100s and 100s and 100s of Common Buckeyes nectaring on the Seaside Goldenrod in the dunes at Cape May Point now.

If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of the Monarch migration, read my previous post, “Cape May Monarch Migration, Fall 2018 (click on underlined text to get to link).”

I’ve been rejuvenated and given hope, having seen this mega flight.  May you too connect with one of the Monarch flights this fall.

To Hope,

Pat

Cape May Monarch Migration, Fall 2018

Hi Gang,

Moving Monarch cats from stripped milkweed in my front yard garden to my still-leafy patch of Swamp Milkweed in my backyard garden (8-26-18)

I had so many Monarch caterpillars in my various patches of Milkweed (Butterfly Weed, Swamp Milkweed, and Tropical Milkweed) in August that they stripped some of it bare.  Luckily I have a robust stand of Common Milkweed and was able to move many of the still-hungry caterpillars to that stand.  I heard from many gardeners who had planted only a few milkweed plants and were unprepared for the bounty of Monarch caterpillars.  Lesson: Plant More Milkweed!!!

Afterwards, I was away for a week over Labor Day running 2 butterfly counts in South Carolina (the 26th year I’ve run these counts), and when I returned the Monarch caterpillars in my garden had disappeared, hopefully to safe places where they went into their chrysalis stage.

We’re all hoping that this will be a magical fall at Cape May for Monarch migration.  If yesterday (September 25) was an indicator, I think we’re in for a treat.  Clay and I played hooky yesterday and walked some of our favorite spots on The Point (the southern tip of NJ): South Cape May Meadows, Cape May Point State Park, Triangle Park in the town of Cape May Point, and the streets of Cape May Point.  Despite heavy rain to the north and the west, the sun came out in Cape May and the Monarchs were nectaring in force.  One garden on Alexander Avenue in Cape May Point had 50 nectaring Monarchs on a breathtaking stand of Late-flowering Thoroughwort.

Late-flowering Thoroughwort in a garden on Alexander Avenue in Cape May Point yesterday (9-25-18) with 50 nectaring Monarchs!
A close up of some of the nectaring Monarchs yesterday (9-25-18) on Late-flowering Thoroughwort

Some falls I and others have enjoyed seeing 100s (some years 1000s) of Monarchs roosting together in the dunes at Cape May Point or in trees in certain yards.  Some of these roost sites are used fall after fall.  The dune crossover by St. Peter’s By the Sea Church at the intersection of Ocean and Harvard Avenues in Cape May Point is often good.  Sometimes on a good flight day, when 100s or 1000s of Monarchs are being blown out to the coast and south to Cape May Point, by late afternoon (2:30 or 3 p.m.) they begin to gather in sheltered spots, where they will spend the night communally.  You can view them that evening or early the next morning before the sun hits them and warms them up enough to take off and continue their migration.

One of the gatherings LAST FALL at a Monarch roost site at the dune crossover by St. Peter’s By the Sea Church in Cape May Point (10-1-17)
Last fall (9-30-17 at 8:00 a.m.), a roost site in the early morning before the Monarchs warmed up enough to take off and continue their migration

If you would like to keep your finger on the pulse and not miss a big movement of Monarchs at Cape May or an evening roost (or soon-after-dawn departure from that roost), here are a few tips.  Follow the Cape May Bird Observatory’s “Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project” at these 3 sites (click on the underlined text / link to reach these sites):

  1. Monarch Monitoring Project BLOG (updated almost daily in Sept & Oct)
  2. Monarch Monitoring Project Facebook Page: “Cape May Monarchs”
  3. Monarch Monitoring Project (primary site with in-depth information)

When you read the Blog, be sure to scroll back and read the September 16th post, “Don’t Bring Monarchs to Cape May.”  Share with friends who have either transported Monarchs to Cape May or plan to do so.

This fall there are some great opportunities to learn about migrating Monarchs from the folks studying them.  Don’t miss:

MONARCH TAGGING DEMO
Fridays, Saturdays, & Sundays: September 7 to October 14
(weather permitting) 2:00 pm – 2:45 pm
Meets at the East Shelter next to the Hawkwatch Platform at Cape May Point State Park. Join CMBO Monarch Monitoring Project naturalists to learn about the Monarch butterflies that migrate through Cape May. You’ll learn how you can help with Monarch conservation. After the talk, watch as small tags are affixed to Monarchs to track their migration. No preregistration necessary. Family-friendly. Cost: FREE.

