October 25, 2020

The Northeast Texas Trail: De Kalb

Yesterday I visited another stop on the Northeast Texas Trail---De Kalb. https://netexastrail.org/trail-maps/avery-to-dekalb-tc/

I parked at the De Kalb City Park, which is beside the trail, and waited for the drizzling rain to let up. It was a nice little park with a pond in the back, which means next time I'll have to bring my fishing pole and dip net to see what's in that pond. It'll be nice to come back in the spring and see what kind of dragonflies I can find, too.

I then walked on the trail, heading west toward Avery. The trail was nice and smooth, good for taking my mountain bike next time. I was alone except for a pair of cowboys riding their horses. The trail starts out as a mowed grassy lawn, and after passing the lumber yard, turns into a thicket of evil privet and Persian silk tree, and then finally into a native forest.

The next stop is Avery, a tiny town of about 450 people. There is no trail yet going west to the next stop, Annona, so I will walk east back toward De Kalb. Avery has a little park with a lake, which I will have to check out.

Posted on October 25, 2020 15:59 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 20, 2020

The Northeast Texas Trail: Farmersville

The Northeast Texas Trail is a 130 mile long trail that is under construction. https://netexastrail.org/ It stretches from Farmersville, near Dallas, to the New Boston, in the northeastern corner of Texas. It was once an abandoned rail line that is being turned into a trail. The trail committee wants the state to turn it into one long state park when it is finished.

I've traveled along the New Boston section, which only has a couple of miles finished. On Sunday, I went to the opposite end, Farmersville. Since it is going to eventually be a state park, I think it would be useful to document what is already there. I know I can't document the whole 130 miles, but I'd to eventually visit each stop along the trail. Many of the stops are in tiny towns with very few observations.

I spent all afternoon in Farmersville and made a little under 100 observations, mainly the most common species like poison ivy and the American crow. It's what I do the first time I make a sweep of a place. I wish I could have afforded to book a hotel for the night, because there are other nature things to do in the area like visit Lavon Lake.

Later this week, I plan on going to the DeKalb section, which is much closer to Longview.

Posted on October 20, 2020 23:36 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 2 observations | 4 comments | Leave a comment

October 18, 2020

The Stephen F. Austin Experimental Forest

Today was the first day of my vacation. It's actually a staycation because 1). I can't afford to book a hotel 2). coronovirus. Today I went back to the SFA Experimental Forest in Nacogdoches, TX. https://srs.fs.usda.gov/4159/experimental-forests/stephen-f-austin/

I found it a couple of weeks ago while exploring Nacogdoches. After my first visit, I uploaded my observations and was surprised to see that the forest only had one observation before I uploaded mine. That's weird, because Nacogdoches has a lot of observations.

I found some plants that I haven't seen before, such as Strawberry Bush and Single-stem Bog Aster. I'd like to explore some more in the spring, when there will different plants and butterflies around.

I'm not sure where I will go next. I think I'll ride around on the Northeast Texas Trail some more.

Posted on October 18, 2020 03:46 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 16, 2020

The Social Distance Biobltiz at Gus Engeling

I recently did the May Socially Distant Bioblitz. https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/socially-distant-bioblitz-5-3-2020 I choose Gus Engeling WMA because I wanted to see their pitcher plant bog. It has a newly discovered, endangered dragonfly called the Sarracenia Spiketail. https://texasnongameprogram.wordpress.com/2016/02/09/texas-rarest-dragonflies-closely-tied-to-rare-natural-community-pitcher-plant-bogs/

Unfortunately, I didn't find the pitcher plant bog. It's not marked on the park map and I didn't see any signs for it. I picked a spot where I thought it might be, a swampy area along Catfish Creek. I parked my car and started taking photos of the weeds nearby. I could see lots of large white birds in the distance through the trees and heard squawking. I walked toward the birds and turned a corner on the trail. It was an ibis rookery! There were too many of them to count, and many were flying back and forth with sticks for their nests. I thought it was odd that I the birds didn't fly away as I approached. Later I looked up the white ibis on Google, and they're so protective of their sticks and their spot that the pair won't leave them unguarded unless they really have to. However, they will happily steal sticks from other ibises if they can. Silly birds.

I took a few pictures of the birds, then walked back because I was worried that staying there too long might disturb the birds too much.

