Monday, February 25, 2008

Is Spring Here Already?

Signs of Spring

Yesterday, Sunday morning, I noticed a distinct buzzing sound. This happens every year, and it usually happens in Februrary before I expect it. The buzzing is thousands of bees collecting nectar and pollen from an Arizona Ash that is blooming in our yard just east of the patio. The bees are hungry and they flock to early blooming trees and plants. Colleen is our bee keeper and she is thrilled when nectar plants offer food to the honey bee colonies, which are a domesticated European bee. Some of the bees that gather around a blooming tree are native bees.

Bees are collecting nectar and pollen from the blooming ash tree.

I decided that if the bees are on the ash there must be other signs of spring, so I got my camera, and headed out to see what might be stirring about, or showing signs of bursting out. First I noticed some red flowers on our Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) vine. It is a native plant found in East Texas, but it is recognized as a very successful plant in gardens, and can be found in nurseries that carry native plants. Hummingbirds love the flowers. In the fall it has bright red berries that last well into the winter months.

Coral Honeysuckle is a wonderful garden plant and hummingbirds love it!

One of the very first spring wildflowers that show up in our yard is a Wind-Flower, (Anemone heterophylla). It can have white petal-like sepals, or they can be pink, lavender, light blue or deep blue.

Blue Wind-Flowers are less common than white one.

White Wind-Flowers are the most common variety, and are common in lawns in the spring.

White Honeysuckle, (Lonicera albiflora)is a native to Central Texas. It is mainly a shrub, but has stems that arch out and act like a vine, sometimes wraping around things.

Clusters of white flowers of the White Honeysuckle are sweet smelling.

Agarita bushes (Berberis trifoliolata) have stiff thick pointed evergreen leaves. The sweet smell of their small yellow flowers is one of the first heralds of spring.

Small yellow flowers of the Agarita bush smell wonderful.

American Golfinches are around here most of the winter. They love thistle seeds and black oil sunflower seeds that I put out in feeders. In the spring, Lesser Goldfinches arrive at the feeders too. The male American Goldfinch have bright yellow on their backs, and a black cap on the crown of their heads. American Goldfinches leave Texas in the spring to nest further north. Lesser Goldfinch males are black from their heads down their backs, with white markings in their wings, and they nest in this area. The females and immature birds of both species have greenish-grey or greenish tan on their backs and heads. All have black wings with a white pattern.

The bird on the right is a male Lesser Goldfinch. Their tummy is bright yellow, though it looks white in this photograph. The other 2 birds are female or immature finches.

Butterflies were abundant on my large Rosemary plants that are blooming. Two beautiful, large butterflies I saw were the Pipevine Swallowtail and Gulf Fritallary. There were others, some very small, but the two that are in pictures below were the stars of the day.

Pipevine Swallowtails are velvety black with a beautiful iridescent blue on the hind wings which I didn't catch in this picture. Their wings are from 2.75 to 4 inches across. Larvae live on pipe vines.

The Gulf Fritallary is a beautiful orange on the back side of its wings, with black dots and lines, and small white dots surrounded by black near the edge of its fore-wing. Underside of wings are beautiful silver spots on a brownish orange background. There wings are from 2.5 to 3 inches across. Larvae eat passion vines.

We are having warm days now, but I'm sure we'll have some more cold spells. Some of the early bloomers may be set back by cold, but most plants will still leaf out.

I guess the answer to "Is spring here already?" is yes (for now), but it may get pushed back by cold Arctic air. Last year we had an ice storm in March if I remember correctly.

Have a wonderful spring, and watch this blog for weekly updates on what's happening here at the Bamberger Ranch Preserve and around the Hill Country.

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