Monday, March 25, 2013

"Nurturing nature"

My feature article, "Nurturing Nature," just came out in the April 2013 issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine.
Thanks for the nice photo, Earl!

New-to-me natives

Rough gromwell (Lithospermum matamorense)
Found in our back yard--also called rough stoneseed
The blooms are tiny.
Also, wild geranium (Carolina geranium)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Large yellow underwing

I spotted this caterpillar on dead fall aster limbs. It's a large yellow underwing larva (Noctua pronuba), a European species introduced to Canada in 1979. Great camouflage artist, eh?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

More bulb work

Since the oxalis bulbs were so easy to dig up and transplant, I decided I'd get me some daffodil bulbs (which were planted years ago by the previous owners)

For one thing, daffodil bulbs live MUCH deeper than oxalis bulbs. I worked and worked AND WORKED to dig down and reach them. It took even MORE effort to get them out intact and uninjured. What I thought would be an easy project turned into several hours of work. But I did it. I dug up a load of bulbs from just one grouping and planted them in between the other groupings to fill in. I was exhausted when I finally finished.

Then, miracles of miracles, it rained early this morning! We (and all the newly planted bulbs, daffodil and oxalis) got about 1.25 inches of much needed rain. Thank you, Lord!

Nature's amazing

While transplanting tiny larkspurs yesterday, I came across this one with its root tunneled through a grass node. AMAZING!

White-lined sphinx moth

Yesterday, I was walking in and out of the garage while working on my daffodil bulb project (another post). I happened to look over and see this beautiful sphinx moth on the inside of a garage window. Get the camera! As you can see, the moth didn't mind a photo session at all. Then I let it go onto the brick wall of our house. This morning, I checked, and it's gone.

Come to find out that this is a white-lined sphinx (Hyles lineata), the same species of caterpillar (photo below) which we found in our Meadow last October. A few days later, my young neighbor Peyton and his friends found the same caterpillar, and we took his to the Meadow, where it soon burrowed into the ground. 
So this could be one of our friends, Peyton! I love to watch sphinx moths nectar on flowers. They look just like hummingbirds.  

One of last October's caterpillars

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March 2013 in our Wildscape

I haven't taken monthly photos of our Wildscape since...oh, please don't make me confess...OK. Last December. Bad me. Despite little rain, the plants are budding and blooming. Spring is my favorite time of year! Here's our front yard.....

 And now the back yard...

 Just put up our third hummer feeder today. 
 And now for the Meadow...

 See the redbud (above) blooming?
You can barely see my bee nest box (above) attached to the middle (dead) live oak.
Above is our last large big, empty area in the back yard. We're trying to figure out what we want to do....any ideas?

Lost Ladybug Project

Convergent ladybug (Hippodamia convergens)

Bee box continued

A big THANK YOU to Marilyn K., who left a comment on my previous post, "Bee box housekeeping." I'd given up on finding paper straws the right size to fit inside the box's tubes. Then she told me about using parchment paper. I didn't have any, but my neighbor, Marcella, did. And she gladly donated the end of a roll to the cause. (Thanks to you, too, Marcella!) What a great and easy idea! Took a little doing, cutting the paper to the right size and getting it to roll up tight enough to fit inside the tubes. Like Marilyn suggested, I used a pencil to start the rolling. Then I tightened the little straws up myself and slipped each one inside a tube. It worked! Plus, I have loads of parchment paper still left to use in the future. Maybe I'll get inspired and make more wooden bee boxes. In the meantime, I'm waiting to see if any solitary bees nest in the bamboo tubes I set out last week.

P.S. Because it was so helpful (and interesting) to me, here is Marilyn's comment in full:
"Thanks for reminding us that is time to invite bees to our property. Everyone needs to help them as much as possible because both honey bees and our native bee species are in serious decline. And since they are responsible for 1/3 of our food production, we really need their help.

I worked on a bee project and then a bee display last summer at Malheur NWR. I found that he most important thing you can do to prevent disease is to either make new houses every year, or use the paper straws. And you can actually pull the straws out in the fall and store them in another dark container with one exit hole - some people even store the in their refrigerators. Sometimes it takes 2 years for all the bees to hatch out.

Making the straws is easy - just wrap parchment paper - the kind you buy to bake with - around a pencil. Then stick the straw in the bee tunnel and let it expand to fit. If you drill the holes all the way through the bee block, you can make the straws an inch or two longer than the tunnel, fold them down and screw on a thing piece of wood to close off the back.

Another interesting thing I learned is that the bee lays female eggs in the back of the tunnel and male bees toward the front. So the males are sacrificed to feed the birds. The longer the tube, the more females you'll end up with."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring butterflies

Oh, my, you should see the butterflies right now! It seems like we're hosting more black-colored swallowtails than usual. BUT... are they black, pipevine or spicebush swallowtails? So I took a photo...

From the markings, I'd say they are pipevine swallowtails (Battus philenor). Spicebush swallowtails (Papilio troilus) have two rows of orange dots. PLEASE correct me if you disagree. Those three species are hard to tell apart! And this photo isn't very clear either.

Here are some links that help solve the identification problem: 
   * "Spicebush swallowtail and pipevine swallowtail butteflies"
   * "Spicebush or black swallowtail? An underwing guide

I found this GREAT tool: Massachusetts Butterfly Club side-by-side comparison.
A lone buckeye!

A battered Gulf fritillary

Lots of cloudless sulphurs

Making more plants

(Disclaimer: We do have a few nonnatives in our Wildscape. The Texas Wildscapes program calls for at least 50 percent, which we more than meet.)

* * * 

I'm not into bulbs and such, though we have some in our Wildscape. Most were already here (irises) when my daughter and I moved into the house back in 2002. In the years since, I've added a few more that came to me as gifts. So when James and I arrived at the Llano Lawn and Garden Show last Saturday, I listened to Keenan Fletcher's program on "Heirloom Bulbs: Preserving the Past," but much of her discussion was over my head.

Until she mentioned oxalis...

Although not a native, windowbox wood sorrel makes a pretty, cascading mound of green color in the yard. The pink flowers bloom at least twice (spring and fall). We have some planted around the faux wishing well that James made several years ago. A drought doesn't kill oxalis either, which is a BIG plus in these parts.

So I was QUITE excited when I heard Keenan mention that oxalis bulbs can be divided. Really? I didn't know that! So yesterday, I set to work with my trowel. It was easy to dig my fingers around the small bulbs. Disentangling the leaves was the challenge. But sure enough, I worked out a good number of starter bulbs. Cool! I planted them in a few other spots, and James gave them a douse of water.

Thank you, Keenan!