Wildlife Wednesday, April 2015

It’s been an amazing month in my garden for wildlife–nothing rare or unusual, but lots of action from resident and visiting avian and arthropod critters.  As spring unfurls its blooms, days lengthen, and temperatures warm, everyone is more active–and ready to breed.  Ah, love is in the air.  Let’s get twitterpated!

Last month I wrote about a single lady of the Buteo kind, this gorgeous Red-tailed HawkButeo jamaicensis.

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Those two photos were taken earlier in the month as she rested after scattering the birds with no meal to show for it. These two photos,IMGP6696_cropped_2972x3069..new

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…I shot early Monday morning as I was alerted to her presence by the noisily squawking  Blue Jays and Grackles.  She doesn’t look all that impressed with their noise-making, but she flew off shortly afterward to a more distant tree.  I think she’s a juvenile and I hope she finds a mate in the next year.

The Blue JayCyanocitta cristata,  (of course it’s ‘Cyan’ in the scientific name) are common birds in Texas and I see them every day, but rarely take photos of them.  This one with a twig in the beak, is probably a female preparing for her nest.

IMGP6244.new Blue Jays are loud, dramatic birds, but so gorgeous–and I think they know it.

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I enjoy their antics–and beauty.

This Northern MockingbirdMimus polyglottos, sang beautifully one morning.

IMGP6021.new I love the songs of the Mockingbird–melodic, versatile, and constant. I’d like to think he was serenading me, but I imagine he was trying to impress a lady more fitting to his taste. His coloring looks buttery, not the grays than Mockingbirds really are.  Obviously, the early morning light highlighted him in an unusual, though compelling, way.

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Or I was off-kilter with the camera.

This Mockingbird shows truer colors,

IMGP6183.new …as he rests in my Retama tree and surveys his territory.

I used to enjoy the sight of many Red-winged BlackbirdAgelaius phoeniceus, species migrating through my gardens in spring, but this year, there is only one shy male.

M0026120.new He visits the feeder from time-to-time, hesitant to land, but once he perches, he remains  quite a long time enjoying sunflower seeds.

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I’ve written about my resident Eastern Screech OwlMegascops asio, couple in the past month and what a charming pair they are. These two are real love-match.  I’ve observed Mamma,

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…sitting in the tree, waiting patiently for her partner to bring her a treat at night or to pick her up from the house at sundown for a rat and a movie.  Well, maybe not a movie.

Every time I see these two lovebirds meet each other, they touch beaks.  At first I thought they were exchanging some morsel of food and it might be happening, but I don’t see any “stuff” pass between them.  I think they’re beak-kissing.

Kissing is so much nicer than exchanging lizard gizzard.

Early some mornings, just before sunrise, I’ve spotted Dad,

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…hanging around the brood house.  Mamma is nestled inside by then; sometimes she pokes her head out, sometimes not.  He’ll trill a couple of times, then silently swoops off to the neighbor’s shrubs for his daily rest.  What a treat and privilege it is watching these two court.

Take a look his talons.

IMGP6336.new I wouldn’t want to be at the snatching end of those.

A Great Blue HeronArdea herodias, visited my pond several times early in the month, relieving it of a couple of fish.  I like my fish and I’m very sorry for their end, but everyone has to eat.I never got a good photo of the heron because with any slight movement the heron spread his huge wings and loped off.   I did get this one rather lame photo after  he took flight from my back garden and banked around and upwards from the house.IMGP6179_cropped_2967x2755..new

He’s probably headed off to a nearby creek.  I haven’t seen him since, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still visit the fishies.

Texas Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora, is blooming magnificently this spring. Beautiful trees year round, the Laurels are dripping with purple clustered blooms, to the delight of this gardener, as well as this White Crab SpiderMecaphesa. 

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Hopefully, the spider isn’t hunting the honeybee as she harvests pollen and nectar.IMGP6467.new

Similarly, this native bee, Horsefly-like Carpenter BeeXylocopa tabaniformis, enjoys the Mountain Laurel blooms.

IMGP6459_cropped_3318x3105..new Just below the bee is another insect, but I only see it in profile.  Any ideas about what it is?

I have a hard time photographing this bee species because they’re always on the move, except when entranced by blossoms full of pollen and nectar, like those of the Mountain Laurel.

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As beautiful as the Texas Mountain Laurel is, my wildlife plant-of-the-month award goes to the  Possumhaw Holly, Ilex decidua.  

IMGP6558.new This tree leafed out in late February, still holding its winter berries (why haven’t the Cedar Waxwings gobbled up the berries??), while blooming the tiny, sweet spring flowers.

