Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

by Donna Lewis

This little beauty was traveling fast across our back pasture. It took me about 45 minutes to catch up with him to get a photo.  I am not fast anymore.

This is a male Tiger Swallowtail. All the males in this species are yellow.  The females can be yellow or black.  his second color form is called dimorphic  coloration.

These guys are fast. If you sneak up behind them while they are on a flower you can get a photo.

Right now, there is nothing flowering in my garden. He was on a Hen-bit in the pasture. Not much nectar anywhere right now. One of the flowers they like that is easy to grow are Coneflowers. I think the ones in my garden are still underground. I hope this guy can survive until more flowers are up.

The Swallowtail is known to gather at mud puddles sipping the salts and minerals they need for reproduction. When the caterpillar first appears, it looks like bird droppings. Icky, but helpful in evading predators. We will probably not see their chrysalis because they lay their eggs in treetops. I am just not tall enough… 

This butterfly is so beautiful as it flows across the pasture.

Right now, the butterflies of all kinds are waking up, so keep an eye out for them.

Just when the caterpillar thought its world was over…it became a butterfly.

Guess What Else Is Waking Up in This Spring Weather? Snakes.

by Donna Lewis

Yes, all kinds of native grasses, flowers, and animals are up and getting ready for the new year. Love is in the air. So, you need to be alert and watch where you put your hands and feet.

Animals do not understand boundaries. If you live in the country or the city, the entire earth is in their hood.

Yesterday, I was putting my truck up under the carport. I stepped out and put my foot down to see a snake about two inches from my foot.  I know to be still and look at the head to first ascertain if it is a poisonous snake.  But even so, the alarm button went off in my head as soon as my mind said SNAKE!  I think that is natural.

Luckily, during a talk for our Master Naturalist group, I knew this snake to be a non-poisonous Eastern Hognose snake.  A short but stocky very nonaggressive snake that eats mostly frogs.  Since I like frogs, I hate that part.

This snake has a neat way of self-preservation.  If it senses danger, it rolls over in a tight coil, hangs its tongue out and throws up.

The other thing it will do is hiss and spread its head up like a tiny Cobra. A very interesting small snake common in Central Texas.

I asked Dr. Paul Crump to correctly identify this snake for me.

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with nature. –

Joseph Campbell

Phoebe on Our Porch

by Donna Lewis

So, we all know how warm it has been.  Maybe a little early for temperatures that cause both flora and fauna to be out thinking that it is Springtime already.  YEAH!

Many of you will be tempted to start planting things in your garden. You better think about it. I am sure at least one more freeze will visit us. My advice… wait a little longer!

Which brings us back to many birds who think it’s time to build nests and find their partners for the new generation.  They like Springtime too.

Every year since we have had this house, we have had Eastern Phoebes make a nest and raise about six little ones. Pretty muddy nests that make a messy porch for us.

We put plastic under their nest so it’s easier to clean up after they leave.

I love Phoebes.  They have such sweet faces.  Phoebes are flycatchers. They flick their tails upward when perched. They eat mostly flying insects.

The Barn Swallows try to run them off, because they like the porch also. They will swoop down after the Phoebes and me.  All I can do is let them work it out.

I too am happy about the warmer weather.

Remember all our nature friends and be considerate of their lives.

Purple Martin 2023 Update

by Donna Lewis

Hello, everyone who loves Purple Martins. As of today, February 21, 2023, I have five Martins. They arrive one at a time.

The birds

I have opened up all of the gourds now on the rack today. The apartment house is still vacant, so all the northern compartments are still blocked.

When we get straight line rains those compartments get wet sometimes, and I have to remove all the wet pine-needles and replace them.

Last year I only had three pairs in the apartment house. I do not know why since in years past all twenty-seven cavities were occupied. It may be because trees in the vicinity have grown taller and it is harder to gain entrance to the house?

Anyway, it is so nice to have some happy little friends singing to me.

Since our place suffered from the recent ice storm, and trees and limbs are down, it shows us that life goes on. There is always something to sing about.

I also placed the oyster shells out that the birds use for grit. Many other birds visit the platforms I put it on besides the Martins. The Bluebirds and Cardinals really like the shells also.

The grit

So, if you have Martin houses, the birds are on their way to you now!! Yay!

The platforms

Remember which birds you are trying to attract and put out what they need.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.


The Loss of a Tree

by Donna Lewis

I am sure I am not the only one here in Central Texas who lost trees in the recent ice storm. It was a masterpiece of art, with everything encased in ice. A magical scene for sure. But also, a terrible thing, and deadly for nature.

I have many trees down. I will miss them all. But one was very special to me and Linda.

The tree with ice on it.

She was the mother of all the standing tree people who lived on our property. I talked to her and listened to her breathing every day.

Trees communicate with each other through electrical impulses. This has been proven.  So the other trees were aware of those who fell. But I know there is much more than just a mess to clean up, if you love and listen to nature.

After it warmed up.

The trees watch our busy lives and never complain. They stand quietly as the years go by. I will miss her and all the others and thank them for being here.

Facts from the US Forest Service also place monetary and health value on trees.

  • The value of a single tree can provide $73.00 worth of air-conditioning, $75.00 worth of erosion control, $75.00 worth of wildlife shelter, and $50.00 worth of air pollution reduction.
  • A single tree can produce 260 pounds of oxygen each year.

There are some beautiful poems about trees, just too long to print here.  Poets Joyce Kilmer and Maya Angelou have some very nice ones.

I have shed tears about my friend, and on Earth Day, I shall plant another friend to replace my fallen one. I have done this since 1970.

This is a good thing for everyone to do on Earth Day, which is April 22nd.