1-7 August 2004
Installment #233---Visitor #

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In 2004, informative and entertaining hummingbird banding presentations are scheduled for Aug-Sep in North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia & Kentucky/Tennessee.
Next up: Fredericksburg, Virginia on 14 August
(Click on the logo at left for details.)
If your group would like to host Hummingbird Mornings anywhere in the U.S. or Canada in 2004 or later, contact
Bill Hilton Jr.


Back in 2001, we posted a "This Week at Hilton Pond" photo essay about Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata. We try not to repeat ourselves too often--we doubt anyone would like a diet of on-line re-runs--but changes in the milkweed population at Hilton Pond Center in the past three years make the topic worth revisiting.

When we moved to the Hilton Pond property 22 years ago, there was essentially no vegetation around the pond itself. Former owners raised cattle that used the pond as a drinking source and a place to cool down during summer heat; the cows did a good job tromping or grazing on any plants that might grow around the pond margin. Our predecessors also liked to fish, so whatever vegetation was missed by the cattle got whacked by weed-eating machines--lest the leaves and branches tangle a fishing line. After acquiring the 11 acres in 1982, we came to a quick and easy decision to let nature take its course--we had no intention of spending all our time cutting an expansive lawn--and in the past two decades the Center has gone from open land to old field to pine-hardwood forest.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Six or seven years ago we noticed the first Swamp Milkweed blooming at the base of an old dock that juts into the pond. At about that time, the Carolina Piedmont got its first taste of a severe drought that continued for nearly five years, so the moisture-loving milkweed propagated slowly. With little winter precipitation, Hilton Pond didn't get sufficiently recharged, and when the hot, dry days of summer came and evaporated surface water, the pond got smaller and smaller--a pretty stressful situation for Swamp Milkweed. When the drought finally ended last year, rainfall and run-off brought water levels back to "full pond." At the same time, the Swamp Milkweed flourished, sending up new shoots and starting new plants from seeds whose germination and growth was greatly enhanced by plentiful moisture. This year, we have our best Swamp Milkweed crop ever--a big cluster of perhaps a dozen plants that stand 4-5 feet tall (above)--more than a foot taller than ever before.

Interestingly, this year the Swamp Milkweeds first bloomed back in June and then stopped--apparently because lack of rain caused water levels in the pond to drop again. Two weeks ago, however, we had a deluge--5.7" in three days--that brought the pond back up once more. This seems to have stimulated the Swamp Milkweed to produce the most profuse flowering to date. We're certain these new blossoms are of interest to our local insect population, since at almost any time of the day a check of the Swamp Milkweed will reveal at least one pollinator, including several species of small native bees and wasps, flies, Carpenter Bees (below), and even an occasional butterfly.

With a busy hurricane season predicted for the coming months, we anticipate more summer and autumns rains--which should be good for Hilton Pond, various pond-side flowers, and all those little insect pollinators looking for a quick hit of carbohydrate refreshment as they revisit Swamp Milkweed like we did this week.

For more Swamp Milkweed information, see our original photo essay from 15-21 July 2001. (But don't forget to check out this week's bird banding results and other nature notes below.)

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

Comments or questions about this week's installment?
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NOTE: Be sure to scroll down for an account of all birds banded or recaptured during the week, as well as some other interesting nature notes.

"This Week at Hilton Pond" is written & photographed
by Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of
Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History.

You may wish to consult our Index of all nature topics covered since February 2000. You can also use the on-line Search Engine at the bottom of this page.

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Please report your
sightings of
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds


1-7 August 2004

Ruby-throated Hummingbird--11
Carolina Chickadee--1
Northern Cardinal--1
Carolina Wren--1
American Robin--1

* = New species for 2004

5 species
15 individuals

49 species
1,577 individuals

(since 28 June 1982)
123 species
44,882 individuals

(with original banding date, sex, and current age)

Northern Cardinal (1)
10/10/03--2nd year female


--Another 1.5" of rain this week continues to recharge Hilton Pond after a rather dry early summer.

--Ruby-throated Hummingbirds continue to be captured in near-record numbers through 7 Aug, with 94 new birds and 27 returns from previous years.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this Web site--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.