Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sweet everlasting

Yes, believe it or not, that's a common name for a local native–sweet everlasting (Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium). It grows on our land northwest of Blanco. A few weeks ago, James cut off a short branch, brought it home, and stuck it in a small vase of water. Darned if the thing didn't die. So I kept it in water a while longer. Then I potted it up in a tiny pot. A couple of days ago, I put it in the ground. We'll see. The leaves of this annual species have a sweet scent. I hope it takes and reseeds!

Aphid attack

Oleander aphids have infested my butterfly milkweed. I usually ignore them. But then it just dawned on me that it's the aphids that have been attacking the blooms, thus preventing the plant from making seed pods. The same thing goes for my Texas milkweed. Lots of aphids, no seed pods. 

So I decided I'd go to war against these blasted insects and see if I could put a dent in their numbers. I tried a couple of approaches but ended up using a paintbrush to knock them into a bowl of soapy water (one drop of Dawn). I also used my finger to smush them. We'll see if I arrived in time to help out the flowers.

My lovely assistant, Abe, pitched in and helped.

Oxblood lilies

 Also called September surprise. They're early this year!

One bee-utiful beetle

 Spotted on our climbing milkweed vine yesterday....Cryptocephalus fulguratus.

One strange sight

Melody, a friend of ours who lives in San Antonio, emailed me today with some amusing photos. With her permission, I'm sharing them here....

"Hi, Sheryl! Seeing your post the other day of the vulture in your backyard reminded me of the time I drove up my driveway to find a deer laying down with a vulture on the ground nearby watching it. I rolled down my window and asked the deer if he was okay! Then as I drove to the house, they both started following me! I was so amused by this scene and have wondered what was going on with them! Animals are so entertaining!"

Yes, they ARE! Thank you, Melody! And this afternoon, I took my lunch to our back yard and startled a black vulture high in the live oaks! I wasn't able to get a photo this time.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Is it a bird or a plane?

Or maybe a tarantula hawk wasp? That was my first thought when this gigantic thing flew over my head in the back yard yesterday and landed on a live oak branch. I ran in for my camera and then took some shots. It was so high up in the tree that I went back to the house and switched out the lens on my camera for a 300mm, hoping to get better photos. The images weren't a whole lot better but good enough to show a few details of the black insect feeding on a green June bug.
It wasn't until I was getting ready to post here that I looked closer at one of my photos and realized what I'd shot....not a wasp but a FLY. A ROBBER FLY! I believe my UFO may be Mallophora leschenaulti, a species of bee killer robber flies. 

Oh, my! According to, Mallophora leschenaulti has been reported to attack and kill hummingbirds! Here's more detailed info on Asilidae, the robber fly family.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Not a pretty face

 Look what showed up in our back yard last Friday....a not-so-lovely turkey vulture (Cathartes aura). I think it was after a tiny snake. Even though they ARE ugly, I find turkey vultures to be quite personable and fascinating. 

Cool wasp

 Here's a great golden digger wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus) on our Texas kidneywood. I photographed some for the first time last September.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Blooms before the storm

 Lantana 'Fiesta'
 Three-lobed rudbeckia
 Rock rose
 Snapdragon vine
Prairie fleabane
My yellow garden spider gal is growing!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My Spiderman spider gal

So today James and I drove the mayor of Blanco around the county. True story. Except that's not THE story. My story is this jumping spider lady.....
I was stopped at a highway intersection south of town when I spotted a little jumping spider on my car windshield. Oh, no! I knew I'd be picking up speed soon, too! While I waited for traffic to clear so I could make my turn, I tried to distract and direct the spider toward my window, but no go. She only ran the other way a bit. So I turned and drove down the highway, following James and the mayor in the lead vehicle. Behind me was a Blue Bell ice cream truck. Could my spider friend hang on? If she didn't, she'd surely fly right into the truck windshield behind us and....**SPLAT!!** 
 Hey, wait a already know how this story ends....
ANYWAY, I kept driving, and she kept hanging onto the windshield with her super-strong feet. (Jumping spiders have scopula, which are dense brush-like hairs on the bottom of their feet that adhere to surfaces and allow them to climb up vertical surfaces and walk upside down on surfaces, too.) 

Along the way, I rah-rah-rahhed on her behalf. 

"Hang on, baby!" I said, over and over again. "Hang on! Just a few more miles! Don't let go! Hang on, baby!" I gripped the steering wheel really hard. This was stressful, you know. Life and death. My spider girl just HAD to make it!

At one point, the odometer topped out at 64 miles per hour. I figured Mr. Blue Bell on my bumper could just deal with it. And who knew what  James was thinking waaaayyyy up ahead. 

Finally, we turned off on a farm road. I could drive a little slower. Which I did. Then, finally, our caravan turned off onto a caliche ranch road. As soon as I could, I stopped and jumped out of my car with my handy-dandy spider catcher container (a white aspirin bottle) that I keep in my purse for just such occasions. 

And I did it! I caught my Spiderman spider girl safe and sound...but missed the electric gate. It clanged shut. Which left me on the other side. But I was happy. I had my spider girl safe in hand. James and the mayor showed back up later. Back at home, I released her in our back yard, then took lots of photos of her.

So that's my little story about my Spiderman spider gal that hung onto my car windshield with super-duper strength and stamina. Isn't she just amazing? And beautiful, too!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Heartleaf hibiscus in bloom

Our little heartleaf hibiscus is blooming! This was a gift from Melody in San Antonio, who attended our 2016 garden party. It came with the stowaway swanflower vine, which I also love. Nearly 10 years in our Wildscape, we had a heartleaf hibiscus, but it died. I hope this one survives for a long, long time.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Snowberry clearwing egg

The other day, I was out front when I noticed a snowberry clearwing moth trying to nectar on our coral honeysuckle vine that has yellow blooms. Only there weren't any blooms, only leaves. She was visiting the leaves. 

"You need to go to the back yard, sweetie," I told the moth. "We have lots of flowers back there." THEN I realized what she was doing....DEPOSITING EGGS! See? They look like tiny green pearls.

Seed container

Look what I bought (used) to hold my seeds! Works pretty good.