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.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

April showers bring May sunflowers

On one of our road trips last year I bought a variety park of sunflower seeds at Wildseeds Farms.

Even the tall ones have started to bloom so it is interesting to see the different flowers. Wish I could remember the different names. Next year maybe I will label them better.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Spiderlilies love wet ditches

Spiderlily in bloom.
The flashes of white you see in the ditches you drive past are most likely Spiderlilies.

They have distinctive flowers, and their big seeds resemble tiny limes. They are one of the showy faves used in wetland restoration.

After the flower is spent, the seeds (left) drop to the water.

Seed me.
Volunteers collected seeds for replanting.  They will sprout soon.
Sprouts growing in the pan will be separated, potted and returned to the grow-out pond to await distribution in a park.

Friday, April 29, 2016

I covet rocks

Layers of geological history at Caprock Canyons.
Along the Canyon Loop Trail of Caprock Canyons State Park, you can get an up-close look at the layers of red rocks and gypsum.

It was amazing to walk beside the layers jutting out along the creek bed that had some standing water from overnight rain.

I saw several chunks of gypsum that I wanted to take home. That glistening rock would look great in my yard, I thought.

But I know the rules.

According to the Texas State Parks and Wildlife Commission:
It is an offense for any person to take, remove, destroy, deface, tamper with, or disturb any rock, earth, soil, gem, mineral, fossil, or other geological deposit except by permit issued by the director. 
I didn't take any home, but I did pick up a couple of rocks to admire. Don't tell the "rock disturbance rangers."

More layers and loose rocks.
Look at that great rock. But I can't take it home.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bison and babies at Caprock Canyons

A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher keeps an eye on a bison and young one.
Oooh. There are babies among the Texas State Bison Herd at Caprock Canyons State Park near Quitaque.

The rangers warned us that the herd can get protective of the calves and to stay 50 yards from bison. These pics were shot from the car just inside the entrance to the park on an overcast day.

And don't make the mistake of calling them buffalo.

According to the brochure:
In America "bison" and "buffalo" are used to refer to the same animal. However scientifically speaking, there are no buffalo in North America. The only true buffalo are the African Cape Buffalo and Asian Water Buffalo.  

I guess someone should have told West Texas State University, home of the buffaloes. I am part of the herd that graduated before the school became part of the A&M system. Go, Buffs!

Nice profile.
Bison like to keep their heads down.
Munching along.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I want to be the mayor of Prairie Dog Town

This mother prairie dog at Caprock Canyons State Park looks like she's about to explode.
Although generally considered a nuisance by farmers, ranchers and cities because they are diggers, Black-tailed Prairie Dogs are tourist attractions in some state parks.

Bison get more attention at Caprock Canyons State Park, but the prairie dogs can be more fun to watch. It was a about 50 degrees and the wind was blowing about 20 miles an hour on the April morning we spent at the park during a stopover on our drive home from Amarillo.

The prairie dogs were popping in and out of their burrows. Their tails were twitching. They kept watching us, but didn't seem too concerned if we stayed in the car. 

Then along Highway 287, we saw the turnoff to Lake Arrowhead State Park. Although it was almost 5 p.m. and the rain was chasing us, we decided to stop. We found Prairie Dog Town by the loop near the fishing pier.

The critters at the Wichita Falls park were more vocal. They ran to their burrows and screeched at us while they were posed to duck underground when we got too close.

I could have watched them all day.

Prairie dog gives me the evil eye.

Sharing their concern about strangers on a rainy evening.