Wildlife Wednesday, December 2014

Another month gone and my garden, like many others, hosted fabulous wildlife. Nothing particularly unusual flitted through or crawled around my gardens, but expected and welcomed visitors continue to complete the garden and confirm its purpose with their presence.  Today is December’s Wildlife Wednesday and those who promote and plant for wildlife share stories and wild happenings in their gardens–appreciating the role that the urban and suburban garden plays in  helping to maintain the diversity of our increasingly challenged natural world.

Autumn is usually a good time for butterflies in Central Texas and though there are not quite the numbers or varieties that were common in the past, butterflies still pollinate and grace my gardens and surrounding areas.  If October was the month for Monarchs, November starred the Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae.  Most days, I observed at least one Gulf Fritillary–nectaring or flying fast through the gardens. This one rested on a Goldeneye seed head early one morning.

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He was there for a while–newly emerged, with drying wings. Gulf Fritillary have  beautiful underwing markings and look at that cute face!

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This sun-splashed Fritillary rested on spent Goldeneye blooms late one brilliant afternoon.  Autumn sun shining bright and low in the sky, the signature pumpkin color typical of the Gulf Fritillary was blanched to a yellow-orange.IMGP2440.new

 

On a softer day, this one better represented the natural coloration of Gulf Fritillaries.

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And these two, canoodling on the Coral Honeysuckle vine, were doing their part to assure more of these lovelies in the future.

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The host plant for the Gulf Fritillary larvae are various passion flowers.  I grow Purple Passionflower or Maypop, Passiflora incarnata and Blue Passionflower Passiflora caerulea.   I forget to check out the caterpillar action on the foliage of those vines but rest assured, there’s usually at least one caterpillar, munching away.

I’ve chronicled the saga of nannying some Queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus, caterpillars (and one Monarch–sniff, unsuccessfully) in my home at the onset of our first hard freeze. This was the first one brought indoors.IMGP2453.new

Buddha-fly cat!

 

I found this colorful Great Purple Hairstreak, Atlides halesus, stunned with cold and barely moving on the asphalt in front of my house the morning after that first freeze.

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I brought him inside the house, planning to do…I wasn’t quite sure what, with him. I’d clipped some blooming Purple Coneflower and red Tropical Sage ahead of that forecasted killing freeze and  I was glad to have something for this rescued insect to sip from.

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I kept tabs on him for a couple of hours that morning before I left the house and he didn’t fly, though he perked up on the blooms-crawling around and tasting.

IMGP2609.new When I returned later, no hairstreak graced the floral arrangement.  I searched the house, but never found him–or his remains.  If he ended up behind a bookshelf, I’m likely to never find his remains–at least not for a long time.

The larval food of Great Purple Hairstreak is Mistletoe and trees such as Live Oak, Hackberry, and Juniper  host that parasitic plant and there are plenty of those trees in my neighborhood. The adult Hairstreak, like many adult butterflies, feed on a variety of flowers.

This spider built a lovely web over my pond and I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if I hadn’t been lounging in my swing chair one sunny Sunday afternoon.

IMGP2286.new I don’t know what kind of spider this is.  I’m hazarding a guess that she’s in the Pisauridae family of Nursery and Fishing spiders because they’re often found near water sources and their bodies tend to be long and slender.

That same afternoon, a male Neon SkimmerLibellula croceipennis, hung around the pond, landing just so, seemingly begging for me to take his photo.

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He posed well for this member of the garden paparazzi.IMGP2435.new

 

I don’t always get good photos of Cardinal birds, Cardinalis cardinalis, though they’re common visitors to my gardens.  There are two nesting couples every year around my property, though not on my property.  But they regularly visit at the bird feeders and plants which provide protection and food.  This handsome gentleman serenaded early one morning and I pleasured in both in snapping his photo and enjoying his song and beauty.

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My garden enjoyed a variety of wild visitors this past month and I’m sure yours did too. Please join in posting about the wildlife in your gardens for December 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, August 2014

Another month, another slew of wildlife happenings in my gardens. Thanks to for-the-most-part regular rains this year, there are more butterflies, moths and birds in my gardens. Central Texas is still in drought, but it’s eased a tiny bit within Austin’s city limits.

Around my pond there is almost always a dragonfly or two–weaving, diving, hovering, then resting on the tips of nearby foliage after their flying frenzy. I often see this handsome fellow, a Neon Skimmer (Libellula croceipennis)  and his relatives.

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This particular species is the most common of the order Odonata around these parts.

