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, August 5, 2015

Wildlife Wednesday - Mad Dogs and Garden Bloggers

August is upon us and though some long for summer days to last forever others are more than willing to welcome the beginning of the end of the heat in the central Texas area.

There have been a lot of dragonflies and butterflies this year, due at least in part to heavier than usual May and June rains.  These evocatively named Widow Skimmers, this one a male, according to the blue body, have provided near constant supervision and companionship out in the garden beds.

Skipper butterflies continue to visit daily, their erratic flight patterns reminding me of Charles Schulz's flittering companion for Snoopy, the adorable Woodstock.  Yes, Woodstock is a bird, a little yellow bird, but besides his random low-level aviation preferences (he got beak bleeds if he went too high) you may recall Snoopy pulling out a field guide and attempting to identify Woodstock, to no avail.  

I'm not sure the artist ever actually identified Woodstock "as" any specific bird. Snoopy gave up his attempt with a shrug. The point was not "what" Woodstock was, other than being Snoopy's close companion.

I can relate.  At times knowing is important.  Other times...not so much.

Here, what I think is a Sachem Skipper busily nectaring on a coneflower, while another different type of skipper butterfly can be seen clambering up onto the business end of a second bloom in the background.  
Coneflowers are an ongoing steady draw for skippers and other butterflies. Beautiful at every stage, these dramatic late bloomers fill in just as other flowers are fading for the season.

As well as attracting pollinators to their flowers, finches are drawn to the developing coneflowers seed heads. 
This Lesser Goldfinch might have been hungry when he got here, but there was no reason to leave that way.  This one could have been after the seed heads of some blanketflower nearby.  After snapping this I retreated rather than interrupt.  Finches can be shy, as behooves a bird small enough to perch easily on a flower stem.

Speaking of shy, the spiny lizards have sure been out in numbers all around our area.  Over the years we'd spot one or more of these a couple of times a season so we always knew they were around, but this summer we are seeing them daily, if only for a moment and often only as they are skittering to whatever feels like safety.
I think they are quite handsome, and hope their population micro-explosion continues.  I'm not sure what they feed on, I've purposefully avoided seeking that information out.  I'd rather enjoy the idea they are here without "knowing" what they eating.  In my horticultural haven, everything eats unspecified garden pests.  So let it be written...

Spider webs were absolutely everywhere all July long, and the entrance of August has not seen much of an abatement.  There are scads of messy webs in the tips of lots of tree and small shrub branches, originally leading me to believe we'd been invaded by web worms.  Closer inspection revealed they are webs sans worms.
They make for interesting photos as the webbing renders like a loss of focus by the camera lens.  I'm demanding all my future photographic portraits be shot through this stuff.
Here's an example of what I think of when I think of spider webs, the more traditional intersecting silk gridwork.  I wasn't able to capture the iridescence of this as it undulated in the morning breezes. the camera only able to "see" one color wavelength at a time.   

I've always wondered if spiders appreciate their work for being attractive as well as functional? Can't you just imagine a group of spiders gathered to critique each other's efforts?  The mouthy one (there's one in every group) is holding forth "So here is where Francesca went a little off grid, commenting on the disorganization of modernity as superimposed.." while Francesca leans over to the spider next to her to whisper "That is where I trapped and wrapped my dinner.  Disorganization of modernity, my ass!". 

In the very last days of July, I ended up taking a series of shots attempting to capture the antics of a pair of tufted titmice. I first noticed one bird hunting insects all around the Candyland bird bath.
This guy hunted for bugs in the water, and then went after a couple of unguarded wasp nests over the kitchen window.  At that point he was joined by a previously unseen hunting partner.  

The two of them investigated every clump of ball moss and patch of lichen in the oak trees overhead.  
They were nothing if not thorough.  Nobody is handing these guys anything, they worked hard, staying in near ceaseless motion.  
At least they're working in the shade.  It was 95 degrees when I took these and the temperature was still climbing.
And that is it for this August's Wildlife Wednesday.  Only mad dogs and wildlife garden bloggers go out in the sun in July and August, the bloggers no doubt working to chronicle fellow hot weather denizens for their own Wildlife Wednesday posts.  I hope you've enjoyed taking a quick peak at some of what is happening on the other side of all our lowered shades and closed curtains this time of year.   

Please note: all the identifications made here are my own amateur efforts unless specifically credited to another source.  If you are pretty sure I've labeled something incorrectly, feel free to point that out in the comments section.  We'll all feel better afterwards if you do, or at least I certainly will!   

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Thanks to the remarkable Tina at My Gardener Says for hosting the first Wednesday of each month's  Wildlife Wednesdays.  As she notes,  "A garden is never so alive and vibrant than when it is graced by wildlife." Be sure to visit her amazing blog and discover the potential rewards of enjoying your very own garden spaces along with the creatures who depend upon them for their daily sip, seed, or bug.   


Tina said...

Thank you for my first laugh of the day with your eavesdropping on the spiders mean-girl spider conversations. Ha--I know those people. :) Oh, your coneflowers! You've mentioned that they bloom later than others here in Austin--mine haven't looked like that since early June or so. What a treat. Those little titmice (mouses??)--so industrious and cute. I love my little pairs and they are such hard workers! Thanks for joining in and sharing your wild side.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: Thank you for continuing to host this most delightful meme. And I'm so glad you laughed - I have to watch taking my gardening efforts too seriously. I went through a (thankfully short) period where I was thinking everything I noticed required some sort of response. I've learned to shake that off and remind myself (with your help) that "hands off" IS a response. The garden does best here when I leave well enough alone in conjunction with good (enough) weather. It doesn't "look" best perhaps, but the normal cycles of life carry on just fine on their own while I watch from a safe distance.

