Welcome to my zone 9a habitat garden near Houston, Texas.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chasing butterflies

Yesterday, I staked out the Mexican sunflowers hoping to get some pictures of the many butterflies that nectar there every day. I did get a few pictures and missed on a lot more. I also found a few bonuses among the flowers.

There are many Gulf Fritillaries in the garden just now. I recently added a passionvine to give them a place to lay their eggs.

A single line of seven large orange dots on the hindwing mark the Pipe Vine Swallowtail butterfly and set it apart from other black swallowtails which mimic the Pipe Vine in order to scare away predators.

This poor Giant Swallowtail could have used something to scare away predators. He's obviously had an encounter with at least one predator, maybe more. He's lost much of his hindwings, but he's still flying.

Here's another view of the mutilated Giant Swallowtail as he rested among the leaves of a hamelia. You can see that he still retains the right half of his swallowtail.

I'm seeing a few Monarchs in the garden now, although not nearly as many as in recent years.

You can't see the extent of the damage from this angle, but this Monarch, like the Giant Swallowtail above, has had an encounter with a predator and has lost part of his hindwings.

While I was photographing the butterflies, this butterfly-sized object flew across my field of vision. I followed the course of its flight to the trunk of the nearby sycamore tree. When I went to find it, even though I saw where it landed, it was hard for me to see it.

It was a large moth, close to the size of a Monarch. It is very cryptically colored, blending in with the bark of the tree. I'm not sure which moth it is. It could be one of the sphinx moths or possibly one of the "underwing" or Catocala moths which are known for hiding on the bark of trees.

National Pollinator Week may be over, but every week is pollinator week as far as flowers are concerned.

There were also lots of Skipper and Sulphur butterflies among the flowers today, but they were just too "fluttery" and wouldn't pose for me. There were other critters, though, that were not so shy.

There are lots of young cardinals around just now. Many of them like to feed on the ground underneath the bird feeders, along with the doves. This one is cracking a seed.

I wonder if young birds have to be taught how to preen or if the instinct comes naturally to them. However the skill comes, this one is practicing it and seems to be enjoying the process.

Nearby, a young Blue Jay sitting in the blueberry bush is partially hidden by the bird feeder post.

Back among the flowers, it's not all butterflies, moths and bees. The female Ruby-throated Hummingbird takes her turn among the blossoms of the Anisacanthus wrightii. These blossoms are favorites of both the hummingbirds and the butterflies.

And what would a day in the garden be without a visit from a squirrel? Or, more likely, several squirrels. This one had caught the scent of a bag of fruit and nut birdseed mix that had been left outside of the metal container where we keep the seed. When I heard paper ripping a few minutes after I snapped this picture, I went to see what was happening and caught the culprit in the act!

Believe it or not, in between all my wildlife watching yesterday I also managed to get a little work done in the garden.


  1. I worked on my front bed for nearly 3 hours yesterday - weeding, dead-heading, mulching, etc. - and when I sat in my garage in front of the fan for respite, I had the pleasure of watching all the neighborhood barn swallows flying around together. Watching birds fly can be mesmerizing! I'm afraid I did a little more sitting around and watching than I probably should have :)

  2. Yeah, I'd get a lot more done in my yard a lot quicker if I didn't have so much fascinating wildlife out there!

  3. I think the creatures are the reason to garden.

    We have more gulf fritillaries this year than the last 4 summers combined. I'm guessing it's from a combination of more passionvine and rain.

    Your moth doesn't look like a sphinx to me. Moths are hard--too many species.

    Thanks for the pipevine lesson.

    Butterfly, baby bird and hummingbird time. I hate the heat but summer is fun.

  4. I think the moth looks more like one of the "underwing" varieties and acts more like one of them, but my field guide is insufficient when it comes to moths and I really couldn't identify it.

    I agree that the critters are among the best part of gardening, Kathleen, and one of the best reasons for doing it.