September 09, 2022

Sheri Capehart Nature Preserve - the Socially Distanced Bioblitz

I walked the preserve from 3:30-5:50pm, with Lynn Healy, Jim Frisinger, and Annabelle Corboy. It was clear to partly cloudy and very warm, with temperatures probably in the mid-90s. Weather Underground said the relative humidity was only 38% but it felt more muggy.

We started on the trail north through the woodlands to the pond at the northwest corner. I took a photo of silver leaf nightshade at the trailhead, as I really love their beautiful flowers. I tried to photograph a lot of species for the bioblitz, though sometimes if someone else got it, I let it go. Someone found a Texas spiny lizard that disappeared around a tree trunk, but with a little sneaking I was able to get a photo.

At the pond, no turtles were basking and when one would come up for air, the algae and scum kept me from identifying it. I did "capture" a blue dasher, widow skimmer, and common whitetail among the dragonflies and also found a cricket frog.

We walked west along the restoration area, finding partridge pea, western ragweed, bitterweed, prickly pear, Texas bull nettle, Glen Rose yucca, and many other things. The work of Jim's group cutting back honey locust and getting rid of chinaberry is a noticeable improvement. We followed the trail along past the yucca meadow, to the ridge, and down the hillside.

I enjoyed walking with these folks and contributing to the bioblitz, though it did remind me how different it is to stay on the move, actively searching and building numbers of observations. I often tend to walk and then stop, noticing the overall impression of a landscape or a community. Sometimes I am busier with active searching for herps but there's always a temptation to stop and be still. All these ways of being in nature have their value.

Posted on September 09, 2022 14:00 by drawntoscales drawntoscales | 30 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

September 07, 2022

A quick loop through Sheri Capehart Nature Preserve

On my own

Walked north through the woods to the north pond, with many mosquitoes flying in for a quick meal. The pond level is still low and is growing quite a bit of algae. On a log at the west edge of the pond were four red-eared sliders basking. One was melanistic and one was a juvenile. Oddly, I did not see cricket frogs, although on a hot sunny day I would have expected them on the muddy banks. Dragonflies of several species were active, along with some honeybees and wasps at the water's edge.

It was mostly clear, hot, and it felt humid. However the online nearby Weather Underground reports 94*F and only 38% humidity.

I took a few photos, documenting a few plants for the bioblitz. I looked for Texas spiny lizards on tree trunks and listened for any disturbance in the leaf litter, but did not observe any other herps.

Posted on September 07, 2022 20:56 by drawntoscales drawntoscales | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 23, 2020

Coming Soon to a Preserve Near You

This morning, Jim Domke and I walked the preserve, with Lynn Healy with us at the beginning. We started at the pollinator meadow, where we planned to cut down some Giant Ragweed while also doing herp surveying. I brought some pathetic hand-held cutters and cut down a number of plants but nothing compared to my compadres. Lynn was soon joined by Annabelle, and then Jan arrived, all equipped with weapons of war for invasive and harmful plants.

Meanwhile, I managed to get a good photo of what I first thought was a bee or wasp but, when it landed, had the overall form of a robber fly. Sure enough, iNat says it is a robber fly in the genus Saropogon. I walked to the southmost bench, seeing grasshoppