Anole II

Sep. 24th, 2014 07:06 am
neverspent: art of field, fence and tree (farm fence)
Happy Autumn! It actually feels like autumn here, for a few days at least.

I cannot get over how cute my lizard friend is. The day after I discovered him, he had moved to the screen door, attracted, I assume, by the bugs that like to congregate there. What an attitude.

Anole attitude

More lizardy cuteness )


Sep. 21st, 2014 12:41 am
neverspent: vintage art of ferns (Default)
Look at the cute lizard I spotted at the Farm today! It's a northern green anole and supposedly it's common in its range, but I rarely see them. The common ones are the gray prairie lizards and sleek skinks. This fellow was brownish with green splotches, so I suppose he was changing colors. Neat!

neverspent: vintage art of ferns (Default)

(And look at that fellow hiding behind the blossom on the lower left!)
neverspent: vintage art of ferns (Default)
Actually I just made that up because I've been seeing lots. This carpenter bee is all dusty with passionflower!


Passiflora incarnata )
neverspent: vintage art of ferns (Default)
Summer solstice came at the end of a long, busy week for me, and I barely had a chance to mark it. The morning after -- this morning, quite early -- I was awakened by a semi-regular clicking coming from the floor around the dog crate. I dragged myself over, moved the crate, and confirmed what I had suspected: an Elateridae or "click" beetle. (Maybe Sylvanelater cylindriformis?) These tiny fellows can snap their bodies between the abdomen and thorax, which enables them to flip up or right themselves when they're turned upside down. In this case, he was stuck between the carpet and the plastic tray of the dog crate, so his "click" was even louder. Amazing, the creatures you can discover right in your own house.

I went back to sleep for awhile, and when I woke again, the sun was higher, the sky a hazy light blue with a few small white clouds scattered across the north. A hawk was circling in my view. Very hot, very alive. Very summer.
neverspent: art of dragonfly (dragonfly)
It's the end of National Pollinator Week! Upon reflection, I've become a lot more aware of the variety of pollinators recently, almost certainly because of entomologists on Twitter. It's not just the honeybees and bumblebees.


A few more big fans of pollen )
neverspent: vintage art of ferns (Default)
Still raining. Bring it on, I say. Periodically the rain stops and you catch the reflection of the sky in a puddle.

neverspent: vintage art of ferns (ferns)
It's been a rainy early summer. In May we had a total of 6.5 inches of rain, which is only a little more than average, but the precipitation was mostly spread out among a lot of individual showers and long, relatively gentle rainy days. In June, we've had some storms as well as long rains, and I think we may have about two inches so far. It's prime mushroom weather!

Someday I'll learn to identify all of these beauties. Mushroom gallery )
neverspent: vintage art of ferns (ferns)
We had some incredible mammatus clouds above my city on Thursday. When I went to my car after work, I could see a touch of roiling in the clouds to the north and west. You can just feel when it's going to be special, when it's odd. Instead of driving straight home, I went around on different streets, trying to catch the best view, and of course the entire time, the sky was changing. But in the end, I got the most amazing view when I finally went home.


The next day, a strong, fast moving storm came through and left a lot of leafy branch debris everywhere, a few downed trees and some house damage. I even saw a fifteen-foot young maple tree snapped in half about two feet up its trunk. But my garden plants were all fine. Its amazing what tenderness and suppleness can do sometimes to protect you from breaking in a storm.

Drops )
neverspent: vintage art of ferns (Default)
If you keep an eye on North American nature media at all, you've probably heard about the decline of the monarch butterfly and the call for a "milkweed corridor" to help replace lost habitat and food sources along the monarch's migration routes.

In case you haven't... )

So... there's an effort to get as many people to plant as much milkweed in as many places as possible along the migration routes. I've tried sowing wildflower seed before, but haven't been very successful: I chose a steep site where the seeds either washed away in heavy rains, or germinated and then succumbed to a spring drought. But this year, I have ordered milkweed and other wildflower seeds and I'm determined to make it work. If you're interested too, here are some resources I'm using:

Milkweed Seed Finder - The Xerxes Society (a great resource for all kinds of invertebrates) has a tool to help you find milkweed seeds from vendors in your local area. There's also a link to species maps so you can find out which milkweeds are native to your region. Most seed companies I looked at will take orders online and ship to you.

Native American Seed Company - a source for native plant seeds. Their website and catalog also have a lot of educational material and other resources. (I read the catalog cover-to-cover like a book! Because I'm that kind of nerd. :)

How to Get Texas Native Milkweed Seeds to Germinate - not just for Texans! This expert has developed what he feels is the most successful way to germinate the seeds. It's a very fussy process, but when each little seed is valuable, I'm sure it's worth it.

Growing Milkweeds - This guide gives more options for propagating milkweed, including growing them from cuttings.

Asclepias database - The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center's database listing of Milkweeds. It includes photos and common names and is pretty good for identifying species you may find in the wild. (Aside: how awesome would it be to have a respected wildflower center named after you? Go Ladybird!)

