Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Poor Mother Nature

December 22, 2022
What can I say? We've had a lot of weird weather these past couple of years. James took both these photos from our kitchen window. Three days before CHRISTMAS DAY, we have blooms and butterflies. A few nights of deep freezes, and then they were gone. Mother Nature has to be so confused. But as always, she'll rally and survive. After all, she IS amazing, right?

December 26, 2022

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Mid-December blooms…crazy

Turk’s cap

Today is December 14. Look is what blooming in our yard! We don’t remember flowers ever blooming this late in the year before. Meanwhile, my niece up in Anchorage is covered up with snow, lots of snow. Yes, I know Alaska is supposed to get snow. Lots of snow. But this year seems to be different, too. “I’ve never seen it snow like this before,” Michele messaged me awhile ago. “We are supposed to get another 7 to 14 inches tonight!”

What in the world does the year 2023 have in store for us weather-wise? As always, stay tuned…..
Purple heart

Trailing lantana

Queen on Gregg’s mistflower

Gregg’s mistflower

Crab spider on zinnia

Salvia ‘Yellow’

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Leaves falling or butterflies flying?

These days, I have to take a second look – is that a leaf falling or a butterfly going by? Sometimes it’s both! Leaves on our Mexico buckeye (above) and rusty blackhaw virburnum (below) along with a few other trees are dropping right now. At the same time, many plants are blooming and attracting butterflies. It’s nearly mid December, folks! Poor nature is so mixed up. These are definitely crazy times. 
‘Indigo Spires’

Fragrant mistflower

Cherry barbados


Thursday, December 1, 2022

Is it spring or fall?

Reakirt’s blue

Two days ago, November 29, the temperatures reached 80 degrees! Thanks to recent rains, the blue mistflowers and salvias have been blooming up a storm. Which attracted LOTS of butterflies, especially sulphurs! But at THIS time of year? What a miracle! Here are the species that dropped by to nectar. In the meantime, temperatures dipped down to low 30s last night and low 50s today with gray skies. Where have the butterflies gone? Do they sleep somewhere?….. 

Painted lady

Dainty sulphur

Common checkered-skipper

Another queen

Sleepy orange

Funereal duskywing

Little yellow

Southern dogface

Another sleepy orange

Monarch, queen in the background

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

"More, please"

A few days ago, I got the nicest email from a reader in Waco. I asked if I could share it, and he said yes. I must do better at posting! Thank you for motivating me, Waco friend. However, I don't get out in the yard as much during these chillier days so bear with me! Confession: And when I do, I'm usually treasure hunting with iNaturalist, trying to find new species for my yard list.

P.S. I should have a Texas fly feature coming out next year in a Texas magazine. Stay tuned! Flies rock!


"You are my gardening guru! I keep hoping for a more frequent blog entry. That’s my only complaint. I want more! Please more (I sound like Oliver).

'Between keeping the docs in business by collecting all the variants and most of the subs of Covid, despite being fully vaccinated, I’ve done very little gardening in my back garden. I did have a pleasant (?) surprise. The load of decomposed granite I used on the terraces turned out to be about 99.99 percent nut sedge! You know, I kinda hate to admit it, but I like it! Not only does it delightfully piss off the neighbors, but it forms the most beautiful, water thrifty meadow (that I was trying to create with grass), and there is life in those damned weeds! I’ve got my bug book on the coffee table and am running out of margins for checks, and in the snake book, the snakes are wonderful (I’ve identified a few that have undisturbed free reign, and I hope they know I don’t mess with them and I pray they don’t mess with me, but they are gorgeous, evidently venom makes them vivacious). The others are just stunningly pretty and innocent.  
"Get to blogging! I look forward to your exciting discoveries. I love your "Gee Whiz, Look at That" attitude to the creepies and crawlies. I keep waiting to see what else shows up in your washing machine!"

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Master of disguise

This baby Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) showed up in our dining room this morning. Somehow it got in under our back door. Anyway, I took some photos to remember how tiny it was and to show how well this species blends into the bark of live oaks. Amazing!


Friday, October 14, 2022

Blacklight set-up

I found a set-up that works for me. Finally!

Four-patched bird-dropping moth

Eggplant leafroller moth

Gazelle scarab (not native)

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Travelin' vultures

We love our local vultures, both turkey and black. So last week, while we were sitting in the Meadow, we were perplexed by a LARGE flock of them "kettling" for awhile. Then, one by one, they broke off and formed a gliding single line headed southeast, a new behavior to us. Those definitely weren't our locals, most of whom roost down by the Blanco River.

Two nights later, again while we sat in the Meadow, we noticed vultures flying from the west heading east (video above). Wave after wave, they glided over. Several hundred! Another new observation for us. And again, those definitely weren't our locals!  

We've since concluded those were turkey vultures (Cathartes aura), which can and do migrate. Here's more info on So cool!

Blacklight night

In 2019, I bought a blacklight, thinking we'd go mothing after dark right away. Nope. Fast forward three years to last night, when we finally dug out the light (which took some time to find in a closet) and set up our first blacklight. At first, I wasn't too impressed. Then insects began to arrive. Wow, it was fun! For a first time out, I was impressed. We'll do a better set-up next time. Here's some advice on iNaturalist.

Black webspinner

Helvibotys helvialis, a crambid snout moth (I think)

Moth LOL!

Chironomus sp., a non-biting midge

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

When experts differ

This is a butterfly that I photographed Oct. 20, 2020 in our Wildscape. It is in the metalmark family of Riodinidae. On that, the experts agree. 

Here's where they differ: On iNaturalist, my observation was identified as a Rawson's metalmark (Calephelis rawsoni). A few days ago, I received an email from Butterflies and Moths of North America, confirming that my sighting is a fatal metalmark (Calephelis nemesis). 

Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

This chair is NOT occupied


Three days ago, I posted about my Metepeira spider friend taking up residence in a rocking chair on our back patio. Darned if she didn't up and disappear not long after I posted! Sadly, I looked at her empty web. No more slapping at mosquitos to give her. Then I looked closer. She left an egg sac! The photo above taken a few days ago shows her upside down under the egg sac. 

I couldn't just leave the sac on the chair. So I gathered up the web with the sac and placed it in a jar, then rubber-banded the jar with hose. I'm going to leave the jar in our garage, which should be close to outdoor temperatures. I'm hoping the little ones emerge safely and healthy so I can release them. Then I can them that I knew their mama!