RIP, wren chicks — you were no match for a rat snake


Tragedy for the wrens raising week-old chicks in a birdhouse I’ve been observing from my office window. Yesterday morning, as I sat down at my desk, I looked out to check on the little family — I’ve been watching the parents feeding the chicks — and something looked strange. I got up for a closer look and gasped as I realized a snake was coiled inside the birdhouse, its scaly side blocking the doorway.


Just the day before, I’d photographed the wrens feeding their peeping chicks.


But overnight, apparently, a rat snake had Houdinied its way up the side of the house (yes, rat snakes can climb brick walls), about 8 feet from the ground, and across a foot of space to reach the birdhouse opening on the side facing away from the wall. It was quite a feat.

I was on deadline for a writing assignment, so I camped out in my office all day, looking up periodically in hopes of seeing the snake emerge. But the darn thing stayed put all day long, only occasionally shifting position and revealing the tip of its tail.


Finally I left to make dinner, and afterward I popped back into my office for another look. It was dark outside, so I had to use a cell phone flashlight to see — and I spotted movement. “The snake’s coming out!” I yelled, and everyone came running. The pics are blurry because it was dark, but you can see the snake stretching for the brick wall while still anchored in the hole. Amazing.


Our lights and activity startled the snake, and rather than risk a tricky descent it retreated back into the birdhouse, slithering in like an octopus squeezing itself through a hole.


Going, going, gone. And so are the wren chicks, sadly. But snakes have to eat too, and it’s been fascinating to watch. Being wildlife friendly means accepting nature’s brutality, which was happening even with the wrens as they fed live caterpillars and other insects to their young. I won’t kill a snake in my garden unless I feel it poses a danger to my family, and rat snakes are harmless to humans and largely beneficial, as they do hunt rodents.

Still, it’s painful to lose the wrens.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

The Austin Daylily Society will host a free garden tour on Sunday, May 28, from 10 am to 2 pm. Four private gardens featuring lots of daylilies will be open to the public, including Tom Ellison’s lovely Tarrytown garden.

Calling all pond lovers! The Austin Pond & Garden Tour is coming up June 3rd (North Austin ponds and night pond) and 4th (South Austin ponds). Tickets, which are $20, can be purchased online and include entry to all 20 ponds.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Newborns and other wildlife in the garden


While I was turning off a hose Monday, water dribbled into a thick stand of inland sea oats, and something moved among the grasses. I saw a small head and thought, cat. Having endured a year of a neighbor’s cat using my gravel path as a toilet, I’m not kindly disposed to cats in my garden, so I squirted it again, trying to shoo it out.

A fawn, surely no more than a day old, emerged on wobbly legs, its spotted coat dripping. Dismay washed over me, and I froze and anxiously watched to see what it would do. It walked a few steps across a path and wedged itself between the lattice fence and a bamboo muhly grass, lying on a bed of live oak leaves that camouflaged it well.


I backed away quietly and left the area to give it time to settle down again. A little while later I walked cautiously back around to see if it was still there. It was doing what fawns do: lying completely still in the hope that I couldn’t see it.


I shot a few pics with my telephoto lens, giving him plenty of space. What a sweet face. He stayed put, waiting for mama to return, until late that afternoon.


Other newborns are making their presence known too. Wren chicks are peeping for regular meals in this birdhouse that hangs outside my office window.


Over the past week, Mama and Papa Wren have been darting in with a steady supply of insects and larvae for their hungry chicks.


Yummy!


Who’s first?


Time for another grocery run.


Finally, I got a kick out of this sight a few days ago: a dragonfly resting on my metal dragonfly.


Life imitating art! (Except a dragonfly doesn’t actually have long antennae like a butterfly.)

Are you watching any wildlife activity in your garden this spring?

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

The Austin Daylily Society will host a free garden tour on Sunday, May 28, from 10 am to 2 pm. Four private gardens featuring lots of daylilies will be open to the public, including Tom Ellison’s lovely Tarrytown garden.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Easter Sunday Foliage Follow-Up


I’m imagining my blog feed filling up with pictures of pastel Easter eggs and white lilies. But here at Digging, in spite of a flurry of kitchen activity (I’m making Tex-Mex deviled eggs and a lemon cake), it’s still Foliage Follow-Up. Let’s start with the stock-tank pond garden, encircled by masses of ‘Color Guard’ yucca and bamboo muhly along the uphill side and heartleaf skullcap on the downhill side, with “doorways” marked by ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood. Across the pond, a shimmering Yucca rostrata guards the side-yard path.


In the raised beds, Moby2 (Agave ovatifolia) reigns over a mix of bright-shade-tolerant foliage plants, including silver ponyfoot, ‘Quadricolor’ agave, blue torch cactus (Pilocereus azureus), and ‘Macho Mocha’ mangave.


A metal roadrunner darts across a pot of aloes, with the strappy leaves of Texas nolina in the background.


I have a thing for metal garden art. Here, a toothy smile (feed me, Seymour!) greets you from a pot of ‘Chocolate Chips’ manfreda and Mexican feathergrass.


Lately, I also have a thing for squids — or at least these squidy pots. With curly, writhing “arms,” Tillandsia xerographica makes a perfect plant for them.


Fresh green leaves on the live oak trees are the most dominant foliage in my garden right now. They’re a bright-green backdrop to everything else.


Since it IS Easter, I can’t leave without posting a little floral color, so here we go: two pinks (Dianthus ‘Lavender Lace’ and ‘Light Pink + Eye’) crammed together into one pot.


One more


And while I don’t have an Easter lily, I do have white rain lilies. Happy Easter, y’all!

This is my April post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is happening in your garden this month? Please join me in giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I’d appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Mark your calendar for the Inside Austin Gardens Tour on May 6, sponsored by Travis County Master Gardeners. This fun garden tour occurs every 18 months and features a mix of homegrown gardens “for gardeners, by gardeners,” as their tagline says.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

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