Monday, July 23, 2012

Fire preparedness

A Texas Master Naturalist with our Highland Lakes chapter recently posted a timely link on our newsgroup: Prepared. It's a site hosted by the City of Austin, Austin Fire Department and the Texas Forest Service about getting your home wildfire safe. You do have to sign up for an account, but any and all tips have to be worth the time. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The mob mentality

Just yesterday, I shoved away from my desk and marched outside to fuss at a LOUD-MOUTHED juvenile mockingbird. I was trying to work, but I kept hearing it SCREECH SCREECH SCREECH. When I stepped outside the garage, I spotted it on the front porch walk, hopping beneath the Texas lantana. Mom or Dad was nearby, trying to scare up an insect for lunch. When everyone saw me, they flew off.

Peace. Finally.

James was surprised that I heard the ruckus from in my office. He didn't hear a thing at the dining room table. 

Today, however, HE heard a ruckus, and I didn't.

"C'mere!" he told me from the hallway. "There's a snake up in the trees!"

We walked outside to the front yard, and James pointed at the rat snake, high in the live oak branches. All around, an army of birds shrieked and yelled...titmice, mockingbirds, cardinals, wrens, blue jays, woodpeckers. It's a bird behavior called "mobbing." Look in the bottom left hand corner of the photo above, and you can just make out a bird and its tail, perched on a branch. The snake's barely visible in the middle of the photo.

Even the white-winged doves were upset. They gathered in some dead pecan branches in the back yard.
This female northern cardinal was ready to put up her dukes.
See the rat snake's head? You have to look hard in the middle of the photo.
Here's the same photo, cropped in closer so you can see the snake.
After a short while, the ruckus died down. But this female house finch still didn't want to give up!

"Texas Master Naturalist Class 2012"

Here's a photo book that I created a few months ago for our Master Naturalist class with the Highland Lakes chapter. OK, disclaimer time: I'll get a $10 credit with Shutterfly for posting this link. But I thought the book did turn out nice. If you like, take a look....

[Shutterfly offers exclusive photobook layouts so you can make your book just the way you want.]

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 2012 in our Wildscape

Come walk through our Wildscape with us this month. Recent rains continue to bless the area, and the glorious GREEN GREEN GREEN shows in these photos....

Our front yard...

The Meadow...

Moving to our back yard.... This is our new "Buck-hannan" bed, named in honor of Lake Buchanan (that's how the locals pronounce the name). We collected the pink rocks and shells on a recent visit there.
I couldn't resist a close-up of the lovely morning glory vine that James gave me for our sixth wedding anniversary.

The "Trinity" garden, enclosed with triangular rocks that James collected from the area and "holy" (ie, holey) rocks, too.

One last parting shot of the stock tank pond, one of my favorite places to be in our Texas Wildscape....

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Uh oh, we may have a problem, NASA

Polistes sp., maybe Polistes exclamans?
 Yeah, James has been very patient with me. I hate to kill nearly anything in our Wildscape. Unless it's non-native. Over our garage doors, we've got some paper wasps building nests. In my opinion, small ones like the one above aren't much of a problem. "Wasps feed on insects, including caterpillar pests, and thus are considered to be beneficial insects by many gardeners," states the species account on the AgriLife Extension site. That's how I feel, too–they've got a place in the natural world. 

However, when the nest gets this large, and it's right over where we walk in and out of the garage....
Then, dang it, we've got a probably problem, NASA.

So I guess James is gonna knock this nest down soon with a high-pressure hose.

UPDATE–Well, that evening, after a bit of drama, the nest DID come down. I was going to use the water hose, but James STRONGLY advised against the tactic. We then agreed on a bucket of soapy water. However, the first bucket accidentally got spilled down the driveway. The second bucket hit the mark. Alas, most of the wasps did die. Right away, the survivors returned and started work on a new nest. They're persistent insects! A few more dashes of soapy water, but they continue to return.

I'm a contributor!

I love the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Last spring, we officially joined as members. When researching and writing, I use the center's Plant Database and Image Gallery A LOT. Recently, I checked out their contributor guidelines since I photograph so many species around our Wildscape and across Central Texas. Long story short: I am now an official contributor to the Image Gallery! So far, I have five images archived. Some photographers have contributed hundreds of images. Authors Sally and Andy Wasowski donated more than 3,900 photos in 2005!

Check me out: Sheryl Smith-Rodgers.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Flowers and spiders

The purple clematis vine (Clematis pitcheri) is blooming!

The calylophus is still blooming.
And so are our volunteer dayflowers. They've taken over several patches in our beds, but it's fine with us. Their blooms are so sweet and pretty.
I found this little orbweaver and her web among the mealycup sage branches.

And tiny spiderling was traveling between tree branches....