Someone told me last week that they just couldn’t understand how I’m able to observe so many things around me and have time to document it. I’d never thought about it being a challenge. It’s just what I do. And I find it so rewarding and fun to keep learning about life around me.
So, in true formulaic blogger fashion, I’m going to list ways that you, too, can become a nature blogger (or at least a nature noticer).
1. Look where you’re going, up and down. When I lived in suburban Brushy Creek, near Round Rock, I always took long walks through my neighborhood, long before there were the great trails they have now. I tried to get my housemate, Jeff, to come along. He said it was boring, just going by those same houses every day. That flummoxed me. For me, I saw something different every day. The seasons changed, different flowers bloomed, birds flew by…but you had to look. Literally, there’s always something interesting to look at if you make an effort.
2. Record what you see. I never go outside without my phone, because invariably there will be something I want to remember, even if I’m just checking the mail or gathering eggs. It takes a little practice to get good phone photos, and if you read this blog, you’ll know some of my images aren’t great, but they document what I’ve seen and let me look up more information.
3. Educate yourself. The reason I took the Master Naturalist class in 2018 was that I wanted to know more about where I live. This way I know what’s normal for this area and what’s unique. I learned how to use iNaturalist to narrow down what I see and to get more from Wikipedia and other sources. Just using the ID function on your phone or a simple identification app will quickly teach you what you’re likely to see and what to look out for.
4. Use all your senses. Listening for birds, butterflies, grasshoppers, and frogs helps a lot in knowing what’s around you. I wish there was a Merlin Frog ID app and a similar one for crickets and other insects. I hear them but only can ID a few frogs. And don’t forget the sense of smell! I know when rain lilies are out before I see them, and I’ve mentioned how lovely the aroma of bluebonnets and white clover can be!
5. Write it down or log it somehow. You’ll never remember all the things you see. That’s why I upload my photos to iNaturalist and add notes. It’s also really why I blog. I want to remember the stories behind where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, and how it affects me. I have a record of how the weather changes and what new things pop up. A notebook or journal is another great option. You can log the temperature and make art, like the afghan I’m making, or keep records of rainfall through the years like my husband does. It’s fascinating to analyze.
6. Keep at it. That’s the key. The longer you make the effort to observe the world around you, make a record of what you’ve seen, and written up notes, the more you’ll have to compare, the easier it will be to identify who shares this world with you, and the more likely you are to want to care for the planet that cares for you.
Well, that’s what I think. I’m glad I got to get out a little today and look around. I’ve not been feeling well for a few days, so I’ve been taking it easy. I’ve got plans to help me handle the heat better than I did over the weekend! Now enjoy the outcome of my observations today, of the ranch in late spring.
I did promise to finish writing up my trip to Pedernales Falls State Park. Gosh, I hope you like wildflowers and scenery and stinky insects. I had lots of energy for hiking/looking at plants, thanks to sleeping so well. Ahh. Total darkness and no barking or licking makes for great sleep.
So, once I woke up on Sunday morning, had my coffee, and analyzed bird songs (so many vireos), I took off for the other nearby trails. First, I took the Coyote Crossing trail, which led deep into a very humid woodland area and crossed a mostly dry creek that feeds into the river.
There were many interesting fungi, ferns, and vines in the moist environment. I also got to see a ladder back woodpecker. Mostly I enjoyed the deep green solitude.
Once past that trail the scenery was very different, with seemingly endless swaths of black-eyed Susans and their friends. There were lots of new flowers there, and I had one of those “Linda Jo moments” when I got practically giddy over plants. But I didn’t have a fellow Master Naturalist to exclaim to!
The next trail was the one that led to the swimming area of the river. I must admit I forgot there was a river to go to, because I was so mesmerized by the flowers. The trail went down steep steps. Every time I stopped I said to myself that THESE were the prettiest flowers I ever saw.
And there were so many butterflies that I felt like Snow White in the meadow. They were flitting all around me. It was magical!
