Wildlife Wednesday, January 2015

The gloom and doom of winter has set in.

I’m such a spoiled gardener.  In Austin there are endless sunny skies, balmy temperatures most of the year, rain off and on in good years and yet, when it’s a little bit chilly, I whine.  I get cold, then lazy about gardening chores that I know require doing, like raking/mulching/composting leaves.  I positively detest that particular gardening job and this year, the oak trees are hanging on to their leaves with all arboreal might, so that task is dragging on.  I’ve  transplanted a couple of perennials, but haven’t made any progress on that walkway which wants remulching or moving those rocks, which need transport to a different place in the garden.

In spite of my laziness in the garden, I have spent time observing and admiring visiting critters–they never fret about the damp and chill and they never cease to fascinate me. They roll with whatever weather presents and thank goodness for that.  Welcome to the first Wildlife Wednesday for 2015.  There are no fireworks today, just some nice insect happenings and a little bird action to report.

Firstly, let’s take a gander at some in the Insecta class: a handsome member of the order Orthoptera and some lovely Lepidoptera.

I’ve seen several large grasshoppers in the past few months, but none so beautiful as this Leather-colored Bird Grasshopper Schistocerca alutacea.

IMGP3075.new IMGP3076.new

He hung out one day, mostly on the window screen, though he flew away into the adjacent garden when I annoyed him with my hovering.  The information I read about this species suggests that this is a male–the females tend to duller colors. I spied several of those blander sorts earlier in the fall.

This Queen ButterflyDanaus gilippus, is one of the Queens that I brought into my house as caterpillars and nannied until they emerged as adults.


I observed one or two Queens around my gardens in the week after I release the the adults–and saw them no more.

There are a number of yellow butterflies common in Central Texas in summer/fall/winter. They usually fly so fast, I’m unable to catch them in photo form.   I love to watch them careening through the gardens, flying swiftly–first low, then high– in rapid succession.

This Southern DogfaceColias cesonia, 


…was a lucky set of shots for me as it flew low to the ground at the Henry Duelberg Sage. According to austinbug.com the name “dogface” comes from the way the butterfly looks when viewed from the side.  Supposedly, the butterfly looks like a cartoon dog face facing to the rear, with a strong black dot for the eye.  I like the next comment, Because of variability, the resemblance to a dog profile is sometimes left up to one’s imagination.


I must be full of lack of imagination because I don’t see the dog face thing at all.


Then again, I also have trouble with constellations. Really? That’s a hunter?  And those are his dogs?

I was thrilled though to get several good photos and I’ll call it a day vis-a-vis the dogface.

Red AdmiralVanessa atalanta, often appear during cool fall and winter days.


Mostly they land and pose, sunning themselves.  That’s just fine with me.


I have mixed feelings about bird feeders.  For a while  I didn’t feed the birds, subscribing to the idea that there are plenty of seeds and berries available in my gardens. Birds relying on what’s available to them in their natural habitat is a gardening paradigm that I truly believe in.  But,

IMGP3162.new …it’s fun to have a feeder and see who shows up for a nibble; in this case, a male House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus, is at the snack bar.

One cold snap a couple of years ago, I got all soft and tender and felt sorry for the birds. I bought a basket feeder and commenced to regularly supplying seed-infused suet, primarily during our cool season. (I shudder when imagining how the suet would turn to goo in our hot summers.  Gross.)  I also refilled two feeders I’d left empty for some time and continue to do so.  I really enjoy the variety of birds, mostly winter/year-long residents of Central Texas this time of year,  who swoop in and out of the garden, munching away on sunflower seeds  I live in a dense urban area and my feeders shouldn’t negatively impact native birds by the feeding of more aggressive species.  At least, I hope that’s the case.  There are still plenty of avian visitors who feed on the seeds from spent blooms, like this female Lesser Goldfinch,  Spinus psaltria,M0013592.new

…who’s gorging on Goldeneye seeds.  Earlier in the fall, the Lessers were all over the spent Goldeneye daisies as they seeded out. I guess the Lessers flitted off to better feeding grounds because they disappeared for a while. But they’ve returned to my gardens recently and I’m glad to welcome them.  Along with stops at the sunflower feeders and the Goldeneye daisies, I caught this little male Lesser bathing.



