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!


Monday, September 19, 2022

This chair is occupied

James warned me the other night. But I forgot. "There's a spider web all over one of the rocking chairs on the porch," he told me. What did Sheryl do later? Of course! She plunked down in the chair and completely messed up the spider's web. I felt really bad. But the spider didn't seem to mind. She repaired her web and is still occupying the rocking chair. To help her out, I made an "Occupied" sign. 

For fun, in the evenings I sit in the adjoining chair, swat at mosquitos on my legs and drop them in her web. Now you know how REALLY weird I am. LOL! 

By the way, our spider is a small orbweaver, Metepeira sp. These are really cool because they make a funnel-shaped orb web with a retreat/nest at the narrow mouth. Per The messy tangle of threads behind the orb web is called a barrier web, which is where she builds her retreat. She rests one leg on the adjoining line so she can, I assume, feel vibrations from a victim tangled in her web. I met my first one in April 2019. This is my third Metepeira friend.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Lizard (mis)adventures

In our Wildscape, we always see Texas spiny lizards (Sceloporus olivaceous). Now and then, they get into trouble. Like two weeks ago, one got into our garage and hid under the washing machine. James and I worked and worked to get it out. THEN it dashed under the dryer. Oh, my goodness, I twisted and turned, twisted and turned, trying to get hold of our little friend. Finally, we did manage to direct it out the garage’s back door and outside to the back yard. 

Well, you guessed right–the next day, my back HURT. It still hurts. And I can hear my spine crack, crack, crack whenever I try to roll over in bed at night. Sigh….you might remember how the hedge parsleys got their revenge on me after I pulled piles of them from the Meadow a few years ago. I had to visit the doctor to get some relief for my aching right shoulder. In this more recent case, me being me, I’d rescue that lizard again. 

Spiny lizard recuperating after getting stuck.
Well, I had my chance yesterday afternoon. Same species but different lizard, this time on our front porch. I must have startled it when I appeared. It tried to run away, and I tried to catch it so I could relocate it to a live oak. Darn, if it didn’t dash up our concrete steps and try to slip through the opening between our porch rail and the brick exterior. At first, I thought if I left, it’d wiggle out and escape. Nope. When I returned, the lizard was still wedged in between the rail and the brick. When I say wedged, that lizard was STUCK. TIGHT. I called for James for help. Right away, he concluded that the lizard’s future didn’t look bright, unless we were able to get him out. 

Finally, James suggested soap or cooking oil, which helps to loosen a ring that won’t come off a finger. I voted for the oil. James fetched some, and then we gently poured some on the poor lizard. It took some doing, like a bit of pushing it backward slowly, but FINALLY, we freed the lizard! After giving the lizard a good rinse, I grabbed my critter box, folded a soft napkin in it and laid the lizard inside. For the rest of the day, it rested in the box on a shelf in my dark closet. By dusk, it was ready to be released….in the BACK yard.

Meanwhile, crack….crack…..crack…….

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Saturday, September 3, 2022

A second spring!

Lots of Edwards Plateau crestrib morning-glories seedlings

A while ago, James and I walked around the gardens. Oh. My. Goodness! The recent rains have made all the difference! What a blessing! However, now I am SO OUTNUMBERED! I have SO MUCH work to do! But what a welcome change. After watching and grieving as our plants suffered and died throughout the long, hot, dry summer, now we’re astounded to see how everyone has made such a miraculous comeback. But I guess we shouldn’t be THAT surprised. After all, we planted NATIVES. 
Salvias, trailing lantanas, pigeonberries. (Salvias and lantanas are especially recovering fast!)
I was delighted to see that our “dead” western ironweeds are coming back from the roots!
So are the perfumeballs, also known pincushion daisies and fragrant gaillardia.

Simpson’s rosinweeds are peeking up from the roots! 
Oops, a feline Prima flower along the Texas skeleton plants. 

Butterflyweed returning from its roots, too.
I’ve never seen the brownfoot grow straight up like this. 

Velvetleaf mallow, one of my favorites.

I thought we’d have to wait until spring to see what survived and what didn’t. Nope! We’re getting a real good idea right now! The takeaway: Folks, PLANT NATIVE PLANTS! (Pssst, anyone want some? I’ve got a lot of volunteers I need to re-home.)