A Roof with a View

With apologies to E.M. Forster, it’s always interesting to see someone or something through different eyes.  But first, some background: we’ve had a raccoon visiting our back garden.  We haven’t actually seen him or her, but twice it has knocked over one of my bird baths.  This is a blue ceramic that we all like:  the gardener, the birds, the bees.

This photo is several years old and the bird bath sat in a different area of my garden at that time.

It’s an old bird bath and has been knocked over before, but this time the fall was fatal–the fall busted the basin to the point of no return.   I purchased a commercially made, large, heavy, container pot drainage plate and glued it using E6000 to the original and undamaged bird bath pedestal.

Voilà!

Two nights later, the marauding monster knocked the entire bird bath over again. Scoundrel!  The plate, now bird bath basin, wasn’t dislodged from the pedestal and no damage occurred, except to my back as I Iifted and set the bird bath upright once more.  That the now heavier bird bath can be upturned and its basin remain attached and intact is a testament to 1) the strength, and perhaps size, of the raccoon, and 2) the adhesive power of E6000.  I learned about the magical powers of E6000 when I was studying art, specifically ceramics, in recent years.  The stuff works!

I can also tell that the masked miscreant has been mucking around in my pond.  The fish are skittish, the pond lilies askew, and the water murky.

Additionally, once or twice recently and well after dark, we’ve heard a sort of thump on our roof or patio cover (it’s hard to tell exactly where).  Is this a visiting raccoon or is he/she  perhaps squatting somewhere on our property, possibly on the roof?  Raccoons have moved in under our solar panels in the past, but they were juveniles, small and oh so cute, and their homesteading occurred in late summer/early fall after their mamas booted their fuzzy butts from parental care.  We’ve installed a metal protective barrier between the roof and the solar panels to prevent such critter habitation, but raccoons are strong–remember the bird bath.  Could one have busted the barrier?

So out comes the ladder and up goes The Hub to check out any evidence or damage indicating raccoon invasion or vandalism.   From the ground, the only thing I could see under the solar panel was a suspicious lump.  Might that be a raccoon, snoozing in the morning? The Hub verified by spraying water from the pitch of the roof downward and under the panels.  The lump didn’t move, didn’t shift. Turns out, it was a bundle of leaves, but when you’re on the hunt for a rascally raccoon, it’s good to check out all suspects. Thankfully, there was no obvious raccoon renter on or near the roof.  Whew!  That’s good news, though I’m sure our mischievous mammal is still around, most recently squashing some plants at the base of a tree.  Varmint!!

While on the roof, The Hub took pictures of the garden with his phone.  We live in a one-story home and I’m not one to hang out on rooftops often, so it’s a view I don’t enjoy often. The photos demonstrate a different and delightful view of the garden I know so well.

The back garden is pie-shaped and the far corner is completely obscured by the tree.  The rest of this part of the garden is also mostly hidden by the lush canopy of the Red Oak tree, but two of our three bee hives sit in an open area.

 

Moving leftward, the main garden with the pond, comes into view.  My back garden is shady (pop-up sunflower, notwithstanding) and growing showy flowers is challenging, but I’m pleased that foliage variety is apparent from above and lends interest to this large garden.

 

The central and narrower part of my back garden hosts the pond, seating areas (some of which are out of camera view) and two other perennial gardens, left of the photo.

 

The northern, left-most part of the garden is where the raccooned-targeted bird bath sits.  The new basin is shallower than the original, but I think the birds will like it, though so far, they’ve been shy about taking a plunge.  The bees however, approve; they were ready for sipping before I added water.

At the left of the photo and hidden by the overhang of the roof is a fence with a gate which leads to the compost bin and a work/storage area.  If you look at the bottom right of this photo, you can see the remains of the broken bird bath basin.  Darn raccoon!

I’ve allowed some late summer and autumn wildflowers to seed out in this area, where I also house yard waste bins, extra mulch, and other garden paraphernalia.  This area becomes messy, but sometimes, I tidy it up.  Sometimes.

The front of the house hosts a raised bed in conjunction to the driveway.  You can see an edge of the solar panels and the darkened spot is where Hub ran the water underneath the panels to flush out, the “raccoon” that wasn’t.   This part of the garden enjoys significantly more sun than the back garden, though it just barely qualifies as “full” sun.  Still, I can grow many bloomers which please the pollinators. Yay!

The last major part of my garden lies in front of the garage, to the right of the above photo.  Shaded by a declining Arizona Ash tree, it’s a nice place to sit and pet the cat (if he’s out), finish the crossword puzzle, or chat with neighbors–all of which we do.  The mulched walkway leads to a narrow side garden.

I take photos of my gardens at least once during each season because it’s a good way for me to see things that, somehow, I don’t directly observe with my eyes.   The view from the roof is revealing and instructive, seeing my garden like the birds see it–looking down upon diverse and mixed foliage, and viewing the flow of pathways and islands of gardens.  I now recognize that there are things and areas that I might change, but I’m glad my space is all garden, full and lush, and a welcome home for critters.

I wouldn’t mind, however, if the raccoon critter would move along to another place.

I’m pleased to join with Anna and her Wednesday Vignette.   Check out her blog, Flutter and Hum, for musings of various sorts.

June Pollinator Blooms

Here in Austin, Texas, the weather has settled into the summer pattern of boringly bright days, warm-to-hot-temperatures, and plenty of humidity;  the solstice is now a memory.  There’s just no way around it–it’s summer, and as writer Al Bernstein said: Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.

So what’s in the garden reflecting the shimmering June days?  In a word: Daylilies.  I say that, though I have only one type of daylily, planted in only one spot.  Their cheery orange is, for me, a June thing every summer.

