Monday, June 24, 2019

Madrone update

Our Texas madrone child (Arbutus xalapensis) is still doing well over all. But I noticed a branch die off, and a second one doesn't look good at all. Mike Prochoroff, who owns The Madrone Way near Dripping Springs, gifted her to us in March 2017. I'm hoping he might shed some light on her loss....

Mike responds: "She looks well despite the die-back and the torrential rains. It looks like root damage from heavy rainfall that acts in two ways: 1) the roots like drying out prior to more rain.  Add heat to that and no root hairs to quickly respond and there's going to be trouble;  2) When a lot of rain starts swelling the earth, caliche and certainly your thicker clay will start to shift and crack... and break roots. I have several Madrones that do this around downpours each year. The majority of the plant isn't affected. It also shows up when the summer heat arrives and bakes the earth. We got another 2 inches+ today, and the outside pots are not looking good. One problem with growing in pots is not having the natural topography to deflect floods. I have a hard time bad-mouthing the rain however. Hardly ever seen the Hill Country so green this late in the year!"

Monday, June 17, 2019

Saga of a dung beetle mama

So what happens when Sheryl spots a dung beetle and some wild animal poop on her mother's asphalt driveway? Sheryl has to hang around, watch what unfolds and take lots of videos and photos. If you feel inclined to watch all the videos, please do so. Or don't. This beetle's behavior just fascinated me so much that I had to document as much as I could over the course of two or so hours. 

At first, I sent short videos to my daughter via Messenger on Facebook. You'll hear me talking to her. We must have arrived soon after this mama dung beetle caught a whiff (phew!) of a rather large dropping. She had quite a few adventures along the way....
Part 1
What's she thinking? Is she trying to figure out where she wants to be? Like down that drop-off?
Part 2
No progress yet...just rolling back and forth....
Part 3
Look out––over the edge!

Part 4
She begins to carve her dung ball masterpiece.

Part 5
The ball is made! I wasn't around to see her push the ball UP the driveway's steep drop-off.

Part 6
More rolling around....

Part 7
A two-minute clip with another WHOA! Then she contemplates one place near the driveway's edge to bury her dung ball.
(See next two photos below.)

I circled her in yellow. The dung pile she left is upper right corner, also marked in yellow.

 The search continues....

Part 8
My dung beetle mama considers a second location.... 
Still seaching...can you spot the dung ball?

 Ah, she's found the perfect spot!
 She begins the burying process....

Part 9
Finally she pulls the ball beneath some leaf debris. 

Part 10
She and the ball are completely hidden now.

I hung around for as long as I could, hoping I'd see her re-emerge. But alas, I had to go and attend to life stuff. According to what I've since read, this "roller" dung beetle mama likely either laid her inside the "brood" ball (which would feed the larva) or saved the ball to eat later. I'll never know for sure. And I don't want to disturb her many hours of work.

Hey, according to this post on National Geographic Kids, dung beetles are the world's strongest insect AND strongest animal! "When moving balls of dung, a roller can pull a whopping 1,141 times its own bodyweight," the post states. "That's the same as a human dragging six full double-decker busses along the road!" Wow, who knew!?

Friday, June 14, 2019

Mystery on the water fountain

Yesterday evening, I happened to spot something on our little water fountain. I stopped for a closer look....and photos. Lots of photos. I also took some videos using Messenger (see below) to share with my daughter, who's into nature, too. There was something familiar about the insect, but I couldn't figure it out. A beetle? A bee?

And was it enjoying the bath? Or trying to survive? I'll never know the answer. I did turn off the water, and the critter began to run around and even groom itself. I went into the house, and it was gone by the time I returned. 
As always, I sleuthed and determined that my wet friend was a tumbling flower beetle, likely Hoshihananomia octopunctata (try saying THAT three times, if at all!). In the past, I've found two other (unconfirmed) species in our Wildcape: Mordellistena comata and Mordella sp. Nature's so amazing! MYSTERY SOLVED!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Notes to myself

This past week, I "processed" bluebonnet seeds that I gathered from our neighbor's driveway. She insisted that I get them, and I picked a lot of them green. So I let them dry out. I threw most of them along the Ninth Street side of our Meadow.

Now that's TALL!

Check out some of our standing cypresses (Ipomopsis rubra) this year!

Rubeckia blooming

Like an old friend, my 'Autumn Colors' rubeckia, bought from the Arnosky Family Farms in 2012, came to visit (reseeded) and is blooming right now. I am so happy to see it again. It bloomed in June 2016, too. I think it's a beautiful flower. Don't you think so?