I finally got to the river, and was happy to see it wasn’t crowded. There were just a few families wading around and playing, plus a woman with a big dog.
Eventually I turned to go back, stopping to photograph lizards and more flowers. I let the family with the dog pass me on their way up, then encountered the dad resting halfway up. I said something about taking it slow because I was a naturalist, and we got to talking about his interest in foraging. Talking to them made me not even notice the steep climb! Finally, someone was interested in my blathering.
They left to take a bathroom break and I headed back along the road, where I found some phlox and other plants that like sand.
The family drove by and asked if I would like a ride back, and to be honest, that sounded good. So I joined them. They said they were thinking of driving to the big falls, and invited me along. I’m glad they did. It was a ways down the road.
We had a fun walk to the falls. The best part was when I saw a dung beetle rolling a ball of poop across the path. Carl (the dad) got all excited, because he didn’t know we had them in Texas. That got the two boys and the wife excited, too. She took movies and we had a grand time watching the beetles while all sorts of people passed us, probably thinking we were weird. But it was educational!
We finally made it to the overlook, and it was gorgeous. We saw a wedding party, too. We were all too tired to go down to the river, but they were going to go Monday morning. I was fine just looking down. The photos don’t do it justice, for sure.
And that’s about it for adventures. The rest of the day we sat outside a lot and went in to watch movies. I don’t know what to think about the Legion of Superheroes movie. They did stay pretty true to the characters…but it was nowhere near as good as Ant Man and the Wasp. Marvel does make a good movie.
I was glad to get home on Monday, but sure enjoyed my wallows in nature. I needed that rejuvenation. Of course, there’s plenty of nature here. Just look at the baby birds in a nest on our back door!
Speaking of storms, one showed up out of the blue yesterday and dumped a ton of rain in a short time. It was full of thunder and lightning. The dogs were NOT thrilled, and since I was the only one in the house, all five indoor dogs clustered around me. Penney and Carlton were under my desk. Harvey was beside my chair. Alfred was standing on the other side of the chair panting into my face. At least Goldie just stayed on “her” couch.
Eventually, Penney wormed her way into my lap and did that unbearable wiggling and trying to squirm up to the top of my head, or inside me. I’m not sure what her intent is, but it’s hairy, hot, and whiny. Thank goodness I discovered the guys were stranded in the garage so I “had” to take them umbrellas. That allowed the dogs to distribute themselves among three people. Whew.
And oh yes, I’ve had my dose of cuteness. look at Jhayati! She’s so soft! And like my dad, she’s never met a stranger. Sara is in love. I’m pretty thrilled, too.
No big disasters struck today, other than realizing that new hotspot just won’t cut it for work, because it’s actually a not-so-hot hotspot. It gives up after about 40 minutes of a 60-minute Zoom call. Not helpful if you’re in the middle of helping someone out. So, I’ll be working from the Red House on Fannin for a while until we have another option.
So, I’ll share some things that help one forget technology annoyances, like birds and plants. First, I got to see something rare for me as I was out trying to find something to give my chickens, now that their garden got mowed. I heard an unfamiliar bird call, and looked up to see two dark birds coming to the pond behind the house.
They circled a couple of times, which was quite lovely, then ended up at the shore of the pond. They were dark, but vaguely egret-like, so I got the binoculars to get a better view. While they refused to make a sound while I had the Merlin’s Bird ID app listening, the app did hint to me that it could be a green heron pair. I’ve seen them before, but not this time of year.
Sure enough, the binoculars confirmed the identity. They are beautiful birds, even hiding in a very dark corner of a pond on a cloudy day. That started my day off right!
I had lunch outside with Lee, and heard a few songs I didn’t recognize, in addition to the incessant dickcissels and cardinals. So, I fired up Merlin Bird ID again and had it listen for a few minutes. Now I know exactly what a painted bunting sounds like! I’d probably see them if I had a bird feeder, but if I put one in the back yard, dogs would bother the birds, and if I put one on the other side of the fence, cattle would knock it down in no time. But I can hear the beautiful song of the most beautiful bird in North America!
