Yesterday the sun shone on the soil yard at The Natural Gardener, and the 87°F/30.5ºC air was ripe with the scent of manure as we filled bags of compost and rose soil. This morning the wind gusted merrily, knocking over potted plants and the thermometer read 53°F/11.6ºC - much more like fall.
Some of the small creatures around our garden tend to disappear once cool weather arrives and my chances for better photos of them are disappearing, too. So these pictures are not art but witness - a reminder to me of some creatures who shared our space in 2008.
Our first Meyer's Lemon tree did well in a container and back in 2006 I debated planting it in the ground but worried about hardiness. Christopher (then in Hawaii but now Outside Clyde in North Carolina) encouraged me to quit dithering and buy a second tree. After I took his advice and planted a second lemon near the house wall in 2007, the tree survived winter, has made a handful of lemons and is now about 5-feet tall.
Lately some of the leaves looked chomped but I didn't know what was eating them. Then a couple of days ago I saw what to the unassisted eye almost looked like a bird dropping on a leaf - perhaps 3/4 inch in length.
But do bird droppings turn their heads when a flash goes off?
This seems to be the caterpillar of a Giant Swallowtail Butterfly - found fairly easily by searching for Bird Poop + caterpillars. A few eaten leaves won't matter on this larger tree so I'll leave it alone and hope for butterflies. The cat even looked a little bigger this morning. If a bird poop caterpillar appears on the other Meyer's Lemon, which still grows in a container and comes inside the house for winter, it will be relocated to the in-ground plant! I want that potted Meyer's Lemon to hold onto its leaves and give me flowers and fruit, but wish the tropical milkweed looked less pristine. I enjoy the flowers but the reason I grow two large plants of this Asclepias is so they can be eaten by Monarch butterfly larvae. This fall I've only seen two Monarchs and not a single caterpillar. I fell like a hostess who sent out invitations for dinner and had no one show up.
How long will the geckos stick around? They're always high up on the veranda walls, catching insects that swarm to the porch lights. None seem to be native - guess this one is a
Mediterranean gecko Hemidactylus turcicus
I've also read that another introduced gecko is found around Austin, so wonder if this pink one on the brick could be a House gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus. Doesn't it look a little like a newly hatched bird before it fledges?There are some interesting other species described here: GeckoWeb Profiles.
Another non-native critter appears on the sidewalk outside the back door when we get rain - small snails. I rarely see snails that look like the ones in cartoons - with a round high-top shell.
Ours are conical brown snails - predators of the round top types. They're used as a natural control in citrus groves. Decollate Snails
Earlier in summer my son noticed an odd insect - it looked as if parts of other insects like a moth, grasshopper and a praying mantis had been glued together. Because one of its legs was missing it was easy to gently place it on the windowsill for a photo before we released it back into one of the big containers where we'd found it. A search found more about our Mantidfly
The large critters are getting bolder! Last year I spent hours trying to sneak up on the squirrels and would have been happy to have a photo like this.
This year I took the first photo, then kept moving closer, and the squirrel held its ground for a close-up. I didn't have any trouble sneaking up on this last creature - because only the name is animal. My friend Ellen gave me a start of a toadlily in early spring and although the leaves show the stress of the hot, dry summer, the flowers still opened. They're about the size of a quarter and don't look impressive at a distance but sure are fascinating when you move in really close.
2016 Spring Flowers
6 days ago