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, April 1, 2015

Things are getting all Wild up in here

Welcome to Wildlife Wednesday, a monthly look at who and what we are seeing around our outdoor spaces this first Wednesday in April, 2015.

I am aware I've posted a whole lot of anole shots here already, but that is because they are a predominant year round companion species in my garden. Now that temperatures are warm (and getting warmer), anoles are everywhere.  In a short ten minute trek around the back beds to check on buds and look for first blooms, I spotted four.  I did not have to guess as to whether they are males because as you can see, they were all busy demonstrating just that fact.
Maybe The Bachlelor reality television show should rethink that rose business? The guys could just display...oh....wait....never mind.
Because the flowers are back in numbers now, so are the pollinators. Swaths of bluebonnets are drawing in loads of European honeybees.
Other bees native to our area, with their more solitary life styles, are busy checking out the housing situation. Shown below is a female Xylocopa micans, a carpenter bee.  They like to recycle holes in and around wooden structures. This one carefully inspected the wind chimes from every angle before deciding it wasn't quite time to call the moving van company.

To follow is another native bee, what I believe is a Dialictus zephrum, or sweat bee.  It is that teeny tiny metallic blur to the upper right of the frame.  There are over 1,000 species found in North America so if you haven't seen these yet, it is probably only a matter of time.
Another favorite in the "can't quite catch it still long enough for a good photo" category?  An eight-spotted forester moth is up next, demonstrating its preference for Virginia creeper as a host plant.

You might look at this and say "no Texas Deb, I now realize you aren't kidding - you really ARE bad at the identification process, because that is sure enough Asian jasmine" to which I'd reply "Look again to the lower left.  There are strands of Virginia creeper growing right under the jasmine, ready to climb up on top when the time is right.".  (you have these conversations with people in your head too, right?Right??)  I digress.  Eight Spotted Forester Moth!  On a leaf!
Here's a better example.  Alypia octomaculata.  Ovipositing on (and around) preferential host plant Virginia Creeper.
Next up is a Grey Hairstreak butterfly, Strymon melinus.  Reportedly males spend sunny afternoons perched on small shrubs to attract females.  This one was busy nectaring so perhaps he has already met and mated?  Or perhaps this is a female, ignoring the males for a bit and helping herself to the sugar buffet.
American Painted Lady butterflies have been visiting.  It may be accidental, but those oranges against the purple prairie verbena are a striking color combination.
I think they are gorgeous from any angle.

Next to last (but not least!) a Tropical Checkered Skipper butterfly, (Pyrgus oileus) who helped me realize I did not get all the bristly mallow seedlings out of the paths.  Or the beds. Watching this tiny wonder, who very methodically landed on mallow and mallow alone, demonstrated there are small mallow seedlings remaining in several spots.  

As this seemed to be a female laying eggs, I am going to leave the mallow plants in place until I can be assured I'm not pulling out a butterfly nursery posing as a weed.  I'll police the seed heads but otherwise the tropical skipper attention has granted this plant a temporary pass.

I adore those tiny orange blossoms. So much so I gave this mallow a trial run last year as potential ground cover under a bird feeder. It grew alarmingly well throughout the winter months while everything else was dormant so I decided it best to pull it "all" out.  I am often careless when it comes to ignoring the "weed" designation, but if watching butterflies is my penalty for lackadaisical removal?  
I'll take that penalty any day, all day long.

And now for a bit of slightly less adorable business.  There have been recent reports of a new invasive ant species in our area, typically identified by a characteristic giant mounding of the opening to its colony.

Tentatively identified as a newly noted species of Dorymyrmex, at least one occurrence of the soil nesting ants with their characteristic volcano shaped entrances has been spotted in this lawn close to Lady Bird Lake.  If you see this or any other large ant nesting area, proceed with caution and keep your distance.
Luna, 2006, Ursula von Rydingsvard, artist.  The Contemporary Austin – Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria. 
Just fooling.  Have a lovely April!
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And that about wraps it up for this first Wildlife Wednesday of the warm season here in Central Texas.

Thanks as always to our most wonderful hostess, Tina, over at My Gardener Says.  For more glimpses into what else is waking up and taking names around the country (Tina, are you international yet?), check out each monthly post and look for links to the participant bloggers in the comments section.  You won't want to miss a single lizard (bee, butterfly or bird!).


Debra said...

Too funny! You've made my day. Thanks =)

TexasDeb said...

Debra: You are most certainly welcome! Happy WW!

Tina said...

So much and such great photos. I also have that little mallow in a couple of spots--I'd never paid much attention to it until you wrote about it last year.

Your Eight-spotted Forester moth is what I saw on the Possumhaw, that I called a butterfly--that's it! Thank you! I've never seen one before and didn't get a great look at the one on the Possumhaw, but I'd recognize those spots anywhere.

