Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Lots of ladybugs

Well, we don't have THAT many. But we do have several. And just I was posting my ladybug images to iNaturalist, Trisha down the street called and asked if I was seeing a lot of ladybugs. 

These are multi-colored Asian lady beetles (Harmonia axyridis). The species has many color variations

What's up with the ladybug showing up in crowds? From the little bit that I read, it seems they're looking for a warm place to  hibernate for the winter. So shut those windows!     

That's nature

Sun's out this afternoon so I went out, too. With my camera. On a garden path, I spotted this beetle under a leaf. Then I saw something wiggling next to it. An earthworm. 

An earthworm being eaten alive by the beetle. Sad, but that's nature. 

I've seen this kind of black beetle before. The kind experts at Bugguide.net told me that it's a ground beetle (Cyclotrachelus sp.). 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Yet another save

Outside, I always check our plastic orange rain bucket just in case someone's stranded. Bingo! I found this handsome wolf spider fellow Thanksgiving Day, rafting on an oak leaf. After a portrait session, I released him, then requested a species ID on Bugguide.net. Laura P. confirmed him as a Gladicosa pulchra. Thank you, Laura! 

Look hard

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Another rescuee

I did it again. I just can't help it. Rescuing is part of my nature.

On Friday, while getting ready for family to arrive for a delayed Thanksgiving dinner, I spotted a spider perched forlornly on the inside of our kitchen window screen. See, cobweb spider ladies and their descendants live between the screen and window on a consistent basis. But this little gal was not a cobweb. My first instinct told me lynx spider.

Since James wasn't around, I climbed onto the kitchen counter and leaned up for a closer look. Yup, I was right. Because I didn't know the exact species (green lynx spiders can grow pretty big), I concluded that I best rescue my little friend or else she'd be stranded behind the glass window forever. 

That decided, I now had to move things off the window sill and straddle the sink before I could unlatch the decades-old window locks and pull up the ancient window. Several minutes later, mission accomplished! THEN I had to corral the lynx into a jar, using a skinny paintbrush that I'd grabbed. Like jumping spiders, lynx spiders vault to get from place to place so I had to be extra careful. Finally, though, the lynx cooperated. After getting the window closed and locked again, I climbed back down from the counter with my tiny rescuee safely in the jar. 

After a quick photo session, I took her outside and released her in some salvias. Live long and prosper, little one!

Moth beauty

Suze, a friend of mine who lives in eastern Blanco County, sent me these photos yesterday and asked if I could identify what'd she found on her property. Oh, my, what a beauty! Was I ever jealous! It took a little work, but I found the species: Grote's buckmoth (Hemileuca grotei). Isn't it just stunning?! I asked if I could share her photos on my blog, and she said yes. Thank you, Suze!  

Friday, November 18, 2016

Cooper's hawk

So I'm outside just now, standing on our back porch, shaking out bed pillows, when I glance across the yard and ..... OH MY GOODNESS IT'S THE HAWK RUN SHERYL GET YOUR CAMERA! So I streaked back into the house and down the hall to grab a digital 35mm. I zipped off a few shots from the porch, then I tried some through my office window. These are the best I could do. 

Meet our neighborhood red-shouldered hawk. We often see him/her flying through our live oaks or soaring overhead. We can hear him/her scream, too. The last time I got photos of him/her was back in January 2014. This time, it was cool to see him/her on our fence, surveying the back yard. Everyone loves our yard! LOL!

(If you can tell if our friend is a male or female, please let me know!) 

UPDATE: Thanks to fellow iNaturalists and experts on The Hawk ID Group (Facebook), we have once and for all nailed down the species of our neighborhood hawks. They are Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii). This one is a male. Thank you, everyone!

Addicted to iNaturalist

Rough earthsnake (Virginia striatula)
Okay, okay. I confess. I admit it. I am an iNaturalist addict. I believe that I am beyond hope, and, as far as I know, there's no known cure. I rather enjoy my addiction any way. 
Fork-tailed bush katydid (Scudderia furcata)
It all started last month when I signed up for an online citizen science project. With hummingbird and butterfly migration well underway, it's the perfect time to record what you're seeing all around Texas. Participate in the first ever statewide Texas Pollinator BioBlitz October 7-16!   
Brazilian skipper (Calpodes ethlius)
It didn't happen right away, this addiction of mine. Oh, I posted just a few observations on day two of the BioBlitz, then I skipped day three. As the week went by, and I posted more and more photos, I got more and more familiar with iNaturalist and how it works. I used (and still use) both the website page and the mobile app.
Predatory stink bug (Podisus sp.)
By the last night of the BioBlitz, I was totally and completely and wholly and passionately hooked on iNaturalist. (As you can see below, I made it to the top five observers; I learned that I DO have a competitive streak!) After the project ended, I continued to post observations to iNaturalist. Like these four photos included in this post.

I've since expanded to creating a species list for our property here, AND I'm helping other observers to identify their observations. Sometimes we comment back and forth on an observation. I can't tell you how much I've learned since getting involved with this online community of naturalists and biologists. For instance, I've expanded my interests to moth and now true bugs. There's just so much to learn about Mother Nature! Plus, it's FUN!

So, yes, I confess. I'm addicted to iNaturalist. I wish you were, too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Snake's alive!

Or I could have titled this post, "Right time, right place." 

Awhile ago, I took a break from working at my desk and went outside to empty a rain bucket. As I was strolling past the Copper Canyon daisy, I happened to glance down and see.....
 ...A SNAKE! A beautiful checkered gartersnake (Thamnophis marcianus). Thank goodness, I happened to have my phone with me (yes, I've gotten lazy about not using my big 35mm) so I snapped a photo or two. The snake didn't seem afraid of me. In fact, he/she seemed preoccupied. Then I realized something was wiggling under the leaf debris not far from the snake. So I plopped down on the ground and waited. Now and then I could see the snake open its mouth. Hmmm....
As soon as I realized the critter under the leaves was an earthworm, the snake started pulling and gulping it down. Quick, a video, Sheryl! But I was too late. Instead, I snapped off a bunch of photos. At least from these photos you can get the gist of what I got to see. 

Just because I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

This and that

Dainty sulphur
Crab spider
Bordered patch
Little yellow (Pyrisitia lisa)
Southern dogface

Thread-legged bug (Emesaya brevipennis)...it FLEW!

Tiny skipper

New species for me....southern skipperling (Copaeodes minima)