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The tree was and is alive with bird and insect activity.  Most of the activity I’ve observed is so tiny and/or moves so rapidly that I opted to simply put down the camera to watch and marvel.  I’ve observed a number of fly species, various native bees and honeybees, and a butterfly that I’ve never seen before, visiting those teensy flowersIMGP6546_cropped_3617x2986..new

The Possumhaw flowers are quite the favorites of very small pollinators–and small is the operative word.

One insect moved slowly enough that I was able to capture some shots.  Picture-winged Flies,  Delphinia picta, are common in my gardens–I’ve rescued them from the shallow bird bath near the Possumhaw and see them all over the garden.IMGP6549_cropped_4101x2936..new

The fly lays its eggs on the decaying fruits so the larvae can feed on rotting berries.

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Adults sip nectar from the little flowers.IMGP6552.new

On the limbs and trunk of the Possumhaw, I’ve seen several of the Twice-stabbed Lady BeetleChilocorus stigma.

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I find the name rather gruesome,  but what a pretty little insect and beneficial too.    Lady Beetles, no matter how many dots, enjoy eating aphids and other sucking insects; they are good friends to gardeners. 

And finally, this  Mason BeeOsmia lignaria, wasn’t immune to the drive for spring romance, or at least, the drive for reproduction of the species.  I watched two of these buzzing around my back patio walls in  search of the right holes in which to form nests and lay eggs.  This one chose a hole in my old (REALLY old) electric pruner.  She entered several times,

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…and packed the hole with pollen and probably a little mud for whatever eggs she laid.  Here are other holes in the mortar of my house walls were she and other native bees have done the same.

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Many of these holes have existed in the mortar  for years, some well before we bought our home, like these two.

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At some point, these holes were filled with glue or caulk (maybe for shelves?).  I’ve recognized for a number of years that bees and wasps use these holes as nests, so I have not cleaned or filled them in.  I guess some would find holes in the walls a bit unsightly, but I love that the bees use them year after year to create homes for their larvae ensuring more bees in the future.  To me, that is real home beauty.

I hope your gardens benefitted from wildlife visitors this month and that you will join in posting about it for April 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!

 

27 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday, April 2015

    • I agree. I’ve come to really appreciate the little guys and gals in the gardens–ladybird beetles, bees, and the like. I feel like I’m in this sterile urban waste, but the truth is that there’s quite a lot around, if one will simply stop and observe.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t realize how much there was until I started sorting through photos–I didn’t even use all of what I observed. That’s a nice problem to have. I wish I was a better photographer, so that I could get the little ones who were all over the Possumhaw–it was amazing to me.

      Thanks for participating in Wildlife Wednesday!!

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  1. Pingback: Wildlife Wednesday: April 2015 | Under the Pecan Leaves

    • Isn’t that ladybug the cutest? I’d never seen one either, or at least, I don’t think I have. Actually, there were several on the tree, I just had good access to that one.

      Thanks for your participation support!

      Like

  2. What a great and gorgeous number of visitors you had this month! I love the hawk and the owls. And of course the other birds and your bugs. That Twice Stabbed Lady Beetle is quite interesting. I had to follow the link to read up on it! Thanks for that. Just a great all-around post once again. Here’s my link for this month:

    https://transmutationalgarden.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/wildlife-wednesday-april-2015/

    As always, thanks for hosting!

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  3. Pingback: Surprise! A frog in the watering can | Digging

  4. Gotta love those Mockingbirds! They do love an audience and often perch on branches to sing while I work in the garden. I just purchased a Possumhaw to add to the garden, can’t wait to get it going after seeing all the activity on yours. Love all the micro activity you capture, I’ll think twice before filling any holes in the mortar. Carpenter ants are caulked out though because they always find the shower in our room.

    Just one special bird for this WW.
    http://rockoakdeer.blogspot.com/2015/04/crested-caracara-for-wildlife-wednesday.html

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    • Ha! Those darned Mocks. When I came home late this afternoon, the Cedar Waxwings were at my neighbor’s Yaupon Holly which is adjacent to my Possumhaw. I was just aiming the camera to capture their eating orgy when a territorial Mockingbird swooped in and scattered them. He hung around and they didn’t return. I did notice that the berries in the top half of both trees were gone, so I guess the Waxwings finally showed up today to eat their fill.

      You’re going to love the Possumhaw. I’ve enjoyed the berries and the beautiful green leaves, but truthfully, never quite realized just how many insects pollinate and hang out on that tree. It’s truly an excellent wildlife plant.

