Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin
queerbychoice

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Wildlife in My Garden

It's been several months since I last posted garden pictures, and I have rather too many of them saved up to fit them all in one post, so I decided to separate the ones with animals in them and just post those for now. I have quite a few of those right now, because I recently put up a bird feeder. So I have birds!

Passer domesticus (male house sparrows)




This is my bird feeder. It sat alone and neglected for a couple of weeks before the birds started noticing it.

large tube bird feeder


The first birds to notice it were house sparrows (Passer domesticus). They're still the ones I see at it most often, which is unfortunate since they're an invasive species. They don't belong in North America, and they sometimes kill the native birds and take over the native birds' nests. I need to try switching food types and feeder types so I can feed more of the native birds and fewer of the invasive ones. For now, though, house sparrows are the main birds I've got. They congregate in single-sex groups. The ones shown in the first picture above are males, and these are also males:

Passer domesticus (male house sparrows)

Passer domesticus (male house sparrows)


And these are the female house sparrows - a bit paler in color, and with different markings:

Passer domesticus (female house sparrows)

Passer domesticus (female house sparrows)

Passer domesticus (female house sparrows)


I have, however, managed to feed at least a few native birds. Mainly house finches (Carpodacus mexicanus). These also congregate in single-sex groups. The males have bright reddish heads and chests and quite pretty, but unfortunately I haven't managed to take any pictures of them - they fly off when I reach for my camera. So all I have is one picture of a female, who is not reddish at all:

Carpodacus mexicanus (female house finch)


The feeder is only designed for small birds, but some larger birds go after the seeds that fall to the ground below it. This is a Western scrub jay (Aphelocoma californica), which is not one of my favorite birds (because I have too much experience with them nesting right outside my bedroom window back when I lived in my first apartment complex, about ten years ago by now at least, and I still haven't forgiven them for all the noise they made) but is at least a native bird that does belong here:

Aphelocoma californica (Western scrub jay)


This next one, though is not native, does not belong here, and makes annoying noises constantly, even when not actually nesting outside my bedroom window. This is an invasive Eurasian collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto). Its mating call can be heard online here . . . or you could just come to my neighborhood and hear it repeated 24 hours a day, almost 365 days a year, unceasingly, and then you would understand why I do not like this bird. Frankly, if I were ever inclined to hunt and kill my own food, this bird would be the first bird I would eat. Luckily for the bird, however, I do not trust myself with a weapon, because I think I would be more likely to accidentally shoot myself in the foot than anything else. So the bird is safe.

Streptopelia decaocto (Eurasian collared dove)

Streptopelia decaocto (Eurasian collared dove)


A few feet away from that first bird feeder, I put up a second, more temporary bird feeder. This one is more specialized; the style of the feeder (a simple nylon-mesh sock) and the food that it's filled with (tiny nyjer thistle seeds) both appeal primarily to finches. And not just any finches, it seems - the purple finches haven't shown any interest in it. The lesser goldfinches (Spinus psaltria), however, are all over it, all the time. And they're a native species, and they make pleasant noises and look pretty, so I'm very glad to feed them:

Spinus psaltria (lesser goldfinches)

Spinus psaltria (lesser goldfinches)

Spinus psaltria (lesser goldfinches)

Spinus psaltria (lesser goldfinches)

Spinus psaltria (lesser goldfinches)


That's the end of my bird pictures. But I also have insect pictures to show you! I'll start with the ladybugs. I've been making a study of my ladybugs lately. It seems that the vast majority of them, although they differ widely in appearance, all belong to a single species, and it is a non-native species: the harlequin ladybug (Harmonia axyridis). This is a harlequin ladybug:

Harmonia axyridis (harlequin ladybug)


And this, although it looks very different, is also a harlequin ladybug:

Harmonia axyridis (harlequin ladybug)


Harlequin ladybugs can have a whole lot of other different appearances as well. And here are some ladybug eggs that I noticed on the bottom of my birdhouse. They're most likely harlequin ladybug eggs:

ladybug eggs


The easiest way to find ladybugs in my yard is to look in the pecan tree; it seems to sprout ladybugs like little red berries. The other insect that the pecan tree sprouts in large numbers is wasps. Several species of wasps, in fact, but I only got a picture of one of them. This is yet another non-native species, the European paper wasp (Polistes dominula):

