Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Queen of Monarch Butterfly Mimics

I have written several blog posts about monarch butterflies and have pictured queen butterflies in a couple of posts. (You can use the search box at the right to find them.) However I don't think I have discussed monarch butterfly mimics before. There are two butterfly species that mimic the monarch butterfly. It is thought that doing this affords them some protection from predators since birds generally leave monarch butterflies alone because they taste bad from feeding on milkweed as caterpillars. The two mimics are the viceroy butterfly and the queen butterfly. Viceroys are supposed to be in my area but I only recall having seen queen butterflies along with monarch butterflies. You can see one of each feeding on the same blue mist flower in the first photo. The queen butterfly is on the left with the monarch on the right side of the photo.

Until this week I did not realize that the queen butterfly caterpillar also mimics the monarch butterfly caterpillar. I was excited when I saw a small yellow, black and white banded caterpillar munching on a new milkweed shoot so I grabbed my camera to record it. While I was taking its picture, I was thinking that something seemed a bit off though from what I remembered monarch caterpillars looked like. My hunch was correct when I compared my images to those of monarch caterpillars, so now I had a mystery caterpillar eating milkweed that looked similar to a monarch caterpillar. What was it? I found out that it is a queen caterpillar. Queens have one more set of "horns", three instead of two to be exact, than monarch caterpillars. The monarch's are at each end, while the queen has an extra set near its midsection. While doing my research I also discovered that their chrysalises are almost identical. The queen's is a bit smaller and can take on a bit of a pink hue but unless they were side by side, I'm not sure I could ID which one I was looking at.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Customizable Owl Earrings

These delightful filigree owl antique brass tone charm earrings are a great fall fashion accessory. You can personalize them by choosing the color of the central crystal bead of the dangle below the owl charm. Pick your birthstone, a favorite color or a shade to match a particular outfit.

These charming earrings are available in my EDCCollective Etsy shop. The pair of earrings pictured sport the color of November's birthstone, topaz or citrine. The crystal colors that I use to represent the other months' birthstones are shown in the chart. The dangle will be made with the beads shown on the golden wire. I do have a few additional crystal color choices. Please contact me if you don't see the color you would like to customize your owl earrings with.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Eclectic Design Choices Artwork Included in GPAC 2018 Juried Art Show and Sale

I delivered my entries to the Uptown Theater in Downtown Grand Prairie earlier today. The foyer of the theater will be home to more than 125 pieces of art from 58 regional artists. It will be open to the public beginning with the reception for the show on Sunday, September 23 from 2-4pm. If you are unable to attend the reception for the Grand Prairie Arts Council 2018 Annual Juried Show and Sale, you can view the art in the lobby of the Uptown Theater until the artists remove their work beginning at 10 am Saturday, October 20.


My triptych of moonlight on the waters around the Galapagos Islands is one of my three accepted pieces.

Update 9/23/18: The piece I shared above won third in the photography category. To see the other pieces I entered, check out my awards tab.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Mushrooms and Fungus Respond to Rains in Abundance

North Texas was back into extreme drought until a few of weeks ago when we got a couple of inches or rain. Then this past week my rain gauge has measured over 6 inches of rain, much of that coming in two separate gully washers. The dormant mushroom mycelium rejoiced and sprung into action. I was amazed at the variety of mushrooms in the mulched beds along Front Street in Downtown Arlington. I took a few of the following pictures in my mulched front flower bed. The mushrooms have been quick to grow and produce more spores to release across the landscape to wait for suitable conditions to grow another generation.















Yes, that is a lot of mushroom pictures but I had trouble pairing down the ones I took any further. There was such a great variety. Some of the pictures are of the same type of mushrooms at different stages but there are quite a few different mushrooms represented. If you can name any of them, I would appreciate it if you would share their names in the comments. The image below is one that spoke to me so that I created a piece of photographic art from it. (The altered image is the one shown below.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

New Picture Jasper Earrings

It is not uncommon for me to go to a trade show and pick up some gemstones in interesting shapes or colors that I am eager to make something out of. Unfortunately the time I have to create never seems to match the number of projects I have grabbed goodies for. This has been true for some teardrop shapes made out of a few different gemstones that I have been meaning to make earrings out of. Fairly recently I finally carved out some time to design two new pair of picture jasper earrings that incorporated some of these teardrops.

