Spring Forward: Wildlife Wednesday, March 2017

Welcome to Wildlife Wednesday, marked each first Wednesday of the month with the purpose of learning about and celebrating the diverse fauna with whom we share our world and gardens.  Fanciful or plain feathered birds, pollinators and their insect brethren of all stripes and dots, fluffy mammals, and scaly reptiles and amphibians bring our gardens to life.   Wildlife is intrinsic to the healthy operation of our environment, in both the macro of the wider world and the micro of our own garden plots.

All winter long and on a variety of plants, I’ve seen representatives of this handsome bug:

Sipping the bloom juices of Leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealei)

Succinctly, this guy or gal is a Largus Bug, Largus succcinctus, and he is a true bug belonging to the Suborder Heteroptera and Family Largidae, also known as Bordered Plant Bugs.  I haven’t fretted at their mating on the entry board of the bee hives (well, if the bees don’t mind, who am I to judge??) or muddling about on stems and leaves:  I’m a live and let live sort of gardener–to a point.  Considering that these buggy sorts have been a constant presence this winter, I wonder if I should have administered, or will need to consider administering, a method of control.  If it proves necessary, I’ll probably opt for the soapy water bottle technique which entails picking off bugs and dropping them into a frothy concoction. I’ve heard of gardeners who hand vacuum for undesirable critters, cruising their garden spaces and vacuuming where necessary.  But my neighbors already think I’m a gardening oddity, so I’m likely stick to patrolling with a bug-death bath in hand.

Swim little bugs, swim!  (in basso) Bwahahahaha!

Last autumn, I’d observed and photographed some small black beetles on Frostweed and Turk’s cap which I couldn’t  identify; I wrote about them in my November Wildlife Wednesday post.  I now know that those beetles are an instar (phases of insect molt) of the Bordered Plant bugs.  These bugs have been in my garden for months and at some point, I might need to make a decision about their future endeavors as they crawl along plants and give the bees a peep show.  In a University of California ‘Green Blog’ article about these bugs, the author suggests that they don’t cause much damage and I haven’t observed any real problems like munched, crunched, or otherwise damaged flowers or foliage, but I’ll keep a keen eye on them, just in case.

This lovely bird resting on a utility cable behind my back garden is a Monk parakeet, and a member of one of several introduced colonies here in Austin.

I often see 2 or 3 fly over my house in spring–flashes of bright green against the blue Texas sky–screeching their screeches, but rarely do they land in or around my garden. Though not native to this area, they apparently haven’t displaced native fauna and aren’t considered a problem.  In spring they choose mates and build their nests high on utility poles and tree tops.

Green (Carolina) anolesAnolis carolinensis, are back!

I know, he’s not green and in fact, he never left.  Sightings of these tree-dwelling lizards are scarce during winter, but since spring sprung a few weeks early in February, I’ve spotted several. This guy isn’t green because he’s lounging on a wooden fence; he’s also giving me quite the stink-eye.   He skedaddled shortly after I took his photo; I’m sure we’ll see one another again.

Blue Orchard beesOsmia lignaria,  were the first native bees I observed this spring.

They’re mating:

Coupling,

RICOH IMAGING

…conscious uncoupling.

…and building their nests for their blue bee babies.

Blue orchard bees are important pollinators for commercial fruit growers, but are easy to attract to the home garden: they like to build their nest in holes.  Providing wood with drilled holes or bamboo pieces with ready-made holes is an easy way to  encourage these beauties to nest in and pollinate your garden.

My Blue Orchard bees also build their nests in the mortar of the outside of my house.

Like most Osmia bees, Blue Orchards are solitary in that they don’t build a hive or live communally.  However, they are comfortable building their nests alongside one another in a kind of condo/apartment living arrangement, if you will. The females mix plant pollen and nectar with their own saliva and then deposit the mixture for the larval food source in the brood chamber, where one egg per chamber is laid.  The mom bee then seals each one-egg brood chamber with mud, which is a combination of plant material and soil. Each female will lay 5-8 eggs, prepare and then seal the nest, and then, sadly, she dies.  The offspring created this year will emerge next year, ready to start the mating, pollinating, nesting cycle again.

Go Blue Orchard bees–see you again next spring!

No fruit trees in my garden, but the Blue Orchard bees thoroughly worked the blooms of Mountain laurel.

 

Another early bee who’s out-and-about-and-pollinating is this green metallic sweat bee working the blooms of a Dewberry bloom.

Identifying native bees is tricky (for me, that is).  My best guess is that this is an Augochloropsis metallica which is found in Central Texas.  I’ll see more of these, as well as many other native bees, during our long growing season.

 

Furry friends are also active as the weather warms.  This Eastern fox squirrelSciurus niger, played hide-n-seek with me one weekend afternoon.

