Aflutter: Wildlife Wednesday, November 2018

My heart’s aflutter as I relish the beautiful Central Texas autumn and my garden’s a flutter with late season pollinators. As is typical in autumn, there are multitudes of pollinators busily working.  Especially in the early morning hours and at sundown and afterward, there are scads of flutterings everywhere, with ghostly, diaphanous wings highlighted by whatever light is available.  Most of those active during the day are small skippers and bees, but also in the mix are a huge variety of flies, larger butterflies and moths, and other winged insects, all making the rounds of the bonanza of autumn blooms.   Welcome to Wildlife Wednesday, a monthly blogging huzzah celebrating the winged, feathered, scaled, and furred which give gardens their buzz-n-hum.

I grow plants not only because I like their looks, but for what they provide for wildlife. I’m not picky about color or form–I love’em all, but I focus on plants that nourish something at some point in the growing season.

Some plants in my gardens are dynamite pollinator providers and Frostweed, Verbesina virginica, is one of them.  This Greater bee flyBombylius major, nectared with intent one cloudy afternoon throughout a patch of Frostweed.

Proboscis deep in the flowerets of Frostweed, these flies spend lots of time at the blooms.

I’ve observed a number of these fuzzy flies this fall.

The same is true for the Tachnid fly, nectaring on another pollinator powerhouse plant,  Prairie goldeneye, Viguiera dentata.

Ive  primarily seen the Tachnids in the fall on goldeneye and Frostweed. I’ve nick-named them my ‘hairy-butted buddies’.

We give lots of credit to beautiful bees, butterflies, and moths, but all kinds of insects pollinate, including the lowly fly.  As well, there’s a great variety of flies, more than just the ones that annoy at picnics.

Syrphid flies are ubiquitous in my gardens during the late summer and autumn months.

This one is a Common Oblique SyrphidAllograpta obliqua, but I’ve observed other species too, which I hope to capture in photo form for next month. The blue blooming beauty is the Henry Duelberg sage, Salvia farinacea.  It’s another plant which has a long and popular blooming cycle.  Pollinators are nuts about it.

Like the Syrphids, Fiery Skippers, Hylephila phyleus, love the Henry blossoms, and their autumnal coloring complement the vibrant blue of the Henrys.

Wings spread!

Wings closed!

 

It’s a huge year for the beleaguered Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus.  Because of good weather conditions in their northern breeding areas, their numbers are up from the last decade or so.  While I didn’t have many come through my garden as they migrated to their wintering grounds in Mexico, enough visited and fed hungrily that I’m glad that I grow plenty of nectar plants for them to choose from.

This female nectars on the excellent wildlife plant, Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii).

Cousin to the Monarch is the Queen butterflyDanaus gilippus.  It’s more common than the Monarch and a resident of Central Texas.

I like this shot of a family reunion; Monarch and Queen enjoying a meal of Goldeneye together.

 

The prize for most common of the large swallowtails in my garden definitely goes to the Pipevine SwallowtailBattus philenor. I grow a host plant, the White-veined Dutchman’s pipe and have enjoyed these gorgeous butterflies all growing season as they visit.  Their life-cycle for the year is coming to an end, but my Dutchman’s pipe has seeded out and the mother plants will overwinter, so there should be plenty of the host plant for next year’s butterfly babies.  I’ve already promised to share some of the seedlings with gardener buddies next spring.

 

Dressed in fall colors are a couple of year-round visitors, a Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta,

The Admiral is nectaring on a Plateau goldeneye. The purple daisies in the background are Fall Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium).

 

…and a Gulf FritillaryAgraulis vanillae.

The Fritillary is nectaring on a West Texas native, Shrubby blue sage (Salvia ballotiflora).

 

In addition to eating, insects are mating to assure a next generation.  These two Clouded skippersLerema accius, pitched woo on the foliage of a Turk’s cap.

 

I had a difficult time identifying this lovely critter, but  I believe it’s a Four-spotted PalpitaPalpita quadristigmalis.

It doesn’t show the four spots, but that could be the limitations of my camera or that the wings are a bit tattered and the shape of the wings and body are similar to the targeted insect. I think this is one of the multitudes of early evening/nighttime pollinators, though it’s hard to tell.

