A few days ago I heard a distinctive Green Jay racket. Out on the fishing dock, a family of six of these bright, cheerful, and noisy natives of South Texas lined up on the railing. Four of them were probably newly fledged; all were excited. Ruffling their feathers and bobbing up and down in a funny dance, they were belting out the strangest clicks and whistles.
I love these birds and never tire of watching their noisy antics. When they fly into a tree, they alight on a low branch and hop their way to the top. Though I don't put out their seed at regular times, they always discover it within about five minutes. With the sudden increase from two to six jays, I'll have to increase my supply of corn, peanuts, and bird seed.
Black and White Warblers, Yellow Warblers, Prothonatary Warblers, Hooded Warblers, and Canada Warblers began visiting oak trees and bird baths last week. Summer Tanagers and Indigo Buntings added a splash of color as did migrant Baltimore and Bullock's Orioles that joined the summering Hooded Orioles and native Altamira Orioles. Though not as brightly colored in fall as in spring, these are still pretty spectacular birds.
Meanwhile, a little Screech-owl sat unperturbed in the pine tree, enduring constant scolding by what seemed like a treeful of wrens and titmice.
Birds and bird activity are not the only increase in the yard. Butterflies are thick among trees, shrubs and flowers; and blooms are abundant even as rain diminishes. These three Giant Swallowtails were in a lineup of ten on a fiddlewood shrub. I would have needed a wide lens to get all the rest of them in the picture!
Another illustration of burgeoning life around the yard can be seen in the photos above of a Queen butterfly and a Queen caterpillar, both on milkweed plants. Look closely--do you see what I am talking about? It's not the butterfly or the caterpillar. That's right--the tiny round white specks are eggs! Click on the photos to enlarge them if you can't find the eggs.
I have taken many, many butterfly photos in the last couple of weeks and then spent hours looking over guide books trying to identify them. I used to classify butterflies in such categories as "yellow ones" "white ones" and "little skipperly things." Now with the help of my camera and guide book (I like Kaufman's because of the maps and indication of size) I'm doing a better job, but my learning curve is slow. A camera really helps me identify these guys, as it does with other insects and dragonflies. I think my next blog will be devoted to the various butterflies and dragonflies I've been able to put a label on.
Speaking of increase (and also of insects), I have more photos of the spider I blogged about yesterday. In the late afternoon sun, it is obvious why this spider is called a Silver Argiope. Notice that the little mate I worried about yesterday was back today, snuggled closer. I laugh whenever I see this unlikely pair. There I go anthropomorphizing again.
But isn't the shadow cast by this smaller Argiope amazing? Though the web's stabilimentum (zigzaggy web things) can't be seen well on the web, they are obvious in the shadow.
I'll keep watching these fascinating spiders and learning more about them. And about the other creatures around the yard. What's really increasing is my attention. I'm sure the spiders have always been here.