Florida Bound: The Everglades, Anhinga Trail

gbheron03-12-12.jpgContinuing with the story about our Florida trip, Destination Everglades, we couldn’t help but fall in love with the Anhinga Trail, located near the Royal Palm Visitor Center, which is a few miles from the Ernest Coe entrance to the national park. The trail consists of a short boardwalk over a sawgrass marsh, where an abundance of alligators, turtles, snakes, and countless species of birds feed and nest.This trail is the must-see spot if you only have time for a short visit to the Everglades. I also recommend that if you can, stay until dusk.

Although we visited the Anhinga Trail on two different days, I’m going to combine images here.

vultures03-12-12.jpgIf the vultures that greet you as you arrive seem ominous, there’s a reason for it, but it’s not what you might think. I’ll explain in my next post — yes, more suspense!

I wasn’t so clever as to get an overall shot of the boardwalk itself, as I couldn’t draw my eyes away from the plentiful fauna.



The popular trail is named after this bird, a diving and swimming bird called the Anhinga.

anhingafeathers03-13-12.jpgThe Anhinga typically swims with most of its body submerged and only its neck and head above water, but it can also dive under the surface to search for fish. It is unable to use oil to waterproof its feathers the way ducks do, and as a result the feathers become waterlogged when it swims.

anhinga03-13-12.jpgThis is why Anhingas are often seen with outstretched wings drying in the sun.


cormorant03-13-12.jpgDouble-crested cormorant, above and below

cormorantb03-13-12.jpgAnother great underwater swimmer is the Double-Crested Cormorant, shown above. I got a glimpse of one swimming below the surface, but alas, I was too mesmerized to take a picture. Like the Anhinga, the cormorant often stretches out its non-waterproof wings in order to dry them.

Green Heron

I think my favorite Everglades bird, if I were forced to pick one, was the Green Heron. The muted earthy colors of this gorgeous bird really aren’t well represented by the words “Green Heron.” The feathers were so uniquely stunning, I didn’t even realize how brightly orange the heron’s legs were until I got home to the computer. But I was just as fascinated by the way it stalked its food, crouching down low to study the water for any slight movement and being ready to quickly nab its prey.

Great Blue Heron (also seen at top of post)


Wood Stork (Endangered)

During our first visit to the Anhinga Trail, an endangered Wood Stork graced us with its presence. The animals along the trail are remarkably complacent, and the Wood Stork was no exception. Off in the distance, we could see three more in a tree.

woodstorkb03-12-12.jpgI was surprised at how many people considered this bird unattractive. I found the lack of head feathers simply that which makes it unique. Baldness can be quite a sexy feature, you know. (Side note: For the record, I was totally Team Picard, not Team Ryker.)

Of course there were plenty of American Alligators, big and small.

alligatorad03-12-12.jpgWe were even witness to the stealthy attack one made on a bird that was preening in the water. Poor bird. Happy alligator.

alligatorab03-12-12.jpgIt wasn’t this large alligator, which didn’t move… at… all. I suspect, given its size, that at other times it moves quite fast.


Black Vulture


Red-Winged Blackbird

cmoorhen03-13-12.jpgCommon Moorhen

Palm Warbler

Great Egret, above and below


littleblue03-12-12.jpgLittle Blue Heron

We saw lots of other birds, including Tricolored Herons, ibises, sparrows, and several that I’m still trying to accurately identify.


As the sky darken, birds came in to roost, like the White Ibis (juvenile) and Great Egret above. Parents settled in with their younglings in their nests, and multiple species decorated the trees like ornaments.


Sleeping Anhinga

alligatorac03-12-12.jpgAs it got dark, I took one final picture for the evening — I wanted to see the eyes of an alligator on the water. I was rewarded with the reflection, as well!

Next tale to come, our canoe trip at 9-Mile Pond!

Florida Bound: Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk

Heading south from Turtle Beach during our Florida vacation, we were ready to see the wealth of plant and animal life that Southern Florida’s ecosystems are known for. Of course, that means lots of birds and alligators and then some, but also turtles, lizards, air plants, insects, mangroves, mammals, and more.

greategretb03-12-12.jpgNorth of the Everglades is Big Cypress National Preserve, 729,000 acres that include a variety of habitat types — swamps, hardwood hammocks, pinelands, mangrove forests, prairies, and marsh. Considered a buffer between development and the fragile Everglades, it is also an important watershed for the Everglades. The preserve is filled with some of the most diverse tropical and temperate flora and fauna found anywhere in North America. Unfortunately, being a preserve doesn’t fully protect it — off-road vehicles, hunting, trapping, and even oil drilling can be found in places within the preserve — but overall it is a beautiful and valuable wildlife haven that is home to countless animal species, including the endangered Florida Panther and the threatened American Black Bear. 