I also got a glimpse of the turkey as Goldie yelled at it (thanks, Goldie). And I spent a lot of time listening to anxious killdeer protecting their nest, which I think is over by the front pond and not at all accessible by me. I wish they would chill out. The dickcissels drowned them out, though. Over half the photos I’ve taken of those little darlings are in mid chirp. They say their name, loudly, like phoebes do. I know they’ll move on shortly, so I’m trying to enjoy them.
There are sill some pretty patches of flowers around the ranch, where the lawn mowers can’t reach. So I can enjoy being less likely to step on a snake yet enjoy floral beauty. Enjoy my series, wildflowers with iron poles. It’s romantic.
I can’t help but try to capture some of the beauty I see. It’s the same old property but decorated differently from week to week!
Admittedly, I spent a long time today listening. I think I’m in love with the birdsong identification feature in the Merlin app. I indulged myself this evening by figuring out how many different birds were behind our house (by the pond, in the back yard, and in the woods) in twenty minutes. Whoa, there sure are bunches of birds hiding around here (I did hear a mourning dove and a barred owl the app didn’t pick up – guess I have good hearing still). But check out this list!
House sparrow (duh)
Red bellied woodpecker
That’s a lot of birds, even without hearing another painted bunting or egret in the mix. What a chorus! By the way, the app doesn’t appear to acknowledge chickens. Aren’t they birds? I guess they are too domestic.
I hope my bird and flower enthusiasm were contagious. If so, download that app on your phone and try to listen where you live!
I wasn’t able to blog last night, because a storm came through and knocked out cell reception for most of the area. My phone kept saying SOS and I told it to calm down, the towers would return. I sure am having the Internet issues! But indeed, I got to enjoy the cool clouds.
It looked like tornado weather, and indeed, it was. Friends had a brand-new shed hit by a small one. It missed their house, though, so it could have been much worse. It’s hard to get used to so many scary weather events so close together, though.
We managed to get through the storm just fine. It was a very fast one! When I woke up this morning, there was more weather news. Tarrin contacted all of us who were signed up for a clinic at her ranch to let us know there were going to be very strong winds today. She let us know we could put it off.
We all said we’d just show up and hope for the best, much to Apache’s disappointment. He was not at all interested in going anywhere or doing anything this morning and kept bopping me with his head until I had to get firmer than usual with him. I managed to get most of the mud off him, including huge globs nested in the base of his mane. Not the most fun start to a day, but I’m happy to report that the rest of the day was a lot better!
He is always happy to go to Tarrin’s, and he got to head over with his buddy Aragorn. Sara drove today, and we always have a good time together. I ended up in a great mood all day, myself, and enjoyed meeting some new folks and their horses. There are some real success stories in the latest bunch of training horses!
After relaxing for a while in his luxurious (in his mind) stall, Apache came out to do our part of the clinic with me, and he was an absolute dream. We started out learning the newest dressage pattern that we’ll use in the next shows. We did it really slowly, stopping between each section, to help the horses pay attention to our cues. I enjoyed doing it as well as watching the other two riders in my group, one of whom was just starting out on her horse after training.
It was a great feeling to know that we’ve come far enough along to be role models of calmness as things blew around and spooked other horses. Tarrin made sure to share that it wasn’t all that long ago that Apache was nerved out at lots of random things. Meanwhile, he nearly fell asleep when it wasn’t his turn, even when something blew by and hit his leg. What a guy? Yeah!
The second part of our session was learning to do small circles precisely and teach the horses to pay attention to us rather than memorizing a pattern and blasting through it. That was a lot of fun for us, especially when we got to trot it. Apache and I have really made some improvement, and I was so happy to try these new things and refine how we do them. So much learning!
After our turn, we had an educational session where Tarrin showed us what a horse with severe hoof issues looked like on the inside. Camina the dog really wanted to eat that demo horse leg. It’s really cool that a horse can contribute to education after it has to be put down. It’s like they live on.
