The Anchor of Change: Wildlife Wednesday, October 2018

One thing that Central Texas gardeners can count on during September into October is the termination of the long hot of summer with a very welcomed re-introduction of our second spring.  Compensating for our brutal summers is the reliable flush of new growth, open, exuberant blooming, and gifts of rain–sometimes too much–to gardens and the critters who rely on those gardens.

Typically, we enjoy our first cool fronts at this time, and while the cool is fleeting, it certainly takes the hot edge off of our days and nights.  You’d think wildlife would be appreciative of any small portion of relief, but this past month hasn’t necessarily been packed with wildlife happenings, at least that’s so in my garden.  Nevertheless, here are some offerings for Wildlife Wednesday.

Blooming perennials, reawakened with softening temperatures and gulps of water from the sky, have given pollinators of all stripes, scales, and feathers plenty in their search for pollen and nectar.  This honeybee worked the flowerets of Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum.  The same bee worked the neighboring bloom of Rock rose, Pavonia lasiopetala.   As well, tiny native bees also partake of both kinds of blooms.

 

Typically, September sees the beginning of autumn migration from northern parts of North America to Mexico, Central America, and South America. Early in September, a pair of Yellow warblersSetophaga petechia, spent several days visiting my pond.  I couldn’t get a shot of them together, or a lone shot of the female, but the male sat still long enough for a couple of quick shots.

Each warbler hopped around the limestone rock which borders the pond, with nervous flutters into the oak trees.  I never actually saw any bathing in the bog, or splashing the the waterfall, but both birds were clearly interested in the water feature.

I see this species each spring as they head northward, but don’t recall ever witnessing an autumn visit before.  That said, I haven’t observed any other migratory birds through my garden this past month, which is odd. The autumn migration season spreads out over a longer period and isn’t as intense as the spring migration, but I’m surprised that I haven’t seen other passers-through at my pond or in the garden.  I hope the migrants are finding enough in rural areas to forgo urban gardens.

 

My pond toads, Gulf coast toadBufo valliceps, are croaking their way to the end of their breeding season.  I’ve seen itty bitty, baby toads in the garden, but this grown fella was willing to pose for me at sunup one morning.

 

The neighborhood squirrels are up to their usual antics, like the actions of this female Eastern Fox squirrel, Sciurus niger, who was bound and determined to have the birds’ seeds for lunch.

Balancing.

Vertical tight-rope manuevers.

The big stretch.

Success! Who knew that noshing on the ground is easier?

 

Finally, in a nod to the end-of-October scare, is this gorgeous spider who’s been hanging out at my back patio.  I’ve identified her as a Spotted orbweaverNeoscona crucifera.

I don’t find her scary and in fact, I think she’s quite beautiful.  She’s also large; her abdomen is about an inch in diameter–a big girl!  I’ve only seen her at night and she’s shy, so she scuttles up her web into the ceiling of the patio cover when she notices me.  I was fortunate to catch this shot of her.  I wonder if she was drowsy with digestion?

What’s winging or singing in your garden during this predictable season of change?  Please post about your wildlife happenings and remember to leave a link when you comment here.  Happy wildlife gardening!

Asher

I rarely post about personal issues, but last week, my very elderly dog, Asher, died.  He lived a good dog life; he was 17 years old, with 16 of those years as a part of our family.  Asher’s been old for a long time.  At the beginning of summer 2017, I thought he wouldn’t survive the summer.  Not only did he survive, but he lived to see autumn, winter, and spring, and lumbered through this summer.  Asher had a strong–and big–heart, but he’d been declining and required a great deal of care.  We were privileged to provide that care, but on Friday two weeks ago, he could no longer stand and his appetite waned.

He crumbled.  Asher weakened beyond our ability help and it was time to ease his end.

Asher was a favorite in the neighborhood.  On his last day, a steady stream of neighbors stopped by to say goodbye and to pet his soft head.  Since his death, texts, emails, phone calls have delivered condolences.

His life was worthy not only because of who he was–gentle natured and pure in ability to love, and as a younger dog, goofy in demeanor, but also because of his role as an important tether in our family.  My daughter and I found him in 2002 when we were volunteers at our local shelter, where, every Sunday, we walked and played with abandoned dogs.  Shoshana  loved animals and science, and wanted to become a veterinarian.

