July’s Parade: Wildlife Wednesday, July 2016

Welcome to the July 2016 edition of Wildlife Wednesday.  The United States marked its 240th birthday on Monday and today we mark the 2nd birthday of this wildlife gardening meme! I appreciate and thank all who’ve participated in Wildlife Wednesday.  Each first Wednesday, I’m impressed and inspired by the fabulous photos and compelling anecdotes that avid wildlife gardeners share when they post for the meme.  And for those who’ve tuned in each month to read–a big kiss on the cheek for your interest in and love for wildlife.

Kudos to you all!

Wildlife gardening is an activity that everyone can take part in.  Especially in urban areas, planting for birds, pollinators, and other wild animals helps balance ongoing damage to natural zones and allows our world to heal–if just a little bit–by providing for those who can’t speak for themselves and with whom we share our world.

As July sees celebratory parades with accompanying banners and fireworks, I thought I’d host my own parade of critters that I’ve profiled during this past month.  So, strike up the band and wave your gardening flags, here are July’s wild things!


The garden has been full of Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) flitting and feeding this past month.


Gulf Fritillary nectaring on a Turk’s cap bloom (Malvaviscus arboreus). Look at that long proboscis.


I enjoyed this guy’s visit earlier in the month: Green Heron, Butorides virescens.


Standing stalwart, ready to pounce in the bog.


Impressionist coloration.


“I spy with my yellow eye…a gambusia!”



Beautiful metallic native bee enjoying the bounty of a passalong daylily.



Female leafcutter bee, also a native, gathering pollen for her offspring from a Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).



Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) showing off pretty wings.



Soldier beetle (Cantharidae family), one of many pollinators who live and thrive in my garden.


As June progressed and summer has settled in for the duration, damsels and dragons zoom around in the garden, landing here and there on pond and plants, adding their special charm to summer’s wild festivities.

This dreamy (ahem, unclear) shot is, I believe, an Eastern RingtailErpetogomphus designatus.  


Supposedly common in the Austin area, I’m not sure I’ve enjoyed the privilege of meeting this kind of dragonfly before.  According to several sources, the males have a slightly larger “club” at the end of the abdomen, also orange-colored, but this one has neither quality.  My guess is that she’s a she.

Giving firework colors a run for their money, Neon Skimmers, Libellula croceipennis, grace my garden regularly from June to November and are always welcome.



During National Pollinator Week, I profiled the Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes,  butterflies who make their nurseries in my garden, but who travel as adults throughout the neighborhood to nectar and mate.  In my garden, there are several currently in metamorph stage, attached to stems and hidden from predators.  I photographed this winged jewel on the morning of emergence.


A newly emerged adult, drying its wings near its former home.



A newly vacated chrysalis.

Butterfly and moth chrysalises are so well camouflaged that it’s a gift to find them–lucky me this time!!

Butterflies are easy to appreciate because of their beauty and daytime winging and nectaring habits.  But moths, common at dark and more subtly pattered and colored, also contribute to pollination and play an equally important role in a balanced ecosystem. Like many, my knowledge of moths is woefully inadequate.  I can tell you that this is a moth, but haven’t found the exact identification.


It reminds me though of a rock climber, sans ropes, hanging on to the rock, before advancing upwards.

Spiders are back!  I enjoy watching the Black-and-yellow Argiope spiders that are common in Austin gardens, including my own.  I was frustrated that I couldn’t get a clear shot of the top, more decorative part of the spider, and then realized that I was quite fortunate to have a clear view of the usually hidden underside of this female argiope.


It looks like she’s snagged one of my darling honeybees for a meal.  Well, I’m not so crazy about that part of a garden spider, but tolerance of hunting and acceptance of the fate of prey is part of wildlife gardening.  Everyone must eat, which usually means that something was alive and no longer is.


I usually observe and photograph the green form of the Green anole lizard, Anolis carolinensis, like so:



But these cheeky ones also blush brown when necessary, as camouflage from predators.


This anole blends in well with the wooden fence.


This anole hides with the backdrop of a limestone wall.

And gardeners!

And finally, there was this dude:


You want a piece of me?!



This Leaf-footed bugAcanthocephala terminalis, practically dared me to catch a photo as it traveled the length of a Soft-leaf yucca leaf, toward this camera-wielding gardener.


I’m walkin’ here!


