Eastern Giant Swallowtail

Spotted this guy while on a hike at Blunn Creek Nature Preserve. Fun fact: caterpillars look like bird dropping to deter predators (effective, but at what cost?). The live mainly in deciduous forests, but are considered pests in their other habitat: citrus orchards. They range from southeastern Canada to Central America and the Caribbean.


Bordered Patch

These guys are super variable butterflies. Though the upperside of the wings are usually black with the forewings having white and/or yellow-orange spots. Hindwings can be almost completely black, have some red spots, rows of white spots, red-orange discs, or yellow-orange bands. The underside of the wings varies just as much. They love daisies, sunflowers, and artichokes, among a lot of others.


Rock Pigeon

Rock pigeons are recognized by the iridescence on their necks! They also have two black bars on their gray wings. These pigeons are not native to the Americas, and many wild pigeons are descended from domesticated pigeons released into the wild. They’re monogamous breeders and usually have two offspring per brood. Pigeons have been domesticated as homing pigeons, carrier pigeons, and even war pigeons. In fact, quite a few of the latter have received medals and awards for bravery.


Honey Bee

Save the bees! Honey bees congregate in colonies (with up to tens of thousands of bees!) with a single fertile female (Queen Bee, respect that) and many infertile female “workers” and fertile male “drones.” Did you know bees communicate by dancing? The western honey bee was the first domesticated insect, and it’s the single most important pollinator for global agriculture! You can help save the bees by planting some of their favorites: cilantro, lavender, sage, poppies, and sunflowers just to name a few!


Convergent Lady Beetle

Convergent Lady Beetles are the most common lady beetles in North America and are found all over the continent. Their diet consists mainly of aphids and they’re often used to naturally control the pests. Females lay between 200 and 300 eggs over several months in spring. Though they usually lay their eggs near a source of food, the first hatchlings will often eat unhatched eggs as their first source of energy. When aphids are sparse, they’ll eat honeydew, nectar, pollen, or even the soft petals of plants, but they need to eat aphids to reproduce.


Northern Mockingbird

The Northern Mockingbird is the only mockingbird commonly found in North America. It’s known for its ability to mimic other birdsongs and even other animals and artificial noises. The bird eats both fruits and insects and is found in open areas, forest edges, and grassy land. Some are permanent residents but northern birds migrate south during winter. The birds are also very intelligent, able to recognize human faces (specifically, those who have intruded or threatened the birds).


Rain Lily

Rain lilies are Zephyranthes, members of the Amaryllis family. The species is native to the Americas and the perennials can tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions, from intense cold to dry deserts. The leaves and bulbs are toxic but other parts of the plants have been examined for medical use. Flower colors range from white to yellow to pink.


Hackberry Emperor

The Hackberry Emperor is a brushfooted butterfly that lives near woodland edges, creeks, buildings, and damp, muddy areas. They’re found in northeastern Mexico, as well as the southwestern and eastern United States. Adults don’t usually feast on flowers, instead preferring rotting fruit, tree sap, dung, and animal carcasses (how morbid). The Hackberry Emperor is named after its only host plant (where females lay eggs), the Hackberry tree.


Gray Fox

I’ve seen this guy a couple times around the Hilltopper Apartments and finally snapped a picture right outside my back door. The gray fox ranges from southern Canada to Venezuela and Colombia. It used to be the most common fox of America, but human activity has caused its numbers to decrease. It’s also the only American canid that can climb trees. The gray fox is an omnivore, feasting on rabbits, voles, shrews, and birds as well as fruits and vegetables.


Cedar Sage

Cedar Sage is native to Texas’ Edwards Plateau, where Travis County and Austin are located. Its scientific name,¬†Salvia roemeria,¬†comes from Ferdinand von Roemer who was known as the “father of Texas geology.” They can grow up to one foot in height and width. It’s a perennial and can also go “dormant” during the dry summer months and come back during the rainy fall.