Serendipity: Wildlife Wednesday, December 2018

One day last week, having just arrived home and in the kitchen fetching a glass of water, the flutter of dove wings outside a nearby large window alerted me to the possible presence of a hawk in the back garden.  As I approached the window, a wet dove (probably from the nearby birdbath) was driven into the window in a panic. It fell, and tottered on the ground.  Its pursuer (a gorgeous Cooper’s Hawk) landed on top of the dove, mantled over the wet feathered victim, and took flight with the hapless prey (soon to be a meal) firmly clasped in its talons.  This drama took seconds to unfold.

Nature is predictable:  it employs the unfolding of flowers when expected, foliage relinquishing color on cue, and predator and prey relationships–bound in their eternal tension–playing out regularly.  Nature provides wonder at every step and turn, and gardens–nature’s intimate representatives–obliges with daily (and nightly) vignettes.

I pity the poor dove, but Cooper’s Hawks must eat and in urban landscapes, White- winged doves are plentiful, and some are destined to become food.  I have no photos of this dove hunt, but did spy a similar scenario while observing a pollination palooza on my White mistflower, Ageratina havanensis.  As I watched and photographed a variety of bees, butterflies, and flies, I saw a type of assassin bug, Zelus luridus, atop a leaf, clutching a native Ceratina bee.

After a few seconds of my hovering over the insect and its prey, the assassin was nervous at my presence (maybe I wanted in on the bee-for-dinner action?) and scuttled under the same leaf for cover.  I followed,

…and snapped a couple of shots (the best I could manage) and then left the predator in peace to partake of its meal.

After all, I prefer mac-n-cheese.

I lament that the wee bee is no longer alive to do its bee-thing, but so it goes in nature:  everything must eat and many will be eaten.  Nature is real and often harsh and not all stories told have happy endings for every character. That said, when I observe a garden visitor going about its business, I’m reminded of the remarkable events, positive or negative for those concerned, occurring under my nose or outside my window.

This Lyside SulphurKricogonia lyside, pollinated near the ground, below my direct line of vision one sparkly afternoon.

Camouflaged by color and quiet, this common butterfly only caught my attention with slight movement as it work about its floral dinner table.  Often more yellow and regularly in rapid flight, this one was gentle in motion as it nectared on the Prairie goldeneye bloom.

For anyone paying attention, the observation of pollinators on flowers, or birds in trees and shrubs, or reptiles, amphibians, and mammals on the ground, life and death is business as usual. Nature’s complexity, with multitudes of species performing in biological choreograph, is the heartbeat and blood flow of a garden.  Any notion that a pleasant surprise is a rare thing in a garden is absurd.  From a bird of prey hunting, to the nearly invisible nectaring of a well-concealed butterfly, the ordinary functioning of garden, and, in the bigger picture, of the natural world, is revealed, and remarkable.

Gardeners and those who observe wildlife, enjoy a vital role in promoting and protecting biodiversity.  Our love of the outdoors, coupled with the drive to create and cultivate, imparts a unique perspective on the importance of a healthy environment and connection with our fellow Earth critters.

Fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) nectaring on White mistflower.

Do you want a a garden that is alive and exciting?  Make a resolution to utilize native plants in your garden:  native plants are beautiful and tough, and you will see wildlife rebound and flourish in your midst.  You will be thrilled by many serendipitous encounters: all breathtaking, all humbling, and all life-affirming.

So ends Wildlife Wednesdays for 2018.   Please leave a link to your Wildlife Wednesday post when you comment here.  Happy wildlife gardening!


Can She Build Cabinets?

While taking care of some long-neglected chores on my back patio recently, I had the opportunity to watch a Horsefly-like Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis (parkinsoniae?), drill into the wood frame of the covered porch. Grateful that she distracted me from a responsibility I didn’t much want, I watched her zoom to, from, and around her target building site.

She examined other potential nesting spots along the woodwork, but returned again and again, …to the spot that she intended, for a particular moment in time, to become a nest for her youngins’.

I love these bees, but they are hard to photograph.  While solitary bees in their living habits,  I find them quite social and gregarious.   They buzz around me almost every time I enter my garden and I find them chasing each other around plants, in a comical Apidae version of hide-n-seek.  Obviously that is territorial protective behavior, but fun to watch. While not shy about buzzing me, they have never been, in the least, aggressive.

I certainly can’t say the same thing for my beloved honeybees–and I have the welts to show for it.

I was able to get good photos of Ms. Horsefly-like Carpenter Bee because she was intent upon her woodworking and not zooming hither and thither, as is typical of this bee

This Carpenter bee species is especially cute:  sporting pretty blue eyes and cool racing-strips along the sides of their abdomens, they’re common pollinators in my gardens.

Regardless, it took me a long time to correctly identify this particular species of bee.

I can easily get the racing-stripes in photo-form, …but have yet to successfully photograph a bee head-on, to profile those baby-blues.

Most photos are blurred visions of bee action.

I watched this bee in the morning, then had to leave for the day.  When I came home that evening,

…I saw two holes, the larger is the one she worked on while I watched and a smaller one, to its right.  It doesn’t look like she finished her carpentry with either.  Or perhaps, she decided that the neighbor with the camera is just too nosy.

Maybe she found a more suitable home and a quieter neighborhood in this old

I spied her, or another, buzzing around, clearly interested in this piece of real estate.  A nest hole made by native bees might look like this hole.

And this,

….is what I found in the back of that selected piece of wood. The wood shavings suggest that somebody is creating a nesting site. I carefully picked up the rotting log and looked at the back of it–there she is!  Mamma Carpenter Bee!

Racing stripes visible in the depth of the hole, is she crooning to her eggs, singing sweet  buzzy-bee lullabies ?  More than likely, she’s packing pollen in the hole for her larvae to snack on once hatched.   I’m leaving the nursery alone–Ms. Horsefly- like Carpenter Bee and her progeny don’t need me bugging them.

Maybe after she’s completed her motherhood responsibilities, I could hire her for some carpentry work?  There are a couple of holes in the frame of my back patio cover….