Wildlife Wednesday, November 2015

October in Austin ushers the end of the seemingly interminable summer and portends a transition to cooler temperatures of autumn and its promises of rain.  This past month was no exception with our typical, atypical early autumn weather.  October saw hot, dry, days, juxtaposed with heavy rain and flooding, augmented with the gift of appreciated and ballyhooed crisper days and nights.  The variable weather also saw many winged things of feathered and scaled varieties in my garden space.  Welcome to Wildlife Wednesday for November, heralding all things wild–by and for–the garden.

This little guy sports neither feathers nor scales, but instead, his green jammies as he traipses through the Drummond’s Ruellia and keeps a wary eye on anything bigger than himself, including me.

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Many young Green Anole, Anolis carolinensis, lizards are eating and presumably growing in preparation for winter and the spring that will follow.  Wishing them good hunting for anything smaller than themselves and some measure of safety from those who will be hunting and eating…Green Anoles.

Some of the “whatever” that might be on the hunt for lizards, though I’m guessing they’d prefer bigger and juicier prey, includes this majestic Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, who rested for a couple of days in my neighbor’s large Elm tree.

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Gorgeous.  I haven’t heard any hooting from this one and without a mate to compare, I’m not sure if this beauty is male or female.  But it was a treat to observe the large predator as she/he attempted some  zzzzzzz  before nighttime hunting.

This photo was taking on the second, but rainy day of roosting; he/she looks wet and bedraggled, but owls are tough.

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I was alerted to the owl by the complaints of Blue JaysCyanocitta cristata, who are vociferous when anyone visits who is big and potentially dangerous.    Even with their noisy calls and sometimes obnoxious behaviors, no one enjoys a bath more than a Blue Jay.

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I guess they know how pretty they are and are pleased that the bathing enhances their good looks.

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Fluffed feathers atop, notwithstanding.

The state bird of Texas is the Northern MockingbirdMimus polyglottos.  There are always Mockingbirds in my gardens–singing, bathing, and eating, but I rarely catch photos of them.  What a shame that is.

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Handsome guy–or gal, I’m not sure which.  Both male and female Mockingbirds sing beautifully and with varied, complicated songs (“polyglottos”) that mimic many other birds. Sometimes unmated males sing at night.  Poor dudes. I guess singing to the full moon is their version of playing computer games on a Friday night, sans dates.

And the Lesser GoldfinchSpinus psaltria, gang is back!!

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I don’t think they ever actually leave, but they definitely prefer certain seed choices through the seasons.  Currently and for the past month, the Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata,  have produced scads of seeds for feeding the scads of little finches.  I promised myself to catch a couple of decent photos for Wildlife Wednesday and then simply enjoy their antics. And so I have.

As for other winged wonders, there’s been no real shortage there.  This interesting critter is a Blue-winged WaspScolia bubia,

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…and it enjoyed the blooms of the Frostweed, Verbesina virginica.  Adults enjoy nectar and also beetles–beetle juice, if you will–and their larvae parasitize certain beetle species, especially of the invasive Japanese beetle. Good for them!!   Lots of folks don’t like wasps, but they’re good guys-n-gals.  Leave them alone to nectar, to pollinate, and to do-away with some of the bad bugs.

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Skippers (Hesperiidae) are also good to have in the gardens, but I have misgivings about photographing them.  Firstly, they’re hard to catch. They’re tiny, quick, and generally, don’t perch still for long periods of time.  Secondly, once photographed, I then have to identify them for Wildlife Wednesday.

So here goes nuthin’!

I  think this is an Ocola SkipperPanoquina ocola,  probably a male.

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Or, it might be a Dun Skipper, Euphyes vestris.  Honestly, I’m not sure.  Skippers are  common in my gardens and they nectar on a variety of blooms.  In autumn, they have a special affinity for the three Mistflower species that I grow:  Blue Mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum, (especially) Gregg’s Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, and White Mistflower, Ageratina havanensis.  

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Their wings are held separately in levels–upwards, and to the sides–and is something that is apparently unique to certain species of skippers.

