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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hummingbird Preview at Kleb Woods

We experienced some brutally hot weather at the beginning of August, which of course is no surprise in Texas. However low pressure and rain showers made the latter half of the month quite pleasant, by comparison. The temperatures dropped from around the 100's (we had five days of 100+ temps) to the low- to mid-90's.

So Eric and I decided to douse ourselves with bug spray and head out to Kleb Woods Nature Reserve.

They will be having a Hummingbird Festival on September 10th, but we knew there would probably be plenty of hummers at their feeders already.

We weren't disappointed :-)  The Nature Center has a nice big shady wrap-around porch and feeders are hanging under the eaves about 10 feet apart, more or less at eye level for viewers on the porch.

It's very pleasant to sit or stand in the shade while the hummers zip around between the feeders and among the bushes in the garden.

As always, you can click on the images to see a larger view.   Given the diminutive stature of these little gems, that's probably the best way to see them :-)

I lost count of the total, but there were perhaps 10 or more. Most were Ruby-Throats, which is what we see in our back yard habitat.

We spent a very pleasant half-hour watching them cavorting about and at times there were three or four on a feeder. (We never get that at home, there's always that one who thinks the whole yard is his and sees off all the rest).

As we watched them, I suddenly realized that they weren't ALL Ruby-throats.  I kept seeing flashes of russet as one particularly aggressive little hummer dive-bombed his more sedate companions.  I should qualify that by saying I meant more sedate by comparison.  You couldn't really call any hummingbird *sedate*.

I tried and tried to get a photo of this little whirling dervish, hoping he would settle on a feeder.  But he was more interested in making sure the others kept their distance than actually taking a sip of nectar himself.

This was the best I could do. It's a Rufous hummingbird - the first I have ever seen. You can see his victim in the top right hand corner of this shot, LOL.

Finally, here's a short clip of video that I took -- only about a minute's worth.

We're certainly going to try and make it to the Hummingbird Festival as they are a lot of fun and very informative.

If you are in the area from 9 am to 3 pm, on Saturday September 10th, do try to stop by.  Here's a flyer with more information.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson,  Jayne's Country Garden.

Monday, August 22, 2016

More Monarch Success

It's been an exciting weekend, and the new week has started with a bang too! Not only because we have more thunder outside today, but because those three chrysalides I mentioned in my last post all hatched overnight!

That's a total of 8 so far -- and I just noticed two more caterpillars getting ready to pupate!

It looks like we have one male and two females this time.

I "encouraged" them out of the cage on my hand so I could close it up and they all hung out for a spell, drying off their wings, while I went indoors for some coffee.

When I went out later two had already flown out to the garden and only one was left on the outside of the cage.

One neat thing about Monarchs at this stage -- you can get a lot closer to them than you can when they are in the wild.  They are still docile and slow moving. I was even able to let the last one crawl on my hand :-)

She was quite happy to sit there for a minute or two before taking off and heading into the garden for some nectar.

As today is the first day back to school for the children in our area, and since we don't have kids, these photos of butterflies heading off in to the wild blue yonder will have to suffice!!!

I'm linking this post up with Camera Critters today.  If you have a few minutes, visit some of the other blogs participating for some great critter photos.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Monarch Butterfly Birthday

In my last post I told you about my Monarch nursery I have going on the back patio.

Well, the last two days have been most exciting!  I went out to check on the cage yesterday morning and what should I see?

TWO of the chrysalides had marched (eclosed) overnight!

I was thrilled to see they were both healthy-looking females.  There were no signs of OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) infection, such as malformed wings, that I have seen in the past.

I opened the flap and, with a little help from me and a ride on my hand for one of them, they exited the cage and rested on the mesh for a while before heading off to the zinnia and milkweed in the island bed.

From what I saw yesterday, there were four more chrysalides and one more caterpillar on the milkweed.    At that time, it didn't appear that any of the chrysalides had turned color, but when I went out to look this morning, a beautiful male had hatched.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of him.  It was so humid this morning my camera lens kept steaming up!

I've been absolutely thrilled with this experience, and we still have three more to go (plus the caterpillar).

I'm going to keep searching the milkweed in the island bed for signs of eggs or caterpillars that can be moved to the cage.

But first, once these have all hatched I need to clean out the cage -- who knew caterpillars could POO so much?!
              Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Monarch Nursery

I know it's been a long time since I posted anything, but this time I do actually have an excuse! At the middle of July I went in to St. Luke's Hospital in the Texas Medical Center to have a pituitary tumor removed.  Then I spent a week in the hospital (even spent my 60th birthday in hospital, can you believe!!!) and since then have been recovering at home.

I literally spent three weeks in bed but have started to get up and about recently.  I was getting headaches at first but they seem to have resolved now, thank goodness! I'm just asking it easy and not overdoing things.

So while I was in hospital, the garden was more or less left to its own resources.  The weeds, of course, grew rampant.  The milkweed got covered in aphids and other crud.

During my recovery I've been spending time sitting out on the patio and one day I saw this young lady busy at work, laying eggs on the cruddy milkweed.

Then, it happened that an ad popped up on Facebook, for the Monarch Butterfly Kit to raise Monarchs. So I went ahead and ordered it.

I think they are really designed so you can raise Monarch indoors, but we don't really have anywhere that the cats wouldn't get to it, so I opted to put mine in the back corner of the patio.

I put a couple of bricks on the bottom, to stop it getting blown around by the wind. Then I went around collecting some milkweed cuttings that had caterpillars on, and placing them in the little picks filled with water to keep them fresh-(ish). I also took some other cuttings and cleaned them up, hosed off the aphids etc., and put them in there as well.

Within a day, one of the caterpillars had already departed it's milkweed and was climbing to the top of the cage! Then I saw two more heading that way as well!

This morning I was thrilled to see three chrysalises (chrysalides)!!

Today I plan to see if I can purchase some fresh milkweed from one of our local stores, Plants for All Seasons or The Arbor Gate, if they have any.  That way I can rescue some other caterpillars, and even some eggs, from the ratty milkweed in the island beds.

Wish me luck!

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.