Aflutter: Wildlife Wednesday, November 2018

My heart’s aflutter as I relish the beautiful Central Texas autumn and my garden’s a flutter with late season pollinators. As is typical in autumn, there are multitudes of pollinators busily working.  Especially in the early morning hours and at sundown and afterward, there are scads of flutterings everywhere, with ghostly, diaphanous wings highlighted by whatever light is available.  Most of those active during the day are small skippers and bees, but also in the mix are a huge variety of flies, larger butterflies and moths, and other winged insects, all making the rounds of the bonanza of autumn blooms.   Welcome to Wildlife Wednesday, a monthly blogging huzzah celebrating the winged, feathered, scaled, and furred which give gardens their buzz-n-hum.

I grow plants not only because I like their looks, but for what they provide for wildlife. I’m not picky about color or form–I love’em all, but I focus on plants that nourish something at some point in the growing season.

Some plants in my gardens are dynamite pollinator providers and Frostweed, Verbesina virginica, is one of them.  This Greater bee flyBombylius major, nectared with intent one cloudy afternoon throughout a patch of Frostweed.

Proboscis deep in the flowerets of Frostweed, these flies spend lots of time at the blooms.

I’ve observed a number of these fuzzy flies this fall.

The same is true for the Tachnid fly, nectaring on another pollinator powerhouse plant,  Prairie goldeneye, Viguiera dentata.

Ive  primarily seen the Tachnids in the fall on goldeneye and Frostweed. I’ve nick-named them my ‘hairy-butted buddies’.

We give lots of credit to beautiful bees, butterflies, and moths, but all kinds of insects pollinate, including the lowly fly.  As well, there’s a great variety of flies, more than just the ones that annoy at picnics.

Syrphid flies are ubiquitous in my gardens during the late summer and autumn months.

This one is a Common Oblique SyrphidAllograpta obliqua, but I’ve observed other species too, which I hope to capture in photo form for next month. The blue blooming beauty is the Henry Duelberg sage, Salvia farinacea.  It’s another plant which has a long and popular blooming cycle.  Pollinators are nuts about it.

Like the Syrphids, Fiery Skippers, Hylephila phyleus, love the Henry blossoms, and their autumnal coloring complement the vibrant blue of the Henrys.

Wings spread!

Wings closed!

 

It’s a huge year for the beleaguered Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus.  Because of good weather conditions in their northern breeding areas, their numbers are up from the last decade or so.  While I didn’t have many come through my garden as they migrated to their wintering grounds in Mexico, enough visited and fed hungrily that I’m glad that I grow plenty of nectar plants for them to choose from.

This female nectars on the excellent wildlife plant, Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii).

Cousin to the Monarch is the Queen butterflyDanaus gilippus.  It’s more common than the Monarch and a resident of Central Texas.

I like this shot of a family reunion; Monarch and Queen enjoying a meal of Goldeneye together.

 

The prize for most common of the large swallowtails in my garden definitely goes to the Pipevine SwallowtailBattus philenor. I grow a host plant, the White-veined Dutchman’s pipe and have enjoyed these gorgeous butterflies all growing season as they visit.  Their life-cycle for the year is coming to an end, but my Dutchman’s pipe has seeded out and the mother plants will overwinter, so there should be plenty of the host plant for next year’s butterfly babies.  I’ve already promised to share some of the seedlings with gardener buddies next spring.

 

Dressed in fall colors are a couple of year-round visitors, a Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta,

The Admiral is nectaring on a Plateau goldeneye. The purple daisies in the background are Fall Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium).

 

…and a Gulf FritillaryAgraulis vanillae.

The Fritillary is nectaring on a West Texas native, Shrubby blue sage (Salvia ballotiflora).

 

In addition to eating, insects are mating to assure a next generation.  These two Clouded skippersLerema accius, pitched woo on the foliage of a Turk’s cap.

 

I had a difficult time identifying this lovely critter, but  I believe it’s a Four-spotted PalpitaPalpita quadristigmalis.

It doesn’t show the four spots, but that could be the limitations of my camera or that the wings are a bit tattered and the shape of the wings and body are similar to the targeted insect. I think this is one of the multitudes of early evening/nighttime pollinators, though it’s hard to tell.

Did you think I forgot about the bees?  Nope, of course I didn’t!  My honeybees are all over the place and even with our many rainy days, if just a bit of sunshine appears, so do the bees.

The Green Sweat bee, Halictidae, sports a gorgeous color which complements its food source.  These pretties have been active in the past month or two.  Some nest in wood, others in the ground.

