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, May 6, 2015

Parents in the Wild - Happy Mother's Day!

For the past few years, one particular male mockingbird has been serenading the neighborhood's sleepless in his quest for a female.  Recently, noting the absence of three AM operatics, I began to wonder if Mr. LonelyWings had found his mate at long last?

Apparently so.  The proud new Mockingbird Mom and Pop have been frenzied in their attempts to forestall tree traffic coming anywhere near their nest. Their efforts have been all encompassing as they work to keep the nearby canopy emptied of lingering squirrels, paying special attention to assertive blue jays.

It must be exhausting, dive bombing so many, so often, fuss-fuss-fussing as they go.  All that night-long singing must have really gotten Poppa Mock in good shape.  I tried grabbing photos but the velocity and ferocity of his defense left me with nothing more than a series of varied blurs.  I'll keep trying, but no photo [here] means you'll simply have to take my word.  It is quite a show.

Mr./Ms. Mockingbird aren't the only new parents around.  Poppa and Momma Wren have been out singing songs about the best wren babies ever! They've been raising young in a craft store birdhouse I hung on an upper deck to reflect on windows and deflect white winged doves who were otherwise intent on crashing through.  I never expected it to actually house nesting birds, but expectations are apparently made to be defied, at least when it comes to wild parents.
My babies are so sweet! So sweet! So sweet!
Soon to be new Momma white-tailed deer have been slowly, steadily, munching their way across the front garden beds for several mornings now.

These does are experienced grazers. They rarely bother the plants that are resistant classics due to aromatics or textural defenses.  The more random chomp-pull-and-spit action will come into play soon enough once youngsters are weaning and learning what is nice to eat for themselves.  For now, Momma knows best, and the usual suspects are fair game.
Heavy with young, these pregnant does aren't going anywhere fast.  It won't be long now...
In the "almost but not quite" category, a female black chinned hummingbird began constructing a nest on an oak tree branch visible from my kitchen window.

At first I was absolutely beside myself with joy at the thought of watching her build a nest and raise young right before my eyes.
Then I began to second guess her choice.  Wasn't this nest way too near our house? Wouldn't all our comings and goings, along withThe Hub's regular blowing off the nearby sidewalk send her packing?  The hummingbird apparently came to the same conclusions at about the same time. By the third day it became clear she was still in the area, but she had abandoned her little nest-with-a-view/er.
I was being soooo quiet - do you think she noticed me?  Yeah, I think she did too...
Only partially completed, the little nest remnant remains securely in place, a tribute to a master Momma builder and to two of the most exciting days I've ever had bird watching.

To change things up from recent posts, I thought I'd show some winged visitors that are anything but butterflies. We've seen a lot of pollinator action, and though butterflies often grab most of my attention, they are by no means the only attractive action in flower town.

Flies, moths and bees are all equally beautiful in their own way, if you take time to really look closely.
Condylostylus/Asian long legged fly posing on Pavonia leaf.
Syrphid fly, bee mimic, on Daisy.
Green on green, a Lucilia, or green blow fly, reflecting the morning sunshine.
Speaking of green on green, there are Agapostemon - the sweat bees, with their metallic coloring.  They come in all sizes, and always look stunning while nectaring, like so many little brooches attached to the blossoms.
What goes with purple?  A tiny agapostemon decked out in deep emerald green.  
Looking equally well accessorized, a Pink Evening Primrose with a slightly larger agapostemon.
...and not to be outdone, Coreopsis joins the fashion parade.
Tree cricket  Katydid nymphs are brightening their tiny corner of the world, decked out in spots and stripes both.
Unspecified bush Katydid nymph, looking pretty dapper on Winecup.
Carpenter bees bring their own blue-eyed bling to bonnets.

Another color match, this time Southern Pink Moth on Evening Primrose.

Proving you don't have to be colorful to be beautiful, delicate all-white Stemorrhages costata moth on blanket flower buds.
And that about wraps it up for this May's Wildlife Wednesday.  If you garden, when you garden, you are a mother (or father) to masses.  I hope you'll take a moment this coming Sunday when the US celebrates Mother's Day, and pat yourself on the back for helping nurture life in the wild.  We are all in this together.  For humans it may take a village, but for wildlife, it sure helps to find a friendly garden.
Take a bow and say so long!
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Thanks as always to blogger extraordinaire, Tina, of My Gardener Says, for hosting this most fascinating monthly meme.  Be sure to check out all the other posts linked to in the comments section of her Wildlife Wednesday post for this month.  You'll want to see who and what's shaking in wild spots from all around.


Tina said...

Nice! Really nice! Observing a hummingbird building her nest, even if only for a few days--just...Wow! Along with everything else, you have quite a brood there, Mama Wildlife-watcher!! Happy Mom's Day to you and yours--of all sorts and thanks as always, for being such a good Wildlife Wednesday supporter.

Gardeningjules said...

I love your comment about the two most exciting days you have ever had bird watching, it's the absolute thrill of sharing with Mother Nature. My internet speed of less than one is currently not letting me see your pictures, I am going to come back later, your text is very lovely though and I want to see what you have photographed too!

TexasDeb said...

Tina: I was so torn between excitement over the chance to watch and anxiety about the wisdom of that nest being so close to a lot of intermittent noise and foot traffic. I'm disappointed and relieved about the nest being moved. I'll have to content myself with putting in more plants for hummingbirds and keeping the nectar fresh.

