Spring Critters: Wildlife Wednesday, April 2018

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, spring has sprung and we’re savoring the warming, blooming results.  For those in the southern part of our little Earth, the growing season is winding down.  But for all who pay attention, wildlife is around:  living, breeding, hatching, or, fledging and becoming independent, and preparing for winter.  Welcome to Wildlife Wednesday, celebrated on the first Wednesday of each month.  We gardeners love our blooms-n-foliage, but it’s the critters who need and rely on the blooms-n-foliage that  bring life to the garden. Viva wildlife!

At the end of February, I spotted the first of the Blue orchard beesOsmia lignaria, who’d burst out from their bee nurseries after pupating for a full year.  These deep blue, metallic bees were raring to go: ready to pollinate, mate and create new incubators for their bee babies.

Empty pupa shell. It housed the Blue Orchard bee for a full year.

Love among the blue bees!

As I write, the few adults left are adding their final touches on the eggs’ nests.  Their incubating progeny is tucked-in and safe for the coming year.

Caught in the act! One of the last adult Blue Orchards packing her nest.

There were so many bees looking for nurseries this year, that I scavenged more blocks of drilled wood and some extra cut bamboo to fill the housing needs.

No vacancy!

There are empty holes in this hotel, but we need to make more bee nurseries for the later season, different  bees.

I’ve placed an order with Bee Daddy for more holey wood and cut bamboo for next years’ bee babies.  So long Blue orchard bees–and thanks for your work in my garden.

 

Winter avian residents are eating, drinking, bathing, and squabbling in the garden.  That said, spring migration is imminent and I’ll soon say a bittersweet farewell to the feathered winter Texans that who share my garden.  The Ruby-crowned kingletRegulus calendula, was a shyer fella than either of last years’ pair, but I managed glimpses of his cuteness.

I saw more American goldfinchesSpinus tristis, than I usually do in winter, though only captured a few shots of these yellow, black, and white beauties.

A handsome male in his not-quite-breeding plumage.

I usually see greater numbers of Lesser goldfinchesSpinus psaltria, throughout the year, but this winter, they’ve been scarce.  Still, there were a few.

It’s a date!

Interestingly, my sister-in-law, who lives in west Austin (we’re in central Austin), experienced just the opposite:  plenty of Lessers, few Americans.  Wildlife have their preferred hangouts–much like people–critters appear in greater or fewer numbers, depending upon what’s available in food sources and cover–and whatever unknown quality they’re looking for at a particular time.

 

A favorite bird showed up this past month!  Cedar waxwingBombycilla cedrorum,  flock together on the wing and in the trees.  These gregarious birds typically perch too high (and invariably, it’s too windy) to capture good shots, but I lucked out a few times.

You can see the red “wax” on the tip of the wing of the upper bird. It’s not clear what this bit of bright red is for, but may be related to attracting a mate.

Rakish mask, bright yellow flare at the tip of the tale, and a splash of red–who wouldn’t find these birds attractive?

It’s rare to find them alone; they enjoy one another’s company and sometimes, the company of others.

Cedar waxwing chatting up a female House Finch.  I love the look on the finch’s face.  Whahh???

I’m still hearing them as the flock from tree top to tree top.  They’ll be around for a while, but they breed far north of here and they’ll migrate soon enough.

She’s gorgeous–and knows it!

 

This is the third year that at least one Lincoln’s  Sparrow,  Melospiza lincolnii,  has visited in late winter/early spring.

The coloring is subtle, but lovely.

A view from behind; it’s a beautiful pattern in those feathers.

An elegant looking little bird, Lincoln’s Sparrows hop jauntily through the garden in search of seeds and flutter and flap in the bog of the pond.  There have been at least three of them at various times, though I certainly can’t tell one from another.

Named for a traveling companion of John James Audubon (yes, THAT Audubon), Mr. Thomas Lincoln, these charmers are in my garden briefly before they migrate.   I sure enjoy watching them hippity-hop for seeds and preen-n-shake after baths.

