Wildlife Wednesday: June 2015

Last month’s Wildlife Wednesday post was about the drama of parents finding safe places to nest and fighting off predators all within the constraint of vanishing habitat. This month I noticed that some of the spring babies are already on their own.

It happens so quickly.

april bird nest 2015
empty nest

Here’s a clever baby mockingbird. It found a safe place to perch between two lines of barbed wire. Any hawk foolish enough to try to strike this little one would find itself in a world of pain.

I spotted it very close to the area where the Pavarotti Mockingbird bird sings and sings. His long complex song suggests he is very old. Very old probably means wise in survival skills. Maybe he shared a few tips with his younglings.

mockingbird on a wire June 2015
Young mockingbird. The spots on its chest will disappear as it matures.

How do baby squirrels know what is safe to eat? Pet squirrels apparently like to eat nuts the way humans like to eat chips but variety keeps them healthy. I suppose there must be a bit of trial and error tasting going on through the seasons.

baby squirrel 2 may 2015
fox squirrel

Probably everyone has heard about the record rainfall we’ve had since April. It has been a mixed blessing for the creatures around here. In some places along the creek the plants were flattened by the rush of water. Yet, in the prairie garden at Mueller the plants are standing straight and tall. Their deep roots and strong stems had no trouble at all with the pounding rain. They just slurped it all up.

In other mammal news, I was saddened to hear that the water meant disaster for too many people who lost homes and loved ones. But nowhere did I hear any discussion that the floods were a man-made disaster. If you pour cement along creek banks, flatten and pave the earth and then build houses in flood plains then Mother Nature’s conscience is clear. With no discussion about the real cause of the disaster it is doubtful we will make better decisions in the future.

I’ve also been feeling a bit sorry for the lizards. Having your burrow flood is bad enough. But to have it happen during moulting season is a dangerous indignity. Plus, how can you attract a mate when it looks like you’ve been sitting in the bathwater for too long? I am sure that more than one lizard was left feeling a bit cranky.

Unless I am mistaken the blue colour on this guy’s chest means it is a male. You might need to click the image to see it.

When the sun came out briefly he tried to use the side walk as a place to dry out. Normally whiptails will flit away as quick as thought to the nearest cover just from the vibrations of a foot step but this guy was adamant that the side walk belonged to him. Not moving for anyone or anything.  As I was photographing him I even saw several people walking by veer off to give him a bit of peace.

lizard june 2015
“As a matter of fact I DO own the road.”

Of course some creatures can never get enough water. Mosquitoes. Fireflies. And toads. Good times!

toad2 june 2015
Mr. Toad

This guy’s buddies ate every single leaf on my indigofera. He seemed to prefer sunflower leaves. If he is who I think he is he will turn into one of the prettiest moths around, the Spilosoma virginica. I watched him for a few days and over time he changed colour. The white turned to rust.

caterpillar nom

Here’s a photo by Anita Gould of the imago that I think does a great job of explaining its common name: the white tiger moth.

Photo by Anita Gould
Photo by Anita Gould

One day my husband and I tested our insolubility by taking a walk. He even stopped and asked for an insect ID. Swoon. He really does love me. But when I looked down I saw the strangest thing. It looked a bit like a fly (hovering with two functional wings) and a bit like a bee (fuzzy). Its proboscis was elephantine. I teased him and said that maybe he had discovered a new species … a bee fly. When we got home and looked it up we laughed to find out that bee fly is its actual name. They are also apparently extremely common so there goes my husband’s chance for scientific immortality.

 

bee fly
bee fly

This is turning into one of those catalogue posts with representatives for mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. So arachnophobes beware. Spiders coming up after the butterfly and web pictures.

Buckeye butterfly
Buckeye butterfly

May is normally a good month for spiders at my place but this year has been phenomenal. Extra mosquitoes mean well fed spiders with bigger and better webs. Some of the webs can be measured in feet already.

spider web

This is the time of year when I see the star spiders. They come in all kinds of colours. This year they seem to be mostly black and white but I have seen yellow and red ones before.

star spider 1 june 2015

They weave orb webs. I can tell when a web belongs to one of these girls because of the messy centre.

This next photo is a little out of focus but I like how the legs glow in the sunlight so I kept it anyway.

star spider 2 June 2015

And here’s a nerdy one of her spinneret:

star spider spinneret

This spider reminds me of Spider-Man …

orb spider

I also found a bunch of papery egg sacs from the mystery spider that makes the messy web.

I saw the builder last year but never came up with a good ID. She has a widow shaped body but is brown. She builds her webs in obvious places for me to avoid so for now it is a live and let live situation. I do hope her success won’t eventually become a problem.

spider egg sac

Thanks again to Tina at My Gardener Says for hosting the Wildlife Wednesday event each month and keeping me mindful of the outside world. Her garden is a beautiful place that attracts far more interesting creatures so I do recommend a visit. Be sure to check out the comments section for links.

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45 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday: June 2015

  1. People have been building in the floodplain since time immemorial – it’s the main reason how we went from hunter/gatherers to farmers…of course, most of us don’t farm any more so maybe it’s best to, you know, stay away from the creeks and rivers.

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  2. Poor lizards! That star spider looks amazing, I have never seen anything like that. Too bad about all that construction on the flood plains. I was just in Toronto and went to an amazing nature restoration on the site of an old clay quarry. One of the things I was told was that the open lands in the Toronto area are mostly in their many ravines – because construction is prohibited there.

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  3. I had to laugh when reading the part about the bee fly. He really does love you! The other day, my boyfriend asked for “some of that really good nettle tea” and I nearly fell over. Am I converting a coffee drinker to my weird herbal brews? Anyway, lovely photos and I am amazed by that lizard!