Another thing we did was each of us stood on two scales and had to practice balancing so that each scale read the same. This was not at all easy. We also found that slight shifts of our hips made the scales move many pounds. What this demonstrated was that our shifts can really affect our horses, and also that their shifts can also affect their performance.
The folks in the last, most advanced, group in the clinic focused on this balance and helping their horses get not only straight but balanced before doing activities like beginning a canter from a stop.
Now, this annoyed each of the horses as far as I could tell, but it was fascinating to watching both horses and riders learning to refine their balance.
Then they all cantered around those barrels we trotted around. Wow, some of those horses are beautifully trained. Aragorn did a great job as well, even though he’s just learning. Sara loves this photo I took of them together.
Of course, since it’s City Nature Challenge weekend, I snuck off to take photos of the plants and insects at Tarrin’s. I saw so many butterflies, and a gorgeous scarab beetle that visited my jacket. The ladies I was sitting with were fascinated with me looking at it, photographing it, and figuring out what it was.
The only negative was that I keep touching plants and really should check to see if they are nettles BEFORE touching them. Ow. There were also some very spiky trees that are either Hercules Club or Spiny Ash.
It was a really fun day for all of us, even the horses. We didn’t let that awful chilly wind slow us down!
Sara and I spent much time when we got home telling our horses how proud we are of them. These are the times to remember when things get challenging again!
Long day. Got a lot done and even received my new internet thingie. Can’t make it go, so more tech support tomorrow. Think of me.
By the time I got to an event I’d been looking forward to, a party for our recent Master Naturalist class graduates, I had a raging headache. Turns out the weather was changing. But the food was good and I enjoyed talking to friends.
After all the serious photos I took, we got goofy with the paper flower decorations.
When I got home, Lee proved he was just as goofy as us. We all needed a good laugh!
Well, we dodged the worst hail from tonight’s storm and haven’t lost power. That’s probably because Martha isn’t across the street. Lightning DID hit the transformer across the road from her, though. Is Martha and lightning equal to Kathleen and snakes? let’s hope it’s coincidence.
The blog prompt for today got me thinking about how much I enjoy Texas State Parks and how many opportunities there are for volunteers like me and my Master Naturalist friends to help out and educate the public at them.
Sadly, there’s no State Park in Milam County, so our El Camino Real Master Naturalist Chapter have had to make our own opportunities, like our Wildscape that Catherine Johnson spearheaded. Another group is working on a project at Sugarloaf Mountain, a cool site in the county.
So, if I had anything named after me, I’d love it to be a State Park in Milam County. Of course, our ranch isn’t big enough to be one. And we don’t own it all ourselves. So I’d have to get really wealthy and buy up some scenic land. It’s just a dream, but I’ll help out anyone else who wants to create one!
Until the Suna State Park is developed, I’ll just keep visiting others and documenting the biodiversity at each one.
The next trip will be to a Corps of Engineers park with people from our former church. That will be more social camping! Enjoy more photos from yesterday. Which do you think would make good wall decor?
Spring is in the air, at last. The weather is becoming warmer (perhaps too warm for February, but never mind – it’s nice for riding horses), birds are migrating north, and the days are getting longer. All those things are welcome to everyone who had to deal with the harsh surprises the ice storm brought.
I was happy to see that the cranes are now back in the skies, going the other way, and the killdeer have come back. Meadowlarks are also making themselves very well known.
All the tiny spring flowers are blooming, which you can see if you do “belly botany” like my botanist friend always recommended. It’s so good to see them.
While uploading some of the photos I took to iNaturalist, I took the time to see if one of my theories about what’s growing on our grassy areas was true. Sure enough, chickweed is so named because it’s used as chicken feed. It’s even grown as a crop in some places! Common Chickweed (Stellaria media) is darned interesting for a “weed.”
