Wildlife Wednesday, April 2016: Spring Things

My garden and its inhabitants are in full swing, reveling in abundant sunshine, pleasant temperatures, and rain at the right times.  I hope your garden is thriving with similar conditions, fully awake and alive not only with flowers and foliage, but the things that the flowers and foliage are intended for:  birds, pollinators, amphibians and all other wildlife that requires what nature provides.

Because I think they’re mostly gone now, I’m starting the wildlife musings with some of the birds who visited my gardens and are now probably on their way northwards for the summer breeding season.  I still hear Cedar Waxwings, Bombycilla cedrorum, from time-to-time and a flock swooped over me one evening last week, but I haven’t seen any in my trees for a couple of weeks.  Cedar Waxwings usually perch high atop my trees, but the last time any dropped by the garden, each bird was within easy eye and camera shot.

This guy looks like he wants to make sure I get a really good look at him before he heads north.

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Such a gorgeously color-coordinated bird.

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With the splash of yellow on the tummy, echoed by the yellow strip at the tail’s end, plus the jaunty mask across the eyes, he’s lovely as he watches me, watching him.

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And, another view of this pretty bird.

These two,

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…pose agreeably, keeping one another company as I ooh and aah at their handsomeness one last time this season.  I admit that I’m a little jealous of northern wildlife gardeners who enjoy these birds year-round in some places and for the whole of summer, further north.

American Goldfinches, Spinus tristus, were late arrivals to my garden this year. They were daily callers throughout February and March and their presence was a cheery gift.  Their song is sweet and like Cedar Waxwings, they’re humorously chatty, congenial birds. They love to hang out at the pool, either alone,

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Is the rock a bird-version of a diving board?

…or with friends,

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American Goldfinches are pleased to share their bath with others, not of their ilk–like the rather confused looking House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus.

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The show with this group begins with the one on the left, with  landing gear at the ready,

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Feet flat…

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Wings up for the landing…

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Good stop!

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Oops! The rock is slippery.

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Ready for a nice, long cool one.

The Goldfinch on the far right, beside the rock, is attempting to take a sip, though not quite sure if he can maintain his balance. Whoopsie!  Good thing those wings provide some leverage.  Like the Cedar Waxwings, American Goldfinch breed much further north than Texas (into Canada).  I haven’t seen the Goldfinch gang in about a week–I assume “my” group is on their way.  I’ll miss them.

A Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos, serenaded me one morning.

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He let me sidle up close before he flew to the neighbor’s house.  Mockingbirds are the official state bird of Texas and frequently provide melodic company when I’m working in the garden.

I hadn’t seen a Yellow-rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata, in a week or so, when I spotted this one bathing in the bog of my pond.

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A bathing bird always makes me smile.  Butter-butts, as Yellow-rumps are affectionately known by birders, breed in the the Pacific Northwest and in Canada during summer.  Since spotting this one I’m observing 3 or 4 early most mornings, but I’m sure they’ll be heading  out for migration soon enough.

Quite a few butterflies have flitted through the garden, but I never have my camera ready when they land–which they don’t do all that often.  This American LadyVanessa virginiensis  enjoyed the bounty of several individual Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea.  Plants in the aster family are listed as both larval and nectar sources for this species.

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Other butterflies I’ve enjoyed seeing include several Queens, Danaus gilippus, and  a couple of Monarchs, Danaus plexippus.  The adult butterflies were too fast for me to photograph, but thankfully, caterpillars are slow.  I witnessed a Monarch laying an egg and must assume this guy is the result.

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I haven’t found the chrysalis, but hope it’s attached to a safe spot for its metamorphosis.  I assume the parent left Mexico before the snow and ice storm hit.  It’s still unclear how many Monarchs died in the storm, but suffice to say it was too many.

Poor Monarchs, they can’t seem to catch a damn break.  Monarch lovers throughout the Americas cheered a few weeks ago with the news that Monarch numbers were up in the winter roosting areas and then the ice storm blasted them as they left the roosts and began migration.   I sincerely hope the survivors and their descendants find plenty of milkweed and nectar plants here in Texas and northward, and that the journey to Canada and back again next autumn will be free from harm.

Fingers crossed.

The Queen larva is in ‘J’ ,

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…and next month, I’ll have a photo of its gorgeous chrysalis.  With good timing and luck, I’ll witness the emergence of the adult.

I wrote about some of the native bees in my garden recently, but more photos of those lovely pollinators are always in order.  I’m fairly certain that the identification of his little bee is Perdita ignotaa type of Minor bee.

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And this one,

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The photo shows two native bees. Can you spot the other, in blurry flight?

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…is a maybe(?) a Halictus tripartitusa type of Sweat bee.

