Category Archives: butterflies/moths

Windhaven critters

Bordered Patch

Wow, it’s well into the new year and I haven’t posted since September.  Okay, the fall was really busy!

I’m not sure of the reason why, but we had a couple of weeks in September when Bordered Patches invaded from Texas.  So we added a new butterfly to our list here at Windhaven.

The were particularly abundant on the Golden Crownbeard flowers, which I refused to mow, since it was the only wildflower thriving in the drought conditions.  At one point I had to wade through them to hang my laundry.

Wolf Spider

We had some wonderful spiders here last fall as well. I managed to capture this marvelous mama Wolf Spider (those are all her babies on her back). She was very cooperative (but thank goodness for a macro-zoom in my camera).

We also had quite a few Argioppe spiders. This particular had set up her web on one of our lawn chairs, and a tiny male (top of the picture) was trying to sneak up to her to mate. By accident I discovered that I can detect wolf spider at night using an LED ball cap.  The spider eyes sparkle at night.  Unfortunately, you have to be wearing the hat to find them.  Peter thinks I’m crazy, because he has yet to find one, but I can locate them without fail.

Male and female Argioppe spiders

We also had quite a few Argioppe spiders setting up shop around the house. This particular female decided to build her web on one of the lawn chairs. A male of the species, trying to be inconspicuous, is sneaking onto her web to try to mate.  Sexual selection has favored the tiny males that don’t look like a worthy meal.


When you don’t mow

This is what happens when you don’t mow my back yard. You can see the grass is still really short and doesn’t really warrant mowing, but the Golden Crownbeard is out of control.

Mind you, I let it get out of control knowing that, with our extreme drought conditions (upgraded from exceptional), the migrating butterflies would have little to feast on. So I just kept a path clear to my clothesline umbrella, and to the birdbath and let the rest go.

Of course the benefit is that you get lots of lovely butterflies and bees happily ingesting the nectar.

The downside, to not mowing, or weeding, is this. There are gardens somewhere in that mess of grasses. I have not been watering these gardens, which apparently the grasses don’t mind, so the soil is too hard to pull weeds.

On the plus side, it’s providing popular shelter for the birds. I’m constantly flushing sparrows and wrens out of the nearly hip high grasses. I’m almost sorry that I’ll have to eventually pull them. Then I’ll have to deal with all the germinating grass seeds. I would like to eventually walk down my stone path again. It’s there, honest.

Windhaven Wildlife

Now that the cooler weather has arrived, I’ve been getting some of the gardens under control. Unfortunately,this also means displaced wildlife. While weeding the melon patch, I came across a snake, but couldn’t get a good look. A couple of days later, when I was mowing, I rescued this beauty from in front of the mower. I’m pretty sure it’s the same snake from the melon patch, and it challenged my identification skills. I finally eliminated all but a juvenile yellowbelly racer (not illustrated in my reptile guide, and therein lay the challenge). He was a lovely and surprisingly calm snake, but happy to be let go again, into some safer vegetation. Mowing can result in quite a few tragedies (frogs, hidden in the grass, have occasionally leapt into the blades), I’m glad this one was averted.

I’ve posted a picture of the Green Lynx Spider before, but this one was a particularly lovely specimen, replete with eggs. I displaced her from the wildly overgrown mint patch, so I placed her among the potted plants. She is on my Meyers lemon tree in this picture, but later moved to the blueberries.

I had to clear out the cucumber plants from the back garden, so I can refurbish the bed. That exposed several chrysalises attached to the plants and cage. Apparently, the Black Swallowtail caterpillars, having fed on my bronze fennel, decided that the cucumber plants would be a great place to metamorphose. The squash bugs had different plans, and had nearly killed the plants, exposing the chrysalises. I moved a couple of pupae to the shade of a rosemary bush, but the one on the cage had to stay as is.

I’ve been digging a trench around the back garden to install a weed/gopher barrier, and as sure as the sky is blue, the next morning I found wildlife in the trench. Of course the gophers had tried their best to fill in the trench, but I also found this perfectly camouflaged toad, hunting trapped insects.

This little creature, a lovely praying mantis, blending in to the concrete background, was checking out my construction material. It stood there, swaying slightly doing it’s best “I am a dead leaf” pose, while I set the camera in front of it on the wood. I love my little digital camera. This shot would have been much more awkward if I’d had to actually look though a viewfinder.

Sweetheart of a moth

Stepping out the back door to check the rain gauge, I scared a Lepidoptera from it’s hiding place. I wasn’t sure at first if it was a butterfly or a moth, all I saw was a flash of red and black stripes. I thought perhaps it was a Red Admiral butterfly but when it stopped against the rocks momentarily and disappeared, I knew it was a moth, and a big one too. It finally settled under the window trim and I was able to get a good picture by setting the camera against the window, pointing upwards, and hoping the autofocus would pick the right object to focus on. It worked! Once the pictures were downloaded I leisurely thumbed through my field guide to identify this moth as The Sweetheart (some moths have very curious common names). It’s an underwing moth, so named for their usually very colorful underwings, in this case the pinky red and black stripes I saw flash by. This moth has a wingspan of 7.5 to 9.5 cm (or 3 to 3.25″). They’re listed as locally common to rare, but have quite a large range. Their larvae prefer feeding on cottonwood and black willow, two common trees along the lake shore. Why it was up near my garden, I can’t possibly know, but it gave me a chance to add it to our Windhaven moth list.