Wildlife Wednesday, November 2014

I should call this month’s post: what you notice when you bother to pay attention.  The reason I started Wildlife Wednesday was (unselfishly)  to promote planting and gardening for wildlife and (selfishly) to improve my own observation, identification, and photographic skills.  One thing I’ve learned is just how much wildlife actually resides in my gardens that I hadn’t fully appreciated.  I wasn’t oblivious to the myriad of creepy, crawly, flitty pollinator/seed distributor-types, but I didn’t notice them all that much.  Bees?  Oh sure, they’re in the garden, but don’t ask me to tell the difference between species.  The birds were easy to identify, as long as they were colorful or in some other way caught my eye. All those little brown/gray/tan things?  They were just “twitty birds” to me.  Butterflies, because of their obvious beauty, were much easier to discern, but I didn’t necessarily observe and identify moths or the many little skippers out there, which are important pollinators, along with the most beautiful butterfly. I’m still more likely to be aware of the conspicuous; sometimes, that’s all I have time or patience for.  But in these past few months, in focusing my observations on life-beyond-the-plants, I’m amazed at what I’ve seen that I wasn’t aware of.  I have grown to value, even more than before, the abundant diversity residing in my patch of the Earth.

I must have spent fifteen minutes attempting to get a decent photograph of this pollen-heavy leafcutting bee,

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..as it worked the blooms of a Henry Duelberg Sage.  At least I think it’s a leafcutting bee, which is categorized as a Megachile species.   I was more fascinated at how this little bee moved around, so laden  with pollen.  At one point she rested along the stem.

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Just afterwards, she lumbered away in flight, her corbiculae, which I like to call pollen pantaloons, loaded with valuable cargo.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure she could fly, she was carrying so much pollen.  But fly she did.

Throughout this blooming fall, I’ve seen many individuals of this species of Tachinid fly at blooming plants, like Frostweed.

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The first of these flies that I saw was at a distance and  I assumed it was some sort of black bumblebee.  Upon closer inspection,

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…it had that definite fly look about it. Those huge eyes!  And don’t you just love those hairs sticking out of its abdomen?

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Interestingly, I’ve observed these flies exclusively on the Frostweed and White Mistflower blooms–both white flowers, though I couldn’t find any information that suggests they prefer white blooms.

Of course, I must brag about my little honeybees,

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…as they work flowers for the benefit of the hive(s).

Throughout October, I’ve seen several types of hover fly species in the gardens.  The Common Oblique Syrphid, Allograpta obliqua, is remarkably photogenic.

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This little “flower fly” is a beneficial garden resident as it sips nectar in its adult stage and controls aphids in its larval stage, as a little green worm.  Beautiful to look at and valuable for gardens,

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…they’re good garden partners.

And of course, no parade of October-in-Austin insect photos are complete without a bevy of butterfly images.  The Monarchs, Danaus plexippus,  have been daily visitors through most of October, nectaring on favorites like the Gregg’s Mistflower.

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A relative of the Monarchs,  the QueenDanaus gilippus, also prefers Gregg’s Mistflower,

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…as does the American Painted LadyVanessa virginiensis,

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…as does the Mournful DuskywingErynnis tristis.  

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I guess the garden lesson demonstrated here is that Gregg’s Mistflower is a must-have wildlife attracting plant.  It’s pretty, too.

Common in Austin, the Pipevine SwallowtailBattus philenor,  is a high, strong flyer. Though this one,

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…looks a little worse for wear.  It was nice to see him one sunny afternoon, because I haven’t enjoyed many of his kind visiting my gardens this year.

As we head into cooler temperatures, the various dragon and damselflies will be dormant. I spied this beauty, a Springwater Dancer,  Argia plana, sunning himself on the rocks which border my pond.

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He may be the last one I see this autumn, but I’m sure he and his Odonata brethren will return next spring to grace my gardens.

I think this little insect is a sweat bee of the Halictidae family.  He/she was busily working a Goldeneye bloom. Small bloom, smaller bee.  I thought that I would definitely find a photo and identifying information for this critter, but didn’t locate information which gives me total confidence on my identification. I’ll have to take a guess on this one.

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But it’s an example of what you notice when you pay attention.  Unobtrusive and small, I might not have seen this native bee (of whatever variety) if I wasn’t looking for wild visitors.

This Blue-gray GnatcatcherPolioptila caerulea, was hopping around in my Retama tree one Sunday afternoon as I attempted to photograph a Tufted titmouse.

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The Gnatcatcher is apparently a summer resident in Central Texas, before migrating south, but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one before.

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More than likely I have seen a Gnatcatcher, but relegated it to the category of “generic neutral-colored bird,” which I’m afraid I sometimes do.   My bad.

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He’s another example of what you notice when you pay attention.  And I never did get a decent photo of a Tufted titmouse.

