Meeting the Neighbors ~ The Comedians

A new friend, perched on a cypress knee and eating a cypress seed

Although I’ve seen both fox squirrels and eastern gray squirrels in my neighborhood, these are part of a trio I suspect to be gray squirrel siblings; their white bellies, smaller size, and white-fringed tail distinguish them from the larger, cinnamon-colored fox squirrels.

While they’re nesting in either a nearby palm or live oak, they play and lounge on a pair of cypress trees visible from my desk. One seems to have a favorite branch, where it grooms itself and naps every afternoon.

A friendly family tussle

Like most squirrels, they’re friendly, amusing, and predictably clever. It’s a good thing I don’t mind them at the feeders, since they found them after only three days.

Recently, I’ve noticed the mat outside my front door lying askew from time to time. When I stepped on it yesterday, I felt something lumpy underfoot. Lifting the mat, I found four acorns tucked beneath it.  Having lived with a pet squirrel who enjoyed storing pecans in my shoes, I have my suspicions about the source of those those acorns.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Meeting the Neighbors ~ The Singer

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

 

A new neighborhood means new neighbors, and I’m beginning to make their acquaintance. I’d heard this fellow chipping, chirping, and whistling every day since my move; mornings and evenings, he’d  occasionally burst into song. I’d not been able to spot him, but last Sunday at first light, I noticed a flash of red on the ground and there he was: illuminated by the rising sun.

A female — perhaps his mate — caught my eye, but she remained hidden deep within the bushes. In time, I suspect I’ll have a chance to meet her as well.

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Little Old, A Little New

Dwarf palmetto leaf with gold yaupon ~ Artist Boat, Galveston Island

As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, we mark the move from one year to the next with ringing bells, fireworks, and more-or-less accomplished versions of “Auld Lang Syne.” On New Year’s Day, different human conventions hold sway. We change calendars, make resolutions, and eat special foods to ensure luck or money in the coming year.

But these are human foibles. Nature hangs no calendar and watches no clock. Old and new keep comfortable company at year’s end, and at the Artist Boat on Galveston Island, I found a lovely year-end mix.

The golden yaupon shown above — probably the cultivar known as Saratoga Gold — is a new addition to the Artist Boat landscape. Several trees line the boardwalk leading to the bird observatory now, and the birds obviously enjoy the berries.

On the other side of the boardwalk, a relative of the better-known silverleaf nightshade, known as eastern black nightshade or West Indian nightshade, bloomed prolifically. Despite its common name, it’s a Texas native, with tiny flowers only a half-inch wide when fully opened.

The day I found it blooming, great clouds of bees skillfully “buzzed” the banana-like anthers, vibrating the flowers with their bodies to encourage the flowers’ pollen to fall from the anthers’ tips.

Lovely Gaillardias were everywhere, in every stage of bud, bloom, and decline.

At least two native plants in Texas carry the name Spanish needles: Bidens bipinnata, and this lovely Bidens pilosa (also known as Bidens alba). I don’t remember finding these before, and was delighted to discover a few in a corner of the preserve.When I noticed this striking seedhead forming, it took me a minute to realize it was the same Macartney rose I’d shown blooming in a previous post. As pretty as the flower is, this seemed even more striking to me: a summery, sunny glow at the turning of the year.

 

Comments always are welcome.