 

Another winter Texan whose appearance I anticipate is that of the Yellow-rumped warbler, Setophaga coronata.  Butter-butts (as Yellow-rumps are affectionately known) have been no-shows in my garden until recently; only in the last couple of weeks did one (actually, three) appear.  I’m happy to welcome them–better late than never!

Not a great photo, but you can see his yellow rump and isn’t that what it’s all about??

Look how cute I am!!

 

I’ve put the commercial suet away, as it’s too warm now, but the one Orange-crowned warbler, Oreothlypis celata, who enjoys the suet, still shows up to bathe.

The streaking on the breast is pretty. I wish I could capture the orange crown. Maybe next year…

He’ll be leaving soon too. Sniff.

As for the year-rounders, they’re always welcome.   A rare set of photos of the female Red-bellied woodpecker,  Melanerpes carolinus, shows her beauty.

The male’s head is completely red;  it has no gap in the color,  like this female.

Red-bellies are shy birds;  I see the male daily; the female is a rarer visitor, but both love  suet.  Since removing the suet, they partake of the black-oiled sunflower seeds.  I don’ t know where they nest, but hope to see their offspring later in the year.

 

Blue JaysCyanocitta cristata, are always photogenic–and chatty.

Are you talking about me?

‘Nuff said!

This winter was different from the last few winters: fewer Starlings (yay!), but also, fewer Yellow-rumped and Orange-crowned warblers (boo!).   There were more American goldfinches and fewer of the Lessers.  Hawks wouldn’t stay out of the garden, but the Eastern Screech owls, who’ve been nightly companions for years, have vacated the neighborhood.  Things are changing and as migration season kicks in, I hope to observe unusual birds as the come to rest, feed, and bathe on the path to their breeding grounds.

 

Finally, a non-bird.

Yup, these cuties are back and rumbling around!  The unofficial mascot of Wildlife Wednesday–Green AnoleAnolis carolinensis, hasn’t lost his wariness of this gardener.  He has nothing to fear from me, I adore these charmers.

As an aside, I was asked by the nice folks at Gardening Know How to write as a guest blogger and wrote about our beekeeping adventures.  You can find a link to the articl here.    Thank to Gardening Know How for the opportunity to spread the word about bees–some of my favorite critters!

Whether you’re gearing up for growing, or settling down for resting, what critters kept you company this past month?  Please share your photos and stories of wild critters this past month.  Remember to leave a your link when you comment.

Happy wildlife gardening–and viva wildlife!

 

31 thoughts on “Spring Critters: Wildlife Wednesday, April 2018

  1. My Cedar Waxwings and Goldfinches have left awhile ago. The Goldfinches always leave when I buy the second bag of niger seed. We are having a good year with anoles and skinks. Your photos are great as usual and a good way to identify Texas birds.

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  3. Great photos again, Tina. Blue jays look so ‘designer’! You say chatty, does that mean noisy?
    Also, seeing your bee hotels made me wonder how deeply drilled your blocks are? I was having a go with some bits of sawn-off tree trunk and I’ve been drilling to ~6-8cm. Do you think this is enough?
    Here are some of the things I’ve spotted in the garden over the last month: https://wp.me/pM8Y1-76C

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  4. Tina the photos are magnificent. The Blue Orchard say goodbye until next year and need more rooms. It’s fantastic! All the birds are beautiful. The Spinus tristis are beautiful. The lesser goldfinch is lovely. The cedar wakwing is divine. The yellow-bellied warbler is cute like the orange-crowned warbler. The red-bellied woodpecker is beautiful. The Blues Jays are wonderful. Finally my friend the lizard! The Green Anole I love. Happy wildlife gardening too for you. Long live the wild life! Have a nice week. Greetings from Margarita.

