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, September 28, 2015
Bug Guide. Ladies and gents, I'm pleased to introduce Mr. Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus).
Grass Skipper (Hesperiinae), this little guy may have been a caterpillar in our own small patch of residual St. Augustine, however it is just as likely he was laid as an egg and then fed on as a caterpillar any of a number of Bermuda clumps I'm constantly finding. Or crab grass.
Common here due to mild winters and lots (and LOTS!) of grassy areas, the eggs are laid individually on grass stems, which the caterpillar rolls and lays out horizontally for protection. After pupating, males tend to stake out likely areas to attract females, while the ladies take off in search of Mr. Right.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Early signs of Autumn abound, but those have been well described and beautifully displayed in posts on multiple other (excellent) local garden blogs.
Schoolhouse and pink rain lilies popping up cheerfully in response to long awaited September rains? Yup. Those have already been blogged about. Several times.
The usual suspects have definitely already gotten their fair share of the attention.
I wanted to post, but didn't see where I'd gain traction posting more (and not necessarily better) photographs of the plants already listed alongside various lame versions of "what she said". My frustration mounted. Had I missed Autumn's boat? Was this territory too familiar, too well trod? Had those other (better organized) bloggers covered alpha all the way to omega? Couldn't I find one single as-yet unsung wonder left out there waiting its turn in the spotlight?
I groused, I deleted, I muttered. I was about to give up when, scrolling through my most recent photos, I saw both the plants and the light. There were a few also-rans out there not yet covered. Team captains had chosen their favorites first, but there were definitely other players remaining. So here they are, in no particular order, "latter but not least" additions, my own nominees to the lineup of late summer/early autumn stars designate for Central Texas in September.
To kick things off, a native, Texas Kidneywood (Eysenhardtia texana), which is currently flaunting a scent so pronounced it demands attention.
|Scolia dubia- female blue winged digger wasp.|
This year has certainly been one for the record books. What about your garden spaces? Seeing any surprises in your late summer garden after all our weird weather this year? I'm sure there are wonderful plants I've overlooked or simply don't enjoy success with here. Lycoris radiata have been reported in bloom a few miles from me, but mine have yet to show. Are you noticing other emerging changes? Feel free to list them in the comments section.
Let's keep building the list!
Monday, September 7, 2015
The agaves... Oh, the agaves. They got larger than I thought they would faster than I thought they should. The ones I tested by growing in deep shade gained size more slowly but they all pupped prolifically.
Curbside, in full sun, the agaves are now presenting a physical hazard to pedestrians on our side of the street. Of particular concern, their potential to snag unwary elementary school children, trudging wearily up the steep hill in front of our house weekday afternoons after their bus stops at our corner. Agaves are hogging all the sunny spots, blocking the sprinkler system, extending their heavy and dangerously serrated leaves in every direction. They've simply got to go.
Polistes bellicosus, yellow and brown paper wasps.
They came speeding out, flying directly at me. I backed away equally speedily (adrenaline apparently a great lubricant for a "mature" lady's joints) and with a bit of flapping and squawking, managed to not get stung. As I retreated ever further away, the wasps kept coming out, circling in agitated fashion. The "Bellicosus" in their name turns out to be predictively descriptive.
Regular readers may recall I was doing pruning recently on the downhill side of the driveway when I was stopped in my tracks by the presence (and agitated behaviors) of wasps of two different types in other nests.
Polistes carolinas. I managed to get the bare minimum of work done that day, approaching plants to prune from a different vantage point, and the rest of that job I relegated to an "after it freezes" timeline to avoid further disturbance or the need for eradication.
While I used to feel slightly nervous in their presence, now I welcome their ongoing patrols for pests to take back to the young in their nests. From what I've read, the spared foragers from the nest I destroyed will either go out to start their own nest or join a sister's nest as subordinates. As I stood watch from a safe distance, I felt both defeated and sorrowful. I say I garden for wildlife, and here I was, taking life. It was and still is unsettling and unpleasant.
There are also those of you out there who will think me silly to be bothered by killing a nest of wasps. These are not human beings after all, they are insects. There are plenty more wasps where these came from. I know of at least a dozen other nests and have no doubt there are others I have yet to encounter, all within the bounds of our small suburban lot. The two nests I discovered further down the hill were both spared after all, and some might find that a more than reasonable compromise.
I just don't like being the direct cause of their dying.
Friday, September 4, 2015
Butterfly Gardening by Color episode.
here is that link. Scroll right down to the "Rollingwood Lawn to Garden" segment.
here is the link to the Central Texas Gardener blog. As you enjoy the post, going down the page you'll be able to take a more leisurely look at photographs demonstrating some of the larger gestures made in this City Hall's movement from lawn, to lovely.
