Monday, July 24, 2017

Little distractions while working outdoors

When we are working in the field, we are often distracted by frogs, butterflies, anoles and spiders. Right, Sandy?

Near a shelter in a pen for the Attwater's Prairie Chickens, we found at least three little tree frogs. One of them slurped a bug while Sandy moved in for a photo.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A dragonfly's resting place

This dead dragonfly was in a corner of an arbor at a park. I didn't realize it was dead until I got close enough to touch its fragile wings. A live dragonfly rarely lets me get within 5 feet.

It seemed like a fresh death, but what happened? Note the butterfly wing under the dragonfly. Dragonflies are known to eat butterflies. Was this a fight to the finish? Or did the dragonfly and butterfly die natural deaths and simply get swept into the same place by the wind?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Nighthawks and gators at Anahuac wildlife refuge

What are you stopping for?
This little Nighthawk was sitting in the middle of the paved one-way loop around Shoveler Pond at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.

Actually I didn't know what kind of bird it was so I posted the pic to iNaturalist. Almost immediately three birders responded: Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor). I'm sure they also rolled their eyes when I listed it as some type of "bird."

This pic was taken from the driver's side of the car. When I got out on the passenger's side to see if I could get a better angle, it flew away.

Did it think it was camouflaged on the roadway? Bird guides say Common Nighthawks are usually hard to see when they land and like to nest on gravel roofs.

We also played spot the alligator while we were wandering the park.

This baby gator made a noise, otherwise it probably would not have been spotted.

It's pretty cute.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Short walkabout through Sheldon Lake State Park

One of these things is not like the others.
Sometimes you might see an alligator, but there are other things to catch your attention on a midmorning walk around Sheldon Lake State Park.

Confession: Wednesday was a workday for the Wetlands Team. While others went out to rescue plants (a hot job), I opted stay indoors to clean seeds. Then I realized I was the only one doing seed work. After about an hour, I got bored. Without anyone there to shame me into staying, I took a walk.

Next week I'll try to keep on task.

The American lotus are quite spectacular in the ponds.

Signs warn guests not to pick the flowers or leaves.
Gulf Fritillary

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Pollinators love basket-flowers

At Baytown Nature Center

The basket-flowers are blooming and that makes the pollinators happy. These pics were taken at Baytown Nature Center, Sheldon Lake State Park and my yard.

Bumblebees collect honey for transport in the pollen baskets on their hind legs.

Tiger Swallowtail
Carpenter bee
Honey bee adds honey to it pollen basket.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

I'm concerned about sad dove

What happened to your neck?
I see doves around the bird feeder all the time. They all look the same to me although I've noticed that the white-winged doves will get on the feeder while the mourning doves prefer to stay on the ground.

This week as the rain threatened a strange dove came for a visit. It's been hanging round for the past three days, and I've started thinking of it as sad dove.

At first its distinctive dark color caught my attention. But when I looked closer, I noticed it had lost feathers around its neck. It looks thin compared to the other doves.

What's your story, sad dove? I wonder.

I've started watching for sad dove. It keeps its distance until most of the other birds have left then it approaches the feeder for seeds that have fallen to the ground. In my imagination I've decided the other doves are being mean to sad dove.

When it started raining Saturday, all the birds left the feeder so sad dove moved in.

Sad dove alone pecking under the feeder in the rain. Awww.

This morning sad dove was back although it wasn't near the feeder. But I just looked out the window and didn't see it. I hope it comes back.

It makes me a little sad when I don't see sad dove.

Wet and thin.
It doesn't let me get close for pics.
Mourning dove with sad dove.
White-winged dove with sad dove.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Random thoughts after a tour of five state parks

Feral cats behind a Dumpster near the historic Big Spring.
We stopped by five state parks on our way to a wedding Amarillo. The weather was a bit unsettled, so our plans changed a couple of times. But that was part of the adventure.

Big Spring State Park: One of few Texas state parks with free admission. The Civilian Conservation Corps built the three-mile roadway loop to the top of the scenic bluff and some buildings. The sunset view from the top is supposed to be remarkable, but we were there around noon on Memorial Day and didn't see many people. The playground near the pavilion was empty.

We wanted to see the historic Big Spring, but discovered the spring has its own park. Alas, it was closed for renovation. It looked like trails and landscaping were being added behind the chain-link fence. It should be nice when it reopens.

I think this is a spotted ground squirrel hiding in the shade at Lake Colorado City State Park
Lake Colorado City State Park: This a park for camping and boating. We hiked the rocky shoreline trail among the mesquite and cactus while rain clouds threatened.

Lake Brownwood State Park rents cabins that were built by the CCC.
Lake Brownwood State Park: Spent the night in a CCC cabin on the lake. A rain storm blew in and we didn't have wifi to check on the severity of the storm, but figured a cabin built into the hillside was a pretty safe place. There are several CCC-built trails, benches and fire pits that are quite impressive. CCC also constructed the recreation hall with a rooftop view and a walkway to the water.

The next morning the canoes looked inviting, but it started raining again.

An easy trail with plenty of wildlife.
Abilene State Park: This is where we saw deer along Elm Creek Nature Trail and on the hike to the bird blind. Saw lots of campers and families but not many on the trails. I think most were more interested in the lake and the CCC-built pool.

Not much tree cover along the trails at Copper Breaks.
Copper Breaks State Park: I liked this park because the terrain was so different on the trails. It was also hot without tree cover. There is nice museum at headquarters featuring Comanche and Kiowa tribes, with a section on Cynthia Ann Parker.

When asked about the longhorn herd, the ranger said if we honked our horn at the fence, longhorns might walk up. We decided not to honk because we didn't want to seem obnoxious.