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    • Thanks, Margarita. I enjoy watching these critters and am glad that you enjoy looking at them! You have a good week, too. I’m going to try this and hope I have it right! Gracias, Margarita. ¡Disfruto viendo estas criaturas y me alegra que disfrutes de mirarlas! Tienes una buena semana, también.

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  5. I’m just certain I’ve had the same bluejays (or their offspring) for several years now. It never fails – – about the end of February one shows up and announces his presence. Then, I put out the peanuts in the shell, and it’s bluejay city for a while. I think I might have some young ones coming now, but there clearly are babies still in the next. The constant flights back and forth to pick up another peanut certainly suggest it.

    Of all the critters I’ve seen this spring, the most interesting were a pair of huge, flightless beetles I noticed on the Willow City loop. I can’t remember the name right now, but the common name is something like “Giant, freaky beetle.” The folks at Bug Guide identified it for me. The prettiest things I’ve seen this year? A group of eight axis deer, with three fawns. No photos of those, because all I did was gawk. But sometimes that’s enough!

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    • Blue jays do love their peanuts–I’m just sorry I didn’t discover that until recently. Interesting about your beetles and I can’t wait to read about the mystery plant. I have a mystery plant myself. It’s supposed to be Drummond phlox (I bought the seeds from the LBJWC), but they sure aren’t any phox I’ve ever seen. Still trying to figure that out. I’ve bought plants there before that were mislabled, so, yeah. I really like their…mostly everything, but I wonder sometimes about plants-for-sale product quality. As for the deer, I’ve also been so entranced with an experience that it almost seemed profane to take a camera out. Some things should just be.

      *Correction* I finally dug through the container of seeds that I scattered last fall and, in fact, didn’t purchase the Drummond phlox from LBJWC, but from Wildseed Farms. I’ve contacted them, sent photos of the non-phlox and the packet of seeds, The “customer care administrator” suggested that the plants look invasive and that I should remove them before they bloom and seed out.
      Well, duh.
      There was no apology for selling bum seeds and no explanation as to how that happened. I have purchased plants from the LBJWC plant sale that were mislabeled, but have always been pleased with the seed quality. Going forward, II’ll gladly share seeds with knowledgeable gardeners, purchase from the LBJWC, but I’d probably not purchase, nor recommend, Wildseed Farms.

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  6. Great capture of the Kinglet! I do see them sometimes, but we’ve never gotten a photo. We’ve only ever had one Cedar Waxwing visit our garden. We do get plenty of Goldfinches, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, and Bluejays.

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  7. Pingback: Wildlife Visitors in March 2018 – My Wild Australia

  8. Goldfinches are so pretty, but I had an incident with a whole herd of them a few years ago when they came into my dining room to eat sunflowers I cut and brought in!

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  9. Those bug boxes look really full! I love birds like Lincoln Sparrows, they are like Dunnocks here–some call them ‘little brown jobs’ and some call them dull. I hate it when they say dull. The color and markings are usually subtle. For instance, dunnocks look like they have little tiger stripes down their back.

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    • It’s easy to love those brightly colored birds, but I really love the subtle patterns of some of the “dull” ones. I’ve heard the term “little brown jobs” but don’t much like it. There just isn’t a bird that has boring or uninteresting plumage. Says me!

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  10. My dad brought home an injured Waxwing when I was a little girl. I kept it in a box in our living room, where I had made it a little nest. I remember feeding it barberries, and hoping it would recover. It didn’t. I was mortified when it died a day or so later. I imagine the most humane thing to have done would have been to make its suffering short. Kind of feel bad about that…

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    • Rehabbing birds is difficult, apparently. I’ve “rescued” birds, only to see them die before I could get them to someone who knows what they’re doing. I do understand the sorrow and guilt, though.

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  11. Oh gosh, I love those anoles! I’m always thrilled to see them when we travel to the south. They’re so cute and seemingly tame. Most of the birds you show here also show up in my garden–some in the winter, while some are more prevalent in the north in the spring and summer, during their breeding season. Great photos!

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