 

This fast-flying, quick-nectaring bee was hard to catch, but I think it’s a Longhorned bee, Apidae.  The individuals I’ve seen have favored the Henry Duelberg blooms as shown here.

 

More common in my garden are the Eastern Carpenter bees.  This one is also a fan of the Henry Duelberg blooms.

That Henry Duelberg sage–it’s a pollinator winner!

 

Alongside the pollinators, some hangers-on appeared.  I typically see Obscure Bird GrasshoppersSchistocerca obscura, in the fall and this year didn’t disappoint.

Hanging on a window screen, he/she looked warily at me as I sneaked a shot.

There’s nothing obscure about this big beauty!

 

Common Green DarnersAnax junius,  dart here and there in the gardens, and when they alight, are camouflaged by foliage–hard to see, but lovely to behold once observed.  This one was easy to spot and cooperative with the photographer.

 

There is much going on in my fall garden!  What’s in your autumn or spring garden?  Share you wild happenings and don’t forget to leave a link when you comment.  Happy wildlife gardening!

Antidote

In the few moments of sunshine in this past week or so, autumn native bloomers spark light and color-joy.  Fall astersSymphyotrichum oblongifolium, beaten down by heavy rains, turn their exuberance to singular rays of sunshine.

Pollinators reveal themselves, taking advantage of limited breaks in the clouds.

Syrphid fly on a Fall aster.

 

Plume-heavy grasses, like this Lindheimer’s muhly, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri,  add feathery grace to the garden.

Heavy rains weigh down the panicles, which sweep walkways,

…and drape over perennials like the ZexmeniaWedelia acapulcensis var. hispida.

Zexmenia’s yellow joy is undiminished.

Absent is the Texas sun, which bleaches color in the height of day.  Instead, gloomy is de rigueur, highlighting startling color.  Crimson Turk’s capMalvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii, and Plateau goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, pair in a color palooza.

 

These days, sunshine is provided by blasts from blooms.

Plateau goldeneye enjoys its flowering zenith and pollinators (when it’s not raining!) rejoice.

 

Light in the garden serves as a beacon during dark times.  These little perennial shrubs, White tropical sageSalvia coccinea, and their partner, the still young Mexican orchid tree, Bauhina mexicana, flower intermittently throughout summer.  Both plants are in their prime once the cool and rain begin in autumn–and we’ve had plenty of rain, that’s for sure!

Amidst Austin’s emergency water restrictions caused by historic flooding, with silt and gunk slowing water treatment and risking bacterial infestation, we’re boiling water for cooking and drinking.

But water from the sky–pure and nourishing–pleases the garden.   Stately FrostweedVerbesina virginica, thoroughly pink Rock rosePavonia lasiopetala, and normally dry-loving Blackfoot daisyMelampodium leucanthum, are awash in blooms.

Austinites have heeded calls for water conservation, thus allowing our water treatment plants to meet demand.  Aerial photos of Lady Bird Lake demonstrate the mess that the treatment plants are rectifying.  We have a 90% chance of heavy rain today, but the rain is slated to end.  Sunshine is in the forecast and all–people, critters, and water treatment plants–will enjoy a break from the wet.   We’ll be boiling drinking water  for a few more days, but normalcy is anticipated.

This little Gray hairstreak (and all other pollinators) will be back in full-wing, fulfilling their pollinating drives. No doubt they’re weary of resting under leaves during heavy downpours.

 

While our blue skies are recently rare, my blue fix is provided by patches of Henry Duelberg Sage, Salvia farenacia.

Syrphid flies also appreciate the blue, working during rain breaks, the blooms of Henry Duelberg

Blue skies are forthcoming.  Our gardens will dry, our streams and lakes will clear. Blooms and beasts will return to their daily duties.

 

The Future is Fall

Fall is thought of as a time of endings: the shortening of days, the slowing of seasonal growth, the turning inward for protection from the elements.

This ready-for-dispersal Red yuccaHesperaloe parviflora, seed head impresses me with its open-faced determination for life and its reach into the future.    The seeds will scatter–by wind, or water, or gravity–most likely swept away by rain, or maybe the gardener’s broom, and will carry life–renewing yucca DNA for living in another place and another time.

The native-to-Texas Red yucca is accompanied on this mission by also native-to-Texas Rock rosePavonia lasiopetala, their pink, happy faces full of life.

Celebrating Texas Native Plant Week, and native plants everywhere!  As well, linking to Anna’s fab Wednesday Vignette.