MONARCH MONITORING PROJECT DROP-IN
September 10 through October 25
Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays only
1:00 – 1:30 pm
Stop by Triangle Park, at Lighthouse and Coral Avenues in Cape May Point to learn about the Monarch Monitoring Project.  The team may be tagging monarchs, tending to the gardens that support the monarchs, or engaged in other project activity.  No reservations needed for this free program, but contributions to the Monarch Monitoring Project are welcome.

2nd ANNUAL MONARCH FESTIVAL
Sunday, October 7
10:00 am – 4:00 pm
At the Nature Center of Cape May (1600 Delaware Avenue, Cape May, NJ).  The festival will include educational programs, butterfly tagging demonstrations, children’s crafts, along with music and food! Join in the celebration and learn why this area is so special to the migration of the butterflies and what you can do to help conserve wildlife. Suggested $5 donation to support the nature center programs throughout the year.  Call the NCCM at 609-427-3045 with any questions about the festival.

Enjoy this fall’s Monarch migration!
Pat

Blizzard of Hummingbirds – Rockport, TX – September 13-16, 2018

HummerBird Celebration in Rockport, Texas (don’t miss it)!

Hi Gang,

Clay and I have been very fortunate to have been invited to festivals and conferences around the country (over the years) to present our programs and workshops.

One of my all-time favorite festivals is the HummerBird Celebration in mid-September, when thousands upon thousands of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are migrating through Rockport, Texas, on their way to southern Mexico or as far south as Costa Rica and northern Panama where they winter.

It is an amazing show of HOPE that Rockport, Texas, is going to host their:

30th Anniversary HummerBird Celebration
Rockport, TX
September 13-16, 2018
for full details go to the event’s website

HERE 

This year’s Keynote Speaker is good friend and amazing mentor, high school science teacher, and nationally recognized educator, Martha McLeod.  On Thursday, September 13 (at 6:30 p.m.), don’t miss Martha’s Keynote Presentation, “Harvey, Hummingbirds and Hope,” based on her experience in Rockport, Texas, where she lives, when Hurricane Harvey hit and destroyed much of the town on August 26, 2017, just prior to the peak of the hummingbird migration.  Martha was chosen as Birdwatcher’s Digest “Birder of the Year” for the piece she wrote about this experience (featured in Bird Watcher’s Digest’s March/April 2018 issue).  Clay and I won’t be able to be there this year, but please give Martha a “Hello Hug” from both of us if you should go!

We’ve been to the HummerBird Celebration 4 times and loved every single visit.  My favorite part of this festival is the opportunity to explore and linger in dozens of “Hummer Home gardens” (private back and front yard wildlife habitats with dozens and dozens of well-maintained hummingbird feeders) that are open to attendees of the HummerBird Celebration from dawn to dusk, September 13 (Thursday) to September 16 (Sunday).  The numbers of hummingbirds in sight in each of these gardens is beyond belief!  Hundreds in view in every direction you look!  If you don’t believe me, GO!!!  I was speechless with wonder the first time we went and continued to be amazed with each of our visits.  Seriously consider a road trip (or a flying trip) to experience this amazing concentration of our beloved hummingbird, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  I promise you that you won’t regret it and you’ll probably want to make an annual pilgrimage to the HummerBird Celebration each year in mid-September to drink in the Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s amazing migration and how they benefit from all the stopover habitat in this town.

The HummerBird Celebration is packed with non-stop events (boat birding trips, speakers, banding demonstration, vendors, hummer home guided bus trips (I did this the 1st year, not realizing that I could go on my own and spend as much time as I wanted in each garden or my favorite gardens), bird photography classes, and more!

The fact that Rockport, Texas, is hosting this 30th Anniversary HummerBird Celebration is another sign of hope, hope that this town (devastated by Hurricane Harvey only a year ago) can continue to rebuild and thrive once again!

To hope, hummingbirds, and the revival of Rockport, TX!
Pat

2018 Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens

2018 Tours of Pat Sutton’s Private Wildlife Garden (41 Years in the Making)

Our wildlife garden has evolved over the last 41 years from a lawn and very few plantings (a Lilac bush and Day Lilies) to probably 100+ native plants and many different components (perennial garden, pocket meadow, shade trees and gardens, wildlife ponds, native woodland, living fences, etc.)  that all lure in and benefit wildlife.  Read this brief history to learn more.

This year I am excited to share that I will be leading tours of my own wildlife garden for CU Maurice River, a non-profit organization (registration will be required through CU Maurice River, not through me).  Sign up for the session that best fits your schedule:

  • August 25, 2018 (Saturday) — 2 tours: 9:30 a.m. to Noon (Morning Session), 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. (Afternoon Session) — LIMIT/tour: 20.   COST/tour: $20 (CU member), $30 (nonmember).   Contact Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and its Tributaries at the office (856) 300-5331 to register and pay for this garden tour or reserve your spot online by clicking here .  Sunday, August 26 is the Rain Date.  For program write-up on CU Maurice River’s website click HERE.

