Wildlife Wednesday, October 2015

September is over, fall migration through Texas is underway, and in my gardens? Well, it’s the usual wildlife suspects who rule the roost.  Hummingbirds gave great performances prior to their leaving;  they entertained the gardener, paid attention to the flowers, and fueled up for their long flights.  They are now off to winter in lovely, warm Mexico. Here’s wishing them plenty of tropical blooms, while the rest of North America chills out.

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In September’s Wildlife Wednesday, I mentioned that a mottled and probably molting adolescent male Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis, was a regular visitor to my garden.  I poked fun at him  because he looked so rangy and awkward–the geeky teen of the backyard bird world.

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Well, shame on me.  I read this article about how tough molting is on birds and specifically as they undergo the preformative molt of the adolescent to adult feathers.  I raised a teen male to young adulthood and remember much angst (mine) and crankiness (his) during his human “molting”.  I guess I should have been more understanding and sympathetic about the changes the juvenile bird was undergoing. Sir Young Cardinal still hangs out, munching sunflower seeds from the feeder, molting, but less molty and, I believe, dressed more cardinal-like.

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Maybe it’s the better camera–my good one is out of the camera hospital.  Nonetheless, Young Cardinal on his way to scarlet beauty.

This adult male glances to the left,

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…then to the right,

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…and looks like he’s keeping claws crossed that the nutty gardener can’t see him  perched on the shrub.

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Maybe if I hold my wings really tight, she won’t see me.  

There are plenty of birds at the sunflower buffet, like this Carolina Chickadee, Poecile carolinensis.  

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I’m especially fond of the Carolina Chickadee;  there is a mated pair that nests near, though not in, my gardens.  They appear in concert with a pair of Black-crested Titmice, though there are no photos of either of that pair for this month.      Both species have sweet verbalizations and I usually hear them before I see them.  That’s often how it is with birds.

Raucous and beautiful Blue Jays like this one, are also regular visitors to my garden and feeder.

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Most evenings at sundown a group of them protest loudly at what I suspect is one or two Eastern Screech Owls perched in a neighbor’s tree.  I haven’t seen the owls, but have heard them on occasion in the last month or so.  The Blue Jays make lots of noise, but in the end they flap away for the night, returning to sound alarm(s) next day-and also, to eat at the feeder.

There should be more and varied birds through my garden in the next few weeks as they migrate southward.  Already I’ve seen several warblers flitting in the verge, though capturing by camera is tricky.  With good luck and some patience, I will have some success this month–to observe, to learn about, and to share for next month’s Wildlife Wednesday.

As for the insects, there are plenty of those and that’s mostly a good thing for the garden. This Milkweed BugOncopeltus fasciatus, is not such a beneficial bug in the garden, but apparently doesn’t do  that much damage to the leaves of Milkweed or Asclepias, plants.

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There were quite a few earlier in the summer, but their numbers have dwindled.

Butterflies and moths are making a comeback since we enjoyed a bit of rain not long ago.  I’ve seen this Hackberry EmperorAsterocampa celtis, sunning herself several times recently. 

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A good thing too, because this species flies so fast that I’ve never taken a clear photo of one around the garden, only in pathways as they bask and allow garden paparazzi to photograph their sunbathing.  Hackberry Emperors feed on dung and sap, so they don’t visit  flowers. The host plant for this butterfly is the much-maligned Texas native tree, Hackberry, Celtis laevigata.  A member of the Elm family, this is the tree that everyone loves to hate, myself included.  But Hackberry an excellent wildlife plant–providing berries that many birds species eat and hosting the nursery for this pretty butterfly.

A   Pipevine SwallowtailBattus philenor, posed for me one afternoon with a backdrop of Columbine foliage.

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I often see one fly high through the garden when I’m outside in late afternoon.  The host plant for this beauty is pipevine, which I don’t grow (why not??), but I know there are several specimens in a neighbor’s garden–maybe that’s where this one grew up.

This Great Leopard MothHypercompe scribonia, rested on the trunk of my Shumard Oak one afternoon.

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I see the larval form of this polka dot wonder throughout the summer months, but of course never think to get a shot for a blog post.  Large and fuzzy, the caterpillar is attractive enough, though I’m not sure much can beat the stunning pattern of the adult.