The first thing I did was to unstring all of the picture jasper teardrops and see what I had that I thought paired up well. I found two pair that I wanted to start with. I then pulled out my other picture jasper strands in various shapes and sizes and picked beads that had similar color and character to each teardrop pair. Antiqued brass plated findings complemented the darker teardrops while I thought gold plated findings worked better with the lighter colored ones. I made jointed dangle earrings out of each matched pair of teardrop picture jasper beads. They are currently listed in my EDCCollective Etsy shop in my earrings section.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

First Monarch Siting of the 2018 Fall Migration

Yesterday (Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018) I saw my first monarch butterfly of the fall migration. My blue mistflower had recently started to bloom and that is what the monarch landed on. It stayed around drinking nectar for some time. It is amazing how a butterfly that covers so much territory can find and fuel up on a small backyard planting. Don't feel that you can't contribute to helping save these beautiful orange and black butterflies. A few monarch friendly plants tucked into your garden will make a difference.

In addition to mistflower, I have let some native late flowering boneset hang out in my garden after they showed up one year. Monarchs and many other pollinators fuel up on this plant. Since I added the mistflower, the monarch butterflies do
seem to have a preference for it over the boneset. This first fall migrator definitely did and got its fill on the mistflower before heading on its way. I have taken some nice pictures of monarchs feeding on late flowering boneset as well as lantana and small sunflowers so don't feel you are restricted to one plant to create a fueling station for these butterflies.

Both photos in this post were taken yesterday. The honeybee was enjoying the late flowering boneset, even if the monarch wasn't. (Click the images to see a larger view.)

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Fall Gallery Night at BRIT 2018

My artwork will be back at BRIT in Sept. Instead of being part of a gallery exhibit as a few pieces were earlier this year, I will have a full compliment of my photographic art with me for an invitation only reception on Friday, September 7, 2018 and as part of FWADA Fall Gallery Night at BRIT on Saturday, September 8. BRIT will be open to the public on Sept. 8 from 4-9pm. You will find me and my artwork (matted prints, note cards, coasters, ready to hang artwork and more) along with about ten other artisans and their creations in atrium II as part of the pop-up artisan market. There will also be a new exhibit in their gallery space and welcome center as well a pop-up exhibit by the Fort Worth Art Collective.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Muscat, Muscadine, Mustang

Until recently I thought muscat, muscadine and mustang all referred to the same type of wild grape. It turns out I was sorely mistaken. I helped a fellow resident pick wild grapes from my vines so she could make some ice cream from them for our city's ice cream social earlier this month. While she was was researching recipes she asked me if muscadine and mustang grapes were the same thing. At the time I thought so but based on the resources she found, I began to question if that was correct. While not part of our discussion, I thought I remembered muscat being used as a short version of muscadine and I decided I should look into that too.

Mustang versus Muscadine: Both grapes are native to the Southern United States with quite a bit of overlap in their native ranges. Mustang grapes are purple as well as some varieties of muscadine. Both grapes mature into large vines that climb trees or any other object near them and are drought tolerant and have low chilling requirements. There are noticeable differences between them however. Mustang grapes mature earlier. They are much more acidic. When I eat fresh mustang grapes off the vine, I squirt the gelatinous inner flesh into my mouth and discard the skins because of the reaction I had from eating the whole grape. The skins have a complex flavor when cooked however and contain a lot of pectin. The ice cream my friend made from the cooked skins was yummy. And beware, neither type is seedless. Compared to mustang grapes, muscadine grapes are sweet. They are used to make wine, jams and jellies. Mustang grapes can also be used in the same way, however the flavor profiles are very different. You can also tell the two grapes apart from their leaves. Mustang leaves are fuzzy on both sides and the bottom of their leaves are whitish. Muscadine leaves have little or no fuzziness. The first photo in this post is of a young section of mustang vine when the leaves are fuzziest and often three lobed. As they mature the leaves lose some fuzziness and their lobes as seen in the second photo along with some ripe fruit.

As for muscat grapes. They are an old world family of grapes not to be confused with our native North American muscadine and mustang grapes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Pile of Feathers

As I drove past our park today I noticed a large, scattered pile of bird feathers. I recognized I was looking at the aftermath of a recent raptor kill. Several years ago upon turning down our driveway we saw a Cooper's hawk with a fresh kill and watched while it plucked and then flew away with the bird it had dispatched.

I drove home and got my camera so I could document my discovery. There are several birds that came to mind when I saw the gray feathers tipped in white. My first thought was mockingbird. However, upon looking up mockingbird feathers, the white and black boundary on the feathers seems too straight for a mockingbird. My next thought was dove. We have three types of dove commonly in our area, mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove and white-winged dove. After looking up feather images of
all three, I feel confident that the bird feathers are from a white-winged dove.