I went back to look for the pitcher plants the next week and still didn't find them, but I had a lot of fun photographing flowers that I don't get to see in the Longview area. The first time I went, the nearly two hour drive didn't bother me, but it did the second time. I suddenly got a migraine and had to make the long drive back in a lot of pain. I want to go back in the spring, but book a hotel for the weekend so I don't have to drive so much, and I have a place nearby to rest if I get too hot, too tired, or sick.

There is another global social distance bioblitz on May 24, Memorial Day Weekend. https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/socially-distant-bioblitz-5-24-2020 I plan to go to White Oak Creek WMA because it's much closer and only has 28 observations! https://www.inaturalist.org/places/white-oak-creek-wma Most of those were done by researchers for the Fishes of Texas project.

Posted on May 16, 2020 02:34 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 15, 2019

Flipping Logs at Mission Tejas

I've recently started watching the NKF Herping channel on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/NKFherpsandgames and was inspired to go outside and flip some logs in search of salamanders. Yesterday I went to Tejas Mission State Park in Alto, TX, to watch a presentation on hibernation to earn an AT credit for Texas Master Naturalist. The presentation was in the morning, and afterwards I ate my lunch and headed to the pond area to look for salamanders. I flipped countless logs, but no salamanders. I did find a couple of cute leopard frogs and lots of invertebrates.

Would I flip logs again, even though I didn't find any salamanders? You bet! It was fun seeing what little critters I could find.

Posted on December 15, 2019 22:42 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 4 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment

November 10, 2019

Galveston Island: It's For the Birds!

Last month, I went on a birding trip to Galveston Island State Park. https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/galveston-island

I took a week off and headed down there on a Tuesday---Monday was Columbus Day and I knew the park would be super crowded on a holiday weekend. When I started out, it was raining in Longview because a cold front was coming through. As I drove south, I got ahead of the front and the weather was sunny and in the 90s. I walked along the free public beach to collect seashells and photograph birds until it was time to check in to the hotel.

Late that evening, the cold front arrived in Galveston. The next morning was overcast, raining, and 20 degrees cooler. I wasn't going to let the rain keep me from watching the birds. I drove to the state park and did some birding by car. The park was empty except for a young couple fishing and an elderly couple also birding by car. The birds were used to tourists, so I could put my car in park next to a bird, roll down the window, and get good close-ups. Later there was a temporary reprieve from the rain, so I walked down a trail.

One thing I was determined to do on this trip was to catch at least one saltwater fish, so I gave it a try the next day. There was a problem: I did not understand that 70 degrees in Galveston is not the same as 70 degrees in Texas. The wind blowing off the ocean made it feel much colder. I saw the locals wrapped up in coats, scarves, and hats, and wish I had brought warmer clothes. All I had brought were t-shirts and thin pants. I had a rain jacket with me so I had at least some warmth and protection from the drizzling rain.

Putting on my rubber boots, I was determined to catch a fish in the park's salt marsh. I was shivering. I told myself I would catch just ONE fish and go back to the warm car. I got that one fish, the gulf toadfish, and went back to my heated car.

My last stop before I went home was East End Lagoon Nature Preserve. http://www.eastendlagoon.org/ It's a small park, a saltwater marsh area dotted with palm trees and prickly pear cactus.

Despite the fact that it was chilly and rainy, I had a lot of fun and didn't want to go back home. I saw a lot of birds that are new to me, like the Roseate Spoonbill and Ruddy Turnstone. I saw a lot of coastal plants and identified them with the help of iNaturalist's Galveston County checklist.

I want to go back again in a couple of years. The state park's beach was closed due to renovations and won't open again until then. I was to see more birds and catch way more fish.

Posted on November 10, 2019 03:27 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 4 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

September 23, 2019

Longview's Master Trail Plan

Longview plans to build a giant ADA accessible trail system that goes all over the city. Last month, a new mile of trail opened, connecting Akin Park to the Cargill Long Park trailhead.

https://www.kltv.com/2019/08/16/dozens-attend-ribbon-cutting-ceremony-longviews-new-guthrie-trail/

I decided to iNat this trail section over a period of three days, making 150+ observations, or about 50 per day. Whew! I focused mainly on plants, since they are easiest to photograph---plants can't run away. I found some plants that I haven't found in Longview, and unfortunately, most of them were invasives. On the third day, I looked for pollinators and found some wonderful new bugs.

While 150+ observations is a lot, I'm sure the number would be way higher if I swept the grass for bugs, did some mothing, or searched for lichens.

