Saturday, November 7, 2020

Brick patio additions

Look at our new chairs! We special ordered them through Eric Brown's Custom Solutions (512-396-7781) in San Marcos. We live close enough to have them delivered for free, which was so nice. Didn't Eric do a great job? 


Monday, November 2, 2020

Buckmoth love

So here's yet another right time, right place story. I was in the front yard, lurking around the mistflowers, looking for new species for iNaturalist. Then all of a sudden, a rather large black insect hovered low across a flower bed. I watched, waiting to get a photo and find out what I had. Then it landed. Rather, HE landed. Right next to another black moth. Ah, he'd found love on the side of a limestone rock. And he did so with his feathery antennae, which detect pheromones sent out by females. These are Grote buckmoths (Hemileuca grotei). I walked back by maybe 15 or 20 minutes, and they were gone. 

Isn't nature just amazing?


P.S. Here's a Grote's buckmoth caterpillar. Just so you know those spiny things that can sting turn into something beautiful.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

No solo dining for this crab spider

I happened to observe this unusual drama playing out in our white mistflower a few days ago. No doubt the crab spider was wishing she could enjoy her western honeybee far from the maddening crowd. 
 
These are freeloader flies, probably in the genus Desmometopa. According to Bugguide.net, "females are kleptoparasitic and are especially attracted to predatory insects or spiders feeding on honeybees."

Major milestones

This year, I hit 1,000 volunteer hours with the Texas Master Naturalists, which I joined in 2012. That's a big deal, I guess. But more importantly (to me, at least), I reached 1,000 species on my iNaturalist account last Friday, October 16! That's a HUGE deal when you consider that I make observations ONLY (Disclaimer: Except for five; only two of those were confirmed to species and a third was already documented in our yard, a grackle) within our property, which is just under one acre. That near acre includes our yard, which is planted primarily with natives, and an adjoining vacant lot that we call The Meadow. I think that's pretty amazing for an "urban" yard! 
 
TPWD urban biologist Sam Kieschnick, aka SamBiology on iNat, confirmed my 1,000th species, a ground beetle (below) that I observed May 9, 2020. I thought it was fitting that he have that "honor" since he was instrumental in inspiring me (and countless others) to use iNaturalist. 

Well, on to the next 1,000! I'm already to 1,005......
 



 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Notes to myself

That tall, branchy wildflower with white flowers that I saw blooming this month alongside eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii) was false gaura (Stenosiphon linifolius). 

I've seen it blooming in years past alongside U.S. 290 west of Dripping Springs. I ALWAYS forget what it is. So I've gone nearly crazy, trying to figure out what it was when I saw it on our road trip traveling north along U.S. 281. We were going too fast to get photos. So this is a note to myself in case I forget again. It's a wildflower that gets VERY little press.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Six times!

 

Yes. My cenizo friend across the street is blooming yet again. For the sixth time! I took the flower photos Thursday morning. Sure enough, Friday morning brought gray clouds and some slight drizzle, enough to wet the outdoor furniture and plants. The humidity was high, too, like 99 percent (I got a screen shot of 96 percent a bit later). No huge rains in sight, but you never know. I think yesterday morning's damp conditions count. So make that six times in a row! 





Friday, October 9, 2020

Birdy surprises on our trip

This past week, we traveled to northwest Arkansas for our periodic Eureka Springs fix. Along the way, we stopped for gas in Gainesville, Texas. I was quite surprised when I looked out my car window and saw this mostly WHITE great-tailed grackle. He/she wandered around a bit on the parking lot, then took off with a big flock of other BLACK grackles. Wow!

UPDATE: Birder Joseph Neal from Arkansas informed me that we saw a leucistic grackle. "Leucistic" means a partial loss of pigmentation. Here's an explanation of the difference between leucistic and albinism.

On our last night in Eureka Springs, we walked downtown and sat on a bench in Basin Park. The sun had just about set. Overhead, I heard chimney swifts. I looked up. There were dozens and dozens of them flying and swooping over the Basin Spring Bath House. I got up from the bench and walked across Spring Street for a better look. Then I kept going. James followed. I walked across the pedestrian bridge that goes over N. Main Street, then down the bath house's stairs. We ended up in the big parking lot, where we watched in amazement and took videos (see mine below) while the swifts soared in circles and, one by one, dove into the chimney.  

Finally, one lone swift flew around by itself. Was it maybe a bat, we wondered. Then a second swift showed up, and together they disappeared into the chimney. Such a cool surprise to witness! I'm thinking the bath house may be serving as a communal roost for the swifts, who overwinter in the upper Amazon basin of Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Brazil. Awesome!