Red, White, Blue and Other Stuff Too: Wildlife Wednesday, July

As it’s both Wildlife Wednesday and Independence Day, let’s cheer America’s 242 birthday and wish a hearty huzzah for wildlife in the garden.

Wildlife is active in my garden this summer, but I’ve been slow at catching that activity. Feathered and furred alike, it seems they scatter when they see me with the camera!  That woman is out with her weird, third eye!!  Plus, it’s been unusually windy here, so photos of teeny-tiny bees-n-such have been difficult to come by. Nevertheless, wildlife persists, augmenting the beauty of the early summer garden.

This brilliant male Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis, brightens the landscape with Red plumage whenever he visits my garden.

He and his lovely lady,

…never nest in my garden, but are regular visitors to the trees, feeders, and water features.   They raised two chicks this spring and early summer; both babies have fledged and are learning to garden-hop.  I haven’t managed good shots of the girl, but the boy is working on his red attire.

He’s a bit mottled in this shot, taken in mid-June.   I’ve noticed recently that his red feathers are becoming more dominant, lessening his awkward teen appearance.  Thank goodness!  Soon, he and his sister will move on to a different part of the neighborhood, both in search for mates for next year.

As for White, well, it’s less in the guise of wildlife and more in flower form, like this sweet Four O’clock bloomMirabilis jalapa.  The flowers open at sundown and close early in the morning.

I guess for wildlife White, I could include some white-wing, as in this White-winged DoveZenaida asiatica.

Like many birds who visit the pond, this one perches on a rock which is adjacent to the tumbling rush of cool water.

Blue has greater representation in my garden with a bevy of Blue jays,  Cyanocitta cristata, who call it home.

I dole out peanuts every morning and the Blue jays love them!    Each morning,  7 or 8 jays take turns plucking peanuts from a ceramic bowl affixed to the fence.  Additionally, a Blue jay pair nested in my Mountain Laurel tree in May and June, so I’ve enjoyed watching the parenting care in raising the brood and the antics of the fledglings.  The newbies have finally learned how to take their own peanuts for breakfast, rather than fluttering their wings in hopes that mom or dad will share peanuts.

This Blue made a brief visit one afternoon.

Austin hosts numerous communities of Monk parakeets, Myiopsitta monachus.  I see them flying over my neighborhood and hear their loud cawing, but only rarely do they land in my garden.  I assume this Blue parakeet is part of a Monk group, though he/she could also be an escaped or lost pet.  The bird was eyeing my pond, but was in the tree for just a few minutes.

Other Things in the garden include an uptick of damselflies and dragonflies–they thrive in summer and are constant pond companions as they flit through the garden while hunting for their meals and resting on foliage.  This Neon Skimmer,  Libellula croceipennis, posed beautifully one weekend afternoon as I lolled in the swing.

This male is a bright orange, his mate of a paler hue.  I’ve observed her laying eggs in the pond several times this summer–more skimmers in our future, unless the fish eat all the larvae.

I see Red-bellied WoodpeckersMelanerpes carolinus, during winter and early spring, but this summer, both a male and female have been regular guests at the feeder.

This guy snatched black-oil sunflower seeds from the feeder, afterwards zooming to the nearby oak tree to stuff the seeds in a hole.  I didn’t see a juvenile at any point, but wondered if this was parenting behavior teaching a young one.

Finally, this unknown moth surprised me late one evening.

Like most folks, I’m bedazzled by the beauty of butterflies; their bright colors and lovely patterns seduce the wildlife watcher during daylight hours.  But moths are certainly gorgeous, though subtle in color.  Their patterns are remarkably intricate, but we don’t see these nighttime lovelies enough to appreciate their good looks or their contribution to flowers and gardens.

Wildlife in the garden–it’s been a good month and I hope you’ve enjoyed your critters, no matter what their colors, stars, or stripes.   Please post about your wild happenings and leave a link when you comment here–and happy wildlife gardening!

Happy Birthday, America–it’s been a good run for our democratic institutions–may they remain.

