Welcome to my world!

Backyard Birding in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas:
Surrounded by great birding destinations, our favorite patch is still the backyard (or the front), where we've seen more than 270 species of birds. Sit awhile, and watch the river and yard with us!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Butterflies and Caterpillars (What Winter?)

Yesterday I walked around the yard looking for signs of life in the plants that have looked sickly since the freeze. One especially bedraggled spot was the front-yard butterfly garden. The white plumbago, a favorite nectar plant for many of our butterflies, was a tangle of black leaves and black sticky seeds. The butterfly weeds, host plant to milkweed caterpillars, were mostly leafless stalks topped with dry, twisted black leaves. A cursory glance would make a gardener less lazy than I start clipping and clearing and pruning back. However, I am not that diligent a gardener. (I'd rather watch birds than clip and clear and prune.) So I looked more closely, and along the stalks I could see small green leaves just beginning to unfurl. On one plant I even found a Queen caterpillar. If I'd cleaned up my butterfly garden, I might have deprived this future butterfly of food!

Most plants in the yard don't show signs of damage by the cold weather. The mix of native and non-native lantana under the whitebrush, for example, looks better than ever. That's where I took this picture of a Red Admiral butterfly that flitted from flower to flower yesterday morning. Its wings are tattered and torn, but it was still beautiful in the sun. The Pipevine Swallowtail was nectaring on a fiddlewood.

Other insects I've been watching in the yard the last few days are the Red Harvester Ants that are busy carrying bird seed into their ant hole in the sandy soil at the end of the drive. In the photo below you can see the white round millet seeds and a black sunflower seed which I had scattered no where near the ant hill and which the ants had carried home. I like to watch the nest to see what the ants are up to. I've taken other photos when their hole is surrounded with little red pigeon berries and one series of photos that show a green caterpillar being carried to the hole by several ants at once and then disappearing inside.
Bird activity today:

*Early this morning I heard an Osprey calling over the front yard and went out on the deck to watch. It was carrying not the usual fish in its talons but a stick about a foot or two long. It must be building a nest somewhere--wish I could find out where.
*The pair of Pyrrhuloxias were all over the yard today, bathing, eating seed from the ground, singing.

1 comment:

KaHolly said...

I am so envious of all the activity in your yard, right down to the ants. Are those the red ants that bite so badly? A Queen caterpillar - I'm going to have to go look that one up. Glad you didn't clean your plants out, too! I don't either, until it's "time". ~karen