My mother-in-law gave to me a couple of daylily leaves with attached root 20 some-odd years ago.  She wasn’t a gardener and I have no idea where she got hers, but they hadn’t bloomed alongside her driveway in many years.  She insisted that they were lovely.

And she was correct.

Full and ruffly, I look forward to the blooms every June, though sometimes they appear as early as May or as late as July.  I believe they’re a form of the Asian variety Hermerocallis fulva.

For years, I didn’t notice any pollinators at these blooms, but as I have paid more attention, I see a species of native bee who visits when these flowers open.  A small, iridescent blue-green bee, it’s probably a Sweat bee, Genus Halictidae.  The bees dive deep into the flower and it’s usually several minutes before they emerge;  I have to be quick with the camera button!

 

The Purple coneflowersEchinacea purpurea, opened for business in May, but have achieved their zenith of beauty in June.

An excellent pollinator plant, there’s always something working these happy flowers, like this Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor.  I wonder if Ms. White flower spider is sizing up the butterfly for a meal?

 

YarrowAchillea millefolium, is a pretty plant year-round, mostly due to its foliage.  But in May, it sends up flower stalks and by June, those stalks are topped off with white flower clusters, adding their particular charm to bright June days.

I’ve seen all sorts of pollinators at Yarrow, from common, everyday flies, (great pollinators!),

…to large, dramatic bees, like this Horsefly-like Carpenter bee, Xylocopa tabaniformis.

By mid-July, the snowy blooms will turn toasty, and will then attract little finches and sparrows who flit through the garden.

 

Barbados cherryMalpighia glabra, a hardy Texas native, serves as a privacy screen in my front garden.  It’s a large shrub which may be hedged, though I prefer its natural shape of arching branches.  After rains, the plant bursts full of sweet pink flowers, eventually producing, juicy, red fruits favored by birds and mammals.  The fruits are called acerola cherries and are used to make juice.  I’ve tasted the fruits and they are sweet, though it would take quite a few to squeeze into juice.

The pink flowers are small and dainty, borne in clusters along the branches.

Eastern Carpenter bees, Xylocopa virginica, visit whenever the blooms appear.  These bees are fast fliers–I was lucky to get this shot!

 

Zexmenia, Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida, provides a sparkle of yellow in my garden.  A low growing, deciduous shrub, Zexmenia loves abusive heat and blooms best in the heat.  In fact, with our wet late spring, mine haven’t bloomed quite as well as usual, though the yellow still sparkles-up the garden.  The yellow flowers are companionable with many plants.

Another flower which attracts many types of pollinators, it’s also a host plant for three different butterfly species:  Bordered Patch, Sierran Metalmark, and Lacinia Patch.

Here a Ceratina bee sips nectar.  It looks like others before it have nibbled at the petals.

 

Pretty in pink are Rock rosePavonia lasiopetala.  Another shrub with twinkly flowers, I utilize Rock rose as a staple plant in my garden.  It grows and blooms in shade or sun (better in sun), and is a tough customer in our long, hot summers.  I prune it back a few times during the growing season as it blooms best on new wood and will seed out prolifically if allowed.  I like this little shrub planted in a mass to amplify the its pink power!

Small, hibiscus-like blooms are favored by pollinators like this Grey Hairstreak, Strymon melinus.  

 

Red yuccaHesperaloe parviflora, is no yucca, but in fact a gorgeous plant in the Agavaceae family.  From late April until late October, Salmon-pink, tubular flowers with creamy yellow interiors, adorn tall, arching bloom stalks.

The base of the plant is fleshy, dark foliage and a nice structural element, especially in winter; the showy blooms are a cherry on top.   Typically, I can’t look at these flower stalks without seeing some pollinator going about its business:  bees of several varieties, some smaller butterflies, and hummingbirds are all are drawn to Red yucca.  Alas, I seem to have missed catching any pollinator in my recent photos. Drat!

 

Late spring blues segue–just for a bit–into June with Heartleaf skullcap, Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata.   A perennial groundcover, which is low to the ground during late autumn and winter, the plant rockets upwards in spring, developing beautiful lavender-blue flowers, which make gardeners swoon,

…and bees work.

The foliage is a lovely blue-grey, soft and slightly sticky, but a perfect partner for the salvia blooms.

 

I like oregano–a lot.  Pollinators like oregano (and other herbs) blooms–a lot.  The teeny-tiny, frothy white flowers of oregano are in full bloom mode right now and pollinators are all over them.

My honeybees are especially fond of oregano flowers.   I wonder if their oregano-derived honey can be used on pizza?

 

Big red sageSalvia penstemonoides, started blooming this month and will bloom throughout summer.   My camera doesn’t quite catch the beauty of the magenta coloring of this salvia flower, but it’s a show-stopper.    Native only to the Edward Plateau of Central Texas, this plant was thought to be extinct, but was then discovered blooming in south Austin in the 1980s.  Fortunately for Austin gardeners, it’s easy to grow from seed and some local nurseries have made plants available.

During its summer blooming period, hummingbirds, mostly female Black-chinned and Ruby-throated, visit mine.

 

Happy June blooms and many thanks to Chloris of The Blooming Garden and her celebration of monthly blooms.  This ends National Pollinator Week  here in the United States.  Readers from elsewhere–you were probably wondering why I was beating the pollinator drum! Gardeners are usually close to and aware of their  environment, so I’m probably preaching to the choir, but if you don’t plant for pollinators–do!  You’ll be amazed at who shows up and pleased at how pollinators and all wildlife bring life to your garden.

From left to right: Red Yucca, Yarrow, Rock Rose, Big Red Sage.

 

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!