Saturday, August 29, 2015

A few blooms

I love nightshades
First time to bloom
 Good ol' zinnias (from seed)
 Reminds me of trips to the Davis Mountains.....
Blooms faded but next come the seeds! 
The plant is taller than me now.
I love 'Pam's Pink' turk's cap

Pearl milkweed vine seeds

More seeds from my pearl milkweed vines (Matelea reticulata)! I'm collecting them just in case anyone wants some. My three vines have been very productive this summer. It's the first time I've ever seen a pearl milkweed vine go to seed. Cool!

Nope, not goin' anywhere, missy

  I was outside early this morning, watering. This toad was lounging in a plate that we keep filled with water, and NOTHING was gonna get him out. Not even big ol' me. I added water gently via the hose, and he just shrugged. At least, I think that was a shrug.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

When an antlion grows up

Last weekend, we spent a night in Rocksprings so we could see the bats. You know, the Mexican-freetailed bats that roost at the Devil's Sinkhole State Natural Area. If you haven't been, GO. And hurry..the bats will be gone for the winter by October. Watching them spiral out of the cave by the millions and millions is an aswesome sight to behold!

Anyway, as we were packing up to leave, I spotted an interesting insect on an exterior wall of the Historic Rocksprings Hotel, where we stayed. Owlfly? I wasn't sure. So I snapped some shots. Back home, the experts at confirmed that this is antlion adult, specifically Vella fallax. Cool!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Horseweed continued

Ricky Linex–a wildlife biologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Weatherford–recently emailed me an Aug. 21 photo of what he calls mares tail (horseweed, Conyza canandensis) in front of an old fireplace at the ruins of Fort Phantom Hill, located north of Abilene, Texas.  He said I could share the photo.

"These ruins are what remain of an old U.S. military outpost from the 1850's," he wrote. "I was in the eastern Panhandle last week and the mares tail there was approaching 5 feet in height, which is large for free range plants that don't get watered and pampered. Some volunteer plants are desirable and some are not. Perhaps the next one will be a keeper."

Friday, August 21, 2015

Commercial break
This month, my friend and writing colleague Peggy Frezon is releasing her newest book, Faithfully Yours. And get this....a story-ette inside features ME and my love for spiders! Check it out. Better yet, buy a copy! 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Green green green

Today is August 20, and it was 76 to 78 degrees outside at 5 p.m. What a blessing and a miracle, too! So I grabbed my garden shears and point-n-shoot camera, and off I went. In the front yard, I was thrilled to see that the green lynxes I'd spotted a few days ago were still hanging out in the red galeana sage. That's the female in the photo above. 
Here's what you'd see if you walked past the sage. James says I have eagle eyes because I spotted the green lynxes in what you see above. I guess I do have pretty good eyesight when it comes to seeing what other people just might miss. 
 Here's another shot of the female (above).
 And now the male (above and below).

 Above is what initially caught my eye. A spider had caught up all the spent sage blooms with webbing. I really thought I'd find a green lynx mom guarding her egg sac. But that hasn't happened yet. Evidently, he's still waiting for her to give him a go ahead, if you know what I mean.
 Then I headed over to the 'Indigo Spires' salvias, and who should I find but a young praying mantis (above). I'm always thrilled when I find one of those, which are among my favorite critters. We chatted for a bit, and she let me take some photos. Then we both went about our own business, which was respectively dead-heading and hunting for supper.

Orange flash!

I was in the dining room a couple of days ago and just happened to see an orange flash while I was opening the curtains. WHAT WAS THAT? I waited a minute, and it came back....a bird! Quick! Run foe the camera! She was actually still there so I snagged some shots through the window. Not great but enough to prove we had a female Baltimore oriole came through. Wonderful!

Correction: Thank you, Joanne, F.! We have a female summer tanager.

UPDATE August 25, 2016–Just saw a summer tanager in our back yard!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Not for the faint wasp hearted

Here we go again. More more MORE wasp nests! Since James isn't home right now, I decided I'd go around the house and take photos of ALL our wasp nests under the roof eaves. (He'd like to make them all disappear.) Oh, my, we DO have quite a healthy population!

So what is it about wasps that make most of us want to knock them down and even kill them? I debated the issue a little in a July 2012 post, "Uh oh, we may have a problem, NASA." That month, we did end up getting rid of that particular nest because the wasps had built it right over the garage door, and we were concerned that someone might get stung if the wasps got agitated. 
To refresh, these are paper wasps, more specifically Polistes exclamans. Online, I found some interesting write-ups on the species, such as this one by Jim Conrad. According to his remarks, these wasps are definitely Polistes exclamans because the "distinguishing feature" are the orange tips on the wasps' brown antennae. (I blew up one of my photos and, sure enough, made out the orange-tipped antennae.) 
When I have more time, I'd like to read and study the Polistes exclamans species account on For now, I believe it's okay to leave our wasp nests alone. They feed on caterpillars and other insects. Oh, Jammmessssss!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ironclad beauty

I saw this cool species for the first time years and years ago when I lived in the state park here (during my former life). I thought it was beautiful then, and I still think the same thing. So when I spotted an ironclad beetle (Zopherus nodulosus haldemani) ambling across our patio yesterday, I ran for my camera. I took a few close-ups, then I....

...picked it up. As you can see, this species likes to play dead. I took some more shots, then I set it down on the patio.  

After a little while, the beetle "came back to life" and tried to turn itself over. But it couldn't, likely because it couldn't grab on to anything. So I flipped it over. 

Afraid we might accidentally step on it, I decided I'd better move it somewhere safe. No way, the beetle decided, and latched itself onto the patio's surface with its claws. I couldn't budge it!

Okay, I agreed. But not for long. When the beetle finally let go, I slid a sheet of newspaper under it and scooted it over to a nearby flower bed. End of ironclad beetle encounter.