Video or photographs, the images are sure to inspire. Thanks, CTG!
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Despite the heat, lack of rain, and relatively wilted plants on offer, the activity here in August went on unchecked, no matter if humans felt comfortable outside or not. Common things being common, many of our visitors last month are part of a core group, what we think of as our "usual suspects". So to keep the number of images manageable this month, I decided to skip over photos of Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Blue Jays, Titmice and Squirrels. Similarly shots of anoles, honeybees, carpenter bees, Gulf Fritillary and Question Mark butterflies have all been set aside, they will all wait for another post.
In their stead I'd like to offer up a few of our less frequently observed visitors, which as you may suspect, means there are a few identification questions left open. Wide open. Gaping, even.
I've done my best to at least narrow the possibilities, and will ask not only your indulgence, but your participation. If you spot anything I've either mislabeled or that you can identify with certainty, I hope you'll speak right up in the comments section. With that invitation on the table, let's begin, shall we?
Boy howdy, do we ever have ants in our plants. Ants of every type and description, including these itty bitties that are marching up and down the tropical salvia plants all summer long. Why? Have you never heard the song? They all go marching...down...to the ground...to get out...of the rain. We haven't had a drop of rain for weeks and yet the marching, it never ceases.
Because. They are ants and that is what ants do! (Sidebar: If you are new here and it is strictly scientific information you are seeking, this is not your post or post-er. I love science as much as the next gal, but there's more to wildlife than the science alone. There will be sciencey stuff later, I promise. Sit tight.).
the site used...creepy, yes?) and nectar.
Batesian, when something harmless benefits from presenting a similar appearance to something packing more offensive capability. (See? The science was coming, I just had to get warmed up.)
Small as the mimic above may be, the visitor to follow is even smaller. So small I can't get any sort of handle on identifying marks or characteristics.
We don't have a pond or water feature per se, but we do have a swimming pool. Whether or not it is responsible for drawing in a variety of dragonflies I cannot say. I see as many of these deft aerialists out front in the high and dry as I do anywhere near the water. A few of them I recognize (or at least think I do).
Eastern Pondhawks. They both have what appear to be (ahem!) "claspers" at the tips of their tales, which leads me to think they are both males.
The images that follow are two examples of a not-so-flashy dragonfly, what I believe to be Wandering Gliders, so named because they are found all around the globe.
BugGuide. The following are all images captured of a female Checkered Setwing (Dythemis fugax).
Ladderback. Ladderbacks look similar, and are found in Texas, but they nest and forage in cactus.
Perhaps this is an adolescent Golden Fronted Woodpecker? We are solidly within their year round range, and the call is one I've heard many times when working out in the garden. But did I hear that call that afternoon? I couldn't be sure.
I've tried photographing Golden Fronted woodpeckers before when they visited (and, joke's on me, think I probably mis-identified them as Ladderbacks). They were hard to photograph, working high up in the tree canopy and constantly on the move.
I spotted this bird perhaps fifteen feet up. It remained stationary for long periods, intently watching the ashe juniper trunk just above. Had the heat gotten to this bird, or had I gotten the identification wrong a second time? At one point I made too much noise and the bird looked right at me. Thinking it would immediately fly off I put down my camera. Nope. It moved up the trunk a bit but didn't go far. So probably not the shy Golden Front after all.
Red-Bellied Woodpecker? Though often described as a bird of the "East" United States, we are at the far south and west edge of their year 'round range, and listening to the call I am certain I've heard it many times over the past few years. Also compelling was the description of their foraging habit.
Red-Bellied woodpeckers spend more time searching and pecking at bark rather than drilling into it. While I've heard woodpeckers drilling into trees all summer long, I didn't see or hear any such behavior that afternoon. This case of identity remains unsolved.
As for me? It is time for me to emulate this sturdy fellow and exit, Stage Right.
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That is it, the full roundup of not-so-commonly seen wild visitors to our spaces, here just west of Austin, Texas, looking back at August of 2015. My deepest gratitude as always to our hostess Tina, of My Gardener Says.
I deeply admire her unflagging support of and advocacy for wildlife gardening. You should run not walk, to visit her website and read her own Wildlife Wednesday post recapping August, without fear of one iota of stridency or scold. Her post this month is especially whimsical, and expresses contagious delight for a garden well populated with wondrous creatures.
While you are visiting My Gardener Says, be certain to check the comments section of today's post for links to any number of Wildlife Wednesday reports from all around. And who knows - maybe when I check there I will find a link to your post, too. That would be grand.