It is native to Eurasia and naturalized throughout the world. This species is used as a cooling herbal remedy, and grown as a vegetable crop and ground cover for both human and poultry consumption. Stellaria media is edible and nutritious, and is used as a leaf vegetable, often raw in salads. It is one of the ingredients of the symbolic dish consumed in the Japanese spring-time festival, Nanakusa-no-sekku.
I feel a lot better, because for the past few weeks I’d been feeding it to the chickens along with the henbit I’d read was good for them to eat (and whatever else comes up when I pull it up). They eat it like crazy.
Speaking of the hens, they also know it’s spring. Everyone has grown all their feathers back nicely, even Blondie, who had been bald on her back from the rooster’s attentions. And Betsy, the one who lays blue eggs, has ramped up production again. I think half the chickens are laying now (at least two of them are old enough that I don’t think they’ll lay at all). For a while I was just getting one or two a day, a white and a tan, but now I’m getting three…maybe up to five with the coming of spring.
The other great thing about spring coming is that the days are getting longer. That means I can get rides in on both horses after I finish work, which may help out with the fact that I’m not feeling very confident lately, especially with Drew, who is needing a lot of “firm corrections” as Tarrin calls them (he rushes rather than walking beside me when he sees grass, and just seems irritable). I am glad I can spend more time with my equine buddies, nonetheless.
So, why do I say spring is sickening? It turns out that I made myself sick when I was cleaning out the henhouse last week.
Let this be a lesson to you all: when you are sweeping up bits of hay and straw filled with chicken poop, wear a mask. I did not.
Thanks to that error in judgment, I now seem to have some kind of lung infection. I found myself wheezing and gurgling when lying down a couple of days ago, and since then, my lungs seem to be filled with fluid. At first it was clear, so I wasn’t too worried, but it’s getting worse, so I have an appointment to get my lungs looked at. Since I have NO other symptoms of illness (COVID negative, before you ask), all I can figure is I inhaled things that displeased my bronchial tubes.
Now, I live in Milam County, Texas, land of few medical services. I had an appointment for this morning, but it turns out the Internet is down at the local office. That’s so Cameron. I might be able to get in today in the next town over if my PA goes over there; otherwise, I have to cram an appointment with the other provider in tomorrow (my busiest day of the week), amid getting my spouse to the chiropractor for his messed up back, taking him to his Rotary meeting, and grabbing lunch with my friends. I predict all of that won’t happen.
So, readers: wear a mask when working in a dusty, enclosed environment like a chicken house. Or don’t ever clean it (not a good idea, since it gets stinky).
Today it was certainly warmer here in Hilton Head than it was back at the Hermits’ Rest. Please be thinking of my friends, family, and animals tonight. I never like it when there’s a winter storm warning, but I know the animals are all protected!
I enjoyed looking at large groups of ducks out in the ocean, which to me looked like hooded mergansers. They were so far out, though, that I couldn’t quite tell what they were. It was frustrating, but they and the dolphins were fun to watch. More on the ducks later.
After work, Lee and I went to what passes for a town center here, and I got a couple of hats, including one that makes me look a lot like I live on Gilligan’s island. But the pink lining is oh-so-flattering.
We had an early supper at our favorite Greek restaurant, It’s Greek to Me. I had absolutely fantastic Mediterranean style cod and Lee had lamb, which he didn’t like at first, but warmed up to. I sure like the quality of food at this place!
When we got back, I headed out for a sunset beach walk, which is my favorite activity here. It was cloudy, but there was a beautiful pink and pale blue light that turned the water the color usually called seafoam green.
I even found some actual seafoam, and interesting patterns of what appears to be pollen deposited at the highest point of the tide. Elm trees are already in bloom here, so my guess is they have something to do with the formations.
I enjoyed watching seagulls at the water’s edge. They would go to the wettest part of the sand and stomp their little feet, stirring up whatever little creatures they wanted to eat. I eventually took a little movie of them. Even lowly seagulls can be fun to watch!
On my way back I kept stopping to look at the ducks. I saw a man with a big camera up by the dunes. Eventually he walked over and asked me if I thought those were hooded mergansers. I said I saw white on them and they had what appeared to be large heads.
