Katydid Awareness

katydid
Katydid on the garage entry thing in Austin.

My whole life I’ve heard about katydids but, I guess I’d never seen one in person until yesterday. I was driving into the parking lot at work, when I saw a bright green leaf, but the leaf turned out to be an insect.

I quickly parked my car and went over to see what it was. Of course I took a picture so I could upload it to iNaturalist. What a cool bug it was, too!

When I uploaded the photo, I saw lots of potential katydids, but I figured it was probably the most common one. That turned out to be wrong, as the person who reviewed it for iNaturalist said it was actually a Central Texas Leaf-Katydid, which is more rare and more local. That’s cool!

I also sent up two flowers to be identified after I got to the Hermits’ Rest yesterday. They are two of the more late-blooming wildflowers. I am pretty sure I got the ram’s horn right. That’s one I look forward to every year. We only have a few:

ramshorn
I guess I like these because although the flowers are delicate in appearance, they are really big.

The next plant I am not so sure of. We have quite a bit of it, but when I uploaded it to iNaturalist, there wasn’t much about this one, if, in fact, I identified it correctly. It appeared to be Lady Bird’s Centaury, which must be named after Lady Bird Johnson, right? It said it had not been reported yet. That sounds fishy to me, so I am awaiting a correction from one of the botany experts by morning. It’s great to have the opportunity to learn this way.

centaury
It was really windy when I took this, so I had to hold the plant.

Plant ID Help?

althea
I know what this is! It’s an althea or rose of sharon! Isn’t the color pretty?

A friend asked me to help identify two plants. I must admit that I have failed, which is irritating, since one of them I see all the time, but have no clue for ID. So, I am going to reach out to you, blog readers, for some help.

The first plant is a type of bunch grass. It’s in my friend’s yard in Spicewood, Texas, or thereabouts. The question is whether it’s a good plant, a native one that we want to encourage, or one that needs to go away, because it’s not native or useful in some other way. Here you go:

plant2
Yep, it makes clumps. And I don’t have a larger image.

Any of you Master Naturalists or botanists have an idea?

UPDATE: Stephanie Kendall (no relation) posited that it could be Texas bear grass. I’ll go with that until there’s another idea. It’s not growing in its native habitat, but it is on a limestone soil. It looks like it was planted there on purpose as a ground cover, which is one of the uses of bear grass.

The other one I see all the time on 360 in Austin, and anywhere that isn’t overly manicured. I have a close-up of the leaves, which I took. I tried to ID it with the PlantSnap application, but first it said it was a bromeliad, then a rose:

plant1b
This resembles a lot of things. But SnapPlant said it was a rose flower. That one I know is wrong.

Here’s the photo I got from my friend. Austin residents should find it familiar. But what is it? It’s not the thing with the pretty orchid-like flowers, but it does look like that one (which I also don’t remember the name of and haven’t looked up):

plant1
Okay, so what is it?

I hate to admit to being so clueless, but I am. I don’t even have good enough images to see if I can get help on iNaturalist, but I guess that will be next.

Help a gal out. Any clues?

UPDATE: Stephanie Kendall also identified this one. And I am sure she’s right that this plant is false willow Baccharis neglecta. I love the name on that one! It’s because it tends to crop up on disturbed or neglected areas. I’ve been seeing this one for decades and wondered what it was.

Visitor Viewpoint

steve
My grad school best buddy, Steve, whispering sweet nothings to Alfred the Anatolian shepherd, while Carlton wags his tail.

Hi friends. I took a blogging break last week, but at least I got that newspaper article written. Big busy-ness at my full-time job combined with my part-time job, high school graduation, and entertaining guests meant I didn’t sit down at the computer for two whole days! That may be a record.

I really enjoyed the various guests. Yesterday, one of my oldest friends (the first person I met in grad school), Steve, and his husband Guy dropped by. We have visited them a few times in Las Cruces, but they hadn’t been here, so they stopped after visiting San Antonio.

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In the News!

A quick share, because I am proud that the article I submitted last week to the Cameron Herald got published just as I wrote it, even with the informal parts intact. I was testing to see if light-heartedness would go over all right, and it did.