Since this seed propagation business is likely to be a multi-year project (especially since it's already effectively summer here) the other thing I'm doing is trying to protect any established milkweeds I find. In our pasture, there are a couple of butterfly milkweed plants my dad and I discovered years ago. My dad likes photography and I like both photography and insects, so he drove posts into the ground next to the plants to protect them from being mowed down during haying. This year I located a green milkweed plant and staked it out as well. (The same plant, I believe, that was being eaten by a monarch larvae in September 2012!) I'm putting a reminder in my calendar so that, hopefully, later in the year I can collect some seeds myself.

Asclepias viridis

neverspent: art of red and white flower (flower)
I've been at the Farm this week, and the pasture is just about ready for making hay. The grasses are up to my waist and their gray-green seed tops ripple in the wind like ocean waves. The clovers, three kinds (purple, white, black medic with little yellow flower bunches) are thick and nutritious. And there are lots of other tender, persistent plants among the grass.

pasture grass

And the flowers )
neverspent: vintage art of ferns (Default)
Well, hello handsome young skink! I'm sorry that my autocorrect thinks you're a skunk.

Plestiodon fasciatus
neverspent: art of dragonfly (dragonfly)

In my neighborhood, there used to be four or five square blocks of undisturbed forest remaining among the houses, apartments and businesses that have been built in the past 20 years. It was an area thick with tall, straight oak trees and an understory characteristic of mature forest. A few years ago, one block of the forest was cleared to build a medical clinic, and most recently, last fall another block was knocked down and burned to make way for a new church. (That was particularly heartbreaking. They even bulldozed and leveled a small creek, and I knew for a fact that the area had been habitat for a lot of rabbits and at least one pair of foxes, not to mention the wild mice and birds, turtles, frogs and who knows what else.)

I still walk there because it's quiet, without a lot of traffic, and the other day while I was out in late evening, my eye caught some bright color where there used to be just scrubby dirt and a few grasses. It was wildflowers around the back edges of the clinic.

Someone seeded this mix of flowers deliberately. I can always tell because they contain flowers I never see in self-sowing areas free from recent human interference -- especially poppies. People buy a "wildflower mix" seed packet and it's not made for the particular region or local area where it's being planted. Same with the highway department. Some of their highway beautification flowers are native to the area, some aren't. But they're beautiful, they do well, and they're much better for wildlife than the old mown, flooded and sun-baked ditches. One bit of evidence: yesterday among the wild oat grasses and evening primrose, I spotted at least four gorgeous, happy little green dragonflies, young Eastern Pondhawks, the first I've seen this season.
neverspent: art of red and white flower (flower)
There are a lot of varieties of Potentilla, and many of them look like strawberries. I have trouble distinguishing between Indian strawberry (Potentilla indica or Duchesnea indica) and common cinquefoil, except for the five-lobed leaf. (If you can count in French, the "cinq" should help you remember!) Some have little greenish or white, seed-covered (but tasteless) berries, and a European variety is actually named Potentilla sterilis, "barren strawberry."

Common cinquefoil
Common cinquefoil, Potentilla simplex

A distinctive variety )

Jays, May 6

May. 9th, 2014 08:34 am
neverspent: vintage art of a pigeon (pigeon)
Tuesday was a hot, muggy day, so when I was walking my dog on a trail in the woods, I took him down to the creek so he could wade around and cool off. As soon as we reached the bottom of the steep bank from the trail, a funny-looking blue jay fluttered in front of us and caught the edge of a twig about six feet away. It bounced there precariously, and I wondered why it didn't fly further, but soon I could see that it was a fledgling. Its tail feathers weren't fully formed and it was still a bit round and babyish. Just learning to fly, I imagine. I held the dog and watched as the little fellow took off again, sailed on a downward trajectory across the creek -- I held my breath hoping it wouldn't splash into the water -- and landed on a rock just on the far edge. It was sort of hidden in a hollow in the bank. A parent blue jay made a few passes through the air near us, then landed high in a tree on the far side of the creek, watching. I was relieved when the baby managed to hop onto a root higher on the bank, the up into the woods closer to its parent. I let my dog (who was completely uninterested in the birds) go and he stood up to his chest in the cool water for awhile. Then I noticed a second fledgling on our side of the creek, perched on an exposed root at about my eye level, ten feet away. The poor thing must have been pretty scared, so I called the dog and we left the family alone to re-unite.

When I was young, I used to just call blue jays "jays," because I figured the "blue" was unnecessary. Then I got a bird book and learned that there were other varieties! Scrub jays, Mexican jays, pinion jays, Steller's jays. There are even green, brown and gray jays! It's just that the blue is the only one common over a wide area of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.
neverspent: vintage art of ferns (Default)
I learned this flower as hairy phacelia, but the USDA Plant Database calls it "Fuzzy Phacelia," which I love almost as much as the Latin, Phacelia hirsuta. The variety seems to be limited to the mid-south and central U.S. It's very common here in April and May.

neverspent: art of red and white flower (flower)
This was out at the neglected cabin in the woods. Just one flower for now. I loved the rich gold color in the evening sun.


Fuzzy petals )
neverspent: vintage art of ferns (Default)
At the farm this weekend, I went out in the early morning and smelled sweetness on the air. It was the black locust trees in bloom, caught in a breeze. I went out in the afternoon in the sunny driveway and immediately could feel a thrumming above my head. A busy drone. When I looked up, bumblebees. So many, so busy and happy.


Bumblebee bum )


neverspent: vintage art of ferns (Default)

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