Eastern Black Carpenter bees, Xylocopa virginica,  Southern Carpenter BeesXylocopa micans, have nectared at and pollinated Henry Duelberg Sage, Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’,

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…and Drummond’s Wild Ruellia, Ruellia drummondiana, 

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…as well as other flowers for weeks now.*   There are many  Horsefly-like Carpenter bees, Xylocopa tabaniformis, buzzing the flowers, too, like this one on a white Tropical Sage, Salvia coccinea.

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My garden is currently in full, fall bloom and those many flower choices are keeping the honey and native bees are quite busy. Pollinate away, girls!!

The Paper Wasp, Polistes exclamans, sips at the bird bath.

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The Neon Skimmer, Libellula croceipennis, surveys for prey.

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The Green Anole, Anolis carolinensis,  glares at the annoying camera lady.

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And the squirrel?  He/she relaxes after a tough afternoon of stealing birdseed and wrecking my container plants in the effort of burying treasures for winter snacks.

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Scamp!  Let’s make that plural–Scamps!  I don’t recall ever having so many in the garden and never have they been so destructive.  The Fuzzy-tailed Devils will not leave the container plants alone.   To dissuade their digging, I’m sprinkling cayenne pepper on a daily basis–not on the squirrels, mind you, just the plants.  And I’m yelling at them a lot.  Not the plants, just the squirrels.

Squirrels are part of the ecosystem, though an annoying part, and they provide lots of entertainment for the cats.

And that’s about it for this wildlife gardener.  So what wild thangs are in your garden? Please post for October 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!

*I misidentified the carpenter bee originally and now believe that the bees I’m observing are Southern Carpenter bees.*

34 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday, October 2015

  1. I love that shot of the squirrel….adorable (if only their behaviour matched their cuteness!)
    That neon skimmer is a fantastic colour – it’s great to see so much life in the garden!

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    • They’re cute so that we don’t do anything drastic with them. We fantasize about it, but how can you not chuckle at that! Isn’t the Neon lovely? There are a couple of pairs of them around my pond–I love to watch them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I always enjoy your wildlife posts Tina. You have such beautiful birds and you make me want to learn more about insects. Don’ t talk to me about squirrels, they have cleaned up all my walnuts again. They do it every year, I never get a single one. But I have to admit, yours does look cute.

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    • Thank you, Chloris! There are some gorgeous and interesting birds in this area–year-round residents and migrants. Oh, that’s too bad about your walnuts–Bad squirrels!!

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  3. Pingback: Wildlife Wednesday – Beneficial Balance | Gardening Jules

  4. Hi Tina, you caught me on the hop this morning, you must of been up early! I am always in a muddle with time differences though. We had a group of moulting Blue Tits here, that took a while for the penny to drop with me, I thought they had a skin condition to start with. I followed your link, homely over here means kind and cuddly, the writer used the word homely as if thats not such a good thing, does it have a different meaning there? Great shot of the Neon Skimmer, I can see why he has that name, Dragonflies are tricky to photograph as they are likely to dash off as soon as you see one. Your squirrels are larger than ours, he looks like a teenager at the end of the school holidays more than ready to get back into school! Heres my link https://gardeningjules.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/wildlife-wednesday-beneficial-balance/
    Thanks so much for hosting, I love your meme!

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    • Ha–language differences! “homely” means unattractive, ugly. I guess the article would read differently, with that change. One thing about photographing dragon and damsel flies, is that they rest frequently (unlike butterflies and bees–always on the move, they are!), so I can usually get decent shots of them. I like your analogy about the squirrel–I think that about sums them up: they are perennial adolescents, always in trouble!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I LOVE that giant leopard moth! I’ve never seen one before. I am always impressed by hummingbird photos. I tried to take some on a trip to California a couple of years ago and my photos were atrocious!
    Squirrels might be a pain, but you have managed to capture one at its cutest: a hilarious photo! Shouldn’t the teenage cardinal be lolling too?
    Thank you for arranging this monthly gathering of wildlife. It’s such a great idea.

    http://www.thegardeningshoe.blogspot.com

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    • Isn’t he/she gorgeous? I’ve seen them, but honestly, never really paid much attention. It was just begging to have its photo taken. Hummingbirds are very hard to photograph. I’ve taken to using my continuous shot mode–that’s about the only way for me to get good photos of them, except when they rest–which isn’t often. The squirrel is cute, just so silly. I’m glad you like the meme–I’ve found it’s helped me focus on really watching and learning about the wildlife in my own space and that’s important!