Did you think I forgot about the bees?  Nope, of course I didn’t!  My honeybees are all over the place and even with our many rainy days, if just a bit of sunshine appears, so do the bees.

The Green Sweat bee, Halictidae, sports a gorgeous color which complements its food source.  These pretties have been active in the past month or two.  Some nest in wood, others in the ground.

 

This fast-flying, quick-nectaring bee was hard to catch, but I think it’s a Longhorned bee, Apidae.  The individuals I’ve seen have favored the Henry Duelberg blooms as shown here.

 

More common in my garden are the Eastern Carpenter bees.  This one is also a fan of the Henry Duelberg blooms.

That Henry Duelberg sage–it’s a pollinator winner!

 

Alongside the pollinators, some hangers-on appeared.  I typically see Obscure Bird GrasshoppersSchistocerca obscura, in the fall and this year didn’t disappoint.

Hanging on a window screen, he/she looked warily at me as I sneaked a shot.

There’s nothing obscure about this big beauty!

 

Common Green DarnersAnax junius,  dart here and there in the gardens, and when they alight, are camouflaged by foliage–hard to see, but lovely to behold once observed.  This one was easy to spot and cooperative with the photographer.

 

There is much going on in my fall garden!  What’s in your autumn or spring garden?  Share you wild happenings and don’t forget to leave a link when you comment.  Happy wildlife gardening!

26 thoughts on “Aflutter: Wildlife Wednesday, November 2018

  1. To tell you the truth, other than this past weekend and yesterday (three days of heaven!) I haven’t been out there enough to really know what goes on. All of those days involved tearing things apart and putting them back together again, so I probably scared most anything alive, away. Actually no – I lie… The Fatsia is in full bloom, and bees and humming birds are feasting on it. There are also Fuchsias still in full glory, which keeps a constant stream of hummers busy. So, despite my disruptions, there ARE wonderful visitors out there. 🙂 Love the family reunion photo – how fun to learn that they are actually related!

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    • I’m sure you have plenty out in the garden–they go about their business without much assistance from us. 🙂 Oh, to grow fuschsias. Sigh. We can have them in hanging baskest through about the end of April, then, they’re toast!

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      • Aww, that’s too bad you can’t grow fuchsias, but I imagine Texas probably gets too hot for them. They are such amazing hummingbird magnets and they are covered in blooms from late April ’til first hard frost. I went a little fuchsia crazy this year, but it’s so much fun to watch the birds, I’ll cram as many as I can, in there. 🙂

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      • Wow–that’s a long growing season. My neighbor used to buy a basket every spring and I’d enjoy hers–for a short time.

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  2. Thank you for your thoughtfully-written posts; they are always such a delight to read. Your love for your garden and its critters is apparent and always provides me with inspiration for my own garden. I see many of these same pollinators in my Houston yard, and I appreciate your identifications because the flies and bees sure can be confusing. Aren’t the fall butterflies just heavenly?

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    • Thank you! I”m glad you’re reading and honored that you’re inspired and are a kindred gardening spirit. The butterflies and other winged things have been glorious to behold; I just wish they’d slow down a bit so that I can photograph them!

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  3. That’s interesting about the “huge year” for the monarchs. I experienced my first monarch migration when I was in Kansas last month. They were never “thick” but it seemed like everywhere I went there were monarchs flitting about. At first I thought they were leaves … except there were no trees, just corn and sorghum. Anyway, I’m glad they had a good year!

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    • That’s nice. Did you know that one of the premier monarch researchers, Chip Taylor is out of the University of Kansas? That’s where conservation group, Monarch Watch is based. The monarchs do look like leaves! It’s funny here because news outlets always have the autumn obligitory monarch migration story and inevitably, they post a photo of a Queen–which also looks like leaf, but is smaller. They never get it right. 🙂

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  4. I do not have any links to wild things in my garden at the moment. Although I get my pictures from the landscapes that I work in, I do not write much about the gardens directly. The most interesting events here are the fires, but they are not fun to talk about. Mountain lions are the most interesting wildlife at the moment, but I have no links to them either Autumn color is not all that great this year. Sweetgums are defoliating almost as fast as they are coloring, but other trees have not started coloring at all.