Adjacent to Big Cypress is Fakatchee Strand State Preserve, which has a wonderful 0.6-mile-long boardwalk that takes you through characteristic habitat found throughout Big Cypress. It is the largest Bald Cypress/Royal Palm swamp forest in the world. The experience led to a new ongoing family joke — the boys and I periodically declare one another a “Royal Palm in the neck.”


alligatorb03-12-12.jpgWalking toward the boardwalk, we encountered the first of many wildlife sightings along the trail.

Here the boys stand by an “alligators are present and potentially dangerous” sign, near which sits an example subject of said sign.

sleepingalligator03-12-12.jpgSince I was uncertain whether I’d have a chance for another great photo opportunity, I took a lot of photos of this American Alligator, especially because she was sleeping (until she was not… that story follows).


alligatortail03-12-12.jpgI’m utterly fascinated by crocodilian skin (alligators are part of the Crocodilia family). Of course, these images also bring to mind some of the longterm Floridian residents I saw at the beach. Their skin, damaged from decades of spending time in the sun, had wrinkles much like those you see here on this reptile. I find reptilian skin beautiful — wrinkled, sun-damaged  human skin not so much.


Don’t be tricked by their short legs — alligators are all muscle, and those short legs can provide fast bursts of speed.

alligatorteeth03-12-12.jpgThose visible upper teeth are one way to tell an American Alligator from an American Crocodile. The latter have more of a zippered jaw look to their mouth.

Everything about a crocodilian’s appearance says, “You are a fool if you mess with me.” And I didn’t mess with this alligator, being careful to stay many feet back and use a zoom lens. But I did crouch down to her level as I took pictures.


And eventually, Mama Alligator opened her eyes and noticed me. She watched me take pictures for a while. I know that she didn’t see me as a threat, but eventually she decided that she didn’t like me being crouched in her low-to-the-ground visual range, no matter how far away I was.

So she decided to let that be known, opening her mouth a little and staring me down as she turned her head toward me.


From that point on, she faced me to keep an eye on me, and the boys and I thanked her for her time and moved on down the trail.

alligatorbabies03-12-12.jpgA little ways away was a little ‘gator pond of sorts. Across the pond were 6-month old alligators snoozing by the water’s edge. There were nine in all, apparently, but I could only see seven that day — the image shows four of them. I don’t know whether the big alligator on the trail was their Mama, but I called her that. Or maybe I called him that.

fern03-12-12.jpgThe boardwalk led us along swampier portions of the trail, with beautiful and unusual plant life, lots of ferns, and even a giant Bald Eagle nest that has been in yearly use since 1991.

Button Bush


Tree after tree along the trail had companion plants called epiphytes — air plants. Spanish moss, ball moss, orchids, epiphytic Bromeliads — these are all types of plants that grow on trees, using them for support but taking their water and nutrients from the air, falling rain, and compost on the trees. They are not directly parasitic as other plants can be. We did, however, see some trees during our trip that had Spanish Moss so plentiful that it was shading out lower branches and as a result affecting the overall health of the trees.

stranglerfiga03-12-12.jpgAnother type of air plant that in time can cause the decline of a host tree is the Strangler Fig, and we saw examples of it along the Big Cypress path. Though it looks at first like a vine, it is actually a tree.


The Strangler Fig begins as an epiphyte in the canopy of the host tree, such as a Bald Cypress, and over time its roots grow downward and fuse together. The fused roots can become gigantic as they encircle the host tree, causing girdling and the eventual death of the host.

A common sight along the plants near the boardwalk were the webs of this tiny spider and its siblings and cousins, Florida Orchard Spiders.

We felt pretty lucky to see the occasional Green Anole, a lizard native to Florida. Most of the time we saw Brown Anoles, native to Cuba and the Bahamas and considered invasive to Florida. They compete with the Green Anole for resources, and they sometimes eat the young Green Anoles, as well. A picture of Brown Anole is shown later in this post.

Here’s another look at the beautiful Great Egret, that was shown with its reflection in the water at the top of this blog entry.

I know this isn’t a great picture, but I love the artistic appearance of the Ibis in the background.

whibisc03-12-12.jpgSpecifically the bird is an immature White Ibis — in time almost all of its feathers will be completely white.

Its long curved bill is perfect for poking around in the soft wet earth. As you can see, earthworms are a tasty favorite, at least for the bird. Side note: the boys and I bought some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans (from Harry Potter) while we were in Florida. We now know from experience that earthworm-flavored candy is not a taste we’d like to encounter again.

As we were leaving, the boys counted as many lizards as they could find. I think they were in the thirties when they spotted this Brown Anole with its recent butterly capture. I was so happy to finally have a picture of a lizard eating an insect — but did it have to be an invasive lizard?

If you are visiting Southern Florida, I highly recommend Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. We continued our trip from there to Everglades, the next post in this series.

turkeyvulture03-12-12.jpgAs we were leaving the area, we happened upon a group of turkey vultures, who started walking toward, almost stalking our car. We wondered about this and drove on to the Everglades, soon discovering that vulture encounters were about to be a rather common, bizarre experience….

Florida Bound: Turtle Beach

shorebird03-12-12.jpgContinuing our journey south through Florida, we started our day with a trip to Turtle Beach, near Sarasota. Blue waters, near pristine yet gritty sand, plentiful birds, and few people — our kind of beach. Just down the road was the more popular white-sanded Siesta Key Beach, but we opted to avoid that, especially since all we wanted was a quiet walk along the water and not a lengthy stay in the sun.

beach03-12-12.jpgbrpelican03-12-12.jpgThe waters were stunningly blue.


Laughing Gulls and a Royal Tern, resting in the sun


boysatbeach03-12-12.jpgThe water was cool and refreshing, and while the sand might not have been what one would consider soft, it was quite comfortable to walk on.

feet03-12-12.jpgWe left our flip-flops on the shore and walked barefoot for a good distance, looking for small shells and feeling the sand between our toes. It felt oh so good.

I felt like a bird stalker, taking picture after picture of the avian residents, but the birds didn’t seem to mind.


Ring-billed Gull


Great Blue Heron


loganatbeach03-12-12.jpgThe sand wasn’t good for castles, of course, but it was good for digging.

boysatbeachb03-12-12.jpgJust barely into the water, the level dips down quite a bit, and the undertow is immediately apparent. Add to that a brother ready to push you in, and you’ve got a wet splash in the making.


Laughing Gull and Ring-billed Gull

shorebirdb03-12-12.jpgRuddy Turnstone, I believe


After leaving the beach, we continued our journey south toward Everglades National Park, our primary vacation destination. Of course, we got side-tracked as we often do, and we stopped at the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, adding to our adventures of the day. Next post!

Florida Bound: Hornsby Bend to Falling Waters State Park

Three thousand, seven hundred, and approximately fifty miles. That’s the distance the boys and I traveled this spring break, from Austin to Key West and back again. Our destination was not actually the keys — our main goal was to visit the Everglades, but we were so close to the southernmost point of the so-called contiguous United States — who could resist driving a little farther?

pmartin03-10-12.jpgWe actually set out from Austin’s own Hornsby Bend, where the CAMN class and I were having an afternoon of birding, and the boys joined in for the fun. Not just birding, mind you, but birding in the rain. This is how you encourage resolve and determine determination — and prove to your kids that they won’t melt in the rain. It was chilly, too — see how the male Purple Martin has fluffed up his beautiful iridescent feathers?

redbud03-10-12hornsby.jpgNear the Purple Martin gourds, Redbud blooms added a cheerful spot of vibrant color to the dreary afternoon.

amercoots03-10-12.jpgThe American Coots were at the first pond en masse, acting a bit like goofy turkeys when they crossed the dirt road in front of my car. Once at the pond itself, they looked like the normal waterbirds that they are.

yuccab03-10-12.jpgThe dreary weather meant that I didn’t take many pictures that afternoon, but I couldn’t resist the lovely blooms of this yucca. Dreary, by the way, is one of my favorite words, not because of what it means but because of how it feels to roll the word off your tongue. Say it with me now: dreary. Dreary.


I do want to mention that with every big road trip, I have the boys keep some sort of journal. This time, we brought sketchbooks, because while descriptions and photographs can capture a point in time, a hand-drawn image inspired by nature says even more.

sketches03-10-12.jpgShown here are Northern Shovelers, a Ruddy Duck, and a Green-Winged Teal, all seen at Hornsby Bend that day. I admit we drew these later in the day, when we had dried out.