Aren't those darn bees hard to photograph. I finally have some good shots of the carpenter (Xylocopa), but it's been a long haul to get them.

Thanks for participation--what a treat!

TexasDeb said...

Tina: Thank you for host(ess)ing! Seeing the variety even between gardens across town from each other is a grand reminder that we are all needed to support a widespread native population of plants and their visitors. The eight-spots are much easier to photograph when they are puddling. When they are egg laying (like I'm pretty sure the one in the photos was doing) they seem to be shyer. I suppose I'd feel the same way if some giant turned up in the Labor and Delivery ward with an equally gigantic camera!

Rock rose said...

I would like to know more about that mallow as I am not familiar with the leaf or the flower. I do have native allow that flowers later in the year but the leaf is more heart-shaped. I must try to check it out.

Kris Peterson said...

Great photos! Your garden is a wildlife haven! My garden is beset with lizards, most of not all of which seem to be Western Fence Lizards (Sceloporus occidentalis). They're not nearly as handsome as your anoles but they appear to be very, very prolific. My cat's no better at catching them than I am at getting a photo, which in the cat's case is a good thing in that she seems to find them indigestible (and the results aren't pretty).

Rebecca Newcomb said...

Ha! You are too much... The Bachelor. Ok, I take it back - you are just right. I love the garden humor. The anoles are such fun and friendly garden residents. I've spotted several this year - including the one that I got a photo-op with for this WW, but she must have been a female since there were no fanciful displays of chest/throat puffing. And your moths and butterflies are lovely - I've seen a couple painted ladies here and there, as well as a few teeny tiny swallowtail caterpillars on my fennel, but no major influx of flutter-bys for me yet. Hopefully that will change once I have more nectar sources blooming.

TexasDeb said...

Jenny/RRose: This particular mallow is modiola caroliana, or Carolina bristlemallow. It is classified an annual but it overwintered here this past winter without missing a step. It is considered a lawn weed and most information is geared towards eradication.

I wanted it as a ground cover. It grew - slowly at first - all winter long until it filled a space 3 times larger than I'd planned for. So I pulled it out, knowing I wouldn't get it all. I'm going to treat it like I do bindweed on one trellis. Give it a little space to run and see if I can be rigorous about pinching seed heads.

I just love the flowers and the pollinators like them too.


TexasDeb said...

Kris: Thank you! It is amazing what's been out there all winter, hunkered down. Now everybody is out and males especially are cruising for action, so the photo opportunities are frequent.

It is simply easier to keep our cats inside here. Coyotes, racoons, skunks, fox and deer in our area all mean it is both safer and less "pesty" for the cats to stay behind the windows.

TexasDeb said...

Rebecca: Well, thank you ma'am. We aren't exactly inundated with pollinators although the bees are sure happy with the mountain laurels and cherry laurels. So far I am seeing females hitting their host plants to lay eggs which I am hoping means we'll see more action soon.

I cut my fennel way back and it has come back in good form and I planted more parsley so I'm hoping for a lot more swallowtail action soon too. I think they are so beautiful!

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Deb I love that spotted moth and all the other bees, moths and butterflies showing up there. And I love your anoles....wish we had them....wildlife is getting busy in your TX garden!

TexasDeb said...

Donna: We have a short pleasant season followed by a long stressful one, so natives and non-natives alike who don't appreciate summer heat and drought, all know not to waste time.

Linda Lehmusvirta said...

Wow, thank you for all the great IDs and the gorgeous pictures!

TexasDeb said...

LindaL: Hmmm - perhaps I need to add a disclaimer that the identifications provided are my best guess only and should be taken with an appropriately sized grain of salt. They are close, though...

Anna said...

Your bees and butterflies are lovely. Thanks so much for the photos and information. And that bluebonnet is fantastic. I actually bought a six-pack of them and planted them a week or so ago. I have one bud so far. I've never had much luck with them in the past. I'll cross my fingers and hope I get some blooms like yours. Great post!

TexasDeb said...

Anna: Thank you very much! There are a few tricks to get bluebonnets going, but once you get them established, you are set for years. Best of luck and I hope you'll be back.

Michael - Plano Prairie Garden said...

Great pictures. I saw some anoles in my garden this weekend. The warm weather is starting to bring them out. I notice checkered skippers laying eggs on my winecup a couple of years ago. I never realized it was a butterfly host plant until then.

TexasDeb said...

Michael: Thanks for dropping by! It is interesting how those skippers prefer the low growing plants with the broad leaves. It must serve them well in various ways - maybe because they are so small?

My winecup is covered by primrose at the moment - I'll thin the primrose out a bit in a couple of days and the winecup will get its turn soon enough in the spotlight. Glad the wintry weather is history but now? Now I want RAIN!