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      • I have only seen a mountain lion on two occasions, which is a whole lot more than what most people ever see. When we get ‘multiple’ sightings, that means that four or five people out of the 30,000 or so who live in the Valley here say one. That is a lot, but in the real world, it is not.

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  5. That’s a busy post full of lovely, colourful creatures and photos. The grasshopper is a particularly fine looking fellow and I loved seeing your monarchs and swallowtails. Interesting to see a Queen butterfly (I’d not heard of those before).
    Wildlife showings around here have been sparse (and I’ve been busy) so I’ve taken very few photos and since there is nothing new I am not posting this month.

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    • Autumn gardens here are full of life. (I was replying while using my phone and hit send too quickly–never a good idea!) The queens are pretty common, but it’s nice to see these butterfly cousins hanging out with one another.

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  6. I kept looking at that Henry Duelburg, thinking, “That’s sure looks like mealy blue sage.” Well, yes indeed. I found this on some native plant seller’s site: “From Greg Grant’s infamous cemetery wanderings comes another clone of Salvia farinacea, this one from the Texas gravesite of Henry Duelberg.” I love that!

    Greg Grant’s name was so familiar. I finally snapped to and realized he’s the one who developed the pink Turk’s cap known as Pam Puryear. He’s been busy, and he certainly has contributed some fine flowers to Texas gardens.

    When I was in Nacogdoches recently, I found wasps pollinating, too. I’ve known that they serve as pollinators, but I’ve never seen so many busy about it; they were all over the frostweed and blue mist.

    I love your ability to identify the various flies. I’m really bad at that, still — although I did identify a pretty blowfly I found on one of the Maximilian sunflowers. I think it might have been somehow connected to the carcass of a large wild hog that was lying about.On Saturday, everything but the meat was in a depression hidden by bushes; on Sunday, everything had been picked up. I don’t think the vultures did that!

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    • I first met Henry Duelberg when I worked at Zilker Botanical Gardens and bought a couple for myself. They’ve flourished and delighted many a pollinator. There’s a white hybrid that Greg Grant named after Henry’s wife, Augusta Duelberg. My original Henry produced one Augustake and it blooms, but not nearly as much as the Augusta.

      It’s funny that you mentioned the wasps because I had a good shot of one that I accidentally deleted.

      There are so many different flies! I’m not that great at them, I just happened to find a good photo that matched.

      Vultures rock!

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  7. Tina that magnificent photos and what a wonderful amount of wildlife you have in your garden: I love everything. The Frostweed with its white flowers is beautiful with the big bee feeding. La Prairie goldeneye with her wonderful yellow flowers and her “hairy friends” eating: I love the hairy friends. The Salvia farinacea with the Allograpta obliqua is also in my garden and from afar the uninitiated we confuse it with a wasp, but the Syrphid does not itch, right? The Monarch butterfly is a beauty and I am very happy that this year its population has increased. You’re absolutely right Tina, the picture of the Monarch Butterfly and Queen Butterfly together feeding on Goldeneye is a treasure. The Red Admiral Butterfly and the Fritillary Gulf are very beautiful. The different bees are divine. The grasshopper is a very special type. In my garden before we came there were beetles, flies, bumblebees, bees, grasshoppers, Syrphid, wasps, butterflies, moths and many birds of different kinds. This at first glance. Tina I do not know if I told her that in Madrid they had to admit me to the Hospital and that after a few days I am already at home very weak and in total rest. Since I am in the clouds because of weakness, I do not know if I have told him or not. If I have done it, my apologies. Have a very good week. HAPPY Wildlife Wednesday !!!!!!! Greetings from Margarita.

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  8. How wonderful to get a pic of a monarch and a queen together! It’s so encouraging to see plentiful pollinators, isn’t it? I’m with you–I grow plants for their beauty, yes, but also for their benefit to pollinators and wildlife. 🙂

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  9. It feels good to see so much colour – flowers and pollinators together at this time of year. We also have a Verbesina – alternifolia, growing here and called ‘honey bee plant’. Not so much seen, except in large gardens being very tall and a bit of a spreader.

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