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This autumn orange-colored skipper is a Fiery SkipperHylephila phyleus.

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At least I think it is.  It would be a male, because of the orange coloration (females are  brown/tan) and there are kinda-sorta dots on the undersides of the wings, which male Fiery Skippers sport.  I know that I’ve seen Fiery Skippers in my gardens, I’m just not positive this is one.  Best guess.  So there.

This Horace’s DuskywingErynnis horatius, is another regular in my gardens.  Rather drab in comparison to some, this boy is a hard-working pollinator and thus, welcome anywhere in my gardens and at anytime.

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And the last of the tiny butterflies (whoop!) is this Dusky-blue GroundstreakCalycopis isobeon.

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As a group, I think the Lycaenidae Family of butterflies are especially attractive–the Blues, Coppers, Hairstreaks, and Harvesters.  Pretty, of course, doesn’t really matter, but the intricacies of their markings are remarkably artful, it’s hard not to admire their beauty.

And speaking of beautiful, there were a few Monarch ButterfliesDanaus plexippus,

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..though only a few.  Most of the migrating Monarchs veered west of the Austin area this year.

A Giant SwallowtailPapilio cresphontes, nectared on favorite blooms,

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…and a Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor, was a regular visitor as well.

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Lastly, the honeybees are gathering for winter storage–delighting all who observe them and long for a taste of their honey…

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My gardens host a variety of plants which provide seeds and fruits, nectar and pollen, cover,  and larval host food.  Diversity in plant choices and a focus on choosing native plants reflects how nature is intended to work–that is, as a complex food web for a multitude of predator and prey insects, birds, mammals, and reptiles.  Everyone can encourage wildlife in their gardens with simple, yet profound changes:  ridding your space of mono-culture turf, planting with native plants, and avoiding the use of chemicals in the garden.  By making these simple changes, your garden will be healthier and more productive and by choosing to plant for wildlife, you can help heal the world.

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What wild critters are in your garden? Please post for November 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!

 

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46 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday, November 2015

  1. What a fun and fact-filled post, Tina! Many of my favorites, except I rarely see an owl. Anoles are among my best greenhouse helpers. We’re seeing lots of long-tailed skippers right now, maybe because of the soybean field just north of my gardens.

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  2. Pingback: Wildlife Wednesday – Great Spotted Woodpeckers | Gardening Jules

  3. Hi Tina, my goodness you have a packed post! The Great Horned Owl is wonderful, what a beautiful visitor. October’s cooler temperatures here means a huge reduction in invertebrate visitors but I have seen a few Butterflies and Bees still about in our mild autumn temperatures. I would love to be able to say a Mockingbird had visited! That must still be a joy for you. Your Pipeline Swallowtail is spectacular, we haven’t anything as showy but like you really love to see Skippers, even the tiniest of creatures are still beautiful. Here’s my post this month, I’ve just talked about one particular visitor, that we were pretty chuffed to have.
    https://gardeningjules.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/wildlife-wednesday-great-spotted-woodpeckers/
    Thanks for hosting!

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    • Mockingbirds may very well be my favorites, though I like the Black-crested Tit mouses, the Carolina Chickadees, Cardinals…you get the drift. Skippers are ubiquitous in gardens ’round the world, I guess. And I agree that Skippers are both beautiful and important.

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  4. Pingback: Lazing Texas spiny lizards | Digging

    • Thanks, Pam. I think it was just so lucky that the owl perched where I could get a good look with the binoculars and some decent photos. And many thanks to the Blue Jays for alerting me!

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  5. You consistently inspire! Because….ooooh- that owl! So handsome. We are hearing owls nightly but not seeing them very often. The jays seem on top of the issue. I catch sight of irritated owls taking off for quieter spaces occasionally after the jays have done their best/worst. But the jay bathing series… Top notch. I’ve watched jays bathing so many times but have yet to get a single good photo. Hats off!

