It’s once again the first Wednesday of the month — this year has been flying by! — and time for Wildlife Wednesday, a meme hosted by Tina and her blog My Gardener Says… as a way to celebrate the wildlife in our gardens. My garden has seen a mixed bag over the past month as far as wildlife goes. Where do I begin? I guess I’ll start with the Red Admiral Butterflies (Vanessa atalanta) that have arrived in droves over the past week.
These butterflies have been visiting the flowers in my garden, as well as this large flowering shrub that extends over the fence from our neighbor’s yard. I think the shrub may be some type of privet. Perhaps Ligustrum vulgare? If anyone has a clue please let me know! The neighbors allowed it to grow from the wild and are unsure of what it might be.
According to Butterflies and Moths of North America the Red Admiral Butterfly can’t survive extremely cold winters so most of North America must be recolonized each spring by southern migrants. Since there is a brood that winters from October through March in South Texas I guess these guys must be the “recolonizers”. Sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie!
As I went through the photos of the Red Admirals I discovered these pictures of several American Lady Butterflies (Vanessa virginiensis).
Below are a couple Red Admirals and an American Lady feeding on nectar.
Here is a Gray Hairstreak Butterfly (Strymon melinus). This is a small butterfly that lives throughout North America. He’s sitting atop the blooms of a winter onion. These blooms appear to be attractive to a wide range of insects.
The Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) sailed through during the middle of April. I was able to snap just two photos of these beautiful creatures because the gusty winds didn’t allow them to really settle anywhere for very long.
A family of Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) has made its home in our back yard for a number of years. Whether they’re the same birds each year is debatable, of course, but I like to believe they are! In past years its been difficult to get a good look at the young ones, but for the past week the little family has put on quite a show. (Click on any photo to enlarge!)
House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) seem to make their homes everywhere. Here a family is being raised in a birdhouse that our neighbor hung in the branches of a Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii) in our side yard. It looks like mom and dad sparrow need to do a little housekeeping before their next brood comes along!
The Pine Siskins (Spinus pinus) are still with us. They continue to hang around the thistle feeders, seemingly not in a very big hurry to leave.
According to the Texas Breeding Bird Atlas:
“Migrating Pine Siskins arrive in Texas in late September (occasionally as early as August) and depart by late April with a few lingering to late May or even June. Most of the few breeding records for Texas are from late May and early June (Oberholser 1974, Lockwood and Freeman 2004).”
I suppose it won’t be long until they’re off to their summer homes!
These White-crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) will also probably be heading north and west soon. In the meantime they’ve been visiting beneath the feeders, usually in the mornings and late afternoons.
We still had American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) through the middle of April. They all seemed to be males, though, in various stages of molting!
The bird on the right in the top photo is much shabbier looking than the one on the left. They appear to be in slightly different stages of molting. I guess they’d be classified as adult breeding males. The bird below is still very light-colored with a patchy head so he is probably in what’s known as a “transitional” state. These birds have all apparently flown the coop as none have been seen for several weeks. Perhaps these were just stragglers!
Below is a White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) that discovered a handful of sunflower seeds I put out for the Cardinals. I love the way the sun reflected the dark pink of the feeder onto his plumage! The bright orange of his eye and the blue circling it are also very striking.
I’ve really never paid much attention to the little bee-like flies that buzz around flowering plants, but they’ve been so common this year I decided to take a closer look. I found out that they’re called Hoverflies (Syrphidae) and that there are about 6,000 species of them. Wow! I’ve taken a number of photos of the ones I’ve seen — which is a task in itself as they never seem to sit still! — and there’s no way I’m going to try to identify them beyond “hoverfly”. Here are a couple photos.
These two Hoverflies have different striping patterns. There are also some other dissimilarities. The fly in the photo above looks like he’s wearing some really nifty aviator glasses while the one below has a lot of yellow coloring around its mouth! Their wings look almost exactly the same, though. Hoverflies are beneficial insects that not only pollinate flowers but also prey on other insect pests.
Here’s another bug I found on a Pink Evening Primrose (Oenothera rosea). It’s possibly a Fork-tailed Bush Katydid (Scudderia furcata) nymph, though that’s only a guess from some quick research. It’s quite pretty for as tiny as it is!
With that I bring this month’s edition of Wildlife Wednesday to a close — our electricity has already popped off once due to lightning (yay! rain and thunderstorms) as I sit here composing this on Tuesday evening — and I don’t want my post to disappear into the ether! As usual I had fun choosing which photos to post — almost as much fun as I had taking them — and will be back next month with more.
Please pay a visit to My Gardener Says… to see what types of wildlife other folks entertained during the past month. And once again — a great big thanks to Tina for hosting!