Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Wildlife Wednesday September 2017

It is a busy time for wildlife in the garden: harvesting berries, raising babies, and trying to eat my plants.  It all makes for quite a Wildlife Wednesday show.  Wildlife Wednesday is hosted by Tina at "My gardener says...." on the first Wednesday of each month.

Male House Finch feasting on American Beautyberry (Calicarpa Americana).

Its bright magenta berries ripen in stages from the trunk.  Mockingbirds and Cardinals are the usual visitors and often wait patiently in nearby trees during the day to snatch each individual berry as it ripens.

Beautyberries are edible and apparently make a nice jelly but that will have to wait since all berries are now gone.  Fortunately this graceful native shrub roots easily where branches touch the ground, otherwise it wouldn't be easy to make new ones from seeds alone.

Black Carpenter Bees at work on Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) after recent rains.

If you've been noticing brown branch tips like this on trees in San Antonio....

.....those noisy Cicadas are the likely culprit.

While we don't get the crazy 17-year Cicada emergence cycles common on the East Coast and in the Mid-West, there was a large population of Cicadas this summer in my neighborhood.   Female Cicadas lay eggs in the branch tips by sawing an opening which leads to this effect.  Here's an explanation from State of the Planet by Columbia University's Earth Institute:

"Each brown branch tip you see is a spot where a female cicada sawed through a small twig with an appendage on her abdomen and laid a group of eggs.   When those eggs hatch – six to ten weeks after being laid – the newborn nymphs will drop to the ground, burrow down into the soil, and begin feeding on tree roots."

The effect is quite recognizable once you know what to look for.

Browned tips are noticeable all over my neighborhood this year.

Not the prettiest spot in the garden, but the toad likes it just fine.

Time to check in on the resident deer.

A fawn quickly losing its spots.  This one is probably about three or four months old and likely not the same newborn I featured in last month's post.

Mom is still watchful and will continue to nurse for another month or so.

An eight-point buck has taken up residence by the gate where we put garden trimmings out to compost.  He's probably eyeing that Evergreen Sumac (Rhus virens) in the foreground which wouldn't stand a chance without the fence.  I am that close to him.  No way would I be able to get that close a few months from now.  He'll soon be looking for plants to polish those antlers ahead of mating season.  The "antlering" of plants is the most destructive thing they do in the garden.

If they would just stay in the woods and away from the garden.

Visit "My gardener says..." for more garden wildlife posts.   This month Tina has excellent information on how you can help hummingbirds with their migration since their favorite stop in Rockport, Texas is out of commission as result as Hurricane Harvey damage.


  1. I wonder if I'd be as enamored with deer if they, rather than coyotes and raccoons, stalked my garden? The cicada egg-laying routine is interesting. Now you have me wondering if the brown branch tips on a a couple of trees might be attributable to something similar. Mine look like branch tips damaged in the process of tree trimming but as the trimming here occurred 10 months ago, that's not a logical explanation.

    1. Cicada tree tip damage arrives quite quickly after they emerge so it's probably not cicadas. Also they are rarer in California. I did note there are other insects that could possibly cause this though not as distinctive as cicadas so you might want to check with your extension service.

  2. I did not know the house finches like American Beauty berries. Strangely, my two bushes are full of berries but remain untouched. Nice wildlife post! David/:0)

    1. Neither did I until that one showed up and went for the berries. Don't know how those birds manage to stay away, maybe they'll show up soon!

  3. Wow, that Beautyberry is appropriately named. What a gorgeous colour it has! Love the photos of the deer too. They are such beautiful creatures but it's a shame they can destroy people's gardens.

  4. Nothing seems to ever eat our beautyberries. They stay on the shrub until I strip them off at the end of the winter.

  5. Interesting about the cicadas on the branches. We had a large population this summer, too, although I don't think it was a 17-year generation for us. I planted some Beautyberry cultivars this year. I didn't realize how tiny the berries are. They're lovely, but I thought they'd be bigger. LOL. So far, I haven't seen any pollinators or birds on them, but maybe they haven't discovered them yet. Your deer photos are always so magical. :)

  6. Thanks for sharing your dear little deer--I know they're not always dear. I also had a black carpenter bee, yesterday, in fact but didn't get a photo. I was surprised to see a house finch at your beautyberry as all I usually see are mockingbirds and blue jays.


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