As for the raptor, there are four hawks that I have seen in Dalworthington Gardens who prey on birds. The largest, the red-tailed hawk, is known for catching rodents and other small mammals more than birds so I think this one is not the most likely hunter. The other three hawks are red-shouldered hawk, sharp-shinned hawk and Cooper's hawk. I have seen a dove explode out of a hedge row with a small hawk on its tail. They were moving so fast and I am not quick to ID the smaller hawks so I do not know which of the three that was but I am guessing one of them was responsible for the pile of feathers I spied today. The Audubon distribution maps put sharp-shinned hawks further north for breeding season and birds seem to be a smaller part of a red-shouldered hawk's diet than the other two, so I am going to guess the hunter was a Cooper's hawk like I saw in my driveway several years ago.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Design This - Exhibit Related Jewelry

For a few years now I have provided the Arlington Museum of Art with some small batch, true wholesale products when I can produce something in the way of jewelry, accessories, note cards or home decor that compliments one of their major exhibits. Their current exhibit, Cut! Costume and the Cinema showcases five centuries of period costumes designed for movies. While the timeline of the costumes is long, the costumes that inspired my designs based on materials I had on hand were the Victorian dresses.


I have a small charm of a lady in a dress resembling those of the Victorian era. I made some earrings and necklaces out of these. I also had some larger fan charms that I used to craft an artistic interpretation of the dresses of this period and turned them into earrings and necklaces too. Just before the show opened, I was at a trade show and found just a few larger pirate themed charms that went wonderfully with the Pirates of the Caribbean costume that Johnny Depp wore. I made necklaces out of these.

The exhibit at the Arlington Museum of Art runs through August 12, 2018. If you are a movie buff, a seamstress or costume designer, you will especially enjoy this exhibit. Tip: Don't wait until the last weekend to view this exhibit. That weekend usually is pretty crowded.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Grape Harvest Interrupted When a Nest is Found

A couple of nights ago I was helping a friend pick some of my muscadine grapes when all of a sudden I realized that what I thought was a tangle of vines and branches was actually a bird's nest and it was occupied by an intact egg. I had been clipping grape clusters below the tangle but stopped as soon as I discovered the nest. I did not want to through off the balance of the nest by lightening the vines by removing grapes. They were also offering important cloaking for the nest. I did get a couple of pictures before moving my ladder to another section of the wild grape vines to continue harvesting.

Even if I was not all that interested in protecting what I hope is a viable egg in the bird nest, I would have had to leave it be until the egg hatched and baby bird fledged or until enough time had passed to be able to
determine that the nest was abandoned and the egg was not viable. With the exception of a few officially designated pest bird species, all bird nests and eggs are protected by federal law in the form of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In addition some states, counties and communities have additional protections on the books.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has some good information about what to do if you encounter what you think might be abandoned wildlife. Numbers seven and ten in this link have some additional good suggestions regarding discovered nests.

I am not well versed in egg identification.
If by chance these pictures give you a hint as to what type of bird laid this egg, please let me know in comments. Clicking on the images will bring up larger versions.

Update 7/11/18: It's a cardinal nest! I snapped this picture last night. I went to get the mail last night, looked up and saw the female's tail feathers showing so I got my camera and took some photos from the driveway. I did not want to drag out a ladder and scare mama off. I did not notice I had more than tail feathers in the shot until looking at them on my monitor.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Where There's a Will, There's a Way

I have a piece of property whose back line fence seems to have evolved over the years. It appeared to have a wire farm fence with t-posts at one time and when the house was built a chain link fence was put in just inside the farm fence that was never taken out. Over time three large trees and some much smaller ones made it difficult to remove the fencing so that I could extend my TREX fence around the rest of my backyard. I have been wanting to do this for about a year and it is finally about to happen due to a house being built behind mine. The neighbor to be is nice, we both agreed that replacing the two old fences with TREX made sense.

Since the soon to be neighbors are hiring and overseeing many contractors they offered to coordinate the removal of the trees. Two out of the three big trees proved not to be a problem for the tree company that was hired. The third one was a large double trunked tree that proved to be most difficult, it had a couple of nasty surprises waiting for the stump grinder. It appeared that a t-post from the farm fence was growing through one of the trunks of the tree. The tree company ground down the stump from the neighbor's side as close as they could get to the stump. In addition a cemented in post for the chain link fence was partially surrounded by the tree. The tree company workers had to stop so as not to damage their equipment.

Since the tree company only cut out the section of chain link fencing they needed to get out of the way for access, my husband and I disassembled the rest, except for the fence posts, now that the trees were out of the way. At this time we did not attempt to do anything with the remaining portion of the tree and t-post since nothing seemed to want to budge.