Now you see me!

Now you don’t!

Scamper!

After his flirtation (no doubt attempting to distract me with charming antics), he landed where he intended: under the sunflower filled-n-spilled bird feeder for his share of seedy nosh.

In search of seeds.

 

Male Great-tailed GracklesQuiscalus mexicanus,  are in machismo, mating mode now. I wrote about a rather scraggly fellow last fall who had lost his tail in the annual molting rite common to many birds.  It’s entirely possible that this gorgeous avian hunk is the same bird as the seasonally sad specimen formerly profiled:

He is oh, so pretty as he bathes,

He’s downright sparkly.

…and preens in the tree.

What a poser!

Courting and posturing is underway and grackle exhibition will provide chuckles for this gardener and chicks for grackle moms to rear.

I continue to enjoy the visits from winter Texans, like this Yellow-rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata.  I  presume that they’re also enjoying their visits to my garden.

He positioned himself for a splash in the pond bog.  Various song birds rely on the winter-damaged limbs for  perching and because of that, I haven’t removed all of the limbs yet.

I will need to prune this Yellow bells, Tacoma stans, soon, but I can hold off a bit longer allowing the birds some cover and a safe place to observe their world.

Spring.  It’s here and preparing for the season’s work.  Birds-n-bees are active, pollinators are pollinating, and gardens are awakening to new possibilities and promise.

Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Whether your garden remains in winter’s deep, or is experiencing spring flush, or perhaps if you’re Down Under, ready for autumn, did wildlife visit your garden this past month? Please post for March Wildlife Wednesday. Share photos and stories of your garden wildlife to promote and appreciate your region’s natural habitat and diversity. 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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30 thoughts on “Spring Forward: Wildlife Wednesday, March 2017

  1. Your bee shots are really good. I have not seen Monk parakeets in my area, but heard there is a flock south of here. We once had a parakeet that I think was an escapee. He did not understand pecking order and really upset the woodpeckers.

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    • Thanks–they were still for a time–long enough to click! I can imagine that a parakeet wouldn’t quite get the native bird pecking order; I hope they taught him a lesson or two!

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    • The monk parakeets abound down here, around Clear Lake. If you drive 146 between Seabrook and San Leon, their large nests can be seen in the power poles. They enjoy the palm trees, too, and they often can be seen feeding on sunflowers in the late summer and fall. They may migrate down the coast in winter, but for the most part they stay right here, and they’re great fun to watch.

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      • I agree–they are fun to watch. I’m usually crabby with invasive species, but maybe because they’re so pretty, I cut them some slack. I guess that’s a bit unfair, but I surely don’t see them as aggressive as, for example, Starlings. Them’s some mean birds!:)

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  2. Tina’s garden is full of wildlife. All animals are wonderful as are their photos. And each one of them does his job in the natural garden. Except the Cotorras. Here in Madrid (Spain), where I live have practically disappeared local birds such as Blackbird, Sparrows, Pigeons and more. The City Council has removed numerous giant nests catching the Parrots, but they have been reproduced again. Its a big problem. I am not in my country house because I have a leg and a bad foot since before Christmas and I have to be resting in bed while doing tests and I go from doctor to doctor. I’m missing out on the best of Spring. But what is he going to do? Excuse Tina for my personal comment. Al Anolis that I love and is my friend says hello for me !! And that squirrel playful and bland says it is beautiful. Greetings from Margarita.

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    • So sorry to hear about your leg and foot–I do hope you’ll heal soon so that you can enjoy your garden, Margarita. As for the parrots, that’s too bad. Sometimes, non-native species of plants and animals aren’t a problem, but as you’ve seen, sometimes they are.

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  3. Hi Tina, March 1st took me surprise today as being the 1st Wednesday of the month, so I have nothing prepared to join you with. Your post is full of exciting wildlife and flowers and plants far more advanced than we have here. How do you decide if the Largus Bug needs controlling? I had to look him up as wasn’t sure what he could do. Does the Largus Bug have a predator? I once a had Scale insect infestation and used a soapy spray, not sure it did any good though and other than that at home its a free for all. Glad Spring has sprung for you, its late here!

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    • Hi Julie! No worries, though I love to see your gorgeous photos, so anytime you want, join in! The only way that I’d “control” the Bug is if I saw damage that was obvious on one or more plants–and I haven’t. I’ve spritzed aphids with water from my hose and that worked well, but for a larger bug, it’s drown or squish, I’m afraid–neither of which is appealing, but probably won’t be needed. Spring is nice–one can’t help but glory in the new green and fresh blooms!

