Wildlife Wednesday: August 2015

Wildlife Wednesday, hosted by Tina and her blog My Gardener Says on the first Wednesday of each month, really sneaked up on me this time around! The day was half over before I finally remembered what it was that I’d been trying to remember all morning to remember to do… Wildlife Wednesday offers us gardeners — and everyone else, too — a chance to celebrate the wildlife in our gardens through pictures and prose. A multitude of thanks goes out to Tina for hosting this wonderful meme each month!

Summer has finally arrived in North Texas. Prior to today we had hit 100°F only three times this year — a mark that is way, way, way below average. This week, unfortunately, things will be back to “normal”, with the forecast for the next seven days calling for high temperatures ranging from 102°F to 106°F (approximately 39°C to 41°C) and heat indexes of 105°F to 112°F (approximately 40°C to 44°C). Blech! Not only will I not be venturing outdoors much over the next week or so, especially in the afternoons, neither will any wildlife that has any sense at all! So I guess it’s a good thing I’ve got a few critters to share this month — before we all start hibernating.

My garden visitors during the past month have been mainly birds and bugs. During the early part of July we were fortunate to receive a few inches of rain. Birds take cover where they can during downpours — these three found a perch atop a downspout coming off the roof.

Birds On Downspout
Birds On Downspout

The bird below appears to be a Juvenile White-Winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica).

Juvenile White-Winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)
Juvenile White-Winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)

Here’s another White-Winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica). He looks so pretty against the bright blue background of the sky.

White-Winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)
White-Winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)

Just like the white winged dove
Sings a song, sounds like she’s singing
Ooh, ooh, ooh
Just like the white winged dove
Sings a song, sounds like she’s singing
Ooh baby, ooh said, ooh

“Edge of Seventeen” — Stevie Nicks

Bet you didn’t know the White-Winged Dove made it into a Stevie Nicks song! My Hubbie’s a fan. What else can I say? 🙂

Here’s a Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) in our neighbor’s Live Oak Tree (Quercus virginiana). As one of the tallest trees in the neighborhood it affords these Kites a “birds-eye view” of their surroundings.

Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensi)
Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensi)

Western Kingbirds (Tyrannus verticalis) are an extremely common sight around my yard — especially since I finally noticed them and found out what they are! Quite a few broods have been hatched and raised in the Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii) in our front yard. Below is a parent and a juvenile. The belly area of the adult is a deeper yellow than that of the juvenile.

Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)

Western Kingbirds are flycatchers, which makes them insectivores. In the photo below one of the parents (at bottom) is feeding the young ones. You might be able to make out a yellow grasshopper leg hanging from its mouth.

Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)

My favorite birds of the past month were by far the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris). Even though I have several feeders available for them, I’ve only seen them feeding on flowers.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris)
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

This is either a female or an immature bird.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris)
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

She — or he — spent the large part of a recent afternoon zipping around a Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus).

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris)
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird beats its wings about 53 times per second. No wonder my camera setting couldn’t keep up!

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris)
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

These small birds prefer to feed on red or orange flowers. I guess that’s why they’ve been so fond of the Turk’s Cap and the neighbor’s Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans).

Now for the bugs…

Common Whitetail Skimmers (Plathemis lydia) have been very…well…common this summer! Here we have an adult male, an immature male and a female. The wing pattern of the female dragonfly is just the opposite of that of the male.

This appears to be a female or juvenile male Eastern Pondhawk. The male of this species of dragonfly gradually turns blue.

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)
Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)

I’m not sure what species of Dragonfly this one is…

Dragonfly
Dragonfly

Here are a couple Damselflies. Maybe one day I’ll have the time and make an effort to identify them.

I think this is an Halictid Bee (Augochloropsis metallica). These are also called Sweat Bees.

Halictid Bee) Augochloropsis metallica)
Halictid Bee (Augochloropsis metallica)

How about a Red Footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes)? Ewwwww!

Red Footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes)
Red Footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes)

And last but not least, I have an update on a recent post — Picture Perfect Monday: Nameless Beauty. This pretty little fly now has an identification. Its called a Feather-legged Fly (Trichopoda pennipes). Very apt, I would say!

Feather-legged Fly (Trichopoda pennipes)
Feather-legged Fly (Trichopoda pennipes)

That ends this month’s Wildlife Wednesday. I hope you enjoyed your visit and I’m glad you stopped by! For more wildlife head over to My Gardener Says. Thanks again to Tina for hosting this wonderful meme!

Advertisements

Cardinal Virtues

Our backyard is home to at least one family of cardinals. Every day they grace our presence with their rare beauty, inquisitive nature and bold personality.

Northern Cardinal (Female)
Northern Cardinal (Female)

I’ve often heard people speak about the Four Cardinal Virtues. The word ‘cardinal’ in this instance has nothing to do with the bird of the same name. Used in this manner the word indicates something of foremost or principal importance. The Four Cardinal Virtues are simply a set of moral virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance. While mulling this over today I began to wonder how these virtues might actually describe the feathered type of cardinal.

Female Cardinal
Female Cardinal

Prudence. One definition of prudence is “care, caution and good judgment”.  Cardinals are extremely conscious of approaching danger. As such, they give a very distinctive call to alert their mates. This indicates that they care for their mates, they are cautious of impending predators and they have the good judgment to make that danger known.

Justice. The definition of justice is often indicated to be “the moral principle determining just conduct”. Did you know that cardinals mate for life? How many people actually do that! The male bird lends a hand in building the nest. He chases other male cardinals away from his territory. It would seem that cardinals have principals of just conduct that might rival those of humans!

Northern Cardinal (Male)
Northern Cardinal (Male)

Fortitude. The virtue of fortitude can be described as “strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger or temptation courageously”. Northern cardinals don’t migrate. They live in their habitat on a year-round basis, through sub-freezing temperatures, snow, sleet and whatever else winter might bring. Here in north Texas, though its only mid-November, we’re experiencing our first blast of winter for 2014. The temperatures dropped to around 20° the last several mornings. And guess who the first birds were to greet the day? The cardinals. Now that’s called fortitude!

Temperance. Synonyms for this word include constraint, self-control and discretion. Though cardinals make themselves at home in our backyard, nesting among the tall bushes and eating from the feeders we provide, they tend to be very shy. A mere movement at the window will send them chasing back into the underbrush, where they sit and stare, eyes bright and heads cocked inquisitively, until the perceived danger passes. They are certainly exercising discretion and constraint!

Keep an eye out for the cardinals in your backyard. Watch them for a while. You’ll see a living example of the Four Virtues.