Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Green lynx mother hanging on

Yes, the green lynx mother still persists. I checked on her today, and there she crouched, still near her nest. A few spiderlings are still there. One even posed near its mother for a photo, which shows how much they've grown. I'm just amazed that the mother's both still alive and still keeping close to her brood.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rare rescue

Over the weekend, a short news brief in the San Antonio Express-News caught my eye: "Butterfly gets help on journey." Talk about amazing and heart warming, too...

Seems a couple in New York repaired a monarch's broken wing with cardboard splints and contact cement. After nursing the insect back to health, they drove to a truck stop and found a trucker who agreed to carry it south. He later called from Florida to report that he'd released the monarch.

Read the story online. Way to go, Jeanette Brandt and Mike Parwana!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

So pretty

Still they come, so many beautiful, beautiful butterflies. The calendar says November, but the indigo spires haven't given up blooming yet! Neither have the butterflies.

After the freeze

Yes, we had a freeze earlier this week. I'd watered the day before but not the day of. One of those curve balls that life can throw got in the way, and I didn't go out in the yard for several days. 

At any rate, I was saddened to see the firebush limp and sick the next day. It's a goner for the season, that's for sure. The bougainvillea doesn't look very well, either. Cycle of life, yes, I know. James and I are already longing for spring so we can plant new things and watch the green return. Today, I longingly eyed a big pot of Mexican bush sage, which is on our wish list. The nursery will sell it to me for $5. But I bet I need to overwinter it in our garage. 

Hurry up, March!

Green lynx mother update

I'm keeping an eye still on the spiderlings, some of which have dispersed. They definitely resemble their mother now and have lost their chubby baby fat. And amazingly, she's still near them! From the side, it's easier to see how her abdomen has really shriveled. She'll die soon. I'm really surprised that she's stayed close to her egg sac all this time. I knew that green lynx mothers guard them, but I'd never really kept a close watch to see how long they stay. Isn't nature just so amazing?

Wow cool

This morning, I'm at my desk, as usual, researching in preparation for an article on Texas redbuds. As I wander around the Internet, looking for interesting tidbits of information, I sometimes go off the path and happen onto something else...

Like on the Rock Rose, a blog written by Lancashire Rose in Austin, I read about her recent certification as a Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation. She was right–it was a SNAP to get our own Wildscape certified! Application was $15, $25 more for a yard sign. In a matter of three minutes or so, I winged through the online application. Cool! Thanks, Lancashire Rose!

Then on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center site, I happened onto a link for the Patsy Glenn Refuge in Wimberley. It sounds like an amazing, wonderful area for naturalists. James and I envision our own Wildscape evolving into a special place for local school children to come and learn. That's our dream.

Back to learning about redbuds....

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another adventure

Every new bird, every different insect I spot piques my curiosity, spurns my eagerness to LEARN more. I want to know the name for whatever and everything I see in our Wildscape!

So today when I saw this strange-looking wasp, I worked to get a photo. Every time I clicked the shutter, the thing disappeared! It seemed to feel or sense whenever my camera snapped a photo, and it'd take off! Finally, I got a few decent pictures, enough to identify the species, I hope.

UPDATE NOVEMBER 7, 2016 Below is a Texas wasp moth (Horama panthalon), also observed November 5, 2016.

I glanced up toward the huge oak and saw what looked like wasps flying around a hole. Mmm, the same species as I just shot? Meanwhile, I saw one on the ground and took a photo of it. No, it was a different species, I thought as I followed it up the oak.

Then I glanced back up and saw.....

A fox squirrel peering out the same hole! I quickly aimed my camera at him, and he didn't budge. Snap! Snap Snap! Still, the squirrel didn't mind. He also didn't seem to care that a few wasps were buzzing around his head. One even clambered into the hole over his head. At first, I wondered if I needed to get up there and rescue a sick squirrel....

I took some more photos, then he disappeared. Back into the hole.

End of adventure.

Meanwhile, I'm on a quest to get that mystery wasp identified.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2008–UPDATE–Entomologist Mike Quinn says the top critter is a Texas wasp moth (Horama panthlon texana). I'd never heard of one!

Butterfly heaven

So many butterflies, even now, in the middle of November. I'm amazed. Monarchs, queens, sulphurs, more. The indigo spires seem to attract just as many as the blue mistflowers now. They're all so beautiful. So very beautiful....

Green lynx update

The green lynx mother is still with her children, although she looks a bit puny. The little ones are turning more green, losing their orange color. I suspect they'll molt soon, then disperse and start their lives.

Ever faithful, the mother will soon die. That's life.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beautiful sight

This morning, James was looking out the window when he saw a beautiful sight. 

"Where you goin'?" I asked as he breezed past me in the kitchen with his camera.

"There's a rainbow outside!"

Sure enough, a DOUBLE rainbow hovered over a neighbor's house to the west. Before I took Lindsey to school, she and I also took some photos. On my way back home, it lightly showered.

Yesterday, storms passed so close but swept past us to the north. Sigh...

