Help! Is this a pipevine swallowtail?

November 18, 2016

Is this a pipevine swallowtail?

Is this a pipevine swallowtail? This one is tapping the bat-faced cuphea; the pipevine under the holly is undisturbed.

A parade of butterflies this year! A lot of monarchs, in contrast to the past three years; we’ve had some Gulf fritillaries, and various sulfurs. The penta seems to be a major stopping point for hairstreaks and other small butterflies.

We’ve had a few tiger swallowtails.

And this one pictured above. it seems to have the spots of a pipevine swallowtail, but there are no swallowtails!

Did they wear off in migrating?

Are we misidentifying it?

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Pipevine swallowtail (?) from the underside, still on the cuphea. Can we erase the question mark? Sunlight emphasizes the blue on the underwing. Photos copyright by Ed Darrell, Creative Commons. Please use, with attribution.

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Snow Friday

February 27, 2015

It was clear this morning, but the snow started just before 9. It’s predicted to warm up enough that the stuff from the skies will be wet, but the ground will be stay frozen. Ice storm.

Businesses and schools shut down about noon.

Two male house finches, probably in their first year, try to eat enough to stay warm on a snowy day in Dallas. Photo by Ed Darrell

Two male house finches, probably in their first year, try to eat enough to stay warm on a snowy day in Dallas. Photo by Ed Darrell

Something about snow makes the birds hungry.  A tube feeder we filled last night emptied by noon.

At home we refill the feeders as best we can.

Rewards are high.  We’ve had six species in the yard at any time, all morning, and at least eight species total.

  • Blue jays

    A sparrow -- a chipping sparrow juvenile? -- acting as scout to find food; it was joined by at least two companions after dusting snow off of seeds in the feeder, and finding them suitable.

    A sparrow — a chipping sparrow juvenile? — acting as scout to find food; it was joined by at least two companions after dusting snow off of seeds in the feeder, and finding them suitable.

  • Cardinals
  • Two species of junco
  • House finches
  • Gold finches
  • White-winged doves
  • A sparrow (juvenile chipping sparrow?)
  • Chickadees
  • Wrens (probably Carolina, but they won’t come close to the house)

It would be nice if our downy woodpecker friends would visit, but they’ve been scarce most of the fall.

Where are the titmice?

As usual, we have some vireo or other (Bell’s, I think), but it knows us well enough to be able to sing to get us excited, but appear only when humans are not looking.

How are things in your yard?

We get the goldfinches in winter, with their winter colors; some of the males may be anticipating spring a bit.

We get the goldfinches in winter, with their winter colors; some of the males may be anticipating spring a bit.

Female cardinal and male house finch await their turn at the small bird feeder.

Female cardinal and male house finch await their turn at the small bird feeder.

 


Rose “Eutin” in the summer of 2014

July 3, 2014

Rose

Rose “Eutin” enjoying the summer of 2014; photo by Kathryn Knowles

Kathryn Knowles notes of her rose bush:

Rose ‘Eutin’ (1940) is putting on a huge show out front. That big cluster on the right is over 50 flowers on 2 branches. I think the recent rains revved it up.


Not an emerald ash borer — but what is it?

August 21, 2013

Emerald green beetle, looks a lot like a longhorn.  I feared it to be a dreaded emerald ash borer, but it’s not.

Okay.  What is it?  Any body know?

From our Backyard Collection, two weeks ago:

What is this one? Looks like a longhorn beetle, emerald green.

What is this one? Looks like a longhorn beetle, emerald green. Not an emerald ash borer. Anyone know?

It’s too big to be an emerald ash borer.

Our mystery beetle is too big to be an emerald ash borer.

Our mystery beetle is too big to be an emerald ash borer. Brilliant orange underside.

Perhaps a flower longhorn beetle?

Caption from Field and Swamp Animals and their habitats:  Flower longhorn beetle (Encyclops caerulea), Glassmine Gap Trail, Macon County, NC, 5/28/13

Caption from Field and Swamp Animals and their habitats: Flower longhorn beetle (Encyclops caerulea), Glassmine Gap Trail, Macon County, NC, 5/28/13

Where’s Bug Girl when we need her?  (Moving?)  Roused Bear? Beetles in the Bush?

Update, mystery solved:  Ted C. MacRae said (see comments) it’s the bumelia borer (Plinthocoelium suaveolens).  He wrote about it here. So, Kathryn, what are they eating in our backyard? Bumelia lanuginosa is a Texas native; do we have one, or a relative, in the garden?  Dallas-area Dirt Doctor Howard Garrett says they’re mostly harmless in the garden.  (Here’s a closeup, from MacRae’s blog):

Brumelia borer, from Beetles in the Bush.  Photo by Ted C. MacRae

Bumelia borer, Plinthocoelium suaveolens,  from Beetles in the Bush. Photo by Ted C. MacRae

 


Grosbeak!

