Tuesday, May 31, 2016

New snake species and other stuff

We had a beautiful and relaxing Memorial Day at home. It followed an early morning storm that started out with vicious winds, but calmed after an hour or so. The weather has been so bizarre, but we're grateful for the rains. As long as we don't get TOO much! 

For most of the day, we sat on the back patio and watched the birds. We have a pair of mockingbird parents who are feeding three starving babies. They fight off the squirrels and bombard other mockingbirds who venture into their territory. At one point, I decided to get up and check some milkweed. On my way, I spotted a SNAKE in the velvetleaf mallow! James grabbed his camera and took photos. Meet a redstripe ribbon snake (Thamnophis proximus rubrilineatus)! According to what I've briefly read, this species lives around water so I'm not sure how it ended up in our back yard. 

Later, James spotted this juvenile yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia) in some salvias. Yay!
Two young eastern fox squirrels gorged on a corn cob that James put out. 
And a Gulf Coast toad hopped by, too, during our afternoon of wildlife watching. 
On our neighbor's side of the fence, we spotted silken guidelines so naturally we had to go investigate. I suspect that a giant lichen orbweaver lives somewhere wayyyyyyyy up in a live oak. Her web must be HUGE, but it's only visible at night when she's out (and I'm not). 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Welcome to our Wildscape

Like our new sign? It's a bit larger and flashier than one I made back in 2010 (see photo of it below). That one had faded a LOT. So I "created" and ordered a new one online via VistaPrint. Maybe sometime I'll try and redo our old sign. But in the meantime, we've got this new one. We'll see how long it holds up (it's made of corrugated plastic, like campaign signs).

Texas bush-clover

Meet Texas bush-clover (Lespedeza texana), a pretty little native species that gets next to no press. I dug up this one from our neighbor's side of the fence here at home (with her permission, of course) and have been so surprised at how beautiful it is. The bottom two photos were taken in October 2014, likely of the same plant before I moved it.
That's really become a big part of what I'm trying to accomplish through our Texas Wildscape: Bring local native species into our gardens so they'll be preserved and appreciated. 

On that note, I've transplanted a sensitive briar and a scarlet pea, both legumes. We'll see if they survive and take root. I hope so! I want visitors to see indigenous species and how truly beautiful they are. We MUST protect and honor what we have growing right in our own yards, city easements, public parks, and private lands. 

A few weeks ago, a friend shared that a new adjoining landowner (who moved to town from out of state) MOWED DOWN A FIELD OF GREENTHREADS! It literally broke her heart to see the golden flowers cut down. I, too, mourned at hearing the story. What's wrong with people? The Hill Country won't be the Hill Country too much longer at the rate that development's going. But in the meantime, James and I will do what we can here on Ninth Street to promote native species.

October 2014
October 2014

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Watch out for milkweeds!

With the owner's permission, I flagged an antelope horns (Asclepias asperula) that is growing on city easement on Cedar Street near the corner of Ninth Street. I know. I know. Call me nuts. But if possible, I'd like to see this milkweed get dodged the next time anyone mows. 

As you can see, I added my own "explanation" of why the orange flag is there. (Milkweeds host monarch and queen caterpillars.) Now if I could just market my little idea, right?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Caterpillar nursery

I thought it'd be interesting to film a short video of our pipevine swallowtail caterpillars (Battus philenor) chomping on our pipevine vines (non-native Aristolochia fimbriata). At the very end of this video, you can hear a green heron's guttural call and my gasp of surprise. The bird was right over me!

Sorry about that!

Yesterday afternoon, I planted some freebie cedar sages in the front yard. On my first pass around this flower bed, I didn't notice anything. But on my second loop, I DID. Look closer, and you might, too. 
Yes! I spotted a female Texas spiny lizard in the process of laying eggs in a nice-sized burrow she'd dug. She was NOT happy to see me. As you can tell by her irritated expression in the photos.
I guess she finished depositing her last egg because, suddenly, she scurried away as fast as she could. I felt bad. I didn't mean to scare her, but I did. Inside the hole, I counted at least nine eggs. I checked back discreetly a few times, and she'd returned. I was careful not to startle or bother her. The last time I looked, she was gone, and the hole was neatly covered up. James says the little ones should hatch in 21 days. If I can remember, I'll check the site about then. Little spiny lizards are so cute.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Treasures on our rural land

Stiffstem flax (Linum ridigum)
James and I hiked our land northwest of Blanco over the weekend. I found even more cool native species. Just had to share.
Slender greenthread, also called Navajo tea (Thelesperma simplicifolium)
Likely pink mimosa (Mimosa borealis)
Bird wing passionflower (Passiflora tenuiloba)

Another bird wing passionflower
And another
I found several bird wings, which was really cool.
Yellow passionflower (Passiflora lutea) also grows on our land.
Recently, James spotted a pipevine caterpillar crawling on the ground. That told me that we've got pipevines growing somewhere. I think that I found them (photo above and below). I'm just not certain which species. Perhaps Virginia snakeroot,  (Aristolochia serpentaria)? Ours resemble this photo.

Yellow passionflower
Virginia snakeroot?
Another snakeroot? We transplanted a few into our Wildscape.
I thought at first this plant and the one below might be bract milkweed, but Marcus at the Wildflower Center didn't think so. Perhaps swanflower (Aristolochia erecta), another pipevine species? If the deer don't munch them down, maybe we can get a definite ID later. I marked them. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Pink poppy seeds

When Shirley and Melody from San Antonio came for our April 30 garden gala, Melody brought me a small paper sack filled with pink poppy seed heads. This afternoon, I emptied the heads and tossed the seeds around in our Wildscape. I know poppies aren't native, but I think it's okay to have a few non-natives, especially for pollinators. I tossed in them in a few areas in our back yard and also in the Meadow. We'll see what happens next year. Thank you, Melody! 

Milkweed inventory 2016

Last year, I posted an extensive milkweed inventory, which I thought might be a good way to keep track of what we've got growing in our Wildscape. Well, earlier this month (May 6), I finally got around to marking and counting antelope horns (I use tongue depressors). But after that, I gave up. For one thing, our crop of Indian blankets are WAY too thick to make a complete count of antelope horns and purple milkweed vines in the Meadow. But I did get up to 14 antelope horns, which is a slight increase of maybe three over last year. 

Below are photos of a healthy zizotes milkweed that grows on our neighbor's side of the Meadow. I'm working on getting the species started on our side.