Tuesday, May 31, 2022

When wasps go to bed

In July 2014, I observed some bees snoozing upside down on a salvia stem. So interesting! Well, one evening last week at my mother's house, I sat down on a porch swing and immediately observed what I thought were some upset wasps, flying above my head around the chains that held up the swing. I got off the swing, thinking I'd jostled their nest. I stood nearby and watched the wasps. The more I watched, the more I realized that there was no nest. Then it dawned on me–the wasps were jockeying for a sleeping position on the chains! Just like the bees had done. A few hours later, I went back outside after dark and checked the chains. Sure enough, the wasps were snoozing there together. So I was right! These are a species of Chalybion, a blue mud-dauber wasp. I found a paper on the behavior: "Nocturnal clustering of the solitary wasp, Chalybion californicum." Isn't nature so cool?

UPDATE: The experts at Bugguide.net have identified these wasps as Aztec mud-dauber wasps (Chalybion zimmermanni aztecum). 


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

What's a mama to do?

Two days ago, I decided to take down two hanging buckets because we were SUPPOSED to get a lot of rain during the night. I set one bucket upside down on the ground. When I went to pick up the second bucket, a wren flew out! I peered inside and found a NEST. Then I peeked inside the nest––babies! Oh, dear! If we did indeed get a downpour, the little ones might surely drown! What to do, what to do? I looked around our backyard and pointed out the squirrel guard to James. Might that work as a roof? Sure, he said. So we finagled the guard over the bucket. No rain came that night. But LAST night, we had one and a half inches of much-needed rain. I rested well knowing that our wren mama and little ones were safe and protected.

Pink little bird bodies in the bucket nest.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Ode to an old AC

Okay, folks, you won't find any native plants or odd critters in this post. Instead, I wish to pay tribute to an old friend of mine–our air conditioning outdoor unit. This morning, I bid farewell to our Rheem compressor, which was dated July 1998. Wow, right? I've lived "with" it since April 2002, when I moved into this home. (James arrived in 2006.) That adds up to more than 20 years!
I remember back more than ten years ago when James and I toyed with the idea of selling and moving. One interested couple came over to tour the house, inside and out. The husband took one look at the outdoor AC and shook his head. "THAT will need to be replaced," he said firmly. Well, as you likely surmised, we didn't sell or move. What's more, we kept the AC. Bless its heart, it kept running and running and running, year after year after year. Until this past March, when we had to have more Freon added, which was a bit of $$. Then more was added earlier this month, which meant more $$. That's when James and I decided not to prolong the inevitable any longer. We especially didn't want to be without air conditioning in blistering July or August and possibly have to wait on equipment to arrive (always iffy in this era of supply-chain woes).

As of this morning, meet our new AC unit, part of an American Standard heating-and-cooling system installed by the friendly and crew of Will, Blake, Nathan, and Mason with Apache Air & Heat here in Blanco. After the install, owner Stephen Myers came back to inspect their work and answer our last questions. Kudos to Apache! 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

You don’t see anything….

So for awhile, a little Cope’s gray treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) hung out in our urn plant (bromeliad) on the front porch. When Kip, Lisa, and Charity walked their Kingdom Kids over from our church last month to tour our Wildscape, I had the children parade quietly past the frog. They enjoyed peering at him. A day or two later, though, the frog vanished, no doubt offended by all the unwanted attention. Oh, well, I thought. 

Fast forward a few more days when James and I heard what we thought was a frog, LOUDLY calling from somewhere on the front porch. It happened several more times, too. We’d look around, but there was no frog to be found. Mystery!

This evening, I solved the mystery when I happened to glance above our front door. What was THAT, I asked myself. I looked closer….Our frog friend! Can you see him way up there? Too funny! No one can bother him now!

UPDATE JUNE 2, 2022 (photos below)
Our little frog friend is still hanging out above our front door. The other day, I happened to notice ANOTHER frog. This one's hanging out on the bricks! Is love in the air?

Friday, May 13, 2022

Arkansas wildlife

This past week, we visited Eureka Springs, Arkansas, one of our most favorite places in the universe. One afternoon, we were cruising down a county road when I told James "STOP!" Then I jumped out of the car and helped this young turtle finish crossing the road. He seemed like he would have socialized with me for a while, but James said we needed to get out of the middle of the road, so please get back in the car. I complied. This afternoon, I looked this turtle up. He was a three-toed box turtle (Terrapene carolina ssp. triunguis). So handsome! (Okay, okay, I don't know for sure whether this turtle was a guy or gal so I'm just assuming.)

Another afternoon, we were walking around town. Going down a wooden staircase, I glimpsed this skink on a step. New species to me! It's a common five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus).

On yet another day, we were walking down a city street when I just barely caught James from stepping on this little guy. He's a western slimy salamander (Plethodon albagula). Naturally, I relocated my slimy friend to a safer place. (On our last day, I found an adult western slimy salamander under a garbage container.) Another new species to me!
I just had to include this photo from a past trip to Eureka. I spotted this golden-backed snipe fly (Chrysopilus thoracicus) on a storefront wall in downtown Eureka. It's one of the most beautiful flies I've ever seen!

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Feathered visitors...

Yellow warbler (Setophaga petechia)
Wow, this afternoon our Wildscape hosted a smorgasbord of birds! James was watching from our bedroom window and kept hollering, "Sheryl! Hurry up, Sheryl, come see! Sheryl!" I couldn't keep with taking photos using my "big" camera. LOL!

Orchard oriole, first-year male (Icterus spurius)

Orchard oriole (Icterus spurius)
American redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)

Common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)

Painted bunting, female (Passerina ciris)

Another orchard oriole

Just a brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater)

American robin (Turdus migratorius)