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  4. Pingback: Wildlife Wednesday – horror and surprise – Botanically Inclined – Seed Adventures

  5. Pingback: Wildlife Visitors in February | My Wild Australia

  6. So good to see the bees around your place Tina, great photos of them. What a pretty bird the monk parakeet is, even if it isn’t a native, at least they aren’t causing damage to the environment or to other native birds. And what a cutie that squirrel is! I love seeing photos of squirrels. I was fascinated with them when I saw them in the parks on a trip to the USA some years ago. The locals must have thought I was mad, stopping to take photos of the little creatures every 5 minutes! 🙂 Here is my participation https://mywildaustralia.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/wildlife-visitors-in-february/

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    • Thanks, Sue. I’m glad the native bees are up and about again! I like your comment about the squirrels; I forget that Australia doesn’t have them and that they seem so exotic! I was at the San Diego zoo about a year ago and amidst all the fascinating animals who live there, there was a young Australian woman taking photos of a squirrel on the pathway. She was so cute when she explained how fascinated she was with them!

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  7. Thanks for the wonderful pictures. I was wondering if your owl has showed up? I’m also in Central Austin and haven’t heard them much yet. Any updates?

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    • Thanks, Chris! As for the owls, it’s a weird year. I’ve seen one owl swoop through my back garden and occasionally, she is accompanied by her mate–I’ve seen them courting. But, there’s no mama in the box this year and it’s getting a bit late for that. I noticed a neighbor down the street put up an Eastern Screech house and when I walk my dog just before sundown, he/she is there in the hole, and in fact, has swooped out when I step up near to the tree, which I’ve never witnessed before. A closer neighbor hears trilling in her back garden, but I’ve heard nothing at all this winter/early spring. I also have a friend who lives in south Austin and she has an owl in her house, but her owls have also been very quiet this year. I’m perplexed at their behavior, as it’s different from what it’s been. I don’t think we’ll have a nesting pair in our house this year (sniff!), which I’m very sorry about, but there’s clearly at least one pair in the neighborhood. Good luck with yours!

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      • Same here. Haven’t heard them as much as last year. I had a nest pair the past two years but I’ve only seen them in the neighborhood once this year (and heard them that one time). Normally there’s a lot more vocalizations. As is, I keep having to kick squirrels out of the box and a pair of European starlings checks it out every morning. There’s still hope though. The first time I had the box up an owl didn’t show up until early April and last year the first egg was early-March. My box is on a pecan tree which hasn’t developed any leaves yet. I bet the wild temperature swings this winter messed them up. Good luck with yours too!

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      • Bummer that it is, we’ll just have to wait and see what the owls want to do–they’ll wanna move in and raise their families or they’ll take their homesteading elsewhere. I’m only slightly broken-hearted, but there are worse things….

        Our mama owl also laid her first egg early March of last year, the 6th as a matter of fact. Ain’t gonna happen this year though.

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  8. I called my friend in Kerrville to ask about her mountain laurel. So far, it’s buds only up there, but she is ten miles out of town toward Medina, and up in the hills, so that makes sense. Her laurels are huge, and she’s promised to call when they begin their bloom, so I can make pilgrimage.

    You may not know that I had a pet squirrel once, and still have unbounded affection for the critters. You can read about my little guy here. Who knew that squirrels could become mean drunks? The stories I could tell about that squirrel are numerous — including his turning the ice maker’s water tube into his personal water fountain. Sigh.

    The baby lizards are everywhere right now. Some are only a couple of inches long, and they’re cute little guys (and girls, too, I suppose). And what I thought was mold or fungus on burned wood down on the prairie may in fact have been the larvae of green lacewings. As soon as I can make a positive ID, I’ll have photos posted. BugGuide, here I come!

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    • I do hope you can see (and smell!) the Mt. laurel blooms–it’s a spring rite of passage! Mine have mostly faded, thought there are a few left. I know lots of folks love to hate squirrels, but I really find them charming–so smart and crafty, they keep us on our toes. I love your squirrel story–absolutely loved it! Did he live with you until his days were over? I’ve known a couple of other people who’ve raised squirrels and have funny stories about them. I volunteered for Austin Wildlife Rescue a while back and my favorite critters were the squirrels for all the reasons one can imagine. I should get back to that, that’s a good organization.

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      • Yes, he was with us for eight years — raised from closed-eyes-no-hair babyhood. He died of congestive heart failure. How do we know that? You’d be surprised what specialist vets can do these days — for truly irrational amounts of money.

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      • Sounds like you allowed him a nice life and he certainly left you with great memories. I love veterinarians, but yeah, drive by their places for our beloved pets and the wallets are lighter.

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    • Hmm, I can’t answer that question. I will say that I’ve been astounded at the variety of native bees I’ve identified since I started paying attention and allowing my garden space to be welcoming to them.

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