Some Like it Hot: Wildlife Wednesday, August 2018

With apologies to Billy Wilder and his silly romcom, Some Like It Hot,  I can’t think of a more appropriate title for this edition of Wildlife Wednesday.  Here in Austin, Texas we’ve sweltered through 15 consecutive days of over 100°F (37.7°C) temperatures, with 20 some-odd days over 100º in total for the summer.  On one of those days, the temperature reached 110ºF (43ºC).  Sadly, that’s not a record breaker, (it’s 112F in 2011) but it was oven-like nonetheless.  And, August is just beginning.

UGH!

These days in Austin, it’s not unusual to experience many days reaching over 100ºF and while that’s concerning, so far this summer the wild critters in my garden are weathering the blistering heat just fine–they thrive with available water sources, cover in the guise of trees and shrubs, foods in the form of seeds on perennials (and some in a bird feeder), and places to nest.

I lost my main passion vine (Passiflora caerulea) during some hard freezes this past winter, so I haven’t enjoyed viewing as many Gulf Fritillary butterfliesAgraulis vanillae,  as I usually see. Passion vines are the host plant for these orange beauties. Recently though, one or two Fritillaries have appeared and are laying eggs on a few sprigs of a second, and different, passion vine which volunteers in an open area of my back garden.  This Purple passion-flower, Passiflora incarnata, doesn’t bloom in my garden, but boasts enough foliage for the caterpillars to partake of on their way to adulthood.

This Gulf Fritillary rested on a plant near to where the passion vine grows. Had it just emerged from its chrysalis?

 

I’m fairly sure this plain little thing is a Dun skipperEuphyes vestris, but I’m not positive.

It worked the blooms of a salvia and stopped just long enough for me to snap a shot.

I don’t see American Snout butterflies, Libytheana carinenta, very often, so it was a treat to see this one on the foliage of one of my Softleaf yuccas.

I kept my distance and never successfully captured the butterfly with wings spread because it flitted away warily from the weird woman stalking it through the garden.  Snouts’ host plant is the Common hackberry, Celtis occidentalis, which is a tree that many modern Texans hate. Hackberry trees seed out everywhere and often in less-than-desirable spots, but they’re an important wildlife food source.  Along with the Snout, Hackberry trees also feed the Question Mark and Mourning Cloak butterflies, as well as providing fruit and shelter for birds.  Native Americans didn’t hate the Hackberry and used it for medicine and food.

This Funereal duskywingErynnis baptisiae, looks like it might have had a close-call  with a predator.

The bits of missing wing didn’t slow down its nectaring and pollinating mission.   It favored the sunflowers which are still in bloom.

I’ve had a difficult time identifying this petite pollinator, but I think it’s a Eufala skipper, Lerodea euflala.

Eufala skippers are considered “grass” skippers, as their host plants are grasses like Johnson grass, Bermuda grass, and sugarcane.  Both Johnson and Bermuda are common in Central Texas, but I don’t grow either in my garden.

Here’s yet another I dunno what this is, but firmly in the native bee category.  I thought she was one of my ubiquitous Horsefly-like carpenter bees, but she’s not quite that big.  She buzzed around the very pink Rock rose flowers, snuggling in to the reproductive parts of the flowers and covering herself with pollen,

…and showing me her backside.

I think she’s in the Melittidae family which collect pollen on the hairs of their bodies and nest in the ground.  She was fast flyer and a busy, busy bee.

This diminutive, metallic-green sweat bee sported loaded pollen baskets, full-to-bursting with creamy white pollen.  As I watched her, I think she was resting and not collecting pollen, on the end of the Mexican Orchid bloom stamen.

I’ve been privileged to observe a couple of big, beautiful Southern Carpenter bees, Sylocopa micans,  in the last couple of weeks.

Stunning black with a blue sheen on their wings and bodies, these bees have moved with intention through the Turk’s cap shrub, from red bloom to red bloom.  At least in my garden, the Turk’s is the clear favorite of these bees.  This bee species utilizes buzz pollination–a particularly efficient form of pollination–and as I observed the two visiting, I could see and hear that buzzing on the flower.

Hummingbirds are not bees (duh!), but they sure are buzzy as they zoom through the garden, and this summer, they’ve been in abundance.  This female, probably Black-chinned hummingbird, also worked Turk’s cap blooms.

Have I mentioned that Turk’s cap is a fabulous wildlife plant?

I don’t typically hang a sugar water feeder out for the hummers.  I have nothing against hummer feeders and they’re great for attracting and supplementing the tiny birds’ diet, but I’ve found that hummers prefer what I’ve planted in my gardens and don’t visit the feeders when I’ve placed them.  That said, the sugar water is important for hummingbirds, especially as they ramp up for their fall migration southward.

Volunteer sunflowers are still blooming, but the spent blooms are also setting seed.  A variety of birds feed on these seeds including ones like this female House FinchHaemorhous mexicanus,

…and this handsome male Lesser GoldfinchSpinus psaltria.

I’ll leave the stalks up until all the blooms are done and the seeds eaten.  Then I’ll cut back the stalks to about 2-3 feet tall and leave some on the ground, so that insects (native bees, primarily) can utilize the hollow stems for nesting through fall, winter, and next year’s growing season.