The company who will be installing the new TREX fence gave it a try next. They had a bobcat that assisted in easily plucking the cemented in fence posts, that had not been cut off, out of the ground. Unfortunately the one at the remains of the double trunked tree did not have any fence post sticking up. The bobcat was no match for the stump and inclusions, so the fence company left after smoothing the grade where the fence would go, except for where the double trunked tree remains were.

The new neighbors did not have any luck finding a contractor who would remove the stump with the concrete and t-post seemingly embedded in it so almost a week ago, my husband and I decided to see what we could do ourselves. We loaded up our small chain saw, shovels, axes, pry bars and an assortment of other tools. Since we have not had any rain for so long, the first order of business was to wet down the ground to help with digging. I did some hand work removing soil around the t-post and eventually was able to ascertain that it was actually in a pocket of dirt with tree on all sides. My husband worked on removing portions of the stump with a small electric chainsaw. I used some hand tools and a shovel as appropriate to clear away newly exposed dirt. While doing this is actually when we discovered that in addition to trying to remove the t-post, we also had the remains of the base of a fence post to remove too.

I won't go into much more blow by blow descriptions of each step in the removal process. Suffice it to say that it took most of the day but in the end we were victorious. Now the tree company will be able to come back out and properly finish grinding the remaining tree stump that we did not need to take out to get to the t-post and concrete post base. (The first photo was taken after we had removed a portion of the trunk and cleared some dirt. The second photo was taken just after we got t-post out. The concrete came out before that.) We were wiped by the end of the day but pleased that our hard work had paid off. After the concrete was out, we took a break while soaking the ground again and visited our local snow cone stand.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Name That Job!

What do all of these critters have in common with regards to an important function they perform? If you know or have an educated guess, please answer in comments below. (Hint: The senate passed resolution 580 in 2006 creating the first National ______________ Week in June of 2007.)








Friday, June 15, 2018

Milkweed on the Move

The milkweed pods on the green milkweed, Asclepias virids, in my pasture are splitting open to allow the seeds inside a chance to catch a puff of wind and ride to a new location in hopes of establishing a new plant. This past weekend I watched as the silky puffball of threads attached to each seed were pushed this way and that by the wind. Occasionally one would let loose and a seed would begin its journey from the mother plant to a bit of earth to nestle into.

Another common name for this green milkweed is green antelopehorn. The problem with common names becomes clear when you try to figure out what type of milkweed a given plant is. There are several with common names of green milkweed or antelope horns. What they all have in common is that Monarch butterflies search them out as the host plant for their progeny. When Monarch larvae eat milkweed they
sequester toxic cardenolides in their bodies. This makes monarch larvae and the adult butterflies they turn into taste bitter and develop a level of toxicity for potential predators. Monarchs' bright orange coloration is thought to warn off predators from eating them and taking on the ill effects of this toxicity. It is thought that other species of butterflies mimic this coloration to trick predators into thinking they are toxic too.

However, there is a delicate balance that must be met in order to survive growing up on such a toxic diet. The toxins are produced by the plant as a defense and the Monarch larvae must avoid the sticky latex sap containing the toxins that is exuded when a milkweed plant is chomped on as well as not ingesting too much cardenolide. I came across a very interesting article describing this delicate balance that you might want to read too.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Two Photographic Art Prints Selected for Exhibit

Last year I told you about a new botanical art group formed in North Texas that I joined. They have formalized the name of the group to the Botanical Art Collective of North Central Texas and are about to open their first juried 2D art exhibit at BRIT. Members could submit up to four pieces for consideration to be included in the exhibit. Two of mine were accepted, a Mother's Day rose and a close up of a branch covered in a variety of lichens.

The opening reception will be held this coming Thursday, June 14, 2018 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Unfortunately, I have a City budget meeting that begins at 6 pm that night so I will have to view the exhibit at another time and miss getting to talk with everyone at the reception. If you are also unable to attend the reception, the exhibit will hang from June 14 - August 9 and BRIT is open to the public Tuesday - Friday 10 am - 4 pm and the first Saturday of
the month from 9 am - noon.

Having seen some of the other member's works, I am expecting this to be a fabulous exhibit. The name of the exhibit is Botanical Art - Flowers, Fruit and Fungi. This exhibit is a celebration of the world of botany and will feature depictions of flowers, fruits, seeds, vegetables, fungi, and grasses executed in a variety of mediums by local artists. Come view the exhibit and explore the joyful intersection of two distinct yet closely related disciplines - botanical art and science.

Update: My bluebonnet print was selected to hang out with the other bluebonnets in the welcome center for the duration of the show.

I have now had the opportunity to view the exhibit. As I expected, the artwork is fabulous and most of them are for sale if you find one that wants to go home with you. A portion of the proceeds helps support BRIT. The artwork must remain at BRIT until the end of the show.