By the way, this is a fun paper to read, and subscriptions to the online version are very reasonable. What the heck, read about all the police activity and financial intrigue in a small town! Click the link above to subscribe.

I was a little disappointed to see that they used the photo of me grinning my head off rather than the one of Dr. Thoms, but I can see why they would want to feature local residents. The Thorndale paper also published the article, but with no pictures. I guess I am a byline collector, now.

Cameron_Herald_May_31_2018

My sister texted me to say I was in the newspaper. I said, yes, I know. Check the byline! It’s great to use my skills to volunteer for a good cause and help educate folks about the history of our area. We have it worked out where I and another volunteer alternate articles, so it’s not too much work, either.

Also…

Who can spot the typo?

Cardinal Nest

morningglory
Our tenacious native morning glories always make me happy, too. And this is a nicer picture than the one actually on topic for this post.

If you live in the US, you’ve probably seen cardinals (the Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis) in your garden, in parks, or in the woods. They are a common bird at feeders, and their coloring makes them easy to spot. Their beautiful songs also pinpoint where you need to look to see them!

The cardinal was my mother’s favorite bird. I can remember sitting on our back porch watching birds at the feeder. My mom told me that if I sat really quietly, “Mama Cardinal” would come right up to us. And she did. Mom liked to point out her pretty coral “lipstick.” I think I know where I got my love for observing birds!

One thing I had not observed until recently was a cardinal nest. I see lots and lots of nests, like wrens, doves, barn swallows, and the big hawks, but I don’t think I ever saw cardinals nesting before (now, I have seen LOTS of juvenile cardinals hanging out with their parents, just not the nests).

So, imagine how happy I was yesterday when I was sitting on the porch at our office in Cameron and saw a “Mama Cardinal” fly to a little tree next to our warehouse. She has a nest! I watched both parents for a while, then went to look at the nest more closely. It’s impressive! There is string and some kind of clothing label in it, but mostly it’s made of sticks and looks almost woven. It’s deep and cup-shaped, not shallow and wide like many other nests I see.

cardnal_nest
Honest, the nest is in the center of this photo.

Unfortunately, while it’s easy to see with the eye, it doesn’t photograph very well. And I’m not going to climb up a ladder and bug the birds. I look forward to watching the fledglings flying around in a few weeks.

For the Love of Lovebugs

lovebug
Back in the 1960s, this would have been a mild lovebug attack.

Speaking of plagues, at the Hermits’ Rest it’s apparently time for another of those infrequent visitations of the insect kind, the lovebug. This is one of their big years, as the front of my car will attest.

Fascinating creatures, they didn’t show up in the US until the 1960s, much to the delight of those of us who were children at the time. We spent a lot of time devising ways to shoot them out of the sky with the water hose, or pulling them apart (eww). Yes, they spend most of their adult lives mating.

Lovebugs were a real danger during the time when I was in college, traveling up and down through the middle of Florida. People were always on the side of the Florida Turnpike, broken down, because the bugs had clogged their radiators. My 1972 Pinto Squire wagon had a very small radiator; that did not combine well with lovebugs.

The rest stops had special lovebug removal stations set up, so folks could clear their windshields and radiators enough to go home. They sold special screens to put on your car grill to reduct the damage. Wikipedia says that modern car paint doesn’t suffer as much, but in the past you had to get the bugs right off or their acidity would eat into paint. You can see why no one liked them.

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The Plague of Mud Daubers

dog dauber.jpg
There are actually dozens and dozens of mud daubers in this photo. That’s what Carlton the Dogman is looking at.

Before I go any further, I must say it’s raining! When it rains to any significant extent once the hot weather starts, it’s worth mentioning. We will have some happy plants, and I set some seat cushions out to get cleaned, too (it’s free!).

rain
The rain chains are flowing, and the dirty cushions are getting a bath. Rain is our friend!

One thing the rain is washing away from those cushions will be mud dauber nests. We always have some here (ours are black-and-yellow mud daubers, Sceliphron caementarium), but this year they are especially abundant. I have always enjoyed watching these guys and find the places they make nests pretty funny sometimes. You never know where one will show up, like on a shovel, in the lawn mower, etc. They were all over those seat cushions, too. They use such nice, brown mud. Quite the construction workers!

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