Join Pat Sutton for a tour of her 41-year-old wildlife garden in Goshen (Cape May Co.), NJ, and opportunity to study and identify pollinators with Pat.  This garden showcases many different ways a habitat can offer the basics: food, cover, and water.  This ½ acre property includes two wildlife ponds, a pocket meadow, extensive shade gardens, wildlife corridors, shrub islands, a woodland of native plants (saved from a jungle of Multiflora Rose in 2009), an extensive pollinator garden (full of hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees), native nectar plants galore, an extensive array of native host plants, feeding stations, many and different water features, as well as many fun garden features and design ideas.  This totally educational experience will benefit and dazzle long-time gardeners and new-to-wildlife-gardening participants alike.

2018 Tours of Chris and Arnold Clemenson’s Private Wildlife Gardens

Clemenson Farms Native Nursery is a wholesale nursery, but they do host special “Retail Sale Days” each year for the general public.

During their Saturday, June 16, 2018,  Retail Sale Day (10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.) I will be leading 3 tours of Chris & Arnold Clemenson’s beautiful private wildlife gardens in Estell Manor (Atlantic County), NJ.  These gardens showcase many, many lovely and beneficial native plants.

Three Tour Times: 10:00 a.m., 11:15 a.m., or 12:30 p.m.

Tickets are $12.00/person.

Interact directly with Clemenson Farms Native Nursery (not with me) for tour tickets, which are available by reservation or on day of sale. Places are limited and these tours are popular, so reservations are recommended. To reserve your place on a tour, email Christine Clemenson at cac.clem3@gmail.com with your top two time slots. Payment due on day of sale.

Tour ticket includes a Clemenson Farm garden map and plant list. Bring a camera, binoculars, and walking shoes. You’ll go home with plant pictures and  practical ideas for transforming your garden into a pollinator paradise!

NOTE: Gardens will be closed to the general public during tour times, but open after the tours are completed.

Clemenson Farms Native Nursery’s 2018 Retail Sale Days: May 12, June 16, and September 15.  Don’t miss these great opportunities to purchase locally grown natives.  Print their list of available plants and bring it along so you don’t forget anything!

For twenty-three years (1991-2014), I led “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” in Cape May County.  

Pat and Clay Sutton’s garden during the July Tour 2014

For twenty-three years (1991-2014), I led “Tours of Private Wildlife Gardens” in Cape May County.  I saw these tours as one of the best ways  to “grow” more wildlife gardeners.  You can see the excitement in the photo above as tour participants find, study, and share with each other butterflies, spiders, caterpillars, native bees, frogs, turtles, hummingbirds, and the beautiful nectar plants, host plants, wildlife ponds, water features, and habitats that have attracted them.

Initially I led these tours for NJ Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, where I worked as the Program Director.  Between 2007-2014 I led the tours for NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May.

Many of the owners of these beautiful, private, wildlife gardens had taken workshops with me and / or attended these tours.

Many garden owners shared with me that a personal goal was to have their own garden included on these tours.  The number of wildlife gardens grew and grew.  Eventually there were so many educational gems to share that I broke Cape May County into three regions and led back-to-back tours, covering different parts of the county each day.  I led these tours in July, August, and September so attendees could see first hand the different “Chocolate Cakes” in bloom month-by-month and the variety of wildlife attracted.

On the final tour, garden-owner Gail Fisher presented me with my very own Chocolate Cake made by her Mom (it was delicious).

And to further spoil us on that final September 2014 garden tour Gail Fisher served homemade Chocolate Cupcakes.

TAKE A VIRTUAL TOUR OF PRIVATE WILDLIFE GARDENS

Many of the gardens that were included on the Cape May County tours can be seen in the photo galleries below.  These photos (taken over the years) truly record the evolution of these private wildlife gardens and may give you some great ideas for your own garden.

  • South Tour (Cape Island: Cape May, Cape May Point, West Cape May, and Lower Township)
  • Mid-County Tour (North Cape May, Villas, and Erma)
  • North Tour (Cape May Court House, Goshen  . . . including my own garden, Dennisville, Eldora, South Seaville, and Ocean View)

 

Welcome to our NEW website

In our garden Cutleaf Coneflower (Rudbeckia lacinata ‘Herbstsonne’) is a magnet for hairstreaks (like this White-M Hairstreak). The Ailanthus Webworm Moth is enjoying it too.

