Frustrated Cooper’s Hawk

This young Cooper’s Hawk seems to know that these Mourning Doves are out of its reach, although he or she is still thinking about it.  A Cooper’s Hawk’s hunting strategy relies solely on surprise. If the prey has noticed the hawk before the assault, odds are the hawk will fail.

Hungry Horde is Welcome in the GNG

From the moment a Monarch caterpillar emerges from its egg, it is an eating machine (even consuming its empty egg shell!).  Once a Monarch caterpillar has finished eating one leaf it moves to the next, and then the next, and then the next, until they literally have eaten themselves out of house and home. And because milkweed is the only plant a Monarch caterpillar will eat, one can only hope they have a large enough crop to support this insatiable bunch until they finally wander off to pupate.

Final Hooded Orioles Have Departed

No orioles have been seen in the Gottlieb Native Garden for over two weeks now, so it seems that the last Bullock’s and Hooded Orioles have departed for Western Mexico.  Good luck and godspeed – see you in March of 2016!

Recorded on Monday September 14, these female (adult on the right and juvenile on the left) Hooded Orioles will most likely be the last video capture of orioles in the GNG for the remainder of 2015.

Another Interesting Use for UV Light

Scorpions keep themselves well hidden during the daylight hours, but at night they leave their lairs to hunt small ground-dwelling arthropods. Late in the summer they are very active and can be found quite easily. When exposed to ultraviolet light (we use a hand-held flashlight type), proteins in the scorpion’s exoskeletons glow a vibrant blue-green, lighting them up like beacons against the night!  

We consider scorpions as beneficial to the GNG, as they keep the populations of many arthropods in check. Anyone who encounters one in his or her garden is encouraged to try the path of coexistence instead of extermination. Of all the scorpion species found in the Greater Los Angeles area, none are considered dangerous or aggressive.  But because it is true that they can inflict a painful sting, it’s best to give them their space.

Silvestri's Scorpion - Paruroctonus silvestrii

In this clip of a GNG's Silvestri's Scorpion, you can see the visual transformation between illumination with white light and ultraviolet light.

Nighttime Ultraviolet Light Trap

A both fun and interesting way to observe insects at night is to set-up a UV light trap.  The type of trap we set-up from time to time consists of a 4' UV spectrum fluorescent tube with a thin white sheet draped over it.  This “trap” is not a trap in the capturing sense – animals can come and go as they please. Insects are attracted to the light and land on (or walk to) the sheet, allowing for easy viewing and identification.  It is not completely understood why insects are attracted to lights at night, but the most likely explanation is that they are attempting to use these visible wavelengths as a form of navigation. On this evening over 50 different species of arthropods came to visit, and of these 32 were new additions to the GNG species list.

Below is a sampling of who came to the latest Gottlieb Native Garden Black Light Party.  Be sure to click on each image for an enlarged, detailed view.

In the GNG looking southeast toward L.A.

Many, Many Monarch Caterpillars

Monarch butterflies have been present in the GNG all spring and summer, but during this time very few larvae have been seen – until now.  Over 75 caterpillars are currently munching away on nearly every milkweed plant in the garden!

Like so many gardens in Southern California, the GNG has Tropical Milkweed planted to give a ready food source to Monarch larvae.  But because Tropical Milkweed’s natural range extends only as far north as Mexico it is not native to Southern California.  Tropical Milkweed comes from a steadily warm climate and thus wants to grow year-round. Monarchs coordinate their reproductive cycle with their environment, so gardeners need to be responsible and cut back this non-native in the fall.  In this way, we can simulate our native Narrowleaf Milkweed’s cycle of loosing its leaves by forcing the Tropical Milkweed plant to go dormant in the winter and not producing any new growth until the following spring.

By November 1st, the GNG will trim back the stalks of its Tropical Milkweed to a height of about 6-8”, re-cutting the milkweed plants every few weeks if leaves re-sprout.  This will discourage Monarchs from breeding and prematurely laying their eggs on fresh leaves. Cutting back the milkweed will also help to eliminate OE spores that may be present on the plant.  After February 1st, as winter is nearing its end, the plants will be allowed to grow-out, thus continuing the natural rhythm of the food plant for larvae of one of our most beautiful butterflies!

Monarch larvae - Danaus plexippus, nearly ready to pupate.

Huge Moth Pays the Garden a Visit!

The GNG had a brief visit today by a conspicuous moth with an interesting name, the Black Witch. With a wing span of up to 6 inches, it the largest moth found north of Mexico. For the most part, it doesn't breed here in California but can be common across Texas and Arizona during the summer.  Each June, following the start of the rainy season in Mexico, these moths move north following warm, moist air like we’ve had recently.  Incredibly, this Black Witch likely emerged from its cocoon in Mexico and flew all the way to the Santa Monica Mountains!

Black Witch - Ascalapha odorata ♂

102° in the Shade

We have been experiencing extreme temptures lately and the shallow fountain has been very popular with all the birds in the GNG!  These two videos are interesting in that different species of birds choose to have bathing parties together.  The first clip is mostly House Finches and the second clip is mostly Lesser Goldfinches.  Remarkably, they were recorded only a few minutes apart from each other.

Many House Finches - Tuesday 10:28am

Many Lesser Goldfinches - Tuesday 10:31am

Jumping Spider

An agile hunter prowls the GNG - the jumping spider.  With their exceptional vision and pinpoint jumping ability, this family of spiders is extremely successful, being represented by almost 5000 species!  They will both lay in wait and stalk prey with the capability to take on victims far larger in size than themselves.  Even bees and wasps with their ability to sting need to be wary of these exceptional hunters.

Jumping Spider - Phidippus californicus

Jumping Spider - Phidippus californicus with captured European Honey Bee