Another month gone and my garden, like many others, hosted fabulous wildlife. Nothing particularly unusual flitted through or crawled around my gardens, but expected and welcomed visitors continue to complete the garden and confirm its purpose with their presence. Today is December’s Wildlife Wednesday and those who promote and plant for wildlife share stories and wild happenings in their gardens–appreciating the role that the urban and suburban garden plays in helping to maintain the diversity of our increasingly challenged natural world.
Autumn is usually a good time for butterflies in Central Texas and though there are not quite the numbers or varieties that were common in the past, butterflies still pollinate and grace my gardens and surrounding areas. If October was the month for Monarchs, November starred the Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae. Most days, I observed at least one Gulf Fritillary–nectaring or flying fast through the gardens. This one rested on a Goldeneye seed head early one morning.
He was there for a while–newly emerged, with drying wings. Gulf Fritillary have beautiful underwing markings and look at that cute face!
This sun-splashed Fritillary rested on spent Goldeneye blooms late one brilliant afternoon. Autumn sun shining bright and low in the sky, the signature pumpkin color typical of the Gulf Fritillary was blanched to a yellow-orange.
On a softer day, this one better represented the natural coloration of Gulf Fritillaries.
And these two, canoodling on the Coral Honeysuckle vine, were doing their part to assure more of these lovelies in the future.
The host plant for the Gulf Fritillary larvae are various passion flowers. I grow Purple Passionflower or Maypop, Passiflora incarnata and Blue Passionflower Passiflora caerulea. I forget to check out the caterpillar action on the foliage of those vines but rest assured, there’s usually at least one caterpillar, munching away.
I’ve chronicled the saga of nannying some Queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus, caterpillars (and one Monarch–sniff, unsuccessfully) in my home at the onset of our first hard freeze. This was the first one brought indoors.
I found this colorful Great Purple Hairstreak, Atlides halesus, stunned with cold and barely moving on the asphalt in front of my house the morning after that first freeze.
I brought him inside the house, planning to do…I wasn’t quite sure what, with him. I’d clipped some blooming Purple Coneflower and red Tropical Sage ahead of that forecasted killing freeze and I was glad to have something for this rescued insect to sip from.
I kept tabs on him for a couple of hours that morning before I left the house and he didn’t fly, though he perked up on the blooms-crawling around and tasting.
When I returned later, no hairstreak graced the floral arrangement. I searched the house, but never found him–or his remains. If he ended up behind a bookshelf, I’m likely to never find his remains–at least not for a long time.
The larval food of Great Purple Hairstreak is Mistletoe and trees such as Live Oak, Hackberry, and Juniper host that parasitic plant and there are plenty of those trees in my neighborhood. The adult Hairstreak, like many adult butterflies, feed on a variety of flowers.
This spider built a lovely web over my pond and I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t been lounging in my swing chair one sunny Sunday afternoon.
I don’t know what kind of spider this is. I’m hazarding a guess that she’s in the Pisauridae family of Nursery and Fishing spiders because they’re often found near water sources and their bodies tend to be long and slender.
That same afternoon, a male Neon Skimmer, Libellula croceipennis, hung around the pond, landing just so, seemingly begging for me to take his photo.
I don’t always get good photos of Cardinal birds, Cardinalis cardinalis, though they’re common visitors to my gardens. There are two nesting couples every year around my property, though not on my property. But they regularly visit at the bird feeders and plants which provide protection and food. This handsome gentleman serenaded early one morning and I pleasured in both in snapping his photo and enjoying his song and beauty.
My garden enjoyed a variety of wild visitors this past month and I’m sure yours did too. Please join in posting about the wildlife in your gardens for December 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.
Good wildlife gardening!