Wildlife Wednesday, December 2014

Another month gone and my garden, like many others, hosted fabulous wildlife. Nothing particularly unusual flitted through or crawled around my gardens, but expected and welcomed visitors continue to complete the garden and confirm its purpose with their presence.  Today is December’s Wildlife Wednesday and those who promote and plant for wildlife share stories and wild happenings in their gardens–appreciating the role that the urban and suburban garden plays in  helping to maintain the diversity of our increasingly challenged natural world.

Autumn is usually a good time for butterflies in Central Texas and though there are not quite the numbers or varieties that were common in the past, butterflies still pollinate and grace my gardens and surrounding areas.  If October was the month for Monarchs, November starred the Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae.  Most days, I observed at least one Gulf Fritillary–nectaring or flying fast through the gardens. This one rested on a Goldeneye seed head early one morning.

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He was there for a while–newly emerged, with drying wings. Gulf Fritillary have  beautiful underwing markings and look at that cute face!

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This sun-splashed Fritillary rested on spent Goldeneye blooms late one brilliant afternoon.  Autumn sun shining bright and low in the sky, the signature pumpkin color typical of the Gulf Fritillary was blanched to a yellow-orange.IMGP2440.new

 

On a softer day, this one better represented the natural coloration of Gulf Fritillaries.

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And these two, canoodling on the Coral Honeysuckle vine, were doing their part to assure more of these lovelies in the future.

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The host plant for the Gulf Fritillary larvae are various passion flowers.  I grow Purple Passionflower or Maypop, Passiflora incarnata and Blue Passionflower Passiflora caerulea.   I forget to check out the caterpillar action on the foliage of those vines but rest assured, there’s usually at least one caterpillar, munching away.

I’ve chronicled the saga of nannying some Queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus, caterpillars (and one Monarch–sniff, unsuccessfully) in my home at the onset of our first hard freeze. This was the first one brought indoors.IMGP2453.new

Buddha-fly cat!

 

I found this colorful Great Purple Hairstreak, Atlides halesus, stunned with cold and barely moving on the asphalt in front of my house the morning after that first freeze.

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I brought him inside the house, planning to do…I wasn’t quite sure what, with him. I’d clipped some blooming Purple Coneflower and red Tropical Sage ahead of that forecasted killing freeze and  I was glad to have something for this rescued insect to sip from.

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I kept tabs on him for a couple of hours that morning before I left the house and he didn’t fly, though he perked up on the blooms-crawling around and tasting.

IMGP2609.new When I returned later, no hairstreak graced the floral arrangement.  I searched the house, but never found him–or his remains.  If he ended up behind a bookshelf, I’m likely to never find his remains–at least not for a long time.

The larval food of Great Purple Hairstreak is Mistletoe and trees such as Live Oak, Hackberry, and Juniper  host that parasitic plant and there are plenty of those trees in my neighborhood. The adult Hairstreak, like many adult butterflies, feed on a variety of flowers.

This spider built a lovely web over my pond and I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t been lounging in my swing chair one sunny Sunday afternoon.

IMGP2286.new I don’t know what kind of spider this is.  I’m hazarding a guess that she’s in the Pisauridae family of Nursery and Fishing spiders because they’re often found near water sources and their bodies tend to be long and slender.

That same afternoon, a male Neon SkimmerLibellula croceipennis, hung around the pond, landing just so, seemingly begging for me to take his photo.

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He posed well for this member of the garden paparazzi.IMGP2435.new

 

I don’t always get good photos of Cardinal birds, Cardinalis cardinalis, though they’re common visitors to my gardens.  There are two nesting couples every year around my property, though not on my property.  But they regularly visit at the bird feeders and plants which provide protection and food.  This handsome gentleman serenaded early one morning and I pleasured in both in snapping his photo and enjoying his song and beauty.

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My garden enjoyed a variety of wild visitors this past month and I’m sure yours did too. Please join in posting about the wildlife in your gardens for December Wildlife Wednesday. Share the rare or mundane, funny or fascinating, beneficial or harmful critters you encounter. When you comment on my post, please remember to leave a link to your Wildlife Wednesday post so we can enjoy a variety of garden wildlife observations.

Good wildlife gardening!