Wildlife Wednesday, March 2015

Like last month, February wildlife adventure was all about the birds; it’s been a bit too cold on a regular basis for much insect goings-on.  That’s fine–I enjoy feathered friends and entice them to my gardens in winter with food and water.

I’ve seen this single gal-I think she’s female because she’s quite large, perched atop trees around my home many mornings throughout this past month.


She’s a Red-tailed HawkButeo jamaicensis, and I hope a juvenile hawk, not ready to take a mate yet, rather than an adult without a mate.  That would be sad.  I’ve also seen her hidden in Live Oak trees, upsetting the Carolina Chickadees and scattering the feathers remaining of her meal of White-winged Dove.


She’s magnificent, sitting at attention early in the morning or as she glides from tree to tree, on the hunt in the neighborhood.

House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus, is a  common species of bird living year-round in my gardens.  I realized that I didn’t have any photos of this charming, gregarious finch. Here, this male munches a sunflower seed.M0055575_cropped_1926x1323..new

I need a companion photo of a female House Finch–they’re not as colorful, but cute and perky, nonetheless.

Every February I look forward to the hordes of the migratory bird, Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum. I usually hear them before I see them; they travel in groups and sing with a high-pitched keening as they swoop across the sky to settle in trees.



They are gorgeous birds and maybe just a little vain.  They’re always preening,


…and displaying their pretty feathers for all to admire,IMGP5321_cropped_2608x2852..new

…and posing so you can view them at best advantage.


Cedar Waxwings are social birds too; they remind me of those girls in high school who can’t do anything alone–they go everywhere and do everything in a group. IMGP5665.new


They are clearly having a grand time bathing in the newly cleaned pond,

IMGP5668_cropped_3866x2889..new….splashing, with flashing of red and yellow, and dashing in their Mardi Gras-esque masks. Can birds be full of themselves?

I see male Northern Cardinals everyday, but the ladies are shyer and elude the use of my camera with their quick movements through the cover of trees and shrubs.  I find them as attractive as the masculine of their kind.  This lovely lady Northern CardinalCardinalis cardinalis, was not so flighty as is typical of her female friends. IMGP5464_cropped_3387x2788..new



She landed and sat in the woody shrub for a long while before taking flight to another.


I love the funny, quizzical look on this female Lesser GoldfinchSpinus psaltria, stopping for a sip at the bar.IMGP5484.new

I meant to do that.


This Black-crested TitmouseBaeolophus atricristatus, landed in a small tree after snatching a seed from the feeder.


He pecks to the left,


….and pecks to the right,


…and finally, mmmmm, that seed is tasty.


I introduced this handsome dude, a Red-bellied WoodpeckerMelanerpes carolinus, in my last post.


He’s part of a couple, no doubt gearing up to raise a little family of redheads, though I don’t know where their nest is.  Not in my garden unfortunately, but he does visit.

I hope wildlife shared your gardens this month, even though winter retains its icy grip on so many places. Please join in posting about the wildlife in your gardens for March 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 we can enjoy a variety of garden wildlife observations.

Good wildlife gardening!

Wildlife Wednesday, February 2015

Let me tell you ’bout the birds and bees and the flowers and the trees….

That’ll be in your head all day. You’re welcome.

This past month, it’s really all about the birds in the gardens.    I’ve seen the occasional bee–honey–my little gals.  There are no native bees around, as they’re all hibernating, but I’ve set out logs of fallen tree limbs, some rotten, some not-so-much, so that they have plenty of choices for nesting next season. Also, there have been a few fast flying little moths and butterflies, though too fast for me to catch by camera.

And always there are squirrels.

But the birds take center stage for this February Wildlife Wednesday.  I’ve fed them. I’ve not fed them. They’re around.

The first order of business though is to correct an identification from last month’s Wildlife Wednesday. Toward the end of that post, I identified a favorite bird of mine as a Tufted TitmouseBaeolophus bicolor, which is incorrect.  This adorable songbird (there’s probably more than one of the species) who visited in December and January and stops by still,

M0014258.new …is instead, a Black-crested Titmouse, Baeolophus atricristatus.  It’s a mistake that I made because that assumption thing.  Again.  The ranges of the two species overlap, so here in Central Texas, it’s possible to have both, though during the winter, the Tufted is apparently rare.  I’m fairly sure I’ve seen the Tufted in my gardens, though the titmouse(s) visiting this winter are definitely Black-crested.  Additionally, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology suggests that the Black-crested was considered a subspecies of the Tufted.  They are similar in appearance and habit, though different birds physically.  The Black-crested,

M0014267.new …is light grey between its black crest and its beak.  The crest is the defining physical characteristic between the two species:  on the Black-crested, the crest is very dark; on the Tufted, the crest is roughly the same color as the other grey coloring on the bird, but there is a dark spot between the beak and crest.


I made the mistake because I assumed my visitor was a Tufted, without verifying that it was.  And it wasn’t.  I hope I’ve learned my lesson: always verify.  Ahem.