Another common dude cruising, landing and generally being gorgeous is the Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).

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He posed nicely for me one hot, sunny afternoon while I was in the pond, feeding my lilies and having my toes nibbled by the fish.  For the last two summers, I didn’t see as many dragon and damselflies in my gardens owing to the ongoing drought.  I’m happy to say that this summer they’re back in full force; I’ve enjoyed the show.

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Just what the world needs, more “stink” bugs.

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These two love-bugs are commonly called Leaf-footed bugs (Leptoglossus phyllopus).

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They are happily ensconced in my gardens, I’m somewhat sorry to say, though I admire their resourcefulness. Leaf-footed bugs are in the general category of “sucking” insects–meaning that they suck juices from plants.  They puncture their plant victims with their mouths and suck the juices out, leaving the fruits or berries hard and discolored.  They menace commercial and home crops, like tomatoes (my tomatoes, to be specific).  I didn’t bother these two (I am after all, a romantic), but I’ve been known to squish’m.  Yeah.

On to something prettier and more welcome in my gardens, this Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) was sunning herself poolside.  She’s easily identified by the top part of her wings as she held them open.

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The undersides of her hind-wings and fore-wings are also colorful.

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Her wings are held in a vertical position, like a soldier at attention, though she’s actually at rest.

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I’m fairly sure this is the adult version of the caterpillar that I profiled last month, the  Yellow-striped Armyworm Moth, Spodoptera ornithogalli.

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When  I was identifying that caterpillar, I noticed in photographs of the adult moth that the pattern on the wing varies, though all share the muted, mottled gray/brown coloration.

 

I spied this lovely orb-weaver in her netting between Iris straps a few weeks ago.

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I couldn’t identify her and I hoped to observe her for a few days.   Alas, she disappeared the next day.  I’ll just call her a garden spider.

This female hummingbird was sipping her breakfast when I rudely approached to take some photos of her plant choice of nectar.

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I don’t know what species of hummer she is

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…I can only confirm she’s a she and not a he.

We surprised each other.  About the same time I realized there was a tiny bird in my camera lens, she realized there was a person photographing her dining experience.  I was enthralled and she was annoyed.  She promptly flew off–maybe to shoot some hoops?

While gabbing on the phone to a friend one Sunday afternoon, I found this enchanting butterfly working the blooms on delicious oregano.

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This Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) crawled from branches to blooms and back again.

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Such a pretty little thing.

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He never opened his wings, so I couldn’t see the top side of the hind and fore wings, but you can see those here and read further about this member of the Lycaenidae sub-family of butterflies. The Lycaenidae are members of the Superfamily Papilionoidea, apparently considered  “true butterflies”.

I enjoy lots of wildness in my gardens and I bet you do too.  Please join in posting about the wild visitors to your gardens for August 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.

Happy Wildlife Wednesday and good wildlife gardening!

 

It’s Not All About The Flowers

I do so love flowers.

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But a primary reason why  I choose native plants and xeric (drought tolerant) plants for my gardens is to attract wildlife.

Neon SkimmerLibellula croceipennis, (male).

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Black Swallowtail Caterpillar, Papilio polyxenes.

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Scarlet Tanager, Piranga olivacea.

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(Also, I choose natives/xerics to limit water usage.  Also, I choose natives/xerics to challenge myself in the study of plants and related fields of interest.  Also, I choose natives/xerics to experiment with aesthetic design of those plants in my gardens. Also, I choose natives/xerics to add beauty to my corner of the world.)

I digress.

When I began the re-landscaping efforts from my boring, water-thirsty lawn to the diverse, water conserving, perennial garden that I now enjoy, I scattered seeds of Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea,  purchased from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  This was 18 or 19 years ago–my children were wee bairns.  What I remember about that patch of Coneflowers is that when the butterflies were startled as they sipped Coneflower nectar, they would flutter into the air en masse.  There were so many butterflies that I could actually hear the whoosh of their wings.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that many butterflies (or any other pollinators) in my gardens.  Drought, habitat destruction, climate change, overuse of commercial and home chemicals have devastated wildlife of all sorts.

Even so, there are still butterflies around.   Recently, I watched this common Red AdmiralVanessa atalanta, enjoying the spring nectar of a Coneflower.

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He (she?) posed nicely for me.

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Gardeners usually have competing reasons for the gardening they undertake and appreciate the bounty that a garden grants.

Thanks to Deb at austin agrodolce for introducing me to BugGuide.net