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Wrapping up the year of the garden with master naturalist Caleb Hinojos!

Hello everyone and welcome back to the blog. Apologies for not having content through the fall, but this should be a fun way to wrap up the year. Let’s first begin by looking at the volume of species that were noticed in the garden. If you take a look at figure 1 it shows my report for all of the findings at the garden. Overall, I think for the number of photos that were taken and uploaded our small plot has a wide variety of critters. Hopefully next year with some help from others in the group we can document more of the plants.

Fig 1: Recap of the species documented at the garden this year.

Next let’s take a look at a pair of species which have had multiple generations at the garden this year. This first photo shows a pair of breeding fritillaries and was taken during the Bioblitz on September 9th. It was quite interesting to see their mating. Not only were they mobile during the event, but they stayed together for the entirety of the Bioblitz (multiple observers).

Fig 2: Breeding Gulf Fritillary pair

With this being said I was quite interested to find out when we would see their offspring. In figures 3 and 4 we can see the next generation. Although I don’t believe these are from this pairing, it is really cool to see that not only was our passionflower thriving and producing fruit, but it was proving to be quite a habitable environment. I was even able to get a good photo of one that was in the process of making its chrysalis on the butterfly sculpture. I want to give a shout out to Aiden Burton for crafting and presenting us with this awesome piece of art. Not only is it a nice addition to the garden, but the verticality allows the passionfruit to sprawl and not choke out other plants. This means that we should be able to enjoy the fritillaries for years to come.

Fig 3

Fig 4

The second species that I want to highlight for its voltinism is that of the Pink-Striped Oakworm Moth. I originally documented them in April when Betina had pointed out to me a female that was laying her eggs underneath the oak tree. Therefore, I was pleased to see some adults during the bioblitz. This meant that there was definitely a second generation for the year. Now, for those of you that are curious if it could possibly be from the same brood, I would say this. As adults they do not eat and their sole intent is to mate. That being said, there would be no way that they could sustain themselves over the hot summer without an input of energy. Therefore, the adult that we see in figure 5 could in no way have been from the spring adults.

Fig 5: Adult Anisota virginiensis at the pavilion of Bird’s Fort Trail Park.

What I found even more exciting was that when I came to shoot some photos on Veteran’s Day, I spotted a couple of caterpillars on the oak tree in the garden. This meant that our garden has been able to support the first generation of adults for 2023 by giving them a place to lay their eggs, the second generation a habitat which they can grow in, and the third generation a nursery where they can grow and eventually overwinter in as a cocoon. Hopefully that is just as rewarding to learn to you, the reader, as it was for me to document.

Fig 6

Apart from multiple generations occurring in the garden I wanted to highlight some really cool species that have shown up this year. Let’s first look at a group of insects known as hoverflies. Notice how many of them have coloring which is similar to bees. However, if you look closely, you can see that the location and size of their antennae are different. These protrude from the middle of the head between the eyes and are quite short or stumpy looking. They are an extremely important group for how much pollination they do. If you want to explore that then I would suggest starting out with a YouTube search for hover flies. You might be surprised by what you find.

Fig 7: Long-tailed Aphid Eater

Fig 8: Narrow-headed Marsh Fly

Fig 9: Double-banded Plushback

Fig 10: Eastern Band-winged Hover Fly

Fig 11: Obscure Bird Grasshopper

The next few species that I want to highlight are some that I particularly find really cool. Figure 11 sports a nice photo of an Obscure Bird Grasshopper. These can reach up to 3 inches and are completely green when in their younger instars. As adults they act as a nice meal for a variety of predators.

Fig 12: American Crow

Figure 12 demonstrates this. Upon ending the bioblitz, the small group I was with was actually able to see the American Crow snag up one and fly into the tree to have a snack. Although it may be hard to see I promise that there is a grasshopper in its beak.

Fig 13: Texas Spiny Lizard

Figure 13 shows a neonate Texas Spiny Lizard. This little lizard is probably the most common one that you can see in the metroplex. They are extremely fast and are a part of a very diverse genus, Sceloporus, with over 100 members. One thing to note about the photo is the fact that it is on one of the rocks found in the garden. Since rocks can retain a high amount of heat due to their density, they act as a heat source for a variety of ectotherms.

            Below are some photos of butterflies that I have seen through the year. Notice how their antennae end with little clubs. This is a giveaway that you are looking at a butterfly and not a moth. Figure 14 is an open winged shot of the Gulf Fritillary.

Fig 14: Gulf Fritillary

The next three photos are species in the family of butterflies known as Lycaenidae, Gossamer-winged Butterflies. Figure 15 shows what is known as Reakirt’s Blue, while figures 16 and 17 show a Red-banded Hairstreak and a Grey Hairstreak respectively. 

Fig 15: Reakirt’s Blue

Fig 16: Red-banded Hairstreak

Fig 17: Grey Hairstreak

Fig 18: Common Buckeye

Figure 18 shows what is known as the Common Buckeye. When I first started paying more attention to insects it really caught my eye due to the wide array of colors on its wings, as well as how plentiful they are in our metroplex. They are able to be found almost year-round. Below is a photo of their caterpillar form. Now some of you may have noticed that I have not put up a single Monarch and I do that for a reason. I do not deny their importance in the ecosystem nor do I think that their migration isn’t an amazing event. However, I think that there are a lot of local butterflies that are overlooked. I do make a distinction in this thought though. It’s not intentional, but many people aren’t exposed to wildlife and the Monarch is a charismatic character with a cool migration story. Therefore, it is quite marketable. Overall, I just want to point out that there are tons of species that we overlook every day, but in order to find ‘em you have to know what to look for.

Fig 19: Common Buckeye larva

Finally, I want to close with a really awesome photo that I took back in the spring. Many of you have probably never noticed these small non-biting midges in the genus Chironomus. However, you should be appreciative of them if you have ever looked at and enjoyed an aquarium. Why you may ask? Well, these flies as larvae are known as bloodworms, and they are a staple in any fish store. What really struck me was that I had never paid attention to these even though I owned fish tanks for years. To see something like this and learn about it using iNaturalist really made me consider how much there really is to learn about the connections between the constructed ecosystems we inhabit and the natural world where we get our resources. That’s a whole other blog post though. If you have made it this far then thank you very much for taking the time out of your day to read about my passion for wildlife. I hope you have learned something and come back next year to see what else we can find. Cheers and happy holidays. 

Fig 20

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