    No lizards in my post this month though I’ve seen plenty. Just none that posed… : ). We are in the middle of a couple of large projects so my post this month is regrettably a bit hurried. Here goes!
    http://austinagrodolce.blogspot.com/2015/11/november-wildlife-wednesday-octobers.html

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    • Awe, thanks! The owl was a real treat–trust me when I say that I feel quite blessed to have had her in eyesight two different days. After looking at your post, I’m really not sure about my “Fiery Skipper”–yours definitely has the spots, while mine only has suggestions of such. Hmmm.

      As for the Blue Jay photos, I’ve tried many a time to catch them during bath time; I was patient…and lucky!

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    • The anoles are southern critters and the wasp is actually new to me, too, though I’m betting his/her kind has been around before and I just didn’t notice. My bad! I’m thrilled you joined in!!

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  6. I love Anoles! That’s one of the greatest highlights of traveling south since we don’t have them here. This is a great Wildlife Wednesday post! I always think about high-end predators when the Jays start squawking! Often, it’s the neighbors’ cats roaming through, but other times it’s a hawk, an owl, or a fox. Lucky you to have Mockingbirds in your garden, too. They always seem so cheery to me. 🙂

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    • I love anoles too!! They’re always big hits on when shown on southern blogs–they are photogenic! It always fascinates me how the prey animals bravely start yelling when a powerful predator shows up in the ‘hood–and, I’m grateful because I wouldn’t have seen the owl if it wasn’t for the Blue Jays warnings. I agree with you about Mockingbirds–there is something very engaging about that bird species personality and beautiful song.

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    • The owl was a real treat. I’m still looking for him/her everyday, but it hasn’t returned to roost in that spot. The Lessers are funny, they sort of come and go, but it’s always fun to have them around.

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    • Well, I don’t quite know about paradise…but I’m glad there’s lots of diversity in my gardens. I guess your warm fall is the result of the El Nino? We’re so soggy and have had floods for the past 2 weeks; we’re currently on flood watch now, as the ground is soooooo soggy.

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  7. Some people SAY it is easy to photograph bluejays. haha The ones around my place sure are shy. I touch the camera and they are GONE. That owl is magnificent. I had a coffee-shop type conversation with a bunch of people recently and somehow the topic came up: When do you feel most connected to god? (please read that noun as nondenominational with or without a capital G etc) And the answers surprised me. These were by and large urban young people seemingly completely disconnected to the natural world but they all came up with answers involving wildlife and things like trees. Green spaces that invite and shelter wildlife really do inspire and nurture people’s spirits. Thanks for helping to make the world a better place.

    And ahem. I have missed the deadline. I’d like to promise a post in the near future but that might be a lie.

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    • Those Jay shots are the best I’ve ever managed–the timing was perfect and the model easy to work with. I think that’s really interesting about your “coffee-shop” conversations. Now, if we can just get those same young people to “bring nature home” into their own plots of land, there could be some real progress in re-establishing habitat for wildlife.

      I miss your beautiful prose and photos–so whenever you’re ready… :).

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  8. That was a very diverse and enjoyable post. Your wildlife practices are working well. I love your green anole, and what a wonderful sequence of pictures of the blue jay splashing all the water out of your bird bath!

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  9. wonderful photos of your wildlife again Tina, how wonderful to see the owl, I love how you get so much detail in your photos of the wee creatures, the close ups of the skippers are beautiful, you clearly have much warmer weather with so many pollinators around, I am afraid I do not have any photos of the wildlife in my garden this month but only a photo of the work of wildlife, the discovery of which has pleased me, thanks for hosting this meme, Frances
    https://islandthreads.wordpress.com/2015/11/06/wildlife-wednesday/

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    • Frances, our climate is a mild one–many of our pollinators over-winter, though we can have some very cold days. Currently, there’s a gentle rain. Yay! Aren’t the skippers lovely? They’re hard to photograph, but I work on my patience (ahem) and I have a nice camera.:) Thanks for stopping by and participating!!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Beautiful pictures (especially the owls) and I’m so amazed by the variety of wildlife you have, especially the butterflies. I spotted a Giant Swallowtail once in our garden, but he hasn’t returned that I could tell. I’ve just planted some Dutchman’s Pipe, and I’m hoping for Pipevine Swallowtails.

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