Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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September Garden Bloggers' Wildlife Day

I'm several days late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and I don't even have that many blooms. This is not to say that September is a slow month in the garden, however. On the contrary, September seems to be the very best month of the entire year for wildlife in the garden - just not such a big month for the flowers. And now I'm finally going to get around to showing you both the wildlife and the flowers.

There's no wildlife visible in this first picture, but you can see most of the flowers: pale purplish California asters (Symphyotrichum chilense) in the lower left, the omnipresent golden rosillas (Helenium puberulum) just above them, and the last lingering yellow evening-primroses (Oenothera elata) and red cardinalflowers (Lobelia cardinalis) mingling in the ditch. In the center, the clustered field sedge (Carex praegracilis) is forming a rather delightfully lush, unmowed, lawn-like area.

Does this count as wildlife? Over on the right side of the yard, Boston is showing off how well the ripe pumpkin matches her fur. The yellow prairie coneflowers (Ratibida columnifera) are still blooming here, and if grass flowers count, the cloud of alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides) behind Boston is hard to beat.

Here is another shot of the prairie coneflowers and alkali sacaton.

And here's one of the pumpkin and alkali sacaton.

Here's your first, tiniest glimpse of wildlife. I recently discovered these weird little bugs climbing all over the evening-primroses. They look a lot like mosquitoes, except that they don't appear to have any wings, and they don't react in any way to my standing over them and flashing my camera in their faces. I don't know what they are.

Here is a more picturesque shot of the evening-primroses, California asters, and rosillas from far enough away that you can't see the unidentified bugs.

The California asters have long been my strongest butterfly magnet. During the month of September, when they are at the peak of their bloom, there are multiple butterflies partaking of the aster flowers almost every time I look at it.

See, there's one now! Actually, most of the butterflies I see are the smaller and far less showy skipper butterflies, but I've gotten rather bored with photographing them, so I only got out my camera for this new species I had never seen before. This is a West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella). This species breeds on plants in the mallow family, of which I have several species (checker mallow, Fremont's globemallow, Munro's globemallow, Sacramento rose-mallow, and non-native scarlet mallow), so I'm doing my part to keep the population of this butterfly species up. I really like mallow plants, and I also really like this butterfly, so the fact that they tend to go together makes them both all the better. However, I did not see this butterfly pay any attention to any of my mallow plants. I'll just hope it notices them later. Or for all I know, it could have hatched on one of them and started its life here, which would be even better.

The West Coast Lady did spend quite a while enjoying the turkey-tangle fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) blooming in the ditch.

It is less colorful with its wings closed, but it is still rather noticeable.

The scarlet mallow (Sphaeralcea philippiana) is the only mallow left in the yard right now that is over a year old, so if the West Coast Lady hatched on one of the existing plants in our yard, it probably hatched on this.

Meanwhile, over where the rosillas mingle with the milkweed, there is a different orange butterfly hiding. Can you tell what this one is? The presence of milkweed is a big clue.

Yes, it's a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) - also the first of its species that I've seen in our yard. Unlike the West Coast Lady, the monarch did not seem especially interested in drinking nectar from flowers. It spent about an hour acting totally obsessed with the milkweed, so I'm pretty sure it was laying eggs all over the milkweed plants. (Milkweeds are the only plants that monarch butterflies can breed on.)

I would have gotten far more photographs of it in that hour if my camera's shutter speed were anywhere near adequate to keep up with the speed of a monarch butterfly's wings. Even when it landed, its wings never stopped their rapid fluttering. The West Coast Lady opened and closed its wings slowly while sitting on flowers, but the monarch never slowed down at all.

It did rest its wings just once, for a minute or so, when it landed on the buttonbush. Its wings still opened and closed constantly, but they took on a more relaxed pace.

And it took a brief, inexplicable interest in the seedpods of the evening-primrose.

You may notice that the cardinal flower has sprouted twelve additional flower spikes.

Our hummingbird seems very happy with all twelve new ones as well as the original. I finally got a picture of it! This hummingbird seems to visit the cardinal flower just about every day, but I've only once managed a single photo of it. It's quite camera-shy.

Down in the ditch below the cardinal flower, I tried to photograph a bright orange flower. I didn't even notice the frog until I looked at the picture later.

The flower is a non-native volunteer called scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), growing with native yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and fiber-optic grass (Isolepis cernuus).

The next day I saw a frog in almost exactly the same spot (possibly the same frog?) and tried to take a picture of the frog. Naturally, my camera decided it was more interested in the yarrow this time.

There is never any shortage of frogs in our yard. One day while I was working, I glanced up at the window next to my desk and saw a frog on the window screen. All of these frogs are Pacific tree frogs (Pseudacris regilla). They are said to live an average of three years in the wild and have been known to live at least five years in captivity.

In the front yard we have Western toads (Anaxyrus boreas), which are said to live 10 or 11 years. This one is full-grown (a little larger than fist-sized) and likes to sit under the arborvitae that our landlady's family planted. The arborvitae is absolutely covered at all times with thousands of what I think are Western conifer seed bugs (Leptoglossus occidentalis) - a native bug that seems to be surviving very well on our non-native arborvitae - and the toad spends pretty much all its time sitting below the arborvitae and eating its fill of those bugs. The supply of those bugs never runs low, so this toad has a very easy life.

But let's return to the topic of flowers. The yarrow is putting out a new round of little white flower clusters even as the larger clusters from spring finish going to seed.

The California asters are beginning to go to seed as well.

The red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) bloomed briefly, a single cluster of tiny white flowers whose petals fell off within a few days, leaving behind small green fruits. The fruits should turn white when they ripen.

The California fuchsias (Epilobium canum 'Calistoga' and Epilobium canum) are beginning to bloom. This picture is of the 'Calistoga' cultivar.

And the leaves of my tiny grapevine (Vitis californica X vinifera 'Roger's Red') are turning red for fall.

In the neither-plant-nor-animal category, these mushrooms are spewing their spores all over the nearby plants.

But the indoor wildlife seems to want my attention now, so I'll have to end here. (Don't be fooled by Stardust's come-hither look, though. She's a look-but-don't-touch kind of cat. She very much wants me to look at her, but more often than not, when she's doing this, she will vanish under the bed if I actually try to pet her.)

Tags: native plants, photographs
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