It’s What’s for Dinner

**This series of photos shows a predator eating prey.**

Towards the end of a day, I walked into my front garden, and glancing to my neighbor’s lawn, saw this Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii, enjoying its Sunday dinner.

On the menu that evening was White-winged Dove, a favorite meal for the neighborhood hawks. I’ll admit to always feeling a bit sorry for those who are caught, but this scene demonstrates at least one part of a healthy ecosystem: that there are predators to hunt plentiful prey–and that is a good thing. There are more than enough fat, well-fed White-winged Doves in our area.

I imagine that this hawk is an adult from the mated pair of Cooper’s nesting behind my SIL’s house. As the trees leafed out, watching the hawks at their nesting site became nearly impossible, but they’re still around and hunting. Obviously.

The hawk ate for about an hour, eventually flying off with the last part of the meal, presumably as a snack for later–or to feed its babies. I’ll have a better idea of the Cooper’s parents’ success if I see a juvenile hunting in late summer and autumn.

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.


Wildlife Wednesday, April 2015

It’s been an amazing month in my garden for wildlife–nothing rare or unusual, but lots of action from resident and visiting avian and arthropod critters.  As spring unfurls its blooms, days lengthen, and temperatures warm, everyone is more active–and ready to breed.  Ah, love is in the air.  Let’s get twitterpated!

Last month I wrote about a single lady of the Buteo kind, this gorgeous Red-tailed HawkButeo jamaicensis.

Those two photos were taken earlier in the month as she rested after scattering the birds with no meal to show for it. These two photos,

…I shot early Monday morning as I was alerted to her presence by the noisily squawking  Blue Jays and Grackles.  She doesn’t look all that impressed with their noise-making, but she flew off shortly afterward to a more distant tree.  I think she’s a juvenile and I hope she finds a mate in the next year.

The Blue JayCyanocitta cristata,  (of course it’s ‘Cyan’ in the scientific name) are common birds in Texas and I see them every day, but rarely take photos of them.  This one with a twig in the beak, is probably a female preparing for her nest. Blue Jays are loud, dramatic birds, but so gorgeous–and I think they know it.

I enjoy their antics–and beauty.

This Northern MockingbirdMimus polyglottos, sang beautifully one morning. I love the songs of the Mockingbird–melodic, versatile, and constant. I’d like to think he was serenading me, but I imagine he was trying to impress a lady more fitting to his taste. His coloring looks buttery, not the grays than Mockingbirds really are.  Obviously, the early morning light highlighted him in an unusual, though compelling, way.

Or I was off-kilter with the camera.

This Mockingbird shows truer colors, …as he rests in my Retama tree and surveys his territory.

I used to enjoy the sight of many Red-winged BlackbirdAgelaius phoeniceus, species migrating through my gardens in spring, but this year, there is only one shy male. He visits the feeder from time-to-time, hesitant to land, but once he perches, he remains  quite a long time enjoying sunflower seeds.

I’ve written about my resident Eastern Screech OwlMegascops asio, couple in the past month and what a charming pair they are. These two are real love-match.  I’ve observed Mamma,

…sitting in the tree, waiting patiently for her partner to bring her a treat at night or to pick her up from the house at sundown for a rat and a movie.  Well, maybe not a movie.

Every time I see these two lovebirds meet each other, they touch beaks.  At first I thought they were exchanging some morsel of food and it might be happening, but I don’t see any “stuff” pass between them.  I think they’re beak-kissing.

Kissing is so much nicer than exchanging lizard gizzard.

Early some mornings, just before sunrise, I’ve spotted Dad,

…hanging around the brood house.  Mamma is nestled inside by then; sometimes she pokes her head out, sometimes not.  He’ll trill a couple of times, then silently swoops off to the neighbor’s shrubs for his daily rest.  What a treat and privilege it is watching these two court.

Take a look his talons. I wouldn’t want to be at the snatching end of those.

A Great Blue HeronArdea herodias, visited my pond several times early in the month, relieving it of a couple of fish.  I like my fish and I’m very sorry for their end, but everyone has to eat.I never got a good photo of the heron because with any slight movement the heron spread his huge wings and loped off.   I did get this one rather lame photo after  he took flight from my back garden and banked around and upwards from the

He’s probably headed off to a nearby creek.  I haven’t seen him since, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still visit the fishies.

Texas Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora, is blooming magnificently this spring. Beautiful trees year round, the Laurels are dripping with purple clustered blooms, to the delight of this gardener, as well as this White Crab SpiderMecaphesa.

Hopefully, the spider isn’t hunting the honeybee as she harvests pollen and

Similarly, this native bee, Horsefly-like Carpenter BeeXylocopa tabaniformis, enjoys the Mountain Laurel blooms. Just below the bee is another insect, but I only see it in profile.  Any ideas about what it is?

I have a hard time photographing this bee species because they’re always on the move, except when entranced by blossoms full of pollen and nectar, like those of the Mountain Laurel.

As beautiful as the Texas Mountain Laurel is, my wildlife plant-of-the-month award goes to the  Possumhaw Holly, Ilex decidua. This tree leafed out in late February, still holding its winter berries (why haven’t the Cedar Waxwings gobbled up the berries??), while blooming the tiny, sweet spring flowers.

The tree was and is alive with bird and insect activity.  Most of the activity I’ve observed is so tiny and/or moves so rapidly that I opted to simply put down the camera to watch and marvel.  I’ve observed a number of fly species, various native bees and honeybees, and a butterfly that I’ve never seen before, visiting those teensy

The Possumhaw flowers are quite the favorites of very small pollinators–and small is the operative word.

One insect moved slowly enough that I was able to capture some shots.  Picture-winged Flies,  Delphinia picta, are common in my gardens–I’ve rescued them from the shallow bird bath near the Possumhaw and see them all over the

The fly lays its eggs on the decaying fruits so the larvae can feed on rotting berries.

Adults sip nectar from the little

On the limbs and trunk of the Possumhaw, I’ve seen several of the Twice-stabbed Lady BeetleChilocorus stigma.

I find the name rather gruesome,  but what a pretty little insect and beneficial too.    Lady Beetles, no matter how many dots, enjoy eating aphids and other sucking insects; they are good friends to gardeners. 

And finally, this  Mason BeeOsmia lignaria, wasn’t immune to the drive for spring romance, or at least, the drive for reproduction of the species.  I watched two of these buzzing around my back patio walls in  search of the right holes in which to form nests and lay eggs.  This one chose a hole in my old (REALLY old) electric pruner.  She entered several times,

…and packed the hole with pollen and probably a little mud for whatever eggs she laid.  Here are other holes in the mortar of my house walls were she and other native bees have done the same.

Many of these holes have existed in the mortar  for years, some well before we bought our home, like these two.

At some point, these holes were filled with glue or caulk (maybe for shelves?).  I’ve recognized for a number of years that bees and wasps use these holes as nests, so I have not cleaned or filled them in.  I guess some would find holes in the walls a bit unsightly, but I love that the bees use them year after year to create homes for their larvae ensuring more bees in the future.  To me, that is real home beauty.

I hope your gardens benefitted from wildlife visitors this month and that you will join in posting about it for April 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!