At this point it was time to get on the road, as we planned to stay in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that first evening. Allow me to express my disappointment that much of Beaumont, Texas, apparently shuts down by 8pm on a Saturday night — so much for trying out local restaurants there as a midway stopping point. On the plus side, we got to Louisiana that much sooner.

The next day, it didn’t take long to reach Florida, heading around and over the brackish Lake Pontchartrain (we took a drive through New Orleans) and zipping on through Mississippi and Alabama.

sketchesb03-11-12.jpgWe spotted the first pelican of the trip as we crossed over Lake Pontchartrain, and gulls were plentiful, as well.

At last arriving in Florida, I found it amusing that the first birds we saw in the state were familiar dark-feathered birds visiting the dumpsters near the gas station we stopped at. If you guessed they were grackles, you are right — many of them were. But as we listened, we realized that some of them were actually small crows. The nasally caw-caw was the give-away sound, and we IDed the small crows as Fish Crows.


That is one black bird but not a blackbird. It’s a Fish Crow.

Even so, I stared at this picture for a long, long time before officially posting it as a Fish Crow, because the bird wasn’t close enough for its distinguishing features to appear clearly in the image (and it was another dreary day when I took the photo), and even though I waited for it to make its caw-caw before snapping the picture, as you can see from the image it bears too close a resemblance to the grackles it was raiding the dumpster with. But if you study the feathers and the tail and note the black eye, you’ll see it’s a Fish Crow.

LandN03-11-12.jpgFor our afternoon adventure in northwestern Florida, we stopped at Falling Waters State Park, home to the longest waterfall of the state, not because of it being high up, but because it falls into a sinkhole.


The park is in a pine forest, specifically a forest of Longleaf Pine Trees.


Many of the trees were producing buds, called candles, as you can see in the image above.

longleafc03-11-12.jpgIn order to protect the pine forest ecosystem, the park staff and volunteers work to control invasive plants and provide educational signs about native plants along the trails. They also regularly perform controlled burns, following nature’s method of using fire to encourage plant diversity and limit overgrowth.


As you can see, plant life recovers, but what is held at bay is the growth of Oaks and other hardwoods that would vastly change the pine forest ecosystem.

fldogwood03-11-12.jpgUnderstory plants like Flowering Dogwood, Redbuds, Buckeyes, and more have the chance to grow.

redbud03-11-12.jpgCompared to the Redbud we saw at Hornsby Bend (scroll back up to see the image), this one at Falling Waters was loaded with more seed pods than I have ever seen.


Native bee visiting Southern Red Buckeye


Carolina Silverbells


Moss, lichen, and ferns add finishing touches to this beautiful park.

While we were walking the trails, we heard a sound somewhat like a monkey, and though we knew we were hearing a Pileated Woodpecker, it eluded us. We also heard a sound like a squeaky toy — a Red-Cockaded Woodpecker — but once again, we couldn’t locate it, even with the binoculars. Alas. At the small lake, we did see a sign warning of potential alligators… the sign was next to the swimming area, if you could call it that.


Here a mosquito drinks nectar from a Flowering Dogwood bloom. Many people don’t realize that mosquitoes drink nectar, both males and females. Only when females are aiming to produce eggs do they seek out a blood source. During our whole trip, the most numerous mosquitoes we encountered were in Falling Waters State Park. Perhaps it is because we arrived just before dusk, or perhaps it is because we didn’t bother to put on our herbal mosquito spray. We were good about applying the lemongrass spray the entire rest of the trip. Fast learners, we are.

Along the park boardwalk trail, there are several sinkholes. Florida has thousands of sinkholes, formed after acidic groundwater dissolved the limestone rock below the surface, reducing support for the ground above.

The sinkhole that contributes to the state park’s name is shown below. The spring-fed Falling Waters fall 73 feet to disappear in the sinkhole below.


After enjoying our walk in this state park of Florida’s panhandle, we headed to Sarasota along Florida’s western coast. Time for the beach and to finally reach our main destination, the Everglades!

Stop the Presses

The boys and I just returned from a truly fun-filled wildlife-a-plenty trip to Florida, and you’d think I’d jump right in and start showing you photos. But no — first I have to show off some of the gorgeous blooms that welcomed us home. But no again, because oh my gosh I found something cool in the backyard while wandering around looking at blossoms. This creature of such colossal awesomeness must be given absolute priority in wildlife garden blogging. And here it is.