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  5. A great post for Wildlife Wednesday! I’ve heard the Texas Mountain Laurel is stunning this year–lucky you! You got some great shots of the birds. I really miss the mockingbirds–they were so prevalent in Florida and had such beautiful, variable, persistent songs! But we do have the other birds you mention. In fact, the Red-Wing Blackbirds are numerous here in S. Wisconsin now–when I drive along the highway, I see so many of them sitting atop strong stems, perching in their territory. They have a pretty song, too. 🙂

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    • I’m so glad you have the Red-winged Blackbirds–they’re just such pretty boys (and girls, but the girls, they’re just not quite as flashy). I agree that they have a lovely song and a distinctive call; I always know when one is around, even if I haven’t spotted it yet.

      The Mockingbirds are such musical birds. Like Shirley, I often have one accompany me as I garden. The singer will fly from perch to perch, seemingly to keep me company.

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  6. Great tour through your garden! Did you use a flash when taking pictures of the owls in the dark? I wish we had some screech owls near us, at least I think I do, depends on the screech I guess. You are so much nicer to the heron than I am when one visits my pond. But then I only have two fish left because of that bird too.

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    • I did use flash, but it was set on an automatic. I thought that it would bother the owls, but they were fussed at all about the light. Don’t know about the neighbors though….

      You know, the screech owls don’t screech, or, I’ve never heard one screech. Both male and female have a lovely trill or whinny, lower from the male, slightly higher from the female. There are some other calls, like when they’re feeding the owlets, but the trill/whinny are the most common calls from the Eastern Screech Owls.

      Ha! I would be annoyed with the heron if he was a regular visitor. We had a heron visit once or twice when we first built the pond, but haven’t seen one since. That’s not to say that one hasn’t gone fishing, we just haven’t seen another until just recently.

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  7. Yay for finally spotting the male red-winged blackbirds. I, too, caught my first glimpse of one this past month. And I love your screech owls – and the fact that they are so affectionate towards each other is so adorable! I’ve given up on screech owls this year, as a squirrel has been very tenacious about making it her nest. At least I have some other lovely birds making their homes in my man-made boxes, not to mention an abundance of other wildlife that have come to life with the springtime weather. http://rebeccastexasgarden.blogspot.com/2015/04/wildlife-wednesday-april-2015.html

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    • So glad you’ve also had the Red-winged Blackbirds. They’re so fun and only here for a short time. I’m sure you have lots of nice places for birds in your garden and that they have a good place to hang out for breeding season.

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  8. Wow you certainly have had loads of activity. Ours is just starting and as we are (yes dare I say snow covered and cold) not much going on…but i love seeing your birds…I love the captures of the screech owl especially as it was looking at you…that is fabulous. And if I was a bee I would want to live in that Mountain Laurel. I also would let the bees alone. I can’t wait to see our first bees I hope soon. But until it warms and the snow melts we are in limbo. A few birds are arriving back but not much more than that.

    I do have a post about a bird I will love to see again later this month I hope. The tale is on my new blog instead of my garden blog….hope you enjoy it:

    http://www.livingfromhappiness.com/wildlife-lesson-orange-pride/

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    • There has been a lot of activity and I’m so fortunate to have the wildlife near to and in my gardens. The screech owl shot was such a lucky one–and taken before I had coffee, so, yeah, that’s really something. 🙂

      I do hope you warm soon and wishing you good wildlife happenings in the coming months.

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    • There are so many bees that have evolved specific to region. The scientific community knows a great deal about honeybees, but less about the myriad native bees, so there appears lots to learn on that front.

      Like

  9. I loved this post and what amazing photos. I love seeing your birds, so different than ours and I adore your owls.
    So much interesting information, thank you very much.

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    • You are very welcome! I’ve enjoyed the wildlife in my gardens and agree that the owls are adorable, though I’m not quite sure that the many rats, mice, toads, and lizards would agree with us. Thanks for reading!

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  10. I’m in love with your owls. We have owls here, but we never see them. This is the first I’ve heard of the phenomenon of beak-kissing. It certainly makes the owls even more adorable. Red-Wing Blackbirds we have in abundance. They nest in the hedges at the Lurie Garden. Sometimes while I’m walking through the Lurie close to the hedge I get dive-bombed by a RWB who thinks I’m to close to a nest.

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    • I’m in love with my owls too! These two are a charismatic little couple.

      I’ve never seen more than a few Red-winged Blackbirds at a time; it must be quite a sight to see many.

      Like

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