Friday, August 8, 2014

Wildlife - August 2014

I'm a few days late, but wanted to make sure I got my August Wildlife post in.  Tina over at My Gardener Says... hosts Wildlife Wednesday on the first Wednesday of every month, and I've been collecting pictures over the past month of all the wildlife in my Central Texas garden (and from my travels) that I want to share with you.

Feathered Friends

Carolina Wren


Cardinal and Titmouse

Furry Friends and Foes

Normally I say the deer down here in Texas are pretty puny.  I grew up with monstrous bucks in the northern woods of Wisconsin that would completely total your car if you hit them.  So, I was pretty impressed with the size of a buck I saw out the back about a week ago - he was much larger than most of the guys I see around here.  I wonder if the extra rain this season has contributed to their larger size.

Awww, RATS! It is annoying enough when the squirrels get to your bird feeders, but rats?  That's just a low blow.  We've had some rat problems since last fall.  The last mischief of rats made themselves right at home in our garage and started to stink up the place quick.  We tried to go poison-free... using traps and peanut butter, but the rats soon wised up to that tactic, so we eventually opted for the poison.  It did the job quick, and thankfully the dogs didn't get into any poison in the process.  This summer they've shown up again, hanging out in the wood piles and munching on the bird food I put out.  I've been limiting the food I put out for the birds, mainly to discourage the rats, but it doesn't seem to be working.  Killer Atticus hasn't killed any rats recently either, so he isn't helping our problem (though he has caught some before).  Looks like it may be time to put out an owl box.

Creepy Critters

The other day, while I was clearing out the veggie beds, I stumbled across this little guy.  Actually, he wasn't very little.  He was a pretty big toad.  At first, I was afraid that I accidentally stepped on him and squished him.

Thankfully, he was just playing dead.  I was afraid the dogs might get to him, but I think he hopped away before they made him their next toy.

I couldn't find what this bug is.  It kind of looks like a wasp, fly, dragonfly and moth all rolled into one.  He's been hanging around the garden for a bit this summer, staying very close to this place by the deck, so he must have a nest of some kind close by.

And the grossest of all the wildlife this month - maggots.  I opened the composter a couple weeks ago and saw thousands of maggots.  I haven't been turning the compost very frequently recently, so I think this is part of the reason why these creepy critters appeared.  I should probably turn my composter more often, and add some dryer products to the mix.  On the bright side, they helped the compost decompose that much faster!

Exotic Creatures

Last month, I had a business trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a week.  I wasn't there long, but one afternoon, my colleagues and I headed out to the Batu Caves (Hindu Shrine).  The stairs up to the caves were filled with macaque monkeys who patiently waited to steel an ice cream cone or bottle of water from an unsuspecting tourist.

Cocks hanging outside the caves.

A venture deep into the cave lead to some very creepy critters... like spiders.

Cave cricket

And another critter that rivals the maggots for grossest creature this month - centipede.  Yuck.


  1. Wow! Hilarious and scary and so much more. I am so glad I found your blog. Do you put meat in your compost? i read somewhere that that can attract maggots and rats.

    1. I'm so glad you stopped by my blog, Debra! I don't put meat in my compost - only fruit and veggie scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, garden waste, and paper products - paper towels, newspaper, non-glossy junk mail and cardboard. I think the compost was wetter than normal (not enough paper products) and I wasn't turning it. I don't really mind the maggots too much. They help break down the compost much faster. But they are gross.

    2. Not that I would invite maggots but you are right that they are pretty good at doing their job. I never have enough green materials for my compost so I have the opposite problem: being too dry and really slow. I've been thinking of growing a green crop to balance out my mountains of pecan leaves. Something abundant like comfrey maybe. It is so bad that I actually welcome the appearance of weeds to chop and drop -- leaving the roots so they will continue to grow.

  2. Whoa nellie, you get the prize for the widest variety of wildlife ever. Our white-tail deer are smaller than other species but the damage they can do feels plenty big enough. And you're right - the bucks this year do seem to be bigger on average. Once they start antlering I'll probably be sorry I don't cage more of my plants!

    We had orchard rats hitting our feeders and compost. I moved both MUCH further from the house when that happened. Neighbors found some in their roof spaces and put poison out - seems to have knocked the population down. Since they've done that I won't put out an owl box because one poisoned rat will kill an entire owl family. Personally, I'd rather rely on owls!

    1. Haha, thanks, Deb. I definitely have seen a variety of wildlife this past month - both in my garden and abroad. I hate using poison to kill the rats, for fear that my dogs might get into it. But without a barn cat or screech owl around (yet), it is a necessary evil. We just try to be very careful about placing it where the rats will be but the dogs won't. I'm still nervous though that the dogs might find a poisoned rat and get a dose themselves :-(

  3. PS - I think your wasp-fly-dragonfly-moth is a cicada killer wasp. They show up this time of year and nest in dry undisturbed soil and are, as their name indicates, after cicadas. They are alarmingly big but not super aggressive stingers (or at least so I'm told!). I steer clear of them as best I can.

    1. Yes! I just looked a cicada killer wasp up and it looks exactly like what I've been seeing around the garden. Thanks for helping me identify it! That would explain why I haven't been hearing the cicada sounds too much this season. I've come close to the insect a few times, and you are right, it doesn't seem very aggressive - just wants to do its thing. It also moves pretty slowly. But I'm still going to try to steer clear, just in case!

  4. Wow, Rebecca! You really out-did yourself! I don't even know what to focus on--the domestic or the foreign?? Those are all such great shots. The bird photos, in particular, are lovely. I always have a hard time with birds (just photographing them, not in general :)), so I appreciate good bird photos. I've also had the cicada killers and plenty of toads in the gardens. Hmm, rats. You need to get Atticus out there--I bet he'd take care of them. Do you have a cat? Screech owls will take care of them too, you just need to get a brood box up this fall. And the Malaysian shots--so interesting. I've heard about the macaque monkeys and their thieving habits--I think they're a problem in certain places. Thanks so much for joining in!! What a treat!

  5. Thanks, Tina. I know - I wish Atticus could knab a few more of the rats. He's gotten one or two in the past. Both dogs certainly try - every time they go outside, they are constantly trying to track down the rats. Unfortunately, the vermin seem to outsmart (or run) the dogs most of the time. I don't have a cat, and there aren't any outdoor ones in the neighborhood that I can rely on to keep the rat population down. I'm really thinking I want to put up a brood box this fall to attract some owls. That seems more doable than getting a cat ;-) Thanks for hosting this fun meme!

  6. Great variety and wonderful shots.
    We don't have any problem with rats or mice here (She says, as she knocks on wood). Had one brought onto porch by the a gift, I guess. But, no more. Larger critters get into our feeders.

  7. I'm so glad I looked at your blog today. I just saw a Carolina wren in my yard but couldn't remember it's name. You certainly have a variety of wildlife, and those look very well fed. They've been bad here too lately. I'm blaming the drought. We have a cat but he can't take care of the whole neighborhood.