The Yellows

The fall yellows are out, brightening already sunny days, cheering the rare gloomy ones. One of the stalwart yellows is ZexmeniaWedelia acapulcensis var. hispida, and it’s blooming once more after its end of summer sabbatical. Pollinators are busy at the small blooms.

This Gray hairstreak rested from its flitting just long enough for me to capture it with the camera.  Occasionally, it shared flower space with honeybees and two different native bees.

 

The brightest of the bright are the flowers of Plateau goldeneyeViguiera dentata.

Goldeneye grow into unwieldy, floppy shrubs, more so if not pruned sometime in late summer.  I neglected to prune by half several that I grow, resulting in too large shrubs, some of which are now toppling over, heavy with yellow goodness. 

This one stands tall, a well-behaved daisy extravaganza.

Multiple blazing blooms fill each shrub–top to bottom, inside and out.

Honeybees are all over the flowers and even finches are in on the buffet, as flowers fade and seeds appear.  Check out the orange pollen on this bee gal’s corbiculae, also known as pollen baskets, or in Tina-speak, pollen pantaloons.  The pollen pantaloons on this bee are the puffy orange pillows situated on either side of the bee.

 

A favorite fall flower of mine is the Texas Craglily, Echeandia texensis.

Not as brilliantly yellow as the other two perennials, this pretty produces somewhat muted yellow-orange, petite lilies.  It’s a showstopper, with the multiple flower stalks rising above the soft, green foliage.

I didn’t get any photos with pollinators, but I have noticed that it’s mostly the native bees and smaller butterflies which visit these belled beauties.

Craglilies are graceful, remarkably delicate looking, but truly tough Texas perennials.  Fleshy grass-like foliage appears late in spring and remains green and fresh during summer;  slender stalks reach skyward during September and October.  The stalks are dotted with lovely little lilies.  In my garden, the Craglilies are happy in a spot with some direct sun, but are shaded during the hottest time of the day.

Rain or shine, each of these yellows are fab fall flowers.  With an abundance of cheer for the gardener, they also provide late season sustenance for pollinators and seeds for wintering birds.

Morning Glory

The Carolina Wrens are at it again.

The flower that the wren is singing to is a Purple Bindweed.

Singing loudly, this little one serenaded its companion, the lavender flower of a Morning glory vine.   While I could only manage one clear shot of this particular adult on the morning of the glorious concert, it was a family of four–both parents and two fledgling wrens–who were chirping and feeding in the area along a fence covered in vines.

Carolina wrens are delightful native songbirds living and breeding throughout a wide swath of the eastern and southeastern parts of the U.S.  I suspect that the wren couple currently visiting my garden are on their second brood for this year, as there were some fledglings in late spring (May) and now, two new little wrens accompany their cheery parents on their neighborhood rounds.  Wrens have never nested in my garden, but they nest nearby and visit daily.  Wrens are well-known for building nests in odd spots:  little eggs laid in hats left abandoned, then transformed into bird nurseries;  hungry chicks with mouths wide open in empty pockets of blue jeans or work shirts left hung on clotheslines; tiny birds peeping hungrily from typically quiet mailboxes, and wren babies settled in nesting material atop patio ceiling fans are examples of the quirky nesting choices made by wrens.

Busy birds who don’t stay still for long, wrens eat insects and spiders, as well as the occasional lizard and small snake.  In winter, my wrens love the commercial suet that I hang in the garden.  They hunt for food in brushy, shrubby habitats of both urban and rural habitats where they’re well-hidden by foliage. As wrens forage low to the ground, I spot them only because the limbs of shrubs and perennials wave mysteriously and when I investigate, a Carolina wren–or two–dash up and away from the foliage cover and insect buffet.

This is an ideal environment for wrens; full of native plants, safe in cover, with available water.

This is an ideal environment for wrens because it’s full of native plants (paired with non-natives, too) which provide cover and food,  along with available water.

 

Wrens climb trees, snipping insects and bark lice as they go; when they forage on the ground, they sweep leaf  detritus in their search for munchable meals.  Their pointed, slightly curved beaks are ideal for grabbing insects, whether hunting on shrubs, in trees, or on the ground.

Like other wildlife, wrens benefit from brush piles because the piles are rich with diverse insect populations and provide cover for the wrens as they feed.  The vines on my back fence act similarly by providing habitat for abundant insect life and leafy protection from predators as the wrens hop from one area to another in the never ending search for their meals.

Carolina wrens are monogamous for each season and defend their territory year-round, which means that they sing all the time and I’m privileged to enjoy their beautiful songs and calls.  Carolina wrens are comfortable in my garden; we–birds and gardener–are partners sharing a healthy habitat.

 

Daddy Downy

Here’s a handsome Downy WoodpeckerDryobates pubescens, enjoying a peanut meal at a feeder in my back garden.  Downy Woodpecker dads are wings-on dads, teaching their offspring the woodpecker skills required for living in trees and finding food.

His offspring, this fledgling Downy practices her tree climbing maneuvers.   Hang on, little Downy!  I think this fledging is a female as she has no suggestion of red at the top of her darling head.

Her tree climbing landed the young one at the top of the limb, ready to survey the landscape and take in some lessons from Dad.

Dad is nearby, ready to teach,

…and deliver a snack.

 

Fledgling Downy has learned well.  I now see her almost daily, high up in the foliage or at the feeder, nibbling peanuts–just like her dad.  Baby had a good teacher and an excellent dad.

Daddy Downy–the best dad any woodpecker could chirp for.  Happy Father’s Day to all great dads who love and take care of their babies!