This American RedstartSetophaga ruticilla, visited and this is the best shot I could manage. IMGP1652_cropped_2695x3304..new

The photo is poor quality, in part because I was so excited to find a bird that I’d never seen (I need to work on that breathe deep and focus thing), but also because he was flitty and flighty in his movements.  Then my dog waddled near to where the bird was.  Then the cat decided to stroll in the general vicinity of Mr. Redstart.  Well, he’s no fool and he flew away. Migratory through Central Texas, on his way to Central and South America for winter, I saw him a little later in an oak tree, but it was late and he just wouldn’t cooperate for a photo.  After looking at photos of both the male and female Redstarts, I believe I observed a female mid-month working her way among my perennial shrubs.   Alas, no photo of her either.

The Lesser Goldfinches, Spinus psaltria, descended on the Goldeneye as the flowers went to seed.

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They were around for a week or two, making themselves at home.

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I haven’t seen them in about two weeks.  I live on the edge of their year round habitat, but it’s possible the visiting crew headed south.  I did read that they tend to move around quite a bit.  I still have Goldeneye seeding out;  I wish the Lessers would stop by for some meals.

And I’m always amaze at the noise the petite Carolina WrenThryothorus ludovicianus, makes.

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This little guy is a common bird in my gardens and packs a wallop of sound from that tiny body.  This fellow was singing away just after sunrise.

Lots happened in my garden during October and I’m sure yours also hosted plenty of wild action. Please join in posting about the wild garden visitors for November Wildlife Wednesday. Share the rare or mundane, funny or fascinating, beneficial or harmful critters you encounter. When you comment on my post, please remember to leave a link to your Wildlife Wednesday post so we can enjoy a variety of garden wildlife observations.

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Good wildlife gardening to you!

18 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday, November 2014

  1. Pingback: Wildlife Wednesday: November | Under the Pecan Leaves

  2. Love it! Once again you’ve encouraged a plethora of wildlife and shown how dynamic a garden of native plants can be. The Gregg’s Mistflower really is a magnet. I’ve never seen a redstart before — well even heard of one so thanks for the introduction! Too true about the wren. How does such a wee thing make such a big sound?

    I found a handful of birds and a couple reptiles. http://mylandrestorationproject.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/wildlife-wednesday-november/

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    • That redstart–I wish I’d been able to get a better shot, but I did enjoy viewing as he hopped around my trees. I hadn’t heard of it either! Too true about the Gregg’s mistflower. I knew it was a major critter attractor, but everytime I look at it, somethings in, around, or on it–feeding! The wrens-noisy, but fun, little things!

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  3. Tina I am amazed and all you have. I see many of the same pollinators and some of the same birds and butterflies. This year I could not observe them as I wished, but I love just sitting still in the summer garden when they are most active, and seeing the small forms of life around me that I miss when I am too busy.

    Here is an example of a big bird who was hard to miss:

    http://gardenseyeview.com/2014/11/05/wildlife-wednesday-great-blue-beauty/

    As always thanks for hosting!

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    • Thank you for participating. It takes time and sometimes, a keen eye, to really appreciate all that is in a garden. The trick for our busy lives is simply making that time to appreciate. Gardeners do that better than most, I think.

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  4. Thanks for hosting! You’re right – those flitty flyaway creatures are ridiculously difficult to photograph without special equipment. You can pat yourself on the back for getting them caught in frame at all! This is such a great round up of the visitors you’ve noted recently.

    I need to figure out where I can incorporate some mistflower. I had no idea it was THE magnet locally but boy it clearly pulls in a lot of action. And like others, I’d never heard of a redstart before but I’ll sure be keeping an eye out.

    This month for Wildlife Wednesday I am sharing photos of an expected visitor seen in an unexpected place.
    http://austinagrodolce.blogspot.com/2014/11/wildlife-wednesday-november-2014.html

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  5. I love seeing all of your garden visitors. I find that the longer I grow things, I’m more interested in the visitors than the actual flowers and veg. The life that the garden brings is simply lovely. I added you to our garden page!

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    • Thanks, Dee. I agree that it’s just not about the growing things, but those that live and require the growing things for their survival. So many to learn about and appreciate. And thanks for adding me!

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  6. Once again an impressive collection of wildlife in your garden. It’s fun to try to expand my focus to the smallest creatures in the garden. A few weeks ago I spent the longest time trying to get a photo of a bluish damselfy for Wildlife Wednesday and ended up with a series of blurs. I’m impressed with your Redstart photo since they are flitty and somewhat rare here. One visited our yard several years ago and I haven’t seen one since. We do get a good chance to see so many different birds twice a year during migration.

    Entertaining birds and deer in the garden for November

    http://rockoakdeer.blogspot.com/2014/11/wildlife-wednesday-november-2014.html

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    • When I first saw the redstart, I thought of your post on your migrating orioles. I thought the redstart was an oriole, though it seemed late for migration and too small for an oriole. You do get lots of birds migrating through SA, I think–more than we do in Austin. Hmmm.

      If those wild critters would take a minute out of their busy eating/living schedules and pose for us, the photography would so much easier! Not likely, I suppose. 🙂

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  7. So many pollinators still enjoying your garden! My garden is going to sleep now. It was a very quiet day today, and as I was snapping photos of the Shagbark Hickory for the “tree following” meme, some birds flew in to entertain me. If I finish the post in the next couple of days, I’ll link in here, too. Enjoy your November visitors!

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