Polistes dominula (European paper wasp)


The more you bother to identify the species you see around you, the more you'll probably discover that there's not much left of the original ecosystem anymore. I can't identify everything, though. I have no idea what species this fly is:

fly on Carya illinoiensis (pecan)


But here is a native! A breeding native, at that. Two monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) decided to have sex directly over my head. I guess they thought I made nice romantic scenery? More likely they were just happy that I'd planted some milkweed nearby, because milkweed is the only plant that their larvae can survive on. Anyway, I was glad to see them. And I photographed them, so now I bring you butterfly porn:

Danaus plexippus (monarch butterflies, mating)


And over here is a three-lined potato beetle (Lema daturaphila), also native. It eats plants from the nightshade family exclusively. Potatoes are one plant in the nightshade family, but the plant I found it on was the one it takes its scientific name from, Datura:

Lema daturaphila (three-lined potato beetle)


And this is a damselfly, almost certainly also a native, though I haven't been able to identify its species. It's on Muehlenberg's centaury (Zeltnera muehlenbergii), a somewhat weedy native volunteer annual:

damselfly on Zeltnera muehlenbergii (Muehlenberg's centaury)


And then there are the bees! All sorts of different bees. This is a native female Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) on my non-native tuberous catmint (Nepeta tuberosa):

Xylocopa varipuncta (Valley carpenter bee) on Nepeta tuberosa (tuberous catmint)

Xylocopa varipuncta (Valley carpenter bee) on Nepeta tuberosa (tuberous catmint)


And another one, this one with a slightly torn wing:

Xylocopa varipuncta (Valley carpenter bee) on Nepeta tuberosa (tuberous catmint)


Here are some European honeybees on the same tuberous catmint plant:

honeybee on Nepeta tuberosa (tuberous catmint)

honeybee on Nepeta tuberosa (tuberous catmint)


And a European honeybee on a carrot flower (Daucus carota):

honeybee on Daucus carota (carrot)


And a European honeybee on a native blue globe gilia flower (Gilia capitata):

honeybee on Gilia capitata (globe gilyflower)


And some European honeybees on my native Sierra mint (Pycnanthemum californicum). They're rather obsessed with this plant; they're all over it, all the time, for its entire blooming season, which is to say all summer long:

honeybee on Pycnanthemum californicum (Sierra mint)

honeybee on Pycnanthemum californicum (Sierra mint)


Sometimes I find one or two of them lingering on it after dark, when all the other bees have returned to the hive. The lingering bees are always largely immobilized, apparently pollen-drunk; you can touch them (though I wouldn't recommend doing it with your bare hands) and they still won't fly away. I don't know whether they eventually recover or not. I see them most often like that on the Sierra mint and, during orange-blossom season, on my orange tree. This is one of the lingering bees I found after dark on the Sierra mint:

honeybee on Pycnanthemum californicum (Sierra mint)


And then there are the times I find completely dead bees. It's said that European honeybees infected by colony collapse disorder simply fly away and fail to return to their hives. I don't know whether that's what happened to this one, but I found its corpse rotting on top of the dead flowerhead of a chives plant (Allium schoenoprasum) one day, and it remained there for weeks afterward:

dead honeybee on Allium schoenoprasum (chives)

dead honeybee on Allium schoenoprasum (chives)


The European honeybees are of course not native. There are also all manner of native bee species, most of which, around here, live solitary lives and build solitary nests underground or in dry, dead plant stems. This is probably one of those, but I don't know what species it is:

bee on Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)


That's all the actual insect pictures I have for you, but here's a spider in my southern magnolia:

spider on Magnolia grandiflora (Southern magnolia)


And here's one of the more common flying creatures that can often be seen overhead in my garden - a flying human being:

flying person


Let's not forget the canine "wild" creature in my garden, either:

Boston with Clarkia amoena (farewell-to-spring) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)

Boston with Hydrangea macrophylla (bigleaf hydrangea)


Nor the cat, who is not even sufficiently "wild" to dare venture outdoors at all (well, I trained her to be that way, from kittenhood), but who nonetheless harbors delusions of fierceness:

Stardust


The rest of us, however, can plainly see that this giant ball of fluff is not really in the habit of hunting anything other than storebought cat food.

Stardust
Tags: native plants, photographs
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