One weekend morning, as I opened the blind of one of my bedroom windows, I saw something big fly by the back garden and land on a utility pole behind my property.  This beautiful Cooper’s HawkAccipiter cooperii, was that winged thing in the sky.

M0014547.new He made appearances all over the neighborhood in those couple of weeks, mid-to-late January:  a neighbor photographed him in her back garden and I’d also spotted him in yet another neighbor’s front garden sitting in a large Live Oak tree, upsetting the Blue Jays.  I haven’t seen him since, but I’ll bet he’s around.

A small band of the charming Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria, made a return visit to my gardens to finish off the remaining Goldeneye seeds.


I was happy to have them back.  Their chirping is melodic and their sunny, though sometimes hard to see, plumage, is colorful in the winter garden. I like the white underwing bands of this fluttering male as he takes lunch with his partner.

M0024438_cropped_1726x1624..new M0024448_cropped_1580x1530..new

The Cedar Waxwings, Bombycilla cedrorum, are beginning to make their presence known, casing the neighborhood and checking out all the available berries which they will, no doubt, gobble up all in one afternoon.


This group was at the tip-top of my back neighbor’s tree last week, sitting, grooming, generally looking gorgeous.  I love the black bands across their eyes and the yellow tips of their tails and those perfectly accented brilliant red markings, placed just so, along the wings. Cedar Waxwings are beautiful birds. IMGP5227_cropped_3032x3193..new

These photos are better than I thought they would be. Cedar Waxwings are the flightiest birds–one slight movement, and they’re off.  I was attempting to get the photos in a hurry (and I don’t do things very competently when I’m in a hurry, especially early in the morning before the caffeine has kicked in) because I know that those birds don’t hang around. I expect to see them again, though.  The Possumhaw HollyIlex decidua, is ripe for the onslaught of berry-seeking birds.

For part of January, I was in Eugene, Oregon, visiting my son who attends school at the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!). On several occasions, I walked some of the pathways of the partially restored Delta Ponds, which is now a city park.  The area was originally a river floodplain along the Willamette River, with accompanying channels and tributaries and was an important and rich wildlife habitat and flyway for migrating birds.  Once settlers commandeered the land for farming and then for urban growth and later, the building of I 105, the original environment was essentially destroyed.

Between 2004 and 2012, a restoration project was undertaken to reconnect the Willamette River and the Delta Ponds, to provide a habitat sanctuary for native species such as beaver, juvenile Chinook salmon, western pond turtle, river otter, and many migratory birds. This area, through natural management practices, has become a beautiful and educational addition to the park system in Eugene for walkers, bikers, and wildlife watchers.   I’m sure there are probably better times of the year to visit, but I saw plenty on my walks:

Great EgretArdea alba,


…and a female  American RobinTurdus migratorius, who posed very graciously for me. IMGP5056.new


Great Blue HeronArdea herodias, sunning himself,

IMGP5076.new …and another who looks perturbed, but I was at a distance, so I think he was annoyed by something else.

IMGP5085.newI hope I didn’t bother him.

On other pathways in wooded areas of Eugene, this Hairy WoodpeckerPicoides villosus, pecked and flitted and was difficult to photograph.


Similarly, this Black-capped ChickadeePoecile atricapillus, was also hard to see through the brush along the same path.


In the area known as the Valley River Center, I witnessed this Canada Goose,  Branta canadensis, along with many others of his kind, strutting jauntily, grass in bill, as if he hadn’t a care in the world.IMGP4731_cropped_3908x3378..new

Back at Delta Ponds, there were also Mallard Ducks,  Anas platyrhynchos.         .

IMGP5073.newI guess the obvious thing to say here is:  Go Ducks!!

My garden enjoyed wild visitors this past month and I’m sure yours did too. Please join in posting about the wildlife in your gardens for February 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 we can enjoy a variety of garden wildlife observations.

Good wildlife gardening!


Wildlife Wednesday, September 2014

Welcome to the September 2014 edition and third time ’round for Wildlife Wednesday. This little blogging meme, hosted by yours truly, enjoys participants who appreciate the presence of those who “make” their gardens:  the feathery, flighty, creepy, and crawly among us.

In any garden worth its compost, the aesthetic appeal to humans is trumped by what that garden provides for wildlife.  If a garden isn’t sustaining a variety of wildlife, it’s not much of a garden. There are choices available for most  homeowners to assist the declining-in-alarming-numbers wildlife. In most situations, it’s as easy to choose a native or non-invasive berrying shrub that provides essential nutrients for migrating birds in the autumn or spring as it is to choose a shrub that doesn’t berry.  Native blooming perennials or annuals are attractive, hardy substitutes in place of flowering, but sterile, bedding plants which don’t provide sustenance for pollinators.   As habitat is damaged and destroyed due to human encroachment, I believe we have a moral obligation to provide respite in our gardens for bees, butterflies, birds, amphibians, reptiles and all other assorted creatures we share our natural space with.  As responsible land stewards, we surely don’t want to leave to our children and grandchildren a silent spring.  We should play a part in healing our world, one appropriate plant-choice at a time. Knowledgeable, passionate gardeners can encourage neighbors and friends, as well as nurseries and growers, to practice sustainable choices:  to plant, sell, and produce environmentally and regionally appropriate landscape plants which benefit wildlife.