Yes, I can already hear your response. Something, I’m sure, along the lines of “What the blazes is THAT?” And perhaps there’s a part of you also saying, “Geez, Meredith is so very weird.” But,my friends, I must introduce you to this amazing creature — it is known as a trashline orbweaver spider. Can you find the spider?

Take another look:


Lo and behold, a spider I only learned about just last Saturday is right here in our backyard!

A trashline orbweaver spider has a very unique way of camouflaging itself. It creates a line of insect remains and other debris stuck together with silk. Then it sits right in the center and blends in, making it hard for birds to notice it and also staying well hidden from unsuspecting but potentially tasty insect passersby.

It was incredibly windy outside, so it was near impossible to get a sharp image of a bobbing spider on a bobbing spider web, but here’s a zoom-in on the spider.


After such a treasure of a find, does it really matter that my Crossvines are producing the most spectacular display of color ever?

They are climbing up and over the shade sails, as they please.

whitehoneysuckle03-19-12.jpgDoes it really matter that the Texas native White Honeysuckle shrub, Lonicera albiflora, is covered in divinely fragrant blossoms?

coralhoneysuckle03-19-12.jpgOr that its cousin, the native Coral Honeysuckle, is perhaps at last displaying its full glory, climbing thickly to the top of the fence with its intense red blooms ever so vibrant against the dense green foliage?

frmimosa03-19-12.jpgWould one notice the pink and puffy blossoms of the Fragrant Mimosa?

And look at this:

pomegranatebud03-19-12.jpgA single Pomegranate bud waiting to open. Let’s hope that more buds will emerge very soon, else I won’t have much hope of Pomegranates this fall.

bfdaisies03-19-12.jpgWhat about the Blackfoot Daisies, twice as big as when I planted them before our trip?

Yes, of course — they all matter!

buckmothcat03-19-12.jpgEven this Buckmoth caterpillar, which thankfully I didn’t step on with my bare foot (I can still remember the painful sting from the caterpillar that found my foot last year), is a welcome sight in my yard. Though the caterpillar might be a stinging kind, it (or its flying adult form) is a potential food source for birds or bats or owls. Therefore, it matters, too!

Driving Home with a Giant Silk Moth

This weekend’s habitat event was helping install wildlife-friendly native plants to create a beginning wildlife garden at the Austin Groups for the Elderly building, known locally as the AGE building. This non-profit organization “empowers caregivers, the elderly and their families through education, advocacy, resources and support” and is a daytime care and resource facility for older members of our community.

Habitat volunteers from the City of Austin, Travis Audubon, and NWF, along with friends and family and AGE staff, got right to work. The first task was scraping out clover and grass from the future beds.

Next, volunteers watered the soil a bit, then placed a carefully arranged layer of cardboard, which also was made wet.


On top of that, we layered soil where necessary, and topped it all with single-shred mulch, kept thin under the trees. This method of lawn reduction is effective and remarkably simple.


The final step was adding plants, including Mexican Buckeye, Shrubby Boneset, Texas Mulberry, Evergreen Sumac, Turk’s Cap, Crossvine, and others. The plants were small, but small is all it takes!

AGEhabitat03-04-12.jpgThe garden is a favorite sitting area for many AGE members, and the new habitat will attract many butterflies and birds for visitors’ viewing pleasure. The building also houses our Travis Audubon office — so we’re extra glad to have a new habitat right outside!

polyphemusaa03-04-12.jpgAs we were getting ready to leave, my husband called me over to see a creature hanging upside-down from the car of a volunteer. It turned out to be a gorgeous Lepidopteran.

The volunteer was quite concerned, and to be honest, from a distance it really did look like a bat was hanging from his window. But I rushed right over to rescue it, and it proved to be a stunning, yet frail, Polyphemus moth. Those bushy antennae you see are an indication that this moth also happened to be male.


There are a number of threats to this beautiful species, but at least they have a variety of host plants, as well as those spectacular and “scary” eye spots, to give them a better chance at making it. The tiny little upper spots on the forewings are actually transparent. We checked.

polyphemusc03-04-12.jpgPolyphemus moths have an average wing span of about 6 inches. As adults, they also have reduced mouth parts, meaning that they can’t eat, so they have one job to focus on: reproduction. The feathery antennae of the males are used to detect the scent of unmated females. Whether the antennae also make the male moths look sexy to females, I cannot attest. But for this female, I think they look pretty cool. Not getting to eat means something else — the moths have a short lifespan of less than a week.