May 1, 2013

Our goldfinches left several weeks ago.  The cedar waxwings came through in at least three big waves, starting in February (and the last just over a week ago).  House finches moulted, and the breeding males have bright red heads. Migrating robins left us by the end of January, but a lot more residents stayed with us.

We have at least one, and maybe three cardinal families.  A black-capped chickadee family stuck around.  Haven’t seen a titmouse in a month, but I think they’re still in the neighborhood.  The black-chinned hummingbird family is back, and maybe a few other hummers.  The resident blue jays and white-winged doves duke it out every day.  Carolina wren stayed, and may have already fledged; but there are too many wrens for one family — is that a Bewick’s wren?

What’s THAT?

White winged dove and rose-breasted grosbeaki

White-winged dove, left, can’t scare away the rose-breasted grosbeak from the songbird feeder. Photo by Ed Darrell

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Look closer. Photo by Ed Darrell

It’s a rose-breasted grosbeak, Pheucticus ludovicianus.  It seems late for migrating birds, but only because so many migratory species migrate earlier these days.

Haunts of the rose-breasted grosbeak, from Cornell University's ornithological laboratory.

Haunts of the rose-breasted grosbeak, from Cornell University’s ornithological laboratory.

Would love to have a grosbeak family, but the Cornell ornithologists say this is fly-through territory.  Maybe that explains why it won’t scare by the white-winged dove, Zenaida asiatica.  Dallas is the western edge of the grosbeaks’ migratory path, but the eastern edge of the dove’s territory.  They probably don’t see much of each other.

We don’t even advertise clean restrooms.

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Remembering Lindheimer’s muhly grass from last year’s garden

April 23, 2013

It’s spring.  The grasses are sprouting.

Texas is a good place for grasses.

Lindheimer's muhly grass, in the afternoon sun

Lindheimer’s muhly grass, Dallas, Texas, January 2013. Photo by Ed Darrell; horticultural adventures by Kathryn Knowles

Spring sunlight is spectacular on the new flowers; winter sunlight, in the afternoon, shows a different kind of spectacular.

Lindheimer’s muhly grass, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri, shows beauty from soon after it sprouts until long after it’s gone dormant.  A garden is a year-around project, and joy.

History lives in those grasses, too.  You can find some at the Native Plant Society of Texas’s website, and its description of Lindheimer’s muhly.

This seems pretty dumb now, but many years ago when I first heard about so many grasses called “muley,” I was puzzled about that name. I’d heard of muley cattle such as polled Herefords, but not hornless grass! Needless to say, as soon as I looked up Lindheimer muhly, I could see it is in a genus named after a Mr. Muhlenberg.

Gotthilf Hunrich Ernst Muhlenberg lived from 1753 to 1815. He was born into a prominent Pennsylvania family, and his father and brothers were influential patriots during the Revolutionary War. Because of his family’s involvement in the Revolution, Muhlenberg was on the British hit list.

While he was hiding out in a rural area away from Philadelphia during the Revolution, Muhlenberg became interested in botany. Through his extensive collections, Muhlenberg made major contributions to botany, and many plants have been named in his honor. For example, among our local flora are several species of muhly grass (Muhlenbergia) and Chinquapin oak (Quercus muhlenbergii).

Lindheimer muhly was named in honor of Ferdinand Lindheimer, the “Father of Texas Botany.” Many other plants native to the Texas Hill Country also bear the name “Lindheimer” or “Lindheimer’s.” Most of these plants were first collected by Lindheimer, who settled on the banks of the Comal River in New Braunfels in 1845.

Another entry in the Blackland Prairie Almanac, perhaps.

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Backyard birds: Goldfinch at the feeder

March 12, 2013

No, he’s not particularly gold — but this is winter, and if he’s going to get his breeding plumage, it will come in a couple of weeks.

We’ve had Niger thistle seed feeders out for years; this year one goldfinch (Spinus tristis) finally started to visit.  We’ve had as many as four at a time — but they’re probably headed north soon.

Here’s a shot of our first guest, from a couple of weeks ago.

Goldfinch at the feeder

A goldfinch male, checking out the feeder before bringing in his buddies — we hope.

If you’re north of Dallas, and you see this guy at your feeder this summer, tell him “hello” from us.

The non-breeding plumage isn’t so flashy as the bright yellow of the breeding males.  Some of the finches settle in to a beautiful, smooth olive-drab livery for much of the winter.  Close up, they look like good pen-ink-drawings by a master artist.

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