The man then shared with me that they are often spotted here in big groups (rafts), but that there are other birds that they could be. He asked what else I saw, which was great, because he said that the osprey I saw is “the” osprey of this beach, and that the yellow-rumped warblers are everywhere right now, so it’s no wonder I kept seeing them.
Soon a young-ish woman (younger than the man and me) came up and asked about the ducks. We embarked on a wonderful conversation about what birds we’d seen, what apps we use, and what we’d like to see here (the man lives here, lucky dude). The woman suggested the birds might be scaups (there are two kinds here). At last, the man picked up the fancy camera and took a few pictures, after which his battery died, but not before we got to see an image. They were scaups! The white I saw was the body of these lovely water birds, which do have large heads. I should have guessed the birds were scaups, because I could tell they sit lower in the water than ducks.
Just as we finished talking about terns and I was about to leave, a large bird swooped by right above the water. I said, whoa, that thing could be a skimmer! The man said it was! Lucky for us, it came back, and I got to see this fascinating bird up close. They are relatives of gulls that feed by flying barely above the water with their mouths open and the bottom jaw in the water. I got a great view of it, then got a not-so-great photo next time it considerately passed.
Wow. That’s enough birding for one day! I just enjoyed the heck out of all the birds I saw and felt so lucky to run into such generous fellow birders. I love how much information bird lovers share with each other. They are the kind of people who restore my faith in humanity.
It feels weird to do normal fun stuff like go to a Christmas party (that’s what they call them here, since it’s pretty mono-cultural).
I’m tired, though. I now have energy again, so I want do DO things, but I still don’t have stamina. Just running Drew through a couple of practice obstacles and setting up the trailer for a horse show tomorrow had my heart pounding. Oops.
I may have to walk all my events tomorrow. But I’ll give it a try. I’ll think positive.
Today was crazy at work because so many people asked me questions. They keep finding me on the intranet and contacting me. I even answered a question from a woman on another part of Dell on software I had never seen. Dang I’m a good trainer!
The evening was nice, and it featured our Master Naturalist party, as mentioned above. It warmed my heart to see two women I admire get volunteer hour achievement awards, and some other hard-working volunteers receive recognition from the group. Our chapter president has had some great ideas, including these recognitions.
I’m a bit of an outsider, but that did not stop me from enjoying the warm community of these nature lovers. Watching them interact was so much fun. I’m glad I have this connection to my rural county and that I’ve made kind friends there. Here are many of them making gestures.
And yeah. I enjoyed wearing clothing that wasn’t horse stuff. I’ll put those on tomorrow!
Louise, who lives up north, wanted to know more about all these butterflies we see in the autumn here in the southern part of the US. So, I went and looked up whether the butterflies we see here migrate or stay here, and what times of year they are seen most. I got all this off Wikipedia. And I went on and on. I guess I better also put this in the Master Naturalist blog!
Dione vanilla have been seen to migrate twice a year (in Florida). But they only go from south Florida to north Florida. Here is the chart of their distribution here in Texas (from iNaturalist). You can see they are here year-round but peak around the beginning of autumn, when all those yellow flowers are out.
There have been lots of observations around where I live, so they are pretty common, but beautiful.
This one, Junonia coenia, I see a lot but only at some times of the year. It’s also seen year round here but has a spring peak as well as a fall peak. I’m getting the idea that autumn is a big butterfly time here!
These do migrate, but seem to be here all year, because it isn’t too cold, I guess. Here’s what research says:
Common buckeyes move to the south along with tailwinds directed to the north or northwest after the cold fronts from September or October. They are sensitive to the cold and cannot spend the winter in northern regions that will experience extreme cold temperatures. However, they will migrate back from the south during the spring. It was spotted in California in late summer, early fall of 2022.
Battus philenor is not as common this time of year. It’s also more of a forest butterfly than a prairie one, which explains why I saw it at Tarrin’s – lots of wooded areas near her ranch. This one is also more of a warm-season butterfly. I probably saw one of the last adults for this year. I see lots of observations of caterpillars right now on iNaturalist.
