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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.



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cloudy with a chance of Sulphurs

Winter arrived in Central Texas, took one look around, and apparently decided to wait a little longer before unpacking its bags.  Thanksgiving and the span of days immediately after were sunny and warm, blustery in ways that may have been challenging for our fluttery friends, but at least one local was not discouraged from doing what Momma Nature called upon her to do.
This Colias philodice, or Clouded Sulphur, was one busy lady.
Nectaring at tropical milkweed was followed in short order by ovipositing in a thick stand of ruellia plants.  I'd had plans to dig that clump out, but when I looked closely and saw the multitude of butterfly eggs there, I decided to let it ride a while longer.  I don't fancy myself as a Destroyer of Nurseries.
This butterfly is quite well camouflaged in a Central Texas garden on a windy day in November.
In flight she resembled nothing so much as the golden leaves falling towards the soil.
Wherever she landed, with her light green wings folded, she often vanished into whatever plants she'd chosen as temporary refuge.
Which was a very good thing, as I had another guest, a very energetic and curious puppy, on the day this butterfly appeared. The puppy found the butterfly's flight pattern an irresistible invitation to give chase. As a result I only grabbed a few shots and felt it wise to keep more than usual distance. But the fun we all had dancing around that windy warm afternoon! It is a memory I'll cherish long after winter's cold and gray have settled in for good.

Even the intermittent occurrence of freezing and near freezing temperatures means a change in the garden's recurring cast of characters. With native plants on hand, doing their work to provide shelter and forage, experience teaches me we'll still have plenty of visitors.  The locals, gardeners and wildlife alike, are well familiar with our now-it's-warm/now-it's-cold prologue to winter. Native plants that evolved in tandem with native and migratory wildlife throw out their own versions of a welcome mat and buffet table, all the year 'round. I just love the idea of being a gracious hostess, don't you?

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This post is my contribution to Wildlife Wednesday for December 2014.  As this meme has just gotten started, 2015 will bring us the first full year to share our observations. I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing who and what turns up, as all four seasons unwind.

If you haven't previously shared a WW post?  I respectfully suggest you think about joining us with a contribution this coming January.  Don't be shy, there's plenty of time between today and the first Wednesday of the coming year. I guarantee you'll have fun keeping a close eye out for critters as winter's cold throws most of the garden's work back to the garden itself, rather than the gardener.  You could make it your New Year's Resolution!

Happy Wildlife Wednesday to all, and thanks as always to Tina of My Gardener Says for hosting.

17 comments:

Tina said...

I'm impressed, REALLY impressed with your photos of that sulphur. They fly so fast that I haven't' been the least bit successful "catching" them with my camera. That third photo--amazing!! And sulphurs are quite the well-camouflaged insect.

And many thanks for your enthusiastic support and participation in Wildlife Wednesday. It's been a trip for me and I hope others who participate. I look forward to many months of wildlife viewing!

Tina said...

I just realized that, while all of the photos are fab, it's the 4th one, wings up in flight, that takes my breath away!! I can't count.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: You are quite welcome - thanks for all your support and encouragement along the way. It is so nice to have somebody else who will geek out over wildlife and wildlife photos right along with me. (my family, who finds my insistence on sharing occasionally tiresome, extends their gratitude as well!)

I do like that 4th shot a lot. However, I was trying, TRYING, to capture the upper wing surface where the dark patches appear. With my puppy helper around it was just not happening. Next time!

Shirley said...

Those are some great butterfly photos since they are very fast and, as your excellent post shows, easily camouflaged in the garden.

The added challenge of managing a puppy at the same time, well I'm very impressed!

TexasDeb said...

Shirley: Thank you! I did spend some time afterwards getting puppy saliva off my camera lens. We doggy sat my son's pup for a couple of weeks, and as wonderful as she is, I'd forgotten how very "right by your side" an interested dog insists upon being. She'll be a big girl by winter's end, so hopefully once blooms begin again in earnest her interest in butterfly chasing will have abated somewhat.

Kris Peterson said...

You got great photos despite running puppy interference. In the sunny warm period preceding our current "rain event" I saw numerous sulphur yellow butterflies but I never caught them on camera. My Senna bicapsularis is reported to be a host plant and the population of these butterflies in my garden has certainly increased since I added that plant to my garden a couple of years ago.

Debra said...

Wow! That action shot of the butterfly flight kind of took my breath away. I could -feel- the motion. Only in Texas can you get a 25 degree difference in temperature within a few hours! This never ceases to astonish me. Those extreme shifts in temperature are good news of course. Plants can harden off in case it does get really cold.

TexasDeb said...

Kris: I've got Senna lindheimeriana and I do recall reading somewhere the sulphur butterflies are drawn to various plants in the pea family so that makes perfect sense. It is so rewarding to have these native host plants in play. The ante gets upped in all the right ways.

TexasDeb said...

Debra: I like the way your mind is always snapping those connections in place - the temperature swings as benefitting the plants that have come to use them as signals to harden off.

The photo in flight was simply a lucky snap. I'm coming to realize that most if not all my best shots are happening when I relax and get out of the way of what the camera can do. Metaphor for....everything?

Debra said...

That was probably my big take home lesson from photo101. A person can leave the house with some specified purpose or intention and sometimes that person will luck out but the best photos -- especially of wild things -- always have some magic attached for me: lucky light, chance positioning, or some other gift of serendipity. Uber elite pros would probably argue against that and I suppose for a few it may be true that they really can set up their shots. I am not in their ranks and honestly I am ok with that. Most of the joy in taking pictures for me comes from the happy surprises. Life with less control is sometimes a whole lot better. =)

TexasDeb said...

Debra: Part of why I started gardening originally was to ease my tendencies towards control freakazoidism. Doing work that relies on the weather and living things cooperating drives home the understanding that my ideas of control were illusory at best.

Learning to like this realization? Still working on that one....

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Wonderful shots of the sulphur....so nice to see the resilient critters are in good hands down there.

TexasDeb said...

Donna: I hope you're talking about Mother Nature because I was on the verge of taking that stand of ruellia out. I'm having to rethink my old approach to pruning out undesirables as well as redefining what actually is desirable.

dryheatblog said...

Well-made point about "destroyer of nurseries" for that which depends on our plants. Your Clouded Sulphur is camoflauged...so green-ish. In milder years, a number of sulphurs, but yellow, would flutter about all winter...seeing some here right now. Something to look up!

TexasDeb said...

DHB/David: We've had two dips below freezing but neither lasted long and both came during periods plants were well watered by rains so not too much die off here...yet.... The sulphurs, yellow and greenish, have been appearing in numbers every sunny afternoon so far.

They are a delight to watch and I am duly postponing removing that invasive ruellia until after I'm assured they're no longer being used as nurseries!

Rock rose said...

Just a quick note to let you know you are the winner of the Sissinghurst book. Congratulations. I know you will love it. I know you live fairly close so I can drop it off or send by mail. Just email me your address at jennyrockroseatgmaildotcom.

TexasDeb said...

Jenny: What a treat! I'll be in touch. Thank you!