Please bookmark our NEW website, “Pat Sutton’s Wildlife Garden.”  A technical wizard and wildlife habitat savvy friend helped me set up my new website.  Thank you Bob.  For those of you who do all your work on a smartphone, this site is smartphone friendly.

Be sure to read about “Our Wildlife Garden.”  It will help put my passion and this website into perspective.  For 4 years (2011-2015) I was a proud Team Member of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens, a website that is no longer available.  I will be updating and posting anew here a number of the posts I wrote for that site.  I look forward to posting more regularly now that I have complete control over my website.

This new site is a work in progress with much I still want to do with it, so stop back often to see it unfolding.

Our OLD website, “Pat and Clay Sutton,” disappeared on February 5, 2017 (on that date I could no longer access it).  I did not own my old domain name or site where it was housed (a friend originally set it up for me), so as a forum it was unstable and I had to start over.  Today, April 12, 2017, I just followed a link to our old website and strangers have shanghaied it and filled it with JUNK posts.  YIKES!

2017 Gardening for Wildlife WORKSHOP SERIES

Mistflower with Gray Hairstreak and a caterpillar. Native plants are KEY: many offer nectar and serve as important host plants for butterflies and moths

This year I’ve added two brand new topics,
so there will be 7 in-depth
“Gardening for Wildlife With Native Plants” Workshops (pdf)

on select Saturdays and Sundays
March 11 – April 1, 2017

 the perfect time to shake off winter
and begin planning and planting
(or enhancing) your property and wildlife garden

Learn to create gardens and habitats in little time.  Learn of the best plants for wildlife and sources of locally grown natives.  Learn how to save money by encouraging seed production rather than hampering it with traditional gardening practices.  See immediate results by implementing wildlife-friendly garden practices rather than traditional wildlife death-trap practices.  Benefit from maintenance tips and advice so that your habitat looks its best.

Many (1000s) have taken these workshops, been empowered, and created habitats that have given them pleasure for years to come.

If you have taken one of these workshops with me and would like to share a one-liner (or more) about them that might help others realize their value, I’d be most grateful.  Add your comment(s) in the comment section following this post (I may use your comments as I continue to promote these workshops, so THANKS).

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Shade Gardening is one of 2 new topics covered in 2017

Imagine walking out your own door into a habitat that YOU created, a habitat that fills up with wildlife visitors galore: hummingbirds, butterflies, caterpillars, chrysalises, dragonflies, ladybugs, many different native bees, beetles and other fun pollinators, songbirds, frogs, turtles, moths at night, and more!  Every walk down your garden path is full of wonder, learning, delight, awe . . . almost like traveling to an exotic land, but that exotic place is your own back (or front) yard.  There is nothing more gratifying than knowing that you provide safe haven for all these creatures.

Consider joining me for one, several, or all seven of these workshops (discounted fees when you sign up for 3 or more workshops).  Native plants and wildlife-friendly practices are the key and will be emphasized and detailed throughout.

I present a zillion one- to two-hour programs each year and maybe you’ve attended a few of these. I love teaching them, but (with only one or two hours) they are more one-sided presentations, me sharing fun natural history information and images with you, the audience.

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Prothonotary Warblers returned in 2016 to nest again in Sutton’s garden where they found a wealth of butterfly and moth caterpillars to feed two broods of young

These full-day workshops offer the opportunity to be far more in-depth and interactive and are more likely to empower you, take you to the next level.  Take advantage of this special opportunity to educate yourself.  Don’t count on landscapers or nursery owners; sadly many of them are not well informed about native plants and wildlife gardening practices.   I have heard my share of horror stories where folks have paid dearly for a butterfly garden of native plants and instead ended up with a bed of non-native invasives.

The 5-hour format (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) allows for:

  • an interactive workshop atmosphere
  • each workshop covers a unique aspect of wildlife gardening (in-depth)
  • each workshop builds on the others, but is not repetitive (so you’ll want to try and attend all 7 to maximize your learning opportunity)
  • resources (handouts and circulated books) that are key to your learning and understanding will be shared and showcased
  • you’ll learn how to utilize these resources (find answers to burning questions you may have)
  • time for in-depth questions
  • time for in-depth answers
  • during a working lunch we’ll brainstorm (as a group) each participant’s specific challenges (you’ll draw a rough sketch of your yard and submit a photo of your sketch that I’ll  project so we can all see it for this brainstorming)
  • time to get to know one another and learn from each other (of garden triumphs and tribulations, successes and pitfalls). Nothing beats collective experience and roundtable discussion
  • each workshop will culminate in a site visit to a nearby backyard habitat (including my own and others) where wildlife-friendly practices and design and plant selections will be showcased
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Three different Green Frogs called our ponds home in 2016, along with many Leopard Frogs and Gray Tree Frogs.