My next iNat adventure is another new trail system, Blackhawk Creek in Whitehouse, TX. https://ntxtrails.com/mtb-trails/blackhawk-creek-hike-and-bike-trail-whitehouse/

Posted on September 23, 2019 02:00 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 15, 2019

Galveston Island!

I haven't done much iNatting lately, and that's because it's been way too hot. Last week it got up to 106! I've spend time indoors making IDs instead.

However, a month from now, I'm going on a vacation to Galveston Island to make as many observations as possible! Birds, seashells, you name it! I'm going to spend a whole day at one of the fishing piers to get those saltwater fish observations. I've never tried saltwater fishing before, so it will be a learning experience.

Posted on September 15, 2019 02:12 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 1 comment | Leave a comment

July 26, 2019

How many fish species are in this urban creek?

Think of your local urban creek. How many fish species do you think it has? If you're like most people, you're probably thinking, "not many." I know I did. When I first inspired by the ExtremePhillyFishing Youtube channel to lifelist fish species, I selected a local (Longview, TX) creek to explore, Grace Creek. I took one look at it and thought, there are probably just mosquitofish and a couple of sunfish species.

I've been surprised at how many fish are in this little creek. I've mostly been getting game fish species so far, but I've been working on the microspecies lately. Only a small fraction of fish species are game fish; most fish are microspecies, or tiny fish.

Earlier this week I tried fishing with a Tanago hook, a tiny Japanese hook designed for catching microfish. I caught one species that I managed to photograph, the Blackstripe Topminnow. After a lot of work, I caught a Blacktail Shiner. I didn't know the darn things can jump really high and far for their size. I put the fish in the photo tank and before I could close the lid, it jumped out of the container, over the bank, and into the creek. I stared at the empty tank, wondering if I really just saw that. I didn't catch the fish again.

I came back the next day, intending to wade the creek with a minnow net, hoping it would yield more species than the Tanago hook. I swept through the vegetation along the creek bank and was excited about what I caught---my first darter, the Slough Darter. I saw a school of tiny silver fish and incorrectly assumed that they were baby Blacktail Shiners because some of them had some black near their tails. I managed to catch one of them in my net. Aha! This species wouldn't escape me this time! It turned out that this was another species of shiner. I don't know what it is and need to go back and catch more for better pictures.

My list of Grace Creek species so far:

Spotted Bass
Largemouth Bass
Bluegill
Longear Sunfish
Green Sunfish
Black Bullhead
Yellow Bullhead
Channel Catfish
Longnose Gar
Western Mosquitofish
Slough Darter
Blackstripe Topminnow
Unknown shiner species

Seen, but not photographed:

Spotted Gar
Bowfin; this one was caught, but escaped while I was reeling it in
Blacktail Shiner
Unknown panfish species---possibly the Flier

As I search for the microfish, I expect that list to get way longer. According to the Fishes of Texas website, Gregg County has 70+ species, mainly micros.

I really want to catch a Pirate Perch, simply because it's called a Pirate Perch. ;p

The spot I last fished at has the perfect habitat for the Blacktail Redhorse---deep, slow moving water with a sandy bottom. I've seen one at the nearby Lake Gladewater, but I've never caught one. This is another one I really want to catch. Wish me luck!

Posted on July 26, 2019 04:54 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 2 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

July 04, 2019

Neches River NWR is Fully Open!

The Neches River National Wildlife Refuge is finally fully open! https://www.jacksonvilleprogress.com/news/neches-river-refuge-wildlife-wonderland-to-offer-plenty-of-outdoor/article_96dfd97e-5c6c-11e9-893f-dbabdcdd1d7b.html

The refuge is located outside of Jacksonville, TX on Hwy 79. The entrance is directly across from the Neches River public boat ramp.

I went last Sunday and the week before to check it out. I found some prairie species that are new to me, including an endangered species. While taking a break, scanning the water of Dead Water Lake beside the office, I saw a mama wood duck with her flock of ducklings. I could hear lots of other wood ducks out of site. A huge spotted gar was basking near the water's surface, but it swam away as soon as I changed my camera lens. Darn. That would have been a new fish for me! Speaking of fish, fishing isn't allowed right now, but the park manager is working on a fishing program.

I didn't get to walk much because of the heat. I'm going to back later in a week or two. I encourage anyone in the area to visit this park and document, document, document! Since the park is new, getting a baseline of what's there is important.

Posted on July 04, 2019 02:54 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment