About Tina

I’ve gardened in Austin, Texas (zone 8b) since 1985. I garden with low maintenance, native and well-adapted non-native plants to conserve water and reduce workload. I also choose plants which attract wildlife to my gardens. I’ve completed the Travis County Master Gardener and Grow Green program (through the city of Austin). I’ve volunteered for a number of public and private gardens, as well as consulted and designed for private individuals. Formerly, I managed Shay’s Green Garden at Zilker Botanical Gardens and Howson Library Garden for the City of Austin. My garden is a certified Monarch Waystation and a Wildlife Habitat.I blog about my garden adventures at: https://mygardenersays.com/ I love blooming things and the critters they attract. Tina Huckabee

My Little Chickadee

I can’t lay claim to any true relationship with this young Carolina Chickadee, Poecile carolinensis.  Though it isn’t my little chickadee, I confess an affection toward the little bird as it satisfied my selfish desire to observe as it perched, relatively still, and fed for a period of time, long enough for this watcher to watch. 

The neophyte chickadee sat at the feeder, nibbling at the small pieces of peanut available.  No adult chickadee would consent to spend that much time at a feeder;  adult chickadees dash and perch, grab and go.   A mature–and wary–Carolina Chickadee would dart to the feeder, and lickety-split, grab a peanut, or part of a peanut, and sprint out of clear sight to a safe place to eat.  The young chickadee’s inexperience at peanut picking allowed me to watch for several minutes, appreciating its birdie beauty, even though I also recognize that it must be more careful:  move fast or become someone’s meal. 

I observed, then realized that maybe, just maybe, I could capture some of this darling since it was spending an un-chickadee-like amount of time at the feeder.

Successful photos of a Carolina Chickadee?  That’s a rare treat for me!

To its credit, when a parent Blue Jay muscled its way onto the feeder, the young bird flit to the tree, then to the cord from which the feeder hangs, then safely to an evergreen shrub.  Once the jay was done, the chickadee settled in for more of the peanut treats. 

Chickadees’ tiny beaks are better suited for gleaning spiders and other small insects from trees and shrubs, the birds protected by cover of foliage.  Their beaks are not as well designed to quickly dismantle a hard-coated seed or good-sized peanut, especially while acting as a sitting duck at a feeder.  A wise and experienced chickadee will snatch, fly, and eat under cover–and live to raise a clutch of his or her own.

A week or so ago, I watched as an adult Carolina Chickadee zoomed in from a neighbor’s property, grabbed a nosh–sometimes a peanut, sometimes a black-oiled sunflower.  It then zoomed back in the same direction, followed immediately by another adult, completing the same set of actions.  I realized that it was a couple, working in tandem, probably feeding hungry and growing chick(s).  I don’t know if this chickadee belonged to that clutch, but I’m confident that it is young, newly experiencing a dangerous world, finding its way to food and cover. 

Fledgling birds must learn many survival skills, including making high–speed trips to feeders and lightening retreats to safety.  As they perfect those skills, my ability to easily observe diminishes–as it should. 

My little chickadee’s life depends on well-learned lessons and well-executed skills. 

Just Like Dear Ole Dad

Fledgling season is here:  newby birds, feathers ready for some facet of flight, are out of the nest and onto branches, and sometimes, also on the ground.  This juvenile Northern CardinalCardinalis cardinalis, is, well, smack in his awkward teenage weeks.  Splotchy and skinny, he’s hanging out with dad, learning where the best feeders and bird baths are located and how to hide in trees and shrubs.  Dad is quite good looking, but his good looks only serve to emphasized junior’s lack thereof.

This isn’t a recent pic of dad;  he posed for this pic in late winter, plumage pulchritude on full display, brightening the dull landscape.  Dad Cardinal is a pretty bird, his cardinal colors pop in any garden spot.  His song, equally as beautiful.

Mom is pretty too, though not quite the head-turner as her mate. Her soft, creamy-like tan and grey feathers, accented with bits of blush at her crest and on her tail, plus her stylish orange-red beak, lend an elegance that appeals to her admirers.

 

Poor junior.  He’ll need to wait, just a bit longer, to tap into his gorgeous genes.

He will be a pretty guy some day, just like dear ole dad, 

…but today is not that day.

I’m joining with Anna at Flutter and Hum and her Wednesday Vignette.  Mosey on over for garden stories and pretty birds…or not.  

May Flowers

Early spring blooms are a thing of the past, and summer, with its accompanying hot-tempered blooms, is knocking at the door.  May brings rains–typically our wettest month here in Central Texas, zone 8b–but also the warm breath of summer breezes.  With added humidity, summer’s sauna is about to begin.  Even so, the days are pleasant and blooms that love the heat will soon be stars of the garden.

Purple coneflowerEchinacea purpurea, are in their prime and open for pollinators to sip from and gardeners to delight in.  I spotted this Crab Spider waiting for a meal on an open coneflower bloom.  The honeybees are fond of coneflowers, but I imagine it was a fly, syrphid fly, or small native bee that the crab was hoping for.  Honeybees are a tad big for this little thing, though crab spiders are successful predators.

It skedaddled as I was shooting the photo.  Notice the bit of webbing attached to the central disk of the flower:  no doubt, some meal will become ensnared in that.

Sun shines in the sky, coneflowers sparkle in the garden.  

Little coneflowers, all in a row, though it’s not the straightest of rows.

 

Another late spring/early summer native that has hit its stride, is the perennial Heartleaf skullcapScuttelaria ovata.  The small, violet blue blooms are borne along flower spikes.  They complement the grey-green, fuzzy foliage.  

A step back reveals a contrast between the bright green foliage of a neighbor plant, Drummond’s ruellia, Ruellia drummondiana, and the subdued tinge of the Heartleaf’s foliage. The tiny blooms are charming accents.

In late autumn, Heartleaf skullcap emerges in drifts in my garden, filling spaces and buddying up to other perennials and evergreen plants.  It acts as an evergreen during winter, keeping the garden full and lush.  Once blooming commences in April, the summer perennials are up and running, preparing to take over the garden show.  Heartleaf skullcap pairs well with all the plants in my garden.

Heartleaf foliage is fetching and in a wide shot of the garden, they’re the primary attraction of the plant.  But the flowers are visible–dots of lavender blue setting off the foliage–and the bees, native and honey, take notice.  The blooms are popular among that crowd.

 

White flowers are refreshing and none more than those of YarrowAchillea millefolium. Feathery foliage pairs with these flat-topped clusters of tiny florets, just right for the smaller pollinators to work around.  On this day, at this time, a fly works the blooms.

I transplanted this group of yarrow last autumn from a different part of my garden.  They adjusted well and haven’t missed a beat in their blooming!

 

Red yuccaHesperaloe parviflora, a member of the Agave family, sends up graceful stalks in spring, loaded with salmon-n-butter blooms, to the delight of of hummingbirds, native bees, and butterflies. 

Oh yeah, this gardener loves Red yuccas, too!

The stalks grow 4-5 feet tall, seemingly overnight, emerging in March/early April from an evergreen base of succulent-like leaves.  The flowers that blossom along the stalk strut their blooming stuff all summer and through autumn, making this plant a must-have for gardeners, especially those who plant for pollinators.

Do you see the webbing toward the top of this bloom stalk?  Looks like our friend the crab spider (or one of its friends) set up shop for a go-to meal.   I prefer not to witness an entangle bee or butterfly, but that’s part of a balanced garden life.

On another, shorter bloom stalk of a different individual Red yucca, the stalk divided itself into three distinct sections, each allowing for the open blooms to face a different direction.

Soon, I expect that the hummingbirds will find these luscious blooms.  I’ll enjoy observing their meals and the territorial battles that will ensue. 

 

May blooms: no longer quite spring, but also, not yet summer.   May is a nice bridge of blooming from cool season flowers to hot Texas summer blooms.

Joining with Carol in celebration of all things blooming, please pop over to her May Dreams Garden to see blooms from many places for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.