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?

imgp2261

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

 


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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Backyard birds: A convention of white-winged doves

February 8, 2013

The white dove was a short-lived interlude; the white-winged doves seem to be with us constantly.

One family in 2011; two families in 2012 — and our yard isn’t that big.

A very early version of the birds who visited, befriended, and plagued Snoopy — this drawing, while faithful to Shultz’s work, was done by another artist.

Earlier this week I looked out, and it looked like the early “Peanuts” comic strip when Snoopy opened his dog house to a group of pigeon-like birds for their poker game.  The birds took advantage of Snoopy’s largesse, and nearly over-ran him.  (Woodstock was a product of that flock of birds, the last remaining vestige by Charles Shultz‘s death.)

At least they didn’t drink our beer and try to make off with the Picasso.

White-winged doves are really too big for any of our feeders -- but what are you going to tell a rampaging herd of them?  Photos by Ed Darrell - use encouraged with attribution.

White-winged doves are really too big for any of our feeders — but what are you going to tell a rampaging herd of them? Photos by Ed Darrell – use encouraged with attribution.

White-winged doves crowding at the bird feeders

Enough doves to frighten Alfred Hitchcock — Two of these birds is too many for either side of this feeding station. How many do you see here?

White winged doves jostle for position at the feeder.

Not enough room for all, and so they jostle and push each other off the feeders. See the display of the white stripe on the wings of one of our subjects here, from which the species gets its name.

Blue jays enforce the “too-long-or-too-many-at-the-feeder” rules here, but they can be distracted by peanuts put out by neighbors.  In any case, they were absent when we needed them.

We used to have mourning doves, but at some point in the last five years this bunch pushed them out.  We may be the only ones on the block who noticed.  (Yes, it’s “mourning” dove; Duncanville’s having misspelled it on “Morning Dove Lane” is their error.)

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