They must not migrate, since I didn’t find any information on that. I do want to note that they need the pipevine plant to lay eggs on, and I found a member of that family at my neighbor Sara’s place earlier in the year. Yay!
Danaus gilippus is most definitely a fall flyer. It’s only found in the southern US and is more common in South America. This one, like the monarch, uses milkweed plants as its host. It sure is pretty.
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) is another one with two peaks. One thing I’m noticing, though, is that even the ones with a spring peak have a larger one in the autumn. So, that explains something that Louise was asking about: many butterflies seem to be autumnal!
Painted ladies are the most widespread of all butterflies and are found worldwide. I hadn’t known that! They are resident in places like where I live, but also migrate to northern areas in the summer.
Common Checkered-Skipper (Burnsius communis) is one I can’t get verified, but the ones I see sure look like the ones in the picture. It doesn’t seem to have been studied as much as many of the others, though it’s really pretty with its blue body and lacy pattern on the wings. And yep, it’s another one that is seen mostly in the autumn.
Euptoieta Claudia is common in this area. They seem to be prevalent all year except in the dead of winter. I think they’re pretty, too.
They use passion vines as their host, which may explain why we see so many here. I have LOTS of passion vines! They also like disturbed areas and open fields, which we have plenty of around here. They produce multiple broods per year, which may explain the prevalence during all the warm months.
Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis iole) is a tiny yellow butterfly, the smallest of the bunch, it turns out. We have lots of sulphurs around here, and they are very busy little fellows, so it’s hard to get photos. This one seems to go away in the hotter months. I do recall seeing them all winter, since we always have something blooming, like chickweed, which is one of its favorites.
This one is also white and other colors, so now I know that all those teeny ones I see are the same butterfly. I learned something!
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) is another small one. They are incredibly numerous around here and are very busy little things. I enjoy watching them skipping around. Well, when I read the article on them, it became clear why I see so many! They love Bermuda grass. Guess what all the pastures around here were planted in? Bermuda grass. The beloved coastal Bermuda has pretty much made life difficult for the native grasses around here, but I guess that makes the fiery skippers happy. It makes them a pest in Hawaii, though. I say, eat away, skippers!
I also learned why the butterflies I see that are identified as fiery skippers look so different. They are sexually dimorphic, with the males much brighter than the females. I’m suddenly becoming a butterfly expert as I write this.
I am trying to figure out what butterflies I see earlier in the year. Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) is one I know I see in spring. Even this one peaks in the fall, though. It’s tiny, but holds still enough that I can get photos. Thanks!
These guys, American Snout (Libytheana carinenta), just migrated through here, so I know they are migratory. But they are most often seen in autumn, like all the others so far. Migrations happen after droughts that are followed by heavy rains, which explains the one last week. The Wikipedia article says sometimes there are so many that they darken the sky. Wow. Funny looking, too.
Another beauty, Phyciodes tharos is more of a spring and summer butterfly that’s found all over North America. It’s very common in this area.
Asterocampa celtis is one of the summer butterflies around here, probably because of its ties to the hackberry tree (which we have plenty of). I guess it shows up when the trees start blooming.
This is a weird butterfly. It’s rarely seen visiting flowers (I see it on trees, duh). And it doesn’t pollinate the trees:
Species in the genus Asterocampa are regarded as being “cheater” organisms, since these butterflies do not pollinate flowers when they feed from them. This species can more accurately be described as parasitizing their hosts and plant food sources since they extract nutrients without providing any benefits to the host.
I’ll stop with Papilio cresphontes, since I finally found one that isn’t most common in the autumn. This one is more of a summer butterfly. It’s always great to see one of these gracefully flitting around.
This is the largest butterfly in North America, so I’ve shared with you both the largest and the smallest today! The caterpillars are pests to citrus growers, but they are just beautiful sights as far as I’m concerned.