Saturday, April 19, 2014

A second chance? Martins!

BIG SURPRISE! Honestly, I'd given up on getting purple martins this year. Especially after last year's sad loss of our first-ever couple's four eggs to a likely rat snake. Yesterday, I was working on my plant markers in the yard. Now and then, I'd hear a martin calling up in the sky. Oh, well, they won't come visit our house, I thought. Later, though, James and I heard them calling CLOSER. We ran over to the Meadow to see. Sure enough, two martins were flying over the house. They landed on the utility line, then flew over the house some more. Then they left. 
See them on the utility line?

While we were eating supper, we heard them calling again! So we hurried and cleaned up the kitchen. Then we carried out our lawn chairs, binoculars and camera.
They came back!

We stayed outside, watching, the rest of the evening. At one point, more martins showed up. But only our two stayed. He checked out one of the gourds; she peeked inside a top-floor compartment. They both battled with a male house sparrow. Finally, they decided to bunk in the bottom north side of the house. I guess we'll see if they decide to STAY and nest. Hope so! Time to get the snake netting up. And get rid of some sparrows, too. 

No owlets

Yesterday, I was working in the back yard, enjoying the sunshine, when I glanced up at the owl house. Something caught my eye. A screech owl? No. A squirrel youngster! He perched there, peeking out for the longest time. "Did your mama leave you?" I asked. "Poor baby." He just kept looking at me. One time, he nodded off. Later, I saw him out, climbing on the oak branches. He's probably teenaged. At any rate, his presence in the box tells me no owl children this year. I don't know why we haven't had babies again since our first year to put this box up. Rat snakes maybe? Oh, well. Maybe next year. In the meantime, seeing this squirrel child making use of it made me smile. A lot.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Of thistles, native and not

Little Malta star-thistle rosettes
Let me first begin by saying Malta star-thistle is NOT native to Texas or even the U.S. NOT. NOT. NOT. NOT. It doesn't belong here at all. I HATE MALTA STAR-THISTLE. BASTARD CABBAGE, TOO. AND WAX a few others. But I digress. Back to star-thistle. See my original post, "Another bad invasive" for the full scoop as to why I hate and despise this plant. We managed to get most of it out of the Meadow. Last summer, I tried to pull it out from a city easement across the street. I gave up. THIS spring, however, I decided it was WAR. I went to work on those little rosettes one afternoon. Pretty soon, James joined me. Then it was two against thousands. With his help, the numbers have diminished considerably. I return to the scene regularly to tear out those I still find. But be it known that MALTA STAR-THISTLE will not take over THIS part of the Hill Country!

Now on the native note, I feel sure that other thistles coming up on our property and our neighbor's is Texas thistle, not the demonic musk thistle (Carduus nutans, also called nodding plumeless thistle) that grows on my mother's property, much to her dismay. James and I observed some growing down the road from her place, and their spines look downright WICKED. Texas thistles (photos below) are better behaved and not so thorny. Plus, pollinators nectar on their flowers, and birds use their fluff for nesting material. Goldfinches eat the seeds, too.
Texas thistle
Want to learn more? Check out "How to tell the difference between native and non-native thistles" posted by the plant experts at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Pounded AGAIN

For the second time in the past week, hail hit our town. In fact, it hailed a week ago today. But TODAY'S storm was MEMORABLE, to say the least. The pea-sized (and some marble and larger) fell from the sky in huge amounts. James shot a video while I ran around the house, checking windows and worrying about our plants. One time, I opened the kitchen door to our garage, and the sound of hail pounding on our metal roof was literally DEAFENING. Amazing! We were hoping and praying for rain but could have done without the hail. Thank you, Lord, anyway! 

Right now, the sun's shining bright, and the wind's gusting away. Tonight we may have a light freeze. Here's hoping and praying that all our plant friends do well through this strange spring weather.


Our new evergreen sumac (planted last week) seeds to have weathered the hail fine. So far.

Our new Texas star hibiscus, also just planted, took a beating but is still standing.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Another native plant sale!

Today was the last day for the spring native plant sale at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. We arrived promptly at 9 a.m. when they opened. Naturally.

Above are our new friends. We're supposed to get another cold front and possible freeze this week (bummer) so we'll wait about planting these. 

Here they are:

Heath aster Symphyotrichum ericoides

Texas sage Salvia texana

Blue wild indigo Baptisia australis
Skeleton leaf goldeneye Viguiera stenoloba

Carolina jessamine Gelsemium sempervirens

Gray goldenrod Solidago nemoralis

Soft-hair marbleseed Onosmodium bejariense var. bejariense

Jimsonweed Datura wrightii

Goldeneye Viguiera dentata

White avens Geum canadense

Lindheimer's beebalm Monarda lindheimeri

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Plants to attract butterflies and hummingbirds

New native plants!

Texas Star hisbiscus Hibiscus coccineus

Wild foxglove Penstemon cobaea 

Snake herb Dyschoriste linearis 

Engelmann's daisy Salvia peristenia

Yellow coral honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens var. sulphurea

Blue curls Phacelia congesta

Evergreen sumac Rhus virens

Firecracker plant 'St. Elmo's' Russelia equisetiformis (Native to Mexico)

Western white honeysuckle Lonicera albiflora var. albiflora

Scarlet milkweed Asclepias curassavica (Native to South America)

Texas milkweed Asclepias texana

Zizotes milkweed Asclepias oenotheroides