Red-n-Black

In my garden, red-n-black doesn’t lack–in bird colors. It’s that time of year, when the colorful migratory birds wing through Texas and (lucky me!) some visit my garden.

In early April, I always see one or more Summer Tanagers, Piranga rubra, who show up to snack on honeybees and native bees. These scarlet hunters are adept at catching the bees on the wing as both birds and bees flit through the garden.

If you look closely at this striking adult male, you’ll see something in his beak–it’s a honeybee.

In this shot, you can see the wings of the bee meal, the red menace in the process of whacking the hapless bee against the branch, effectively killing the bee and making it easier for the tanager to remove the stinger. That’s probably a good idea, considering that the bird is going to have the bee in its beak and down its gullet.

The snack is ready for the eating! I was able to capture these shots because my poor Red oak trees are late in leafing out after the snow/ice storm in February and is lacking in leafy lushness.

In a more colorful photo, the gorgeous guy perches in the freeze damaged, but partially foliaged, Mountain Laurel.

No meal is complete without a complementary aperitif, and what better drink to go with honeybee meal than pond water?

Or, perhaps it was just time to take a bath!

The brief April visits from this species is typically in the form of adult females and juvenile males, who are just as beautiful as this year’s male: golden feathers for the female and splotchy red and yellow for the youngster. Mr. Male was only here for a matter of minutes; I hope more of these tanager treats show up in my garden.

Another annual spring migratory visitor are Red-winged Blackbirds, Agelaius phoeniceus. I have a tough time catching these stunning birds as they’re quick with their seed and peanut eating, plus they fly off at the slightest movement. I was lucky to snap a photo of this handsome chap as he enjoyed a sip at the bar.

The male Red-winged Blackbird is a velvety, deep black, with underwing highlights of deep red and rich yellow. Their underwing colors are more visible when the bird is in flight, but significantly more challenging to photograph. But I’m content with this capture of his profile of midnight black, with bits of cheery color, and bright eye to complete the bird package.

Bird stories, garden stories–get your fill by popping over to Anna at Wednesday Vignette. Happy reading!

Flower!

A flower profiled on a gardening blog–who woulda thunk!

Given the devastation from the February snow and ice storms, flowers have been non-existent in my garden these past few weeks. But this pretty-in-pink ‘Colorado’ water lily opened petals this morning to the cheers of the gardener and the feeding and pollinating efforts of a native Sweat bee, Lasioglossum.

There were two of these little bees, but one winged away before I captured its presence.

My garden currently boasts a dreary range of browns and tans, highlighted by occasional burnished green–and those colors are on plants not yet pruned to the ground. That said, low-growing, spring-blooming perennials are coming on strong and flaunting their happy green foliage, blooms to follow very soon! Spring is just around the garden path!

The surprise water lily beat them all and its welcome spring color, with accompanying bee, brings joy and hope!

Red-bellied House Builder

Cleaning-up from Texas’ recent snowpocalypse is on-going and eye-opening.   Well over 90% of my garden is pruned back or will be soon.  That being said, while I’m probably going to lose a few, most of my plants will return from their roots or leaf out from their limbs.  Sadly, it will take a chunk of the growing season before there are choices for the pollinators and fruits-n-berries for the birds and mammals.  The garden is resilient and demonstrated its worth in the face of extreme cold.

In my front garden, my non-native Arizona ash tree relieved itself of a large branch when the ice and snow became too much to bear.

I caught this photo as the temperature had warmed a bit, but before the snow and ice melted. It was five more days before it was pleasant enough to tackle the limb and its branches, cutting the material to bin-appropriate lengths and widths. I was grateful that little damage occurred to the Burford holly, where the tree mess landed. As an aside, during the snowy-icy days, Cedar Waxwings and Robins swooped in and devoured those berries; I’m tickled that an excellent food source was available for the hungry birds during the frigid days.

As we worked that Sunday morning, the Hub puzzled a fix for the metal bird bath which suffered a career-ending injury when the limb crashed down. Under the weight and power of the tree limb, the pedestal snapped in two pieces, the small bowl popped free. The pedestal isn’t fixable, so into recycling it goes, but I can easily hollow out a small area in the garden for the bowl to sit in comfortably. The birds, lizards, and toads will like that.

As we trimmed and tidied that first warm day and in the days since, we’ve enjoyed listing to and observing the nest building efforts of this male Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus.

His rhythmic tap tap tap has served as a percussion accompaniment to the pruning of our mushed and freeze-dried plants.

Dad-to-be woodpecker is annoyingly shy. I’ve had a tough time catching a photo of him at work; he flits away as soon as he’s sure I’m set for a shot, camera lens adjusted. But I’ve managed few photos, when he was too engrossed with designing the kids’ bedrooms to notice the weirdo below him.

The large limb which landed in the garden broke off from this perforated section of the tree.

Hmm–wonder why it broke so easily? Arizona ash trees are notoriously weak-wooded, but even less stable when a woodpecker adds its formidable beak work to the wood. We’ll keep a keen eye on this limb during the coming spring storms for potential problems; falling logs add nothing to a garden’s charm. I’ll need a consult from an arborist on removal of this section, but for now and the coming few months, we’ll leave it alone: baby woodpeckers will soon be in residence.

This storm was destructive in countless ways and distressingly, leadership in this state is lacking. As for my tiny plot of Texas, I’m saddened at what the deep freeze delivered to my garden and fret over the damage done. Even so, I welcome exposure to the garden’s bare bones. This sort of destruction makes clear poor plant choices or placement, and allows some re-thinking of the garden and its purpose. The garden will recover, in time, in one form or another.

The impacts on wildlife may be devastating, though urban wildlife are likely to fare better than their rural counterparts. Flora and fauna continue their lives: plants grow, flower and seed; animals grow, mate, parent. Like my Red-bellied Woodpecker buddy and his building of a nest to woo a mate and create a nursery for his offspring, there is meaning in continuity and hope in survival.