Shoshana died in 2006, suddenly and of natural causes, leaving our family forever altered.

We survived: parents who buried a child and the younger brother who grew up alone.

But, we had Asher.  Asher was a balm for our broken hearts.  A sensitive soul, he seemingly understood our pain, sitting quietly to keep us company when need be.  Or, when the mood struck, ready to play and unleash his silly side–and silly was a big part of Asher.

Always, he lightened our load.  He’s the last of our pets who knew Shoshana and experienced our intact family.

The vet and vet tech came to our house.  Both young women were kind and compassionate.  They listened to us, and talked to and petted Asher.

His death was peaceful.

I roll my eyes at references to crossing over the rainbow bridge and I detest bad pet poetry, but I like this Irving Townsend quote:

We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle; easily and often breached.  Unable to accept its awful gaps, we would still live no other way.  We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan. 

 

Asher.  His name is Hebrew for “happy” and our lovely–and deeply loved–friend was aptly named, both in who he was, and what he gifted.

Winged, and Other Things: Wildlife Wednesday, September 2018

Just a quick howdy do!  for September’s Wildlife Wednesday, recapping a few flitting winged things from this past month.  August is typically hot and quiet, but the garden and its inhabitants remain full of energy and life, even when the gardener drags.

For this whole growing season, I haven’t snagged one good photo of my favorite native bee, the Horsefly-like Carpenter beeXylocopa  tabaniformis.

Bee butt-view on a Turk’s cap bloom.

There are many of these busily buzzing, nectar-stealing carpenter bees in my garden, but this is the best shot I’ve managed this year.  I’m either too slow with the click, or choose a ridiculously windy day to shoot, or am distracted and lose sight of my subject.  The bees keep their cool though, working the garden, laying eggs for the next generation, and taunting the gardener with their charm. There’s still plenty of time to work on attaining some decent photos before the days are significantly shortened and these bees bed down for winter.  Stay tuned!

I’m continuing to enjoy the Turk’s cap visits of several Southern Carpenter beesXylocopa micans.

Like the Horsefly-like carpenter bees, the Southern Carpenter bees nectar-steal and favor Turk’s caps blooms, though I have also seen them at the brilliantly blue, Majestic sage blooms.

These bees are so large, they are easy to spot in the garden, even from a distance.

 

The big butterflies are now more common, as is typical for the late summer.  This Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio glaucus, nectared at the dramatic flowers on one of my Mexican Orchid trees, which is a favorite of a variety of bees and butterflies.

 

It took me some time perusing Austin area iNaturalist photos to identify this emerging moth as a Virginia creeper SphinxDarapsa myron.

Top-view,

…and the underside.

I love his/her little face and tiny chocolate-drop eyes.  Some bird-delivered Virginia creeper (the host plant for this moth), growing in my back garden, was probably the food source for the moth in larval stage.  This adult emerged in late afternoon from a chrysalis situated on a branch of a Drummond’s ruellia.

 

The dragons and damsels zoom throughout my garden, but perch near the pond.  I think this is a female Dusky DancerArgia translata.  

The damsel was in nearly constant motion and I took the photo at a distance, so for identification purposes, the photo is not as clear as I’d like.   The Dusky Dancer is a common predator and widespread in Texas.  The purple eyes are a marked feature for this particular species, so I’m reasonably confident I got this right.

 

This Pipevine SwallowtailBattus philenor, has certainly seen better days.

I’m now growing pipevine plant and am enjoying more of these beauties as they float through the garden.

 

Early one morning I caught this fella nectaring on the salmon blooms of one of my Red Yucca plants.

This Leptoglossus phyllopus is one of the many leaf-footed bugs common in this region and they do fly.

 

No wings here, but the look on Mr. Green Anole suggests he’s weary of summer and ready for autumn.  Or, maybe I’m just anthropomorphizing.

Yeah, that’s it.

I love these little guys and gals and they’ll be around until our chill arrives, which is months away.

What’s in your garden as we wrap up summer?  Please share your critter happenings and don’t forget to leave a link to your post.  Happy wildlife gardening!