I’ve snagged some reasonable photos of the tiny and stunning metallic blue/green bees, which are probably some sort of Sweat bee. As there are apparently a couple of species of metallic Sweat bees residing in Central Texas, I won’t guess which these might be. I’ll just enjoy their beauty and appreciate their work.

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Native metallic bee AND honeybee working the blooms of a Coral Honeysuckle vine.

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Native bee flying in for the nectar.

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Native bee resting on the stamens of a Coral Honeysuckle bloom.

The site that I utilize when researching native bees in my garden is the The Jha Lab, which is the research website for The University of Texas Austin’s Section of Integrative Biology. The photos on the site are taken from various area wildlife preserves. What trips me up in wild bee identification is that professional photos are phenomenal–incredible close-ups of teeny, tiny bees in gorgeous detail.  My photos are okay, but not of scientific quality.  My photos don’t have the detail required for definitive identification, so my id’s are approximate.

These bees I can definitely identify!  They’re MY honeybees.  Aren’t they cute?

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Honeybee on Purple coneflower.

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Honeybee working sage bloom.

These belong to our remaining honeybee hive, Scar.  They are the gentlest bees we’ve had the privilege of “keeping.”  Scar, by the way, is doing just fine–full of busy, working bees and a queen who is laying eggs out the wazoo.  I don’t think wazoo is the technical term.

My all-time favorite native bee species is the Horsefly-like Carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis.   With lovely blue peepers and snazzy abdominal racing stripes, these gals are all over my gardens, buzzing from bloom to bloom.

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Carpenter bee on Coral Honeysuckle bloom.

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Carpenter bee “stealing” nectar from Yellow columbine.

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Go girls!

This Paper waspPolistes exclamans,  is the first of its kind that I’ve seen this year and was resting for a moment on daylily foliage–just long enough for a photo.

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Clad in autumn-like colors, paper wasps are beautiful insects.

I like these insects, though many people do not.  Wasps of most sorts are good pollinators and I’ve never experienced any aggression from this species or others. Wasps are aggressive if nests are disturbed–and  who among us isn’t aggressive (or at least annoyed) when someone is disturbing our homes?

And Wildlife Wednesday wouldn’t be the same without  a Green Anole lizard, Anolis carolinensis, saying a cheery Hi!.

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His look suggests that perhaps it’s more of a wary Go away! . 

Did wildlife visit your garden this past month? Please post 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 readers can enjoy a variety of garden wildlife observations.

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Happy wildlife gardening!

 

41 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday, April 2016: Spring Things

  1. hello Tina, like you I have some birds pass through my garden on their way to their summer breeding homes, I love the antics of the finches in the birdbath, no butterflies here yet, too cold still and there are not the flowers for them yet, so sad to hear about the ice storm, nature can be so cruel, I hope with yours and other gardeners help they will at least have a good breeding season this year, you have so many bees, this summer I am going to try and identify more of the very wee winged creatures on my plants,
    I’ve just posted my wildlife post, thanks for hosting, Frances
    https://islandthreads.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/wildlife-wednesday-april/

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    • Hi Frances! It’s both wonderful and a bit sad that the birds just “pass through”–I often wish they could all stay, but that would make quite a mess, I suppose. 🙂 It’s very sad indeed about the ice storm killing the monarchs. I’ve some through my garden, so I’m hoping enough survived to repopulate. It’s very interesting just how many bees there are–I think I just needed to notice them. If the right plants are available, wild bees seem to show up.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You got some great shots of the Waxwing. They are one of my favorites. I have had a couple of Monarchs and found 2 caterpillars. My Milkweed is doing well this year and I am looking forward to seeing it eaten.

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  3. A nice variety of wildlife visited your garden last month. That warbler is gorgeous!

    The purple martins are finally passing through our area. They seem to have arrived later this year. We had one check out an apartment in our martin house, but didn’t move in. We usually have few residents every year, but they have to fight it out with the sparrows and starlings. Not ideal.

    A mourning dove took over an abandoned mockingbird nest in our crape myrtle and laid eggs, but something must have gone wrong. When we returned from an out-of-town trip, the dove was gone and the nest was empty. We’re blaming the starlings, but who knows?

    We have also seen a hummingbird or two passing through, heading to their nesting grounds.

    No photos of any of this activity, so no post today.

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    • I do hope you get purple martins. I’ve never been able to attract them, we have too many trees around. You’ve already had hummingbirds! I rarely see any until summer and often, it’s late summer at that. You’re right about those darn starlings invading others’ nests–boo!!

