Friday, December 2, 2016

Morning entertainment at Bayland Park

Pelicans wait for the fishing boats to return.
This week's adventures as a water monitor at Bayland Park for Galveston Bay Foundation.
  • As I walked toward the dock, a guy was standing at the side while his buddy backed the boat into the water. "Curb!" the guide shouted. The driver stuck his head out of the window, "Huh?" "Curb," the guide repeated much quieter. The driver seemed unhappy. "I can see the curb! I'm not even close!" I was walking along the curb side, and the driver was right. He had plenty of room.
  • A guy who drove a beat-up van stopped by to ask what I was doing. I explained I was just taking measurements. He said, "Oh, I thought you were homeless like me and trying to catch some shrimp." He didn't catch anything with his cast net. He said it was too cold. I wondered if he lived in that van. Down by a river.
  • As I was counting drops during the dissolved oxygen test, an opossum strolled about 30 feet away.  I couldn't stop the test to get out my phone for a pic. It ambled  along the top of a ridge before going into a ditch.
  • The last time I was out at Bayland Park I lost my license and debit card, which I had stuffed in a pocket with my keys. A fisherman had found the debit card when I returned to search, but the driver's license never turned up. My mother, who was visiting during this mini-crisis, sent me a 15-pocket travel vest so I could keep cards, keys and 13 other things secure and tidy. Thanks, Mom!
This new sign is about dredging from Morgan's Point to Exxon.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Long-tailed skippers in my viewfinder

Recently I had a cataract removed from my right (focusing) eye, and it has been a revelation. I feel like I have super vision.

This morning I stalked a couple of Long-Tailed Skippers to practice my new focusing skills.

These skippers are common in our area. They are about 2 inches long and like a variety of flowers. They are pretty, but I understand gardeners and farmers growing beans consider them pests because the caterpillars like to eat vine legumes.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A field trip with extra spit

The 82-foot tower provides a great view.
When you get to the top of the John Jacob Observation Tower, what do you want to do?

If you are a sixth-grade boy, you probably want to spit at the ground.

I was one of the herders for kids on a hike through Houston's Sheldon Lake State Park. Most of them couldn't wait to climb the stairs to the top of the observation tower.

The group also enjoyed getting muddy while helping plant in the wetlands.

On the walk we also spotted a broad-banded water snake in a display pond loaded with frogs. Yes, one boy wanted to spit on it to see if  it would move. To be fair there were others who wanted to poke at the snake with a stick, drop a pebble on it or touch it.

One kid, who was kind of joking, said, "Miss, I saw on TV that you grab them behind the head."

I guarded the snake to keep it undisturbed until the field trippers left.

"No, don't spit on the snake."

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Scenes from a prairie plant-a-thon

After planting, the empty pots have to be collected.

About 140 volunteers turned out on a clear, crisp Saturday morning to plant 3,050 native species as part of the prairie restoration project at Sheldon Lake State Park. It took a little less than three hours to get the plants in the ground.

The plants were a mix of grasses and forbs, which were started from seeds or rescued from nearby areas.

This field should a new look in the spring.

Digging a hole for a plant in a one-gallon pot can be tough because it has been dry. But an inch of rain earlier in the week helped a bit.
Volunteers came in all sizes.
A couple of student environmental clubs and several families came to help.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What's in the cast net today?

The instructor's demo cast hauled in some menhaden. Or do you call them shad?

Ninth-graders used cast and seine nets during a Back to the Bay class to get a peek at what's below the water's surface.

On this warm October morning at Baytown Nature Center we mostly found menhaden, brown shrimp, comb jelly and old oyster shells covered in barnacles and hooked mussels.

But it's always fun to catch something.

A guy looking for bait fish wanted this catch. Sorry, dude, this is a catch-and-release class.
One group caught a 5-inch blue crab with their seine net.
But mostly they caught little brown shrimp and comb jelly.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Snakes like the pots pile

A harmless ribbon snake can still make be jump.
This is why you kick the pile of pots a couple times before pick up a stack for planting chores. The hope is that snakes and critters will leave their outposts. But sometimes they stick around.

The skin of a snake among the pots about ground level.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Pearl Crescent or Phaon Crescent butterflies?

Pearl Crescent is mostly orange and black,  They like asters.

One challenge for newbies (like me) on a butterfly count is distinguishing Pearl and Phaon Crescents on the fly. Their wingspan is only about an inch and half.

Veterans logging Saturday's count at Baytown Nature Center would see a flash of white and say: Phaon.
Phaon Crescent is orange and black with a cream band on the forewing. They like frogfruit.