Tuesday, October 25, 2016

More butterflies

Common mestra (backlit by sun)
Gulf fritillary
Texan crescent
Dusty-blue groundstreak
NEW Brazilian skipper

Phaon crescent

Monday, October 24, 2016

Butterflies butterflies butterflies

Oh, my goodness, our Wildscape is LOADED with butterflies right now! We've had a lot of new species this year. Some of which I documented during the 2016 Texas Pollinator BioBlitz using iNaturalist. I haven't had time to blog here because that project kept me SO busy earlier this month. Then the 2016 Texas Master Naturalist state conference was this past weekend in Montgomery. I'm teched out, but I just couldn't go outside without my camera. Sure enough, I got hooked right back into photographing our beautiful visitors.....(Feel free to correct any IDs of mine)
Our first monarch was spotted October 15. Now we're seeing LOTS of them!
NEW! Glazed pellicia skipper
Ocola skipper
Fiery skipper
Perhaps ocola skipper
Ocola skipper
Safe travels, monarch lady!
Sulphur and gray hairstreak
Tattered pipevine, I think
Very faded bordered patch
Sleepy orange
Eastern carpenter bee

Ailanthus webworm moth
Tawny emperor
Giant swallowtail
Skippers in love
Gray hairstreak
Giant swallowtail
Mexican cactus fly
NEW!! Julia heliconian
Giant swallowtail
Phaon crescent
Orange sulphur
Giant swallowtail
Zilpa longtail

Anthophora sp. bee

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Late night near misadventure...

 Time: Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016, nearly 10:30 p.m.
Action: First, master bedroom, Pink House; then dark back yard.

* * * * * 

JAMES: Well, lately we'd been having an issue with a little critter coming into the backyard and tearing things up. So I borrowed the neighbors' trap and set it up in a corner by an opening between the house and our chain-link fence. Tonight, around 10, I heard the trap shut. I looked outside and guess what...A SKUNK! 

I told Sheryl, "GREAT, this is NOT what I expected. Now what do we do?" 

While I was looking for my .38 Smith and Wesson, Sheryl gave me THAT look. 

"Don't shoot it?" I said. "Really? So what are we suppose to do then?!" I was way beyond frustrated.

SHERYL: Oh, dear, a skunk. I can't let him just shoot the poor thing right there in the cage! Why did he have to set out a trap in the first place? I know, I know, something's been getting in the back yard. I don't like the holes in the yard either. But that's just nature. Oh, dear. I know the easiest thing to do would be to shoot the skunk. But we just can't! Think, think, think. I can handle this. I can handle this.  

"Don't worry, James," I told him. "I'll take care of this." 

But I could see the look on HIS face. He wasn't feeling very patient toward me at that moment in time. 

JAMES: So Sheryl did a little looking on the Internet and found a way to do it...

SHERYL: Right away, I plunked down on our bed, pulled up Google on my iPad, and typed in "how to remove a skunk from a trap without getting sprayed." Bingo! Up came a six-minute video, which I watched. Then I marched down the hallway, pulled out a white bed sheet from a dresser drawer, and headed outside. 

My challenge was to keep both the skunk AND my husband as calm as possible. 

JAMES: Personally, I thought Sheryl was crazy! While I stood off to the side and watched, she got the sheet and slowly, very slowly, started walking toward the trap. I thought to myself, "This is going to be interesting...."

SHERYL: Oh, Lord, help me get this skunk out of the trap! Help me get this skunk out of the trap! Please, please, please!

Standing on a foot path between our garden beds, I surveyed the scene in front of me. Wire cage on the ground, pointed at a corner where the house and fence met. Inside paced a striped skunk, not quite grown.

"I'll take that light after all, please," I told James in a soft voice, accepting his headlamp which he'd grabbed on the way outside. I slipped the loose band around my head and pointed the beam of light to the side of the cage.

Behind me, I could hear James loudly fussing at one of the cats, who, naturally, wanted to see what was going on. With one hand behind me, I patted the air, trying to non-verbally express the dire need to keep quiet. 

We've got to keep this animal calm.  Calm, calm, calm...

Quietly, steadily, I held the white sheet up in front of me and slowly approached the trap. Inside, the skunk barely moved. Straddling the cage, I slowly lowered the sheet.   

JAMES: Well, she was able to drape the sheet over the trap without getting sprayed! I couldn't believe it!

SHERYL: With relief, I finally covered the cage, except for the front opening, with the sheet. With a deep breath, I quietly backed away so I could think about how I'd next open the cage. I needed to think through how the door contraption worked. Then I went back to work.

Initially, I reached down with my hand to pull up the door. Instantly, the skunk jumped and may have tried to bite, which in turn startled me. Duh–I needed to put on thick gloves so I'd feel steady. Any knee-jerk reactions from me could easily alarm the skunk. So James fetched a heavy pair of work gloves for me from the garage.  

Back to my task, I leaned over the cage and inched my gloved hand back down.

"It's okay, baby, it's okay," I said softly, soothingly. "C'mon, baby, it's okay."

JAMES: After a little while, while the skunk was still calm, she opened the trap door ever so slowly and started talking to it. "Come on, baby, come on....it's okay....come on little baby..." 

Then slowly, it started coming out! I couldn't believe it! I'm really surprised she didn't give him a head scratch as he was coming out because her hands were only inches from it. 

The whole time this was all going on, I could hear the great horned owl calling in the trees in the meadow and the deer making their grunting noises. I told Sheryl they were probably talking to one other and making bets on whether she'd get sprayed or not.

SHERYL: My heart quickened as the cage door slowly came up. But nothing happened inside at first. The skunk wasn't ready to go quite yet.

"Lift up the back of the cage," James suggested. Which I tried doing. Nothing. 

"Come on, baby," I said softly. "It's okay." Then here he came, nose, head, body, all followed by a bountiful, beautiful white tail. In a flash, the skunk disappeared into the darkness. 

As for me, I collapsed into a nearby garden chair. We'd done it! Released a skunk from a trap without getting sprayed! 

Thank you, Lord!

JAMES: I will never, ever set a trap in the back yard again. Too traumatic! TRUE STORY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Epilogue: James has already talked about how he's going to set up the trap next time and....

Wednesday, October 12, 2016