As it had trouble flying, It seemed to me that this little (big) moth was on its last wing, so to speak, so I gently kept it protected and decided to bring it home with us. As it turns out, the moth wasn’t as frail as we thought.

polyphemusd03-04-12.jpgPerhaps because it was darker in the car, the moth came to life once we got moving on the road. By the time we were on the highway, it was fluttering all about, making for quite an interesting drive home. At one point, the Polyphemus moth decorated my husband as a bowtie.

For its own safety, we didn’t want to release the moth until we actually arrived home to our wooded habitat, but in the meantime, it kept us busy in the car, as we had to make sure it stayed safe there, too.

polyphemusb03-04-12.jpgFor quite a bit of the drive, the moth seemed particularly fond of my husband (who was under strict orders not to react to the tickling sensation, nor to panic and cause a wreck). My husband replied, “Finally, there’s an animal who’s not afraid of me!” How my husband manages to seem fearsome in our happy zoo is beyond me, but our skittish cat Cricket in particular still gives him the wary eye. Not many men can boast that they’ve had a Polyphemus moth rest on their Adam’s Apple, but my husband can. Let me just add that driving in a car with a fluttering giant silk moth is perhaps a “Don’t Try This at Home in Your Car” scenario.

polyphemuse03-04-12.jpgUpon our return home, I carefully gathered up the Polyphemus moth, bid it a fond farewell and good luck, and opened my hands to the sky. The moth flew up to the ash tree above, where it rested for much of the afternoon. What an adventure we all had!

A Great Start to Spring

Win one for the environment. Last night (technically 2am this morning), Austin City Council voted unanimously to ban single-use shopping bags at grocery stores. Bring your reusable bags when you come visit our fantastic city! The ban officially takes effect in March 2013. Austin is currently the largest city in Texas to ban single-use bags — way to go, Austin!

robins03-02-12.jpgEven though it’s not technically spring yet, it has felt like it almost all winter. These warmer temperatures have been rather confusing to wildlife, plants, and gardeners. But spring is definitely arriving now. This past week, a flock of some 50 American Robins landed all across our property. They were too spread out to get a big group picture, but I did manage to catch a trio in the front.

eworm03-02-12.jpgPerhaps they were early birds looking for worms — it was in fact an early morning when we saw them, and we do in fact have a lot of earthworms. Who knows?

mtnlaurela03-02-12.jpgBut perhaps the most noticeable spring sign in Austin is the mass blooming of our native Texas Mountain Laurels (Sophora secundiflora) all across the city. I’ve never seen so many blooming at once. They line and adorn highways, city properties, neighborhood entrances, gardens, parks, parking lots — they are simply everywhere.

mtnlaurelc03-02-12.jpgTexas Mountain Laurels are one of our early bloomers, and as such pollinators adore them. They are incredibly fragrant. A brief whiff of a single bloom can smell like Grape Koolaid to some, but in mass they are almost sickeningly sweet, like grape-flavored medicine. This is why you’ll find two opposing reactions by people — some people love the scent, while others are actually nauseated by it. Most fascinating! I personally like it, but I tend to be that way about any unique characteristic of a plant. Remember, I like thorns, too (but of course, the Mountain Laurel doesn’t have any — instead, it sports poisonous seeds and nauseatingly sweet fragrance — awesome!).

The Mountain Laurel above was still freshly wet from a recent rain when I snapped the shot at Austin Nature & Science Center.

mtnlaurele03-02-12.jpgEven my little 3-foot tall Mountain Laurel joined in the purple celebration — it has 3 blooms!


mtnlaurelb03-02-12.jpgWhile I was out there admiring our happy little bloomer, I noticed this black-and-white Lepidopteran. I didn’t have time to ID it, however, but I’m hoping to have a chance, you know, some day. It’s a Mournful Thyris, Pseudothyris sepulchralis. I am in great debt to Alan of It’s Not Work, It’s Gardening! for IDing this little moth for me! FYI, caterpillar host plants for the Mournful Thyris include Clematis and grapes. Apparently good resting spots for the adult moth include Texas Mountain Laurel.

Gosh, spring is a busy time of year. Have a happy purple day!