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  6. Oooh, that Leopard Moth is a beauty. Your narrative is so cute with the Cardinal and squirrel. I’m glad we have hackberries in the creek except when I have to pull out the seedlings among my flowers. I have put the dreaded lava rocks in the the most popular planters and it does the trick in keeping squirrels out.

    We have both included similar animal behavior with the Blue Jays this month.

    http://rockoakdeer.blogspot.com/2015/10/wildlife-wednesday-october-2015-foxes.html

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  7. It is always cuter when the critters are acting up in your garden rather than mine. Distance makes for much more tolerance in such cases. I’m wondering if the owls that are drawing the jays’ ire will eventually balance out that squirrel population explosion for you?

    Wow – I’m deeeeep in admiration of that Leopard Moth. What a striking creature! You’ve definitely captured some special moments and special visitors this month. Again!

    Here’s my post – better tardy than never!:
    http://austinagrodolce.blogspot.com/2015/10/october-wildlife-wednesday-autumns.html

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  8. Pingback: Botanically Inclined - Seed Adventures | Wildlife Wednesday – October, 2015

    • The “when” is whenever I can, the how is that my camera has a “rapid shot” thingy that I can employ and I’m learning how to use it. When I can remember, that is. 🙂 Actually, the multiple shot feature has helped me with bird shots–they are hard to get!! The downside is that I have TONS of photos to shuffle through and that can take time. Also, it’s still a requirement that I actually FOCUS and get the angle/color/lighting right.

      So, yeah, I’m learning. 🙂

      I won’t bother to tell you how often that I’ve bumbled out of the house and some interesting thing has flown off or how often I see something when I’m out and I don’t have my camera with me. Like this afternoon: got home, wanted to sit and enjoy the garden and heard a hummingbird. A female was nectaring about 10 feet from me at some Turk’s Cap. Take a guess: did Tina have her camera? Oh, no she didn’t–that would have made sense.

      Anyway, I’m attempting to learn a bit about photography, with some good and not-so-good results. But it’s been fun. And, your post was no slouch!!

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  9. So many wonderful visitors in your garden! I’m surprised you don’t have hummingbirds year-round in your climate. Sadly, they are gone from my garden for the year, and I miss them terribly. One little buddy was very verbal every time I would go outside toward the end of his/her stay. I wonder if it was saying “goodbye.” We’ve been having tons of migrating birds through the area, too. And many more species that are here year-round, but in greater numbers than we experience them during the summer or the winter. We’ve had crazy molting male AND female cardinals this summer. They look like smaller versions of bald-headed vultures. I did a double-take the first time I saw them. 😉

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    • Some hummers do overwinter here, but not many. Actually, I saw a female this afternoon. It’s been about 10 days and I was surprised, though tickled, to see her.

      The birds are rather…unattractive when they molt, I think. I guess they don’t care, although, the nature.org article did suggest they don’t feel their best.

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  10. Pingback: Wildlife Wednesday: My First Post | Container Chronicles

  11. Oh Tina look at all your wildlife..things are slowing here and the hummers have made it safely to you! I miss them already. And so many butterflies….monarchs were still showing up here on their way south on Sunday. The Great Leopard Moth is stunning. We have one black squirrel that is taking over the neighborhood and not many other scamps around the garden. Here is another story for Wildlife Wednesday:

    http://www.livingfromhappiness.com/wildlife-lesson-bathings-for-the-birds/

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    • Yes, I would imagine that you’re in full autumn slow-down. The hummers left here, or so I thought–I saw another yesterday afternoon, but like you, I miss them when they leave. And I am seeing more Monarchs: one, then two and supposedly, more are on the way. Thanks for taking good care of them in your neck of the woods.

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  12. So many beautiful and interesting creatures. I really love the appearance of the Great Leopard Moth, just like he’s stepped off a graphic designers board. How wonderful nature is, but Grrrr to squirrels!

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    • There were (are!) and abundance–I’m very grateful for that. Isn’t the moth gorgeous? I’m kicking myself that I don’t have a photos of the larvae of that species, but next time I see one…

      “Grrrr to squirrels” seems to be a consistent theme amongst the gardening crowd.

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  13. What a great collection — though not to put any pressure on you — I’ve kind of come to expect this. Love the moth. They are so pretty. And thanks for the laughs at the exhausted squirrel and cardinal photos.

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    • I imagine that most people can find interesting critters in their gardens–they just have to look. Isn’t that squirrel a hoot? Devil! And the cardinal–hopefully his molting is done, or nearly so.

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