And thank YOU for hosting the Wildlife Wednesdays. It is a wonderful chance to compare notes and share support with others interested in wildlife. I appreciate the opportunity!

TexasDeb said...

Jules: Welcome! Sorry about not being able to see the photos as posted. They are large files (and thereby slow to load) but I hope you'll be able to access them soon.

That's an interesting exercise - to read a garden blog without the photos. I appreciate you saying you enjoyed the experience and I'll take to heart the reminder not to rely too heavily on imagery!

Anna said...

What a fantastic post! I love the hummingbird photos. You're so lucky to have been able to get these! And all the insect photos are great. You've got quite the assortment of wildlife visitors. Thanks for sharing them!

TexasDeb said...

Anna: Thank you! I felt very honored to have that little female (almost!) decide to nest right by our house. We had a repair crew working on that side day before yesterday and if she had not already decided to choose another spot I bet that noise and ruckus would have sealed the deal. Hope you'll be back!

Debra said...

oh wow. A hummingbird nest. Is there anything more magical than that? Great photos. And I love the description of the mockingbird fuss-fuss-fussing. That is a perfect description. Happy mom's day!

TexasDeb said...

Debra: Thank you! I was absolutely ecstatic about that nest, drove the rest of the household nuts talking about it. I think they were relieved to hear the hummingbird relocated.

I've tried again to capture the parental shoo-off but simply can't get a good shot from our vantage point. I tried to imagine what it would be like for humans to feel the need to clear the room every time visitors showed up to see a new baby. Then again, those mockingbird nestlings won't be around for 17 more years so perhaps the energy expenditure is warranted to get them a clean start. : )

Kris Peterson said...

I wish I had your eye, as well as a camera that was better with close-ups. I love all your wildlife pics but the hummingbird photos are my favorite. They don't seem to investigate their spots before they begin nest-building. At our old house, we had one build a nest in the interior thicket of a thorny Bougainvillea, which was fine, except that the Bougainvillea sat next to the garage door and, whenever that opened, the nest got a good shake. I lost an opportunity for a good viewing there when my momma hummingbird also abandoned her nest, thankfully before depositing any eggs.

TexasDeb said...

Kris: That's interesting about hummingbird nest siting. The wrens around here are notorious for poor selections but I suppose birds are geared to build more than one nest per season if that is what it takes.

As to my "eye", I really appreciate you saying so. I've been working on photography and some basic editing skills for years. With the faster/smaller subjects I often don't know if I've caught anything interesting until I get them on my computer to edit. I take a lot of photos I don't use (and have the scratches on my glasses from walking around holding my camera to prove it!).

Anonymous said...

Sweet deer! I like how you note all their manners over time.The black chin hummingbirds are very cool looking, I need to check my notes if I've seen those before...6 species one year at my old home, just a few here (but 15 different species of hummers reported from El Paso a decade ago).

True on various insects...I actually didn't kill / vacuum our typical spring's miller moth that got in last weekend. If it got back out, it made a bird very happy.

TexasDeb said...

It is a good thing I wrote this post before discovering how many of my newly blooming Sculleteria ovata the deer nibbled on. They just pull off the flowers, they don't kill the plant, and they didn't take them all, but still. Leave a gal a few flowers, ladies!

Rebecca Newcomb said...

Oh wow - what a treat to have a hummingbird nesting in view, even if it didn't make it to the point of having baby hummingbirds in it. And that moth! So beautiful in all white! I'm surprised the anoles didn't make the cut this month, though I'm sure they'll be back ;-)

TexasDeb said...

Rebecca: It was hard not to put in butterflies and anoles - they pose so delightfully! I thought I'd hold off just for one post. Just one...they lizards and flutterbys will be baaacckkk.....

Rock rose said...

What excitement you must have felt when the hummingbird began making a home so close to yours. And then disappointment. I wonder what happened. Surely they are not like the wrens who make umpteen here there and everywhere. And a mockingbird. I have never seen their nest. we have a mockingbird who spends the winter in our garden fiercely defending the berries from all others and then disappears during the breeding season. I often wonder where he goes and if it is the same one that comes back every year. Now I want you to find a roadrunner nest!!

Pam/Digging said...

I would go absolutely bonkers with excitement too if I ever saw a hummer making a nest in my garden. Too bad she decided to relocate, but it's still pretty cool that you got to see a couple of days' work.

TexasDeb said...

RR/Jenny: I rarely see roadrunners here in our neighborhood, I think we are just a little too urban for them. I agree though - finding one of their nests would be a pretty big deal!

I read the hummingbirds can try out more than one location in a season. I don't think she got very far in her process before she decided to move further away from the house. We have a few pretty regular customers - it could be she's been nesting nearby for several years.

TexasDeb said...

Pam: Bonkers is a perfect description. My family got SO tired hearing me describe every moment and every movement I observed. Maybe the little momma-to-be simply felt too "watched", even though I doubt she could see in the window from where she was.

Donna@LivingFromHappiness said...

I am finally catching up...what a pleasure to see the hummingbird momma building a nest so close by...a miracle indeed.

TexasDeb said...

Donna: It was thoroughly exciting but with all the rains we've had since the beginning of the month, I'm relieved I'm not watching a tiny nest with baby birds weathering all this wind and wet. I realize it happens all around me all the time, but I sleep better with some things left to my imagination!