It seems that August was mostly about the insects in my gardens, though a sprinkling of birds and spiders and lizards added a bit of spice to things. Welcome to Wildlife Wednesday, marked each month on the first Wednesday in observance and celebration of the wonderful wild creatures that we share our world with and who are necessary for gardens to be.
My good camera has spent this past month at the camera hospital, with a full recovery predicted. No matter, I took decent photos of most things–plants and critters, with a reliable, but limited, point-n-shoot camera.
I’m flustered when birds don’t perch still and pose nicely for me. With the good camera, shots are crisp and clear, birds flitting and flying notwithstanding. With the point-n-shoot, bird photos are never quite what I see in real life. Nevertheless, there are lots of birds in the late summer garden and a few presentable photos in which to profile them. The birds of August in Austin are the the usual suspects–Grackles, European House Sparrows, doves of various sorts, hummingbirds, Blue Jays, and Northern Cardinals, Cardinalis cardinalis, like this awkward juvenile male.
Doesn’t he look like a typical teenager, pretending to be cool and looking around to see if anyone notices him, but underneath his splotchiness, just so terribly unsure of himself? He can’t decide if he’s ready to take on adult responsibilities and the blasting, brilliant red that is his namesake, or if he’d rather be safe, with blander coloration, blending into the background as he prepares to make his way in the big, bad world. Personally, I look forward to his adult suit, to his attracting a partner, and to the next generation of scarlet and mottled visitors to my garden.
Lesser Goldfinches, Spinus psaltria, girls and boys alike, continued to enjoy the long-lasting sunflower seeds.
And also, the water provided during this hottest month of the year.
…a Leaf-footed Bug, Acanthocephala terminalis, hung out in the front garden for a couple of days. Common in Austin, these bugs and their kin feed on leaves of many plants. The terminalis part of the name is because of the red to yellow marking at the end of its antennae, though in my photo, the red isn’t all that noticeable. I love this shot of the bug:
I imagine it as a Leaf-footed Superhero Bug, profiled handsomely in shadow as it poses, stalwart and brave, overlooking the territory it protects. Dramatic music plays in the background as it surveys its realm.
I do believe that my brain is fried from the heat.
The dragons and damsels are busily hovering around the pond, hunting anything smaller than themselves, mating, and being gorgeous. This male Blue Dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis,
…and a female of the same species are two of the many who are living in my garden.
I love to watch them–the combination of beauty, fascinating life cycle, and flying agility make the Odonata species worth attracting to the garden. If you build a pond, or similar water structure, they will come.
Green Anoles, Carolinensis anolis, regularly adorn foliage, and often, the walls and fences in my gardens. There are smaller ones roaming the verge in August, the offspring of the older, early summer generation.
Just as charming as their parents, these little garden buddies hunt insects and stare ( or is it a glare??) at the gardener/photographer.
I was thrilled one morning to observe this native Metallic Sweat Bee, Augochloropsis metallica(?), sunning itself on the leaf of a Drummond’s Wild Ruellia.
So beautiful and such valuable pollinators, I have a hard time capturing these bees in photo form because I usually see them hovering over blooms in constant, flashing-green motion. They alight on a flower, moving quickly around the bloom, before taking off in flight a few seconds later. I’m content with watching and marveling, rather than wasting time attempting to capture with the camera what my eyes behold, thus missing the action.
I wrote last month about the common garden spider, the Black and Yellow Argiope, Argiope aurantia, who’d taken up residence in a large shrub of Turk’s Cap. Ms. Giant Spider had a sweet spot here in the Turk’s Cap because the flowers are favorites of bees and butterflies, therefore, no shortage of meals for her.
She’s been in the Turk’s Cap since July, ensnaring and devouring some “bad” bugs, but more commonly, my sweet honeybees.
All wrapped up and no place to go–except into the spider’s digestive system.
I saw several caught in the web, everyday.
I think this spider meal is one the native or wild bee species that’s common in my gardens and that I’ve written about before, a Horsefly-like Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis.
The previous morning, before I’d had my full dose of caffeine, I’d seen a newly trapped Carpenter bee of the same species. Well, I can tolerate Ms. Giant Spider catching my darling honeybees, after all, I know that the honeybee queens are strong and actively creating the next generation, but I’m not quite so open-minded about this colorful menace wrecking webbed havoc on the wild bees. I know the native/wild bees have a welcome home in my garden, but things are dicey for them elsewhere. Completely ignoring the prime directive (and for those of you who have no clue what that phrase means, please read), I carefully extracted the trussed up and buzzing madly Carpenter bee from the web and gently (VERY gently) pulled away the well-woven webbing and was able to release an angry and no doubt, terrified, Carpenter bee back into the world.
This wildlife gardener interfered with wildlife.
In my defense, the spider had two other hapless victims hanging on the web and the bee was still alive; Ms. Spider had other meals waiting and the bee had a chance to live.
I just couldn’t help myself.
I hope the Carpenter bee in this photo wasn’t the same one I rescued, but if it was, maybe it’s best that the can’t-learn-a-valuable-life-lesson DNA is out of circulation.
In this photo, the little silver-colored spider is, I think, a spiderling–the tiny offspring of Ms. Giant Spider, enjoying the meal trapped by Mom.
It’s possible that it’s an unrelated species, but given Ms. Giant Spider’s voracious appetite and penchant for killing anything in her wake, I’m guessing Silver Bells is probably family.
In the last few days, Ms. Giant Spider has disappeared. I thought maybe she’d moved her web, because she’s done that a couple of times, but instead, I located a smaller version of the same species about a foot away–lying in wait, web at the ready, in a different part of the Turk’s Cap. I suspect Ms. Giant Spider has gone to her reward and has been replaced by Ms. Junior Spider.
And the cycle begins again.
Lastly, I’m fairly sure this lovely green critter is a Spotted Bird Grasshopper, Schistocerca emarginata (also known as Schistocerca lineata).
He/she was hanging out in the Turk’s Cap, probably noshing on foliage. I warned it about the webbing that’s situated just behind. According to literature, the Argiope spider species are big enough to capture large bird grasshoppers. The grasshopper must have made its way safely, as I never saw it packaged up in the webbing.
And that’s about all for this month. So long!!
Kudos to all of you who garden for wildlife, no matter how much or little: you’re part of the solution. I hope your gardens received wildlife visitors this month and that you will join in posting for September 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 readers can enjoy a variety of garden wildlife observations.
Happy wildlife gardening!