Can you see him?  He’s that little smidge of yellow at the left side of the bird bath, sharing his bath with a group of House Sparrows.  House Sparrows, Passer domesticus, are not my favorite bird, though ubiquitous in urban gardens. An introduced species, they out-compete native birds, who tend to shyness and often have more specific feeding and nesting requirements. Proliferation of House Sparrows is why I originally stopped supplying seeds to the local birds.  I grew tired of feeding them–House Sparrows are rats with wings–is my general opinion of these birds. However, they haven’t been too obnoxious recently.  One day, I caught them in a veritable bird bath orgy.




 I couldn’t help but capture their fun.  Confession:  I love the chatter of House Sparrows; it’s noisy, fun, and playful.  There.  I said it.

A Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis, graces the gardens this early part of winter. Visiting the gardens regularly, this handsome male in various situations and activities, IMGP3160.new

M0013493.new M0013980.new


…and his Lady, who shares the feeder with a sparrow.




I’m not 100% positive that these two beauties are a mated pair, but I’m fairly sure.   In this less colorful time of year, both birds certainly add a dash of color to the landscape.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Inca Dove, Columbina inca, but don’t see them in my gardens often. They’ve been hanging around in recent weeks and favor resting the Retama tree,


…but I also see them on the ground, sifting through the garden detritus,


IMGP4228.new …and warming in the sun.

I adore the Tufted Titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor.    This charmer is at or near the top of my list of favorite birds.


A North American songbird, it’s a common visitor to urban gardens in the Southeastern and Eastern part of the United States.  Quick and with such a lovely little chirp, the Tufted Titmouse is so fun to watch in the garden, whether at the feeders,



….or in the trees,




….or at a bath.  Isn’t his mohawk darling?  Punk bird.



I’m tickled that I’m learning the camera, to better catch these and other timid and elusive birds.  I do remind myself regularly though, to put down the camera and just observe, appreciate, and marvel.  I think that’s what makes wildlife gardening so satisfying.

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 January 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!


23 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday, January 2015

  1. Hi Tina, great post, wonderful to focus on the wildlife that visits your garden. You are so right, that time spent just watching is so valuable and so soothing too. Your tufted Titmouse is a wonderful creature and not one we have over here. I haven’t much to offer this month but I am going to be more organised and join in with you next month.


    • Thanks Julie!! Please join in next month–I’d love to see what you get to watch and observe in your part of the world. Isn’t the Titmouse cute? I just love them! Typically, I only see them in the winter/early spring, but they’ve been around during the autumn this year. They like lots of cover and the neighborhood in which I live has plenty of nice, large trees.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Whenever I spot a grasshopper of any size I have competing instincts. One is to go get my camera, and the other impulse, the one that usually wins out, is to smash it before it gets away to procreate. The grasshopper clan and I are not on the best of terms, clearly. I’m glad you are more welcoming because, just look at that guy! Eating machine or no, he is gorgeous.

    And speaking of gorgeous- great photos all around but capturing several shots of a dogface with opened wings? That is the sign of a patient photographer, not just a photographer with a good camera. Well done!

    I didn’t get a good much less great shot of anything this month, so I went back into the “library” and worked a different angle. Thanks as always for hosting! And, here it is:


    • I know what you mean about the grasshopper. I’m sure he and his compatriots were eating something, but nothing that I apparently care about. Or noticed. I should have gotten some shots of the other ones, but, well, didn’t. I like flashy insects, I guess.

      I wish I could take credit for the open-winged dogface shot as if it was posed and planned. I was clicking furiously and that one turned out well. Truly, dumb luck.

      So glad you posted and as always, thanks for participating!


  3. Pingback: Wildlife Wednesday: January 2015 | Under the Pecan Leaves

  4. I will have to just admit that I like house sparrows. I know they can be a problem but hey they are living beings. Only this year have they started appearing at my feeder. I am not sure what that might mean if anything for the usual visitors. LOVE the titmouse. They are super charming and have inquisitive personalities. I used to have my computer next to a window and I would frequently see one clinging to the bars looking inside. These are all such great photos. Thanks again for hosting.


    • Yeah, I like them too. For shame. Interesting that they’re only now visiting you.

      I love Tufted Titmice. ( I looked it up-‘mice’ is correct. So is ‘mouses’.) They’re just so very cute and inquisitive. So quick though. I seem to get them in tandem with Carolina Chickadees, which I also like very much. I’m tickled to have some regular songbird visitors–it used to be that they only showed up in the spring.

      Thanks for visiting and participating in Wildlife Wednesday!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I kind of think that the reason I have been sparrow free is that I am cheap. Every morning I pour out just a little seed so it is first come first served meaning the birds that nest in my yard are the ones that benefit. Seeing them crowd around the feeder makes me think they have a nest nearby.