It looks like he’s dancing a jig as he made it to the end of the leaf.

But in the end, I’m bigger, more technologically advanced (sort of…), and higher up on the food chain, so yeah, I was able to catch him/her in a plucky stance.


This bug sports decorative feet and antennae.

There are a wide variety of Coreidae, or Leaf-footed bugs, in this area and I enjoy seeing them in my garden.  They do feed on plants, but I’ve never seen serious foliage damage from them, or at least, none that I’m aware of.   I’m sure there are some leaves, less than pristine, which owe their damage to the bugs’ meal preferences, but it’s nothing that I lose sleep over.  Keeping abreast of who inhabits and visits your garden will ensure that no serious “pest” damage occurs.  Usually, a spritz of water, once or twice, is all that is needed to discourage less-than-welcome marauding insects. Pesticides, even “organic” pesticides are highly damaging to many garden creatures, and not only the ones targeted.  A garden is alive and fulfilling its purpose when it nurtures a wide diversity of critters–insects, spiders, birds, mammals, and reptiles, and chemicals are anathema to a healthy, diverse wildlife community.

Did wildlife visit your garden this past month? Please post for July 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 readers can enjoy a variety of garden wildlife observations.

Pressed “Resume”

In December, I took this photo,


…of a newly pupated Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly, Papilio polyxenes.  I lamented that this insect hatched, developed through its instar stages as a voraciously eating caterpillar, and then pupated so late in the season. The winters here in Central Texas are mild, certainly compared to some, but would this lovely creature overwinter and emerge in spring?  All I could do was to wait, watch and hope.  Diapause is the mechanism that many in the animal kingdom use to survive changing environmental conditions, like those occurring in winter, including heavy rains and hard freezes.  Diapause includes hibernation and physiological slowing down (the swallowtail actually produces a kind of antifreeze against frigid temperatures) in order to survive until more favorable conditions arise, like warmer temperatures, longer daylight hours and increased food supplies.

Those conditions arrived earlier this week for my swallowtail.

IMGP6386_cropped_3147x2958..new IMGP6394.new


IMGP6390.new IMGP6392.new


I kept a close eye on the chrysalis all winter, checking it once a week or so, as I managed to remember, and taking care not to damage it as leaves were raked and perennials pruned. The chrysalis remained a healthy iridescent green all winter.  At some point, I took the twig that the chrysalis attached to and placed it upright in the soil,

IMGP6400.new …so that I could find it easily, but other than that, I did nothing but await changes.  Last week the chrysalis darkened, which is a sign of impending butterfly emergence.  Or, death of the pupa. 

IMGP6396.new Thankfully, it was the former that happened–emergence of the adult butterfly.


Butterflies dry their wings by alternately closing and opening them in those first hours.


Look at that adorable face, looking maybe just a little nervous that it can’t hold onto the leaf of a Gulf Coast Penstemon, Penstemon tenuis.  I believe this is a female, because she has yellow dots above the blue band on the hind wings;  the males have more yellow topping the blue band.


She rests, wings open, near her former food source and future offspring grazing grounds of Fennel (right top) and also her winter digs, to left side of her left wing.


I’ve seen a Black Swallowtail all this week flying fast through the garden.  Is it the same one?


I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter.  The blossoms are opening and pollinators awakening in response. Or is it the other way around?

The obvious ones, because of their beauty, IMGP6395.new

…get the most attention and photo/blog play.  But their oft ignored and unappreciated, but no less important plainer cousins such as flies, skipper butterflies, moths, and other insect species are the foundation for a healthy, abundant garden and overall diverse environment.

Good nectaring, pollinating, and breeding to all of them!

Caterpillar Happenings

This is one of my fennel plants.

These are the cause of why my fennel plant looks like it looks.


And these,


…and these.




Actually, they’re all the same caterpillars. They ate fennel and they grew; caterpillars are like that. There were ten Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes, butterfly larvae dining on this fennel over the past week or so.



Eating and eating, until there’s nothing left,



…except defoliated stems and hiding caterpillars,


…ready for metamorphosis in their cozy chrysalides. I guess I should make that singular,


…because from all those caterpillars, this is the only chrysalis that I’ve found.

I’m sure the others are nearby, safe from munching predators. I’ll keep an open eye for the emerging butterflies during this next week.