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    1. Thank you. I tried nettle tea for the first time last year and was really surprised at how good it was! I think I avoided for so long because of the name. That poor lizard: he reminded me a bit of a sailor lost at sea finally making it to shore.

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    1. I assumed you would be able to see them where you are especially in the woods. I could send a few up there if you like. =)

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  4. I do so enjoy catching up up with your garden and critters….yes we will never learn it seems as we continue to make the same mistakes and then howl at Mother Nature for raining. You have some crazy looking spiders and I am noticing more webs so perhaps they will be taking care of our overabundance of mosquitoes.

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    1. Thanks, Donna. As for mosquitoes. Yipes! It’s starting to get reasonable again out there but for awhile I avoided going out — especially at twilight.

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  5. Wonderful post! I love the pictures of the white tiger moth caterpillar. And your spiders are awesome. I’ve spotted a few in my garden in recent days, but not many. Plus, you gave me a new word to explore — younglings. I don’t recall hearing or seeing it before! Thanks fore sharing another great post.

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    1. Thanks. As for younglings — that is kind of embarrassing. I think I heard it in one of the Star Wars movies when they were talking about their young Jedis.

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  6. What a wonderful post! So much great info and the pics are just fabulous! That bee fly is amazing. I don’t think we get them here. We have a similar star spider here, but it doesn’t seem to create a web. Thanks for sharing :D

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    1. Thanks, Julie. The bee fly was really weird looking and I learned they come in a whole lot of colours. Very tiny though and I suppose that is how I have overlooked it all this time.

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  7. Love this post, Deb. I’m from the Northeast so all the critters (except squirrel and mockingbirds) are very exotic to me. The star spiders are amazing! I had a couple of small close encounters with wildlife yesterday, a snake and a baby ladybug (a babybug?). I always feel blessed when I come across such and we respect and view each other and then go our ways.

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    1. Thank you, Cynthia. I love snakes. I assumed there would be a lot here but I have only seen a couple in all the years I have lived here. A baby ladybug sounds like the cutest thing ever!

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  8. Wow, what a nice post. I liked everyone of your photos. You put a lot of effort into this post and it certainly shows. I was very intrigued about each creature you captured. Keep up the good work. You are a good photographer. You made my day.

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    1. Thanks for saying so. One thing I like about Tina’s Wildlife Wednesday event is that it doesn’t require a lot of effort. Once a month I just review any photos I happen to have and see if they suggest some kind of story.

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    1. Thanks for the link! I was so surprised that a drought lasting more than a decade could be swept away so quickly. That said: there are still pockets where more rain will be welcome which I assume will happen this summer with a El Nino supersized with climate change. Sorry to hear about your city’s experience. I remember hearing about it at the time.

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    1. Thanks. I am leaning that way. I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to get a photo clear enough to send to BugGuide for confirmation. I didn’t realize it was an invasive. hmm

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    1. I hate being grateful when I know it caused some pretty serious suffering but it was truthfully so welcome. I felt like I was on the west coast again. Gentle light, wet air, everything clean ….

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  9. Wow oh wow – that whiptail! So exotic looking and fierce – a real supermodel. And then that young mockingbird – if that is not the sweetest bird face ever. I’m completely smitten. The spiders are amazing – I don’t see the star spiders here for some reason but I’m going to keep looking. Their black and white patterns are so striking – and the tiger moth. Honestly, you have a real runway show going here – all the most fashionable and attractive of residents.

    You are of course quite right that rampant development along various watersheds has led to much if not all of the current flooding difficulties we find ourselves in. Texas institutions have called for all sorts of appropriate studies to be done and yet Texans have managed to mostly ignore them. To some extent we are all culpable.

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    1. Thanks. Heh. My husband thought that whiptail looked guilty. “It wasn’t me, honest!” Now I wonder what he is projecting onto him! haha I would be VERY surprised if you didn’t have the star spiders somewhere in the bushes but maybe that is my little bonus for living in deep shade. They are tiny. You might see the web before the spider if you go looking for them.

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  10. To your point about the flooding: you’re spot on about where and how we build. It’s not a matter of IF the floods will come, but WHEN and allowing building along rivers is, at the least, stupid, and maybe even worse. But you’re also right–we probably haven’t learned our lesson.
    Thanks for saying it, though.

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    1. Yeah. I kept hearing ‘act of God’, ‘an angry Mother Nature’ and ‘natural disaster’ but none of those descriptions seemed honest.

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  11. A great post–as usual. I love those star spiders!! Oddly enough, I haven’t had any spiders (well,, I’m sure there are some, I just haven’t seen any). But I was in Corpus Christi visiting family and in my dad’s large suburban property they were EVERYWHERE and in all the colors. So cute!! I tried to get some photos, but it was windy and, never happened. I did watch one dine on an unknown insect, sadly , not a mosquito.

    That white tiger moth is quite something–do share if you get one at your place.

    I’ve never seen a bee fly–I had to look that one up and I’ll keep an eye out. And babies–they do grow up, so fast….

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    1. ooooh I bet Corpus Christi must be amazing for wildlife especially during migration times. Those white tiger moths are common as can be. I was thinking of keeping it and watching the metamorphosis but then felt sorry for it and ended up releasing it.

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    1. If you look I bet you will find some. They like bushes and trees. Their webs stretch across open spaces and are usually tllted at an angle to avoid birds like wrens taking off from the ground I suppose. If you see an orb web with a fuzzy middle and then look closely at the centre you will probably see the female. They are easily overlooked because they are quite tiny. The males are REALLY tiny — like the o on this font.

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    1. Thanks, Chloris. I am not sure which toad that is. I’ve checked the guides but … have to admit that unless they are side by side I can’t really tell the difference.

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