So guess the cenizo was right?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hopeful sign

Across the street, the cenizo's blooming. I just noticed it this morning. Typically, cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens) blooms after rainfall. On a bulletin this morning, I read someone's post about how cenizo flowers can also predict rain. Most of today, the skies have been cloudy and gray. There's actually rain forecasted (50 percent chance), and the radar shows storms in the region. We need rain so very desperately.

After I snapped the photo, I snipped off two short branches (5 inches or so) and stuck them in water in our kitchen. On the same bulletin board, I also read that cenizo easily roots from cuttings. That'd be cool if they do.

More cool IF WE GET SOME RAIN!!!

Bug eyed

Last night, friends Steve and Cheryl invited us to share supper with their family. Cheryl's a wonderful cook, and the evening was so nice. As we were saying our good nights, Cheryl mentioned that she'd recently visited my blog.

"I really enjoyed your photos," she said. "I've never really paid much attention to the small things, until I looked at your website. The other day when I was out watering, I leaned way down to see what I could see."

Later, I told James what Cheryl had said and how her reaction makes writing this blog so worthwhile. Fulfilling, too. Because that's what I always hope people will do–take time to get on nature's level, watch the drama that truly can unfold there, and walk away with a different perspective, not to mention a lot more appreciation.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

An Indian camp

Once upon a time, I innocently suggested to James that he consider creating a "fossil" garden, a place where he could privately display his ever growing collection the back yard. I envisioned a simple bed, outlined with stones and perhaps planted with cacti for effect.


James liked my idea, but...

He came up with his own design.

While I was gone a week to my Guideposts Writers Workshop in Rye, New York, in October, he got to work. And I mean WORK.

When I got back home, he'd finished his newest project: an Indian encampment.

Here in this special area, he arranges the arrowheads and worked pieces that he finds along the Blanco River.

Come spring, he plans to sow native grass seeds that we ordered from Native American Seed in Junction. Stay tuned!


Underneath our bird feeder, a tiny volunteer sunflower bloomed!

Shrimp plants

Our shrimp plants–which share the corner bed with our American beautyberry–are still blooming profusely. Even the three yellow shrimp plants–transplanted by James in mid summer to save them from browsing deer–are doing great. I was surprised they survived the trauma of moving.

Winged visitors, pretty and otherwise

Whenever I'm out watering the Wildscape, I always love to watch whatever's working alongside me. Like yesterday, I spotted a bee of some sort trying to get water out of the bird bath. I snapped a quick photo of it.

Later, I spotted another bee at a nearby birdbath and got some good closeups. After thumbing through my Field Guide to Common Texas Insects, I've concluded that my visitor is a southern yellowjacket (Vespula squamosa). What's more, according to the University of Florida's "Featured Creatures," this yellowjacket is a worker, not a male or queen. Biologists look at the abdomen's stripe markings.

On our lawn furniture, I spotted someone else enjoying the sunshine. Talk about shy! It took me some time and patience to get even this shot of a red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) sunbathing. I've always thought these were such pretty butterflies...

American beautyberry

Our American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) lives in a shaded corner of our backyard. Darn, I can't remember, but I'm pretty sure we planted it summer '06. So far, no pretty purple berries. The past week or so, the leaves have begun to look puny, not their usual bright, healthy green. Uh oh, I worry as I water. No more beautyberry? Too much water?

What are we doing wrong?

Turns out nothing. According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, beautyberries have "yellow-green fall foliage." That's a relief! It's really a pretty plant.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Non native but still pretty...

Requirements for a certified Texas Wildscape call for 50 percent or more native plants. We adhere to that as much as we can, and I'd say we have at least 75 percent or more. Some plants were already established in the yard when I arrived on the scene in 2002. I planted a few myself, such as these pretty chrysanthemums. They're special because my dear friend, Mary Malone, gave them to me soon after we moved in. I planted them in the front yard, and they've been blooming each fall ever since!

Death of a milkweed...

Alas, yes, I must also report the sad failures in our Wildscape. The native butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) officially bit the dust this past week (left can't even see what's left because it's so DEAD) . We planted it late in the summer by the blue mistflowers. It seemed to do well at first, then it petered out. Darn.

Last year, we planted a butterfly weed with yellow blooms, and it didn't come back. The queen caterpillars sure loved it, though. This past spring, we planted a variety with red and orange flowers (also near the mistflowers), and it's doing pretty well. Hopefully, it'll come back next spring, but I doubt it.

We'll just keep trying!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Beautiful white glory

By the passionflower vines, James planted morning glory seeds last summer. The seeds sprouted fine and grew but didn't bloom. Until just last week or so. It's hard to snap pictures because the white flowers are high atop the wooden arbor James put up. Wish they were easier to see!

She's still on duty

Yes, the green lynx mother is still guarding her brood. Yesterday, I spotted her with a bee so she hasn't quit dining yet either. The spiderlings haven't fledged as well. That's them in the top right of the photo.