Lecture over.

During this past hot, August, my garden has seen plenty of critter action.  For all of July and through August, the Lesser Goldfinch, Carduelis psaltria, have gorged on the the seeds of the non-native sunflowers that grow to ridiculous heights.


This group of one male and a couple of females,


…tolerated my presence.  They were too busy chattering and munching to be annoyed with my photo taking.


These pretty little birds visit my gardens on and off through the seasons and have for years, but I always thought they were American Goldfinches, Spinus tristis.  They were yellow and black and teensy, so they must be American finches, right?   Not so!   I’ve learned something new this month–not American, but Lesser. How about that!


I guess it’s here that I launch into my Steven Colbert voice and say:  Well, if they’re not American, they can only be Lesser.



Other birds visited the sunflowers as well this past month, like the House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus , but the Lessers were the undisputed benefactors of the sunflower seed buffet.  I’ve since pruned most of those lanky sunflowers because the seeds are gone–all gobbled up, digested and distributed throughout the neighborhood.  (Thank you, finches!)  I still catch sight of the tiny Lessers feeding on my Zexmenia, Wedelia hispida, and in the next couple of months they’ll be all over the Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, as it hits its bloom time, with seed production to follow. It’s easy to attract finches–simply plant flowers from the Asteraceae (aster) family (which include any type of sunflower), Echinacea, or any “disk” flowers, in your gardens. Finches local to your region will show up at seed-time, twittering, chittering and devouring the seeds of those blooms.


I wrote about viewing a cicada who exited his last molt early one morning.  I just loved the sight of this bejeweled creature, clinging to his old, wrinkly skin, but striking in his new, colorful wardrobe.


I decided that this guy (gal?) was a Tibicen resh, though my identification could be off.  I assume he’s dead by now (they don’t live long in their adult, mating stage), but I’m sure he lived life to its fullest and there will be more cicadae to follow.

For the first time in a couple of years, there are lots of dragonflies and damselflies in my gardens.  Belonging to the Odonata order of insects, I’m learning that they are tricky to identify and that there are quite a variety in the Austin area.  My pond is the primary garden feature that attracts these beautiful and otherworldly looking creatures, but they cruise all over my property, dipping, diving, landing and lending their unique energy to the gardens.

I observed this bug-eyed beauty for a time one hot, sunny afternoon.


A Blue-ringed DancerArgia sedula, I thought maybe he wanted to chat me up, as he darted from Pavonia seed pod,


…to the edge of my cement bird bath, showing off his gorgeous coloration for me and his nimble flying skills with each little trip.


Shortly afterwards, I spied another damselfly.  I think this is a Blue-striped Spreadwing, Lestes tenuatus.


One of the excellent sites I use to identify the common-to-Austin garden insects is a local one, Valerie’s Austin Bug Collection. In the explanation about the Blue-striped Spreadwing, the information suggested that the females have slightly brown wings and that’s the feature used for identification.


It was almost sundown when I saw her darting around the foliage of an ‘Adagio’ Miscanthus, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Adagio’.  When I downloaded the photos to my computer that I realized she was in the middle of dinner,


…can you see it?  She’s chowing down on another damselfly!  At least, that’s what her meal of choice  looks like to me, but I’m not about to attempt a naming of that tiny morsel–it takes me long enough to identify the larger, more distinct  insects.  I  hope that Ms. Spreadwing enjoyed her repast.  Apparently, damselflies are carnivorous, subscribing to the philosophy of,  if you’re smaller than I am, you’re fair game for hunting.

Posing prettily is another of the Odonata, a male Blue-eyed DarnerAeshna multicolor.


I think these are the most stunning of the dragons and damsels who regularly visit my gardens.

Lastly, it’s always good to throw a little sex into a story, just to spice things up a bit.

These two mating damsels, Dusky DancersArgia translata, weren’t coy about their pond procreation.


Damselfly mating requires acrobatic ability meant only for the young–and insectivore. The male transfers his sperm to the tip of his abdomen (the long, skinny thing) where it is stored until needed.


When canoodling commences, he clasps onto his partner, BEHIND HER EYES (yes, you read that right!).  His lady then curls her abdomen forward to receive the sperm, thus making a “wheel position” for mating.


Wow!  They can fly like this!  They can land like this!  They can hang out on lily pads like this!

I’ll leave the rest  to your imagination.



I don’t know if these two love-damsels were inexperienced or young, but they never quite got the “wheel” part of the equation–at least not while I was watching.

Maybe that was part of the problem.

Late summer was great for wildlife viewing and I look forward to the autumn months.  I enjoy lots of wildness in my gardens and I’m sure you do too. Please join in posting about the wild visitors to your gardens for September Wildlife Wednesday. Share the rare or mundane, funny or fascinating, beneficial or harmful critters you encounter. When you comment on my post, leave a link to your post for Wildlife Wednesday so we can all enjoy a variety of garden wildlife observations.

Happy Wildlife Wednesday and good wildlife gardening!