Monday, September 12, 2011


The sole gulf fritillary butterfly I've had born in my yard this year. The rest have been killed in their formative stages by the paper wasps that live in the eave of the house.

The saucer I put out for the toads and lizards is finally being used by one of the toads.

The bird feeder, which is mostly used by the Jays and the Doves is also being used by Cordelia the Cardinal (also, my husband believes I am crazy naming all the resident animals, though he had no problem with me naming some of the ducks in college.) Also, this photo was taken through a window and a screen.

It's also being used by the squirrels...meh. They need food, too. Besides, I only put a cup of seed out each day so it's not like I lose a lot by letting the squirrels take the left overs after the birds are done.

Hackberry Emperor butterflies mating on my window screen. You go, little butterflies, a variety of which I've never seen in my yard before, but likely were attracted to the sap from my pistache tree because the bird feeder rubbed one of the branches every time I took it off of the tree.

And finally, the best success of them all, a picture of Bettye - the resident female humming bird (yes, she looks like a male in this picture, but it's just the angle). I have at least three that visit throughout the day. This photo was taken from about 20 yards away. The next day I was able to move my chair to 15 yards. Soon I'll be able to be close.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Blue Jays

I'm sure I'm probably not supposed to be feeding the blue jays.  It seems like most people don't want them around their feeders (what with their aggressiveness and all).  But I like them.  And more importantly, my cat likes them - while I'm sure she'd like to EAT them, she only ever gets to watch them (cuz she's stuck inside while the birds are outside eating).  But she likes the Jays.  I think she likes the young ones.  She has conversations with them through the window.  But this isn't really about my cat liking the jays, or talking to them.  This is about the weird thing I saw a jay do the other day.

I was leaning against the chair watching the jays and the doves take turns at the feeder and at the water dish.  One of the jays was at the water dish and, to begin with, started in the dish.  Then she (yes, I assign gender to all the birds at the house, even if I don't REALLY know its gender) reached over the side of the dish to grab a dead leaf on the ground.  She started playing with it - picking it up and dunking it in the water, letting it float to the top and grabbing it again.  Leaf in the water.  Leaf out of the water.  Leaf on the ground.  Leaf in the beak.  And Leaf back in the water.  It quite honestly looked like she was just playing with the leaf and the water.  I figured she would get bored and leave, but she played with that leaf for a while (5 minutes or so), and then started intentionally dunking it in the water, turning it over and dunking it back in the water.  After about 30 seconds of this dunking action, she grabbed the leaf and flew off.  I mean, really, why?  It seems odd.  I've read that captive jays will use tools, but could the leaf really hold enough water to take back to a nest?  I realize that jays are in the same family as crows and crows are crazy smart, but do they have magpie-type tendencies about collecting things (magpies are in the same family)?

So many questions, so few answers...

Monday, September 5, 2011


I have two coworkers whose birthdays are 4 days apart. Before their birthdays, we had all been talking about the wildlife are faring during this drought. One of the girls had already started buying bird feeders and native plants, but was lamenting the fact that she didn't have a hummingbird feeder.

Thus I went to Petsmart and bought us all some feeders as the feeder, I felt, was pretty darn good (and cheap): It's red plastic with no yellow parts on it at all and it fully comes apart. The downside is that while it does come apart, the bulb part does have a fairly narrow opening. I have found that by cutting a few triangles out of the sponge part at the top of a bottle brush cleaner, that it will fit easily into the bulb thus allowing easy cleaning.

I hung mine out last weekend (August 28th), and you'll be proud to know that I did it myself - mostly because the husband hurt his wrist a few weeks ago, though he did supervise.

12 hours later I saw my first hummingbird at the feeder (a female black chin or ruby throat who has shown up every morning around 7:30) and just today saw 2 males - one each of the black chin and ruby throat. YAY!

No pictures of hummingbirds yet - they won't come by the feeder when I'm outside. We're working on our trust issues.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


With Stage 2 water restrictions looming, I have been contemplating what to water and what not to water. I have also been thinking about getting rid of more grass. The problem is that it's quite possible that replacing grass that I don't water with plants, which, while requiring little water, will still require more water than the grass that I don't water. Normally I'd just start asking people how much water they use in their yards, but 1) everyone has different rates and points where the cost goes up depending on where you live, 2) people have different sized yards, 3) people have different plants that they'll let go (dormant or die) in the heat of summer, and 4) peoples' household use of water differ drastically.

I have some idea of how much my inlaws spend on water only because my MIL is always concerned with how much they're spending compared to others (we, on average, spend about $40, though this last month's bill - which included me watering all flowering plants every day for 2 weeks leading up to my go-go- was $50 or about 6000 gallons). The inlaws also have an automatic sprinkler system, the idea that grass must always be green, a larger turf area, and a home owners association that is perceived to be very strict about plants and lawn and hell, everything (we have an HOA too, but they complain about things such as 'the grass is too tall' versus 'your grass is brown').

Of course we were (until about 4 weeks ago) also watering our lawn which was only a lesson in futility since the backyard went dormant and then subsequently died. We didn't really start watering the lawn until the middle of June and even then it was half-heartedly and with the goal of not keeping it green, but with making sure the roots didn't die. We then went through a phase where neither of us remembered to water on our watering day and I don't want to stand out there for an hour with a hose. I can deep water the tree in the back and the grass does not come back. Compare this to the front yard where I will deep water the trees and we end up with a 2' x 2' patch where the grass is verdant and 6" tall. Thus my theory is that the grass in the back is Dead.

As I'm not a big fan of lawn, I am always trying to come up with schemes to get rid of more turf. But of course the problem is that OTHER people like turf and if we ever want to sell this house we're going to likely have to have SOME grass area. Which means that I would prefer something like Buffalo, but that's what my inlaws have and they hate it. I'd go with a prairie mix, but I'm guessing most people don't want to let their lawn get 6" tall or taller. I'd plant low water/maintenance plants, but we're back to the whole thing of even low water plants require some water, so the question is, does having a (mostly) dead lawn which I occasionally water end up being cheaper than plants that require little water? The answer is likely yes, but again, people don't want dead lawn when they purchase a house, they want live lawn...which means we're back to square one.

Good thing we're not planning on selling for the next couple of years...