Sunday, July 24, 2016

Caterpillar settles in for transformation

Frit face
This morning I happened to spot a Gulf Fritillary caterpillar beginning its J-turn to become a chrysalis. I hope it survives to become a butterfly.

This caterpillar decided to stay on fence with the passion vine it had been eating.
I went inside to give the dog a bath and came back to find this. Wow, that happened quicker than I expected.
Here's another caterpillar still eating.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Morning walk in a park cures brain stuffiness

Buckeye butterfly along a trail
Before the heat makes sweat pour into your eyes, a quick walk in a park can be good for what ails you.

A snotty-nose cold has kept me indoors all week, but Friday I needed some fresh air. Wandering a couple of trails at Baytown Nature Center was the right prescription for a full recovery. A lunch of Mexican food also helped.

Toad in the underbrush.

Water drops on a spider web.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Observation tower at Longhorn Cavern State Park

Star-shaped portholes on the second floor.
There isn't a lot to see from the top of the observation tower at Longhorn Cavern State Park, but while you are waiting for your underground tour, it can be a fun place to check out light and shadow patterns.

The tower was built in 1935 as part of a Civilian Conservation Corps project that included hauling about 2.5 tons of silt, debris and guano out of the underground river-formed limestone cavern, according to park brochures.

Utility lines mar some of the views from the top of the tower.
It is a lot cooler on the second floor.
Two winding staircases take you to the top. Watch your head.
The tower was built in 1935.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Summer oasis: Longhorn Cavern State Park

Formed by an underground river.
It was 95 on the park grounds so trekking underground at Longhorn Cavern State Park, where it's always 68 degrees, was refreshing.

We took the regular walking tour at 10 a.m. on a July Tuesday. There were only eight of us going with the guide. We passed the next group on our way out and there must have been about 25 tourists. So we were lucky to be with a small group.

Things to know before you go through the caves:
  • Yep, it's dark. 
  • Forget the sweater; the humidity makes the tour shorts-comfortable. 
  • The pathway can be slippery. 
  • If you are taller than 5 feet, there will be some areas where you have to crouch. There were some moans from those with tetchy backs.
  • 52 steps take you down the park path to the cavern entrance. I didn't count them, but I believe the guide, who has walked them many times.
  • There is no sitting so be prepared to walk about 90 minutes.
  • The guides want tips.
I took these pics with my smartphone, but you can book a photo tour.

Did you hear that? You can book a paranormal tour to hear otherworldly stories.
The caves have been used by native Americans, outlaws and bootleggers.  Today you can have your wedding down there.
Not too many stalactites or stalagmites.
Do you see Lincoln's face?
No climbing or touching is allowed.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sniffing out a big beetle

Nice digging, Freddie. What did you find?

It's a stubborn Ox Beetle that didn't want to leave its burrow.

Freddie the dog lost interest when she discovered how hard and prickly the beetle is. When the beetle was returned to the ground, it immediately went bottom up to dig a new hole.
The center horn-like projection that makes it look like a tiny triceratops indicates this is a male.

It's often called an Elephant beetle.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Coachwhip snake guards a dirt pile

A coachwhip snake was uncovered when a tarp was pulled back from a dirt pile we use for potting soil at Sheldon Lake State Park.

We expected it to whip away, but it stayed for a photo op. It was about four feet long.

A ranger said the milky-looking eyes indicted the snake was getting ready to shed its skin.

Rather than flee the snake moved toward us. Maybe it thought I had a mouse in my pocket.

Finally the snake had enough and headed toward the grass.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Spring beginnings: monarchs and cardinals

Monarach pupa found under a bench I was planning to paint. Now I have to wait until the butterfly emerges.

Sorry this is such a bad pic. But I didn't want to disturb the baby cardinals. I think there are three in this nest at Sheldon Lake.