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  4. Pingback: Wildlife Wednesday – Early Spring Visitors | Gardening Jules

  5. Hi Tina, what a lovely post, its lovely to see your birds before they move on, the Yellow Rumped Warbler has a wonderful common name! Is that his normal plumage?
    Nature can be so cruel, the ice storm was a terrible event for your Monarchs, I have my fingers crossed too.
    Really lovely shot of your Queen caterpillar, a species I did not know. And wazoo? what is this???? Like you, I appreciate wasps and am growing ever more so. They pollinate my autumn raspberries for starters.
    I never tire of seeing your Lizards, we have nothing like that here, maybe one day as this planet warms up, but that would not be right either. Thanks so much for hosting Tina, my post is small this month but hopefully adds something to your lovely meme.
    https://gardeningjules.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/wildlife-wednesday-early-spring-visitors/

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  6. I guess I better tackle the “wazoo” word. Technically, it’s an informal for anus. Wazoo is used though, rather generically, to describe a situation where something is happening–“a lot”., as in *blah, blah, blah–out the wazoo* Probably more information than you wanted.:)

    The Queen cat was a lucky shot. Queens are related to Monarchs and eat the same food–milkweed. They’re more common and in fact, are here year-round. Aren’t the Yellow-rumps darling? Yes, the photo was of a male and that is a breeding color, I believe. I had some shots a couple of months ago, when they first settled in for winter of a female in a “myrtle” coloration–more of a brown, but with the splashes of yellow. Very pretty.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Our Latest Experiment: Milorganite | Forest Garden

  8. Water is always such a draw for birds isn’t it and a great place to take pictures? Sorry to hear of the unfortunate vagaries of the weather in relation to the monarch migration this spring. Nice to see your lizard again. I’d not noticed before that he is red, green, blue and yellow.

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    • They love that shallow, moving water. Every year I tell myself to keep the bog plant (Pickerel Rush) to a minimum so that the birds can enjoy that bit of moving water. And every year, the plant wins out. Yes, the storm really couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Poor Monarchs. There is so much arrayed against them. The lizard is a pretty fellow, with plenty of color.

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    • The Cedar Waxwings do tend to be very high in the trees and if it’s windy, well forget any photos. The last group that visited were flitting through the lower branches, which is not typical. I love it when I can catch a caterpillar in the J position and then find the chrysalis–doesn’t happen all that often, though.

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  9. What a great Wildlife Wednesday post! Your garden is full of beautiful plants, insects, birds and animals. Many of those critters are common here, too. The Goldfinches and Cedar Waxwings seemed ever-present during our mild winter this year. I haven’t seen many butterflies or bees yet, but I have seen some (before our recent cold snap). I’ll try to get my act together to participate next month. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Beth! I’m surprised that the Waxwings and Goldfinches were around all winter. I guess I assumed they all skedaddled out of the cold and ice each year, though I know your winter wasn’t as cold as is typical. I’d love for you to join in–it doesn’t have to be long or elaborate, just something fun to share.

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  10. Pingback: Botanically Inclined - Seed Adventures | Wildlife Wednesday – Meet Robbie

    • Why thank you! I’ve worked diligently to create a welcoming garden for all sorts of critters. Remember that I have a long growing season here. The upshot is lots of blooms and wildlife, the downside is a long, hot summer–just your opposite!

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  11. Things are not good up here…our spring became winter trapping many flowers and critters in frigid temps and 8 inches of snow….we are not thawed yet and it started Sunday…looks like we will be in it until early next week. I hope for a warm up to a normal spring soon to see the Cedar Waxwings and butterflies.

    Here is a wildlife story from this week about the struggle of our robins who came back already:

    http://www.livingfromhappiness.com/wildlife-lessons-a-survirors-tale/

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  12. My first visit to your blog Tina – I popped over from Frances @ island Threads. What a wonderful array of critters visiting and passing through your garden. I must if I can find time join in occasionally.

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    • Thanks for dropping by, Angie! I’m fortunate to have so many lovely critters living and visiting the garden–it makes life more fun to share my space with them. I do hope you’ll join in sometime. I love seeing the wildlife in other gardens.

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  13. Thank you. The Cedar Waxwings, for being such social birds, can be quick and darty and hard to catch a good glimpse of. I think I was especially luck this season. I think my bugs-n-birds-stuff are fairly happy. 🙂

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  14. A day late, but better late than never! I’ve been on a blogging hiatus and have been missing out on documenting all the amazing creatures that have been visiting every month, so I’m hoping to get back at it. It’s so great that you have cats already! I haven’t seen a single caterpillar in my garden yet this year. Then again, I seem to have more birds than usual. Hmm, I wonder if they are eating at the Cat Buffet. Thanks as always for hosting! http://rebeccastexasgarden.blogspot.com/2016/04/april-wildlife-2016.html

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    • Welcome back to garden blogging! I don’t have all that many caterpillars, but it seems to be a good start. You’re probably right though, the more birds you have, the fewer insects.

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  15. What a great collection. So much to comment on! Love love love the waxwings. You’ve done a great job catching their glowing colours. The shot of the native bee in the Coral Honeysuckle is amazing! And yes .. birds bathing are always delightful to watch. Thanks again for sponsoring this event.

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