I have counted 65 bird species in my backyard, many of them just visitors, I am in the process of collecting photographs of each species. If you build it they will come.
People would say my very small yard is a bit of a jungle, especially my son, but it’s the reason so many birds have found food, shelter and even nesting space in and around my yard.
I have families of wrens, chickadees, cardinals, a pair of downy woodpeckers, a whole large family of very large bluejays that put up with my presence and a family of squirrels.
Besides the birds, there are also more than 35 species of butterflies. I am in a very small way creating an oasis for wildlife which I photograph, paint and write about-it’s kind of a symbiotic relationship.
My goal now is to photograph each species of birds, butterflies and in the near future the plants I grow to attract them. I do not use any pesticide, herbicides or any other sides to keep them safe and allow a safe haven for a small piece of wildlife to thrive….and they are thriving.
I finally got a chance to paint. It was a stormy afternoon as you can see from the remnants of a swollen stream in the distance.
I got more information and sketched more on a trip to Hagerman where there are always hawks patrolling each fence row. There are a lot of red tailed hawks and I consider them the watchmen of the meadows and fields.
Every visit to the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center in Lucas, Texas is a chance to learn more about raptors and the Blackland Prairie. What always strikes me is the fact that young children already know about terms like diurnal and nocturnal and are interested in learning more about the birds.
The plant is named Passiflora after the passion of Christ, there are a lot of symbolism with the parts of the flower, the stigmata represent the three nails and the 5 anthers below them the wounds. The sharp tips of the leaves, the lance, the tendrils the flagellation of Christ and the ten pedals and sepals the loyal apostles. Read more
They won’t overtake your yard or destroy a fence. I have had the blue variety come back every spring with a heavier base, I would think if it grew well enough it could destroy a fence but I’ve never had any problems with them.
The smell of the flowers. The blooms are not only dramatic and odd, they smell like sweet candy and each species has its own unique flavor. The thorny larvae of the gulf and variegated fritillaries will devour the stands of the plant but that’s why I grow plants for the wildlife.
They are Good for Bees. Attracting bees could be a good or bad aspect of raising a plant. I always welcome them and never have been stung while treating them with due respect.
The abundant flowers are many different colors and they will cover an area in the yard with beautiful blooms through the summer. I would highly recommend this plant because its easy and needs little care. The native purple, (incense and incarnate), blue (cerulean) and some hybrids will come back after a mild winter and will grow in most places with an abundance of light.
I will have a whole new collection this year and many more photos.
Next is the Dutchmans Pipe-be patient if you plant it, they will come.
I have always been a lover of nature and wildlife gardening seemed
a natural connection to my writing, photography and painting. If you
build a wildlife friendly garden, they will find you.
My garden has been the subject matter for many photography posts, art and writing. There are several species of plants you need to have
in your garden and the fact that they are native will make your garden almost care-free.
You need to feed the adult birds, allow spaces for birds to
hunt for food without chemicals, raise their families and drink.
You need to feed the caterpillar young and have a place for the adults to feed on nectar, again no chemicals.
The first plant you need to have to help the monarch butterfly
population rebound is milkweed. There are all different species but try to stick with the native species.
For the adults, they love Frostweed and Zinnias. Both of these plants will attract them to your garden and you will not need to do much to keep these plants wild. Zinnias actually will grow well from seed and frostweed will reseed itself and feed many other species of nectar loving butterflies.
A sunset on Mount Scott as I rushed to capture the last bit of light.
The Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge is an amazing prairie with sweeping buttes, free range longhorns and bison and many small brilliant blue lakes.
I can’t say enough about the feeling of being away from everything. There are prairie dogs in open fields and meadowlarks in bright yellow flocks rising and falling in rich brown fields of native grasses.
I would also recommend the blue hole for a rugged hike surrounded by waterfalls and deep gorges. There is a holy city and a great network of trails that go all through the park.
I have wonderful memories of zoos growing up. My dad had a passion for travel and zoos were one our families’ favorite destinations. My brother and I have since carried on that passion
for travel with our families.
Caverns, aquariums and zoos are some of our favorite places for my son and I to explore and we have magnets to remember each one.
We have been to the Dallas zoo many times but it’s a different experience when you go alone. Even as my son got older, he would have specific animals he was interested in, usually he would antagonize the monkeys.
The experience was usually fast-paced but today I went alone. Even though I missed his company, it was a unique feeling being alone.
I spent the first thirty minutes watching the gorillas. I talked to the zookeeper and learned about each gorilla by name and she told me about the chimps.
When you’re alone you get to stop, you have no agenda, only getting photographs of specific animals. I was able to enjoy each animal in a relax unhurried pace.
I spent much time in the reptile house and because it was during
the week, it was uncrowded. I got to listen to the zoo keepers information about the elephants and I I learned not just more about each animal but about the zoo and what they were doing to protect certain species.
There are so many more zoos I need to visit, across the country
and across the sea, so many more animals to enjoy. It is the child in me that loves to see animals and though I would prefer to see them in their natural habitat, I am glad zoos are a beacon for society to see that these amazing animals are worth saving.
These are portraits from the animals at the Dallas Zoo. I hope you enjoy and will seek out a zoo near you.
Blackland Prairie Raptor Center is doing all of these important aspects of wildlife preservation. I visited their first Saturday of the month, it’s the only time they’re open to the public and they show the birds that pass through their center.
They keep the birds as wild as they can be, even the imprinted birds that haven’t learned to live in the wild are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. It is quite an impressive operation and much of what I have learned about the Blackland Prairie is from talking with the naturalists there.
They take the time to show you each bird they have and explain their unique situations. I was impressed with how much the children knew about the birds and the difference between nocturnal and diurnal.
Every time I go to the center I learn something I didn’t know. Here is a list of some more things I’ve learned from my visit today.
1. A flock of Kites is a kettle. The mississippi kite is expanding its range southward. With age comes the more grey plumage and it feeds on mostly insects.
2. I’ve never heard a barn owl hiss up close. They also shriek and it can be quite piercing to the ear.
3. The tuffs of feathers on the head of the owls break up their round shape and make them harder to see in the wild.
4. A barn owls ears are so intense they can hear a heartbeat and they can actually attack a mouse under the snow without even seeing them.
5. Owls have tubular eyes that are more fixed than other animals and therefore they need to swivel their heads to see.
After the bird show we took a hike on the trails and we learned about blue stem grasses, native grass and invasive non-native species. I learned about another place I had never heard of before today and I very much enjoyed my visit, the park is the Parkhill Prairie near Blue Ridge and it was an amazing visit where I saw hawks and vultures flying in their environment.