  5. Hi Tina. Great post! I love the photos of the Tufted Titmouse. I don’t believe we have those in this area. We do have the House Finch and Inca Doves. The Incas look so small when they’re milling around with the larger doves. I’m joining in on Wildlife Wednesday for the first time this month. Here’s my link:


    Thanks so much for hosting. It’s a lot of fun!


  6. What a lovely post, most enjoyable. I love looking at the amazing birds you have there which look so beautiful and exotic to me. House sparrows used to be ubiquitous here but their numbers have fallen dramatically. I never saw them at all in my last garden. I was delighted to find them here when we moved in 4 years ago. You might find them a nuisance but if they were all to disappear you’ d miss their cheerful chatter.
    I did mean to join in today but I couldn’t t manage to get any wildlife shots. I just missed the heron who was patrolling the pond. The blue tits and robin on the bird table were camera shy. What is the trick to capturing these birds on film when the slightest movement sends them flying away?


    • Thank you, Chloris. Interesting about your house sparrows–they are native to your part of the world, introduced here. I wonder why their numbers have fallen in your area? I have to agree with you–I like their chatter very much.

      I hope you join in next month–your posts are always beautiful and informative. As for the pics, some were just good luck. (The titmouse on the ceramic feeder.) Additionally, my new camera has an ability to take rapid photos, so I’ve experimented a bit with that feature. The female cardinal on the feeder was one of the sets of photos taken with the rapid shots. Out of 30 shots/second, there were about 6 good photos. That’s how it works, but it’s interesting to use, especially in a situation like a bird on a feeder, where the feeder/bird is moving. The titmouse in the tree was another such.

      I think bird photography is hard–they’re so flighty and quick. I really admire wildlife photographers and as I’m experimenting adn learning, I’ve come to realize just what a specialty and skill it is. Plants are much more cooperative that way–they (generally) don’t move much.


  7. Great photos! It’s interesting that we have many of the same birds–though you live in the south and I’m in the north. Some are only here in the spring, summer, and fall, while others–like the cardinals, sparrows, and finches–are here year-round. Love the Tufted Titmouse! My recent post is about a hike several weeks ago, but maybe it qualifies? http://plantpostings.blogspot.com/2015/01/a-misty-mysterious-hike.html


    • I think many birds have vast ranges where they live and I imagine that those birds who migrate through Texas (and it’s the main path for most migrating birds in the Americas) in spring visit you guys in summer and then they pass through again to us on their way south. I love the connection though and it illustrates the importance of habitat reparation and conservation measures for all of us.

      I loved your beautiful post and it most definitely qualifies! Thanks for participating in Wildlife Wednesday.


  8. Hi Tina – I’m seeing a lot of similarities between our garden visitors this month… titmice, Inca doves, Lesser goldfinches, and of course bathing sparrows. The titmouse is a fav of mine as well, but I rarely get to see them since they will fly in to grab just one seed at the feeder at a time. Cardinals are also so striking, but a bit on the bullying side if you ask me. They always shew off all other birds on the feeder before going in for seeds. The chickadees and wrens tend to be the friendliest birds in my garden as well as have some of the prettiest songs, so I love how much they frequent my garden. However, this month, I had some new bird visitors to the garden that I’ve been chomping at the bit to share!


    Thanks for sharing and hosting this great meme!


    • Ditto to all of the above. I chuckled when you mentioned that the cardinals bully. As I was taking the photos of the female with the sparrow on the feeder, she snapped at him/her several times. Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you’re participating.


  9. Hi Tina…finally catching up a bit and linking in. It has been cold and snowy of late so no real sightings except some brave downy woodpeckers at the suet feeders. Love that you have butterflies now and so many wonderful birds. I was thinking about butterflies of late so I did a retrospective of who visited the garden this year on my new blog…hope you enjoy it:



    • You are always most welcome, Donna. I love that we still have a few butterflies too, though we’re definitely colder today than we’ve been in the past month.


  10. Pingback: Tree Following: Retama in January | My Gardener Says…

    • Anyone who gardens/blogs/watches wildlife, any or all of those, can join in. The focus is to write about and photograph any wildlife you observe in your garden, but also on hikes, etc. Please join in next month, the first Wednesday of the month, or whenever you can get to it. It’s garden blogging–no pressure, just fun and education!


  11. Pingback: Wildlife Wednesday, February 2015 | My Gardener Says…

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