Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A mystery out back and other signs of summer

I was sitting at my computer this morning, writing a post for this blog, appreciating the faster loading speeds of a new internet provider.  As I sipped coffee I acknowledged the improved turnaround times and enhanced software and hardware for our television and phones were indeed fair trade for the hassles of ditching a long-standing email address.

The Hub came in from his morning rounds outside and asked if I would do him a favor?

"As long as I can do it in my robe..." I answered.  "No problem" he replied, "could you just go out and see if you can figure out what damaged the hibiscus plants last night? Especially the one on the far right.".
I walked over, looked out the window and was shocked to see denuded branches revealing significant defoliation. I rushed out to take a closer look.
The damage occurred from just above the level of the planters up to a certain height where it abruptly stopped. I carefully examined the dirt in the planters, checked the undersides of the remaining leaves, looked all around in the ground cover surrounding the planters.  I found nothing.  No frass, no cocoons, no rolling, no webs, no signs of anything in either size or numbers that could cause so much damage in such a short amount of time.

In fact, if this hadn't happened in our fenced in back yard, I'd swear this sort of devastation could only be caused by browsing deer.  So what in the world could have done this to The Hub's prized hibiscus plants?

The Hub came out to hear my assessment.  I told him I was stumped.  That unless whatever it was had eaten and moved on, we should go out with flashlights tonight and see if we can catch the culprits in action.

"No need" he told me.  Take a look at the dirt in your garden beds and see if that helps you identify what attacked the plants.".  I did as he directed and had to scratch my head.
Deer tracks, leading right over to the hibiscus.  I was shocked. "But how did they get in?".

"We forgot to close the gate last night after the cable installation technician finished up", he said.  And apparently that was all it took. One night, one slip up, one gate left open and a deer considered that all the invitation it needed to casually stroll into our previously protected back yard to help itself to a generous treat of hibiscus leaves.

Mystery solved. (Pilot error.) Deer bugs!  Back to the post in progress.

I wrote recently about the appearance (visually and aurally) of annual cicadas, sure signs that summertime has hit its stride in Central Texas.  Other signifiers of the season?  The mockingbird favorites, berries ripening on the poke salat plants (Phytolacca americana)
and not quite so far along, berries on the beautyberry bushes (Callicarpa americana).
In another ritual of summer we watch for the reappearance of two hummingbirds that thrill us with their aerobatics, consistently vying for dominance of the feeders out back.  

Interesting fact about hummingbird feeders.  Some of the first were designed by and for photographers who desired feeders without a perch to better capture the more visually interesting "hovering" shots of birds sipping nectar. I'm not after action shots so the feeders I favor feature a perch for the hard working little birds to sit and take a load off if they so desire.
Regardless of my intentions, when the two hummingbirds that routinely fight over our feeders are in combat mode, they sip on the fly.  It is only occasionally one of them will have enough solo time to relax and sit while feeding.   I like that.

Even more rarely, one of them will set up a lookout perch on the nearby hanging bells.  That makes me ridiculously happy, because, awwww.

When I see one of these tiny birds perched, I forget for a moment how aggressively fierce they are when establishing or defending what they feel is "their" territory.  At rest, they remind me of sleeping toddlers.  They look deceptively innocent and even sweet.
Happy summer, all!


Tina said...

The Internet and cable are to blame for all ills in the world--including your chomped hibiscus. Argh!! And your hummingbirds--so beautiful and sweet. Sweet looking, that is. They are fierce little critters, aren't they?

TexasDeb said...

Tina: But! The internet is where I've met a lot of great people - including a certain Bee Momma I now know so.... I'll give it a pass this once and be more diligent with gate closing in the future.

Occasionally a hummingbird will hover and then fly forward menacingly in front of the glass doors where I stand to watch them feed. I find it funny but know they don't mean it to be. They are so aggressive I'm relieved they are too tiny to take seriously!

Rock rose said...

The good and the bad of getting that new high speed internet. Dare I ask who the carrier is? So sorry that those plants were browsed. I guess the leaves will come back in time. The deer have browsed the new shoots coming up from the old oak trees we took down. There must have been about 15 spouts each 4' tall. I thought it was making a nice screen but now all the leaves are gone, just like your hibiscus. Unfortunately there is no gate to shut. I don't have hummingbird feeders but they take a break from feeding by sitting on my tomato trellises.

TexasDeb said...

Jenny: True enough - the hibiscus will survive even if the all-summer-long display of its lovely flowers has been so rudely interrupted. That's too bad about the deer grazing your oak shoots. Best laid plans...

I'd put in several hummingbird "plants" here in hopes of taking the feeders out of play in favor of more natural food sources. Unfortunately they aren't getting sufficient sun to bloom so back to the drawing board!

David Cristiani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Deer can do damage and cicadas can be annoying, but nothing like how technology can challenge. Yet we can blog with the latter!

The woodpecker shots as amazing as hummers...I've only heard woodpeckers, never actually seen one until now.

TexasDeb said...

David: I for one am grateful for the technology, challenging or no. You meet the nicest people on blogs! : )

As far as the hummingbird and woodpecker photos - thank you! I'm determined to get even better shots of the woodpeckers at work some day. Though they are shy and quite active I'm convinced with patience I'll capture one in a clear shot eventually.