Take advantage of the discount by signing up for 3 or more workshops.

So, what do you say! Will I see you in March and early April?

 

 

2017 “GARDENING FOR WILDLIFE WITH NATIVE PLANTS ” WORKSHOPS with Pat Sutton  (pdf)

for NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May
1600 Delaware Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204 (609-427-3045)

  1. Saturday, March 11 – How to Create a Backyard Habitat
  2. Sunday, March 12 – Lose the Lawn, Create a Wildflower Meadow Instead (from small “Pocket Meadow” up to sizable meadows)
  3. Saturday, March 18 – How to Create a Pollinator Garden (to benefit Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Moths, Bees, & More) 
  4. Sunday, March 19 – Plant Wars: How to Recognize and Deal With Invasive Plant Species
  5. Saturday, March 25 — How to Create a No-Fuss Wildlife Pond
  6. Sunday, March 26 — How to Make Messy Look Good (Maintenance Tips & Advice) & Shade Gardening (2 NEW topics packed into one session)
  7. Saturday, April 1 – Landscape Design With Wildlife in Mind


Where:
 Please note that the 7 workshops in this series will be held at the Cape May Bird Observatory Center for Research & Education, 600 Rt. 47 N, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210 and not at the Nature Center of Cape May in Cape May.

Time: 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 pm.

Limit: 20 participants;  preregistration required  (through NJ Audubon’s Nature Center of Cape May, 1600 Delaware Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204; 609-427-3045 — if you reach the message machine, leave a message — your call will be returned).

Cost/workshop (includes handouts):
$40 member of NJ Audubon Society, $50 nonmember
Sign up for three or more workshops for a discount:
$30 each (member); $40 each (nonmember)

Sign up for five or more workshops and receive a FREE ticket to visit Sutton’s garden during peak blooming (dates to be set).

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Sutton’s garden July 9, 2016
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Sutton’s late fall garden, Nov. 14, 2016

All workshops include a site visit to a nearby wildlife garden (Sutton’s garden and others).

Monarch Caterpillars: Numbers in Gardens this late Summer and Fall (2016)

sm-monarch-chrysalis-in-virginiarettiggdn-9-25-16001-sigHi Gang,

I have been traveling a lot and so am tardy in sharing some very good news.  I’ve heard from wildlife gardeners near and far that their milkweed patches have been discovered by egg-laying Monarchs.  Caterpillars are still being found, lots of caterpillars!  Chrysalises too, like the one above that I enjoyed today in Virginia Rettig’s lovely North Cape May wildlife garden!

Today I stopped at the West Cape May Elementary School to see their “Schoolyard Habitat” and was thrilled to find their thriving Common Milkweed patch with at least 5 Monarch chrysalises on the brick school and in under steps of wooden ladders placed near the garden (for just that purpose — a safe spot off the beaten path).  Hopefully more and more schools will create and utilize outdoor wildlife gardens like this to connect students with the natural world.

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Display at CMBO Northwood Center on 9-25-16

I also stopped by the Cape May Bird Observatory’s Northwood Center (701 E. Lake Drive, Cape May Point, NJ) and was dazzled by their Monarch Migration display and by their terrariums full of hungry caterpillars and chrysalises!

Don’t miss the Cape May Monarch Monitoring Project’s fun opportunities to learn about Monarchs this fall:

MONARCH TANK TALK

Fridays: Sept. 23, 30, and Oct. 7

10:00 to 10:15 a.m.

At the CMBO Northwood Center (701 E. Lake Drive, Cape May Point, NJ) .  Free.

MONARCH TAGGING DEMOS

Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, & Wednesday

Sept. 14 through October 16  (weather permitting)

2:00 to 2:45 p.m.

Meets at Cape May Point State Park at the East Shelter, the picnic pavilion next to the Hawkwatch Platform.  No preregistration required.  Family-friendly.  FREE.

Full details about these and other programs can be found in CMBO’s Kestrel Express.

To keep your finger on the pulse of the Monarch migration through Cape May this fall, go to the Monarch Monitoring Project BLOG.

As many of you know I have written many posts about Monarchs and Milkweeds for “Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens.”  I’d love to share the links with you here so that you can do more reading, but sadly that lovely website is no longer.