A pair of Carolina wrensThryothorus ludovicianus, nested nearby and are teaching their 2(?) chicks how to manuever through the neighborhood.

I’m confident this cutey is junior, baring his belly in birdly pride as mom and dad wren perched close by, chchchhching at me, while I snapped this shot.

This Green anole lizardAnolis carolinensis, can’t decide whether to dress for the heat in green or brown.

I didn’t hang around long enough to observe, but I’ll bet it chose the green outfit to fit in with the surroundings.

No matter if your garden is deep in the dog days of summer or chilling in the depths of winter, what wildlife happenings did you share in or observe this past month?  Please post about your wild happenings and leave a link when you comment here–and happy wildlife gardening!

30 thoughts on “Some Like it Hot: Wildlife Wednesday, August 2018

  1. We are having the hot weather here too, just a few degrees cooler than you, but the humidity is thick. It is amazing that many plants and animals can take this heat. You really got some great shots, especially of the butterflies. I treat these days like the dead of winter up north and stay inside for most of the day.

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    • I agree with you–this is our down-time, as opposed to winter, which is generally nice here! (Not that summer isn’t nice, you just have to accept perspiration and lots of it!)

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  2. Tina your garden is now a garden and a refuge with temperatures so high that you tell me. Here in Spain we are going through a heat wave with temperatures equal or higher in many places in the south where they have reached 44ºC in a row. In the country house today we are at 36ºC but tomorrow temperatures rise and by Saturday we will reach 40ºC. But this is Wildlife Wednesday. The photos are magnificent and the animals love them all. What a pity that the Passiflora caerulea died in Winter. But they have returned to your garden Fritillary Gulf butterflies and have laid eggs in the passion vine of your backyard! Funereal duskywing is beautiful eating of sunflower. What wonders of bees south of Carpenter, are huge and black, beautiful. The hummingbird I love. The female of Pinzón is cute. The Lesser Goldfinch male is gorgeous. The green Anolis lizard I love. Thank you very much Tina for teaching us the wildlife of your garden. I can tell you that I have many bumblebees in the garden that I love, wasps that are going to sting you while sitting and not moving, and they sting you, heavy flies that do not let you sleep, big snakes that bite you and make you blood , beautiful bees that get inside the roses and sometimes you are smelling them and hear a buzz of anger as saying “I’m here first, leave me alone, outside.” And a nest of Swallows that have made a couple inside my house 10 days ago in the corridor that leads to the door of the garden that is open all day. For a meter or two meters inside the door on a wooden beam and the wall began to make the nest. I will make a blog with photos and when I have the notice. That does not pass much heat. Live the Wildlife! Greetings

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  3. Hi Tina, not a lot is happening in my garden just now as we’re in the depths of winter. We have our beautiful birds visiting, but I’m not seeing a lot of insects. When spring comes, I’ll have to keep an eye out to see just what we do have here. More than I realise, I bet!

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    • We both have passion flower vines, but yours are blooming! Nice! I think we live in a climate that is really conducive to active wildlife, especially if the landscape is welcoming to them.

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  4. So many wonderful critters in your garden! The butterflies–especially monarchs–are plentiful here this summer. I can’t imagine that many days above 100! We’ve had a hot summer, too, though–until recently. The past few days have been perfect. Your garden is a haven for wildlife!

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    • I’m thrilled to hear that you’ve had plenty of monarchs; fingers-crossed that their migration and wintering in Mexico are successful. It’s been hot, but, we’re used to it. Kind of. 🙂

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  5. I didn’t know that the passion vine is host for the Gulf fritillary. That may help to explain why I see so many fritillaries at the Brazoria refuge — the place is laced through with passion vine. I didn’t realize how much there was until I started wading into the grasses, and discovered it hiding just below the surface. It doesn’t really show until the flowers start blooming, and then they serve as clues to its location.

    It’s hot and quiet here. I’m hardly seeing a bird. I suspect most have found a nice garden like yours to hang out in. I did find a number of feathers on the ground under a tree at the marina where I was working this week, and the more I looked through its branches, the more birds I found. Today’s count was one juvenile yellow-crowned night heron, three black-crowned night herons, one snowy egret, and one juvenile that might be a tri-colored heron. It’s quite something to see them scattered through a live oak — but it’s shady, and close to water, so why not?

    Since there’s a chance of rain for us this weekend, I went to my weather site to see if you might be sharing in the joy. Not so much. You have my sympathy — it looks like “hot” is going to stay around a bit longer. Of course, as you say, it is August.

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    • I think passion vine is also the host for the zebra longwing, but I hardly ever see those butterflies. It may be that they only prefer certain types and I don’t have the right kind. We’ve actually cooled down a bit and mornings especially, are quite lovely. But, no rain. I’ve finally started some watering. I hope you get rain–it will make everyone happy!

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  6. Ugh – anything over 90 makes me grumpy and dysfunctional… Glad you’re faring well, and that the residents of your garden don’t seem to mind. Personally, I can’t wait for autumn!

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  7. So HOT! Still, plants and wildlife are adapting better than the people 🙂 Beautiful captures; I’m still waiting for our hummingbird…

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