Speaking of good enough weather...anybody know a reliable rain dance?

Tina said...

I also meant to say how much I want a spiny lizard for my very own. Maybe in one of our plant exchanges, we can expand to reptiles? :)

Debra said...

Someone must have broken the eye candy piƱata. Every one of these photos is gorgeous! I just love the spiny lizards. We have a couple very old and very large guys living in the trees here. I might be imagining it but I think each one has staked out a particular tree as a home base. I haven't thought much about what it is they are eating -- I am happy to simply imagine they eat the 'bad' bugs (whatever that means) and just leave it there. I doubt I would have noticed the goldfinch if you hadn't drawn my attention to it. I probably have zillions of those guys all around me but remain perfectly oblivious! Another new thing for me: I didn't know the titmouse went to wasp nests. Such an interesting and beautiful post! Thank you.

TexasDeb said...

Debra: Well my goodness, thank you very kindly. Your photographs are always so beautifully composed and well shot and then you always follow that up with comprehensive information. I consider yours high praise.

I bet the lizards are territorial, because I see them in very particular places over and over, rather than randomly all around. Same goes for the anoles on a smaller scale. There is front porch light anole, front planter anole, back kitchen window oak tree anole, study window ledge anole, etc.

The goldfinch have the most poignant call. I don't get them in numbers but there are two-three that show up intermittently, and I revel in their company. Same goes for our two-three hummingbird regulars. Hearing these tiniest of birds in the garden always makes my day.

Kris Peterson said...

Spider gossip AND birds that hunt wasps - you've got the bases covered in your garden! You do a wonderful job of capturing (photographically) the wildlife in your garden. I only get photos of birds when they decide to take a drink or a bath in our fountain and I'm hopeless in getting photos of the butterflies and bugs.

TexasDeb said...

Kris: Thank you. I deeply enjoy the process of photographing these visitors to the garden - and it is too hot to do anything much else other than look around, so I can afford the time it takes. Your garden spaces show where your attention and efforts go - into your beautifully varied plantings. I'm only interested in plants that will draw in wildlife. Different approaches with a neat overlap!

Rock rose said...

and don't forget Englishmen. The number of times I quote that when I am out there at mid day. And yes, your thoughts on spider conversations are probably true. I have seen a few drunken or brain damaged spider webs in my time. I think you must spend quite a bit of time out in the garden observing wildlife. I hope it is from a shady chair. I think it must be because to capture butterflies you have to be dead still. Love the photo of the cone flowers.

Gabriela said...

Stunning pictures! I wouldn't say you took them on hot weather.
Super-funny spiders conversation; sometimes I also wonder at the beauty of their webs.

Anna said...

Wow, another great wildlife post! You're always blessed with quite an assortment and this month was no exception. That's a great photo of the Widow Skimmer. I wonder how it got that name? And the Skippers on the Coneflower are gorgeous. I envy you more at the moment for the Coneflowers than for the Skippers. I think I have one very pitiful looking bloom right now. I'm hoping cooler weather (slightly and in the future, anyway)will give them a little life again. The spiderweb is beautiful. Hadn't considered talking spiders before... And aren't birds just crazy. I could sit for hours (and sometimes do)just watching them. Very nice!

TexasDeb said...

Gabriela: Welcome and thank you very much! Wonder is at the root of it all, it is the reason I keep going out into the heat (100 degrees F/38 degrees C as I write) to see who else might be making the effort. I'm glad you enjoyed this virtual visit.

TexasDeb said...

Anna: Aw, thank you. My coneflowers are always late. I don't think mine are prolonged - just delayed in their start. I believe it is Debra over at Under the Pecan Leaves who has a post about widow skimmers where she explains the name in a wonderfully wry fashion. If I can I'll be back with a link for you later. As to talking spiders - Charlotte's Web was a childhood favorite of mine so to move from writing to talking wasn't so great a leap.

(YES - those birds!!)

Unknown said...

SOOO HOOOOOT. I always have such good intentions about getting up at the crack of dawn to be able to get some work done in the garden, and of course, that rarely happens. Coming from "up north" (Wisconsin), I always say I'll take the 100 degree days for a month or two over the 0 to -40 degree days for four months. Still, it makes it tricky to garden, or even enjoy much of the garden when temps are this high. I'm glad you got a chance to get out to at least snap a couple pics of your heat-loving wildlife. And those titmice are just so darn cute!

TexasDeb said...

Rebecca: The titmice are cute, aren't they! I was born and grew up here but even for me the heat of August is nothing to be trifled with. It almost feels as though, with our later than usual start to the true heat, we didn't get the usual seasonal run up to the heat "training" days under our belts. As a result, perhaps this August feels especially sweltering.

Regardless. August, she can be harsh but she's only around a few more weeks and then we can look to getting back to business outside for real. After the seasons we've had everybody has extra work to do I'll warrant. Here's to the beginning of the end!

Donna@LivingFromHappiness said...

I love how you capture wildlife....and I adore Woodstock. I also want to know who visits if I can and when I can't identify the critter I just bid them welcome. They are my companions on my garden journey. It just started heating up again here.

TexasDeb said...

Donna: Well thank you! Good companions make a lot of difference - especially when the weather is less than welcoming to garden visitors or gardener either one. It has been stultifyingly hot here but earlier today we had a tiny break in that, cooler breezes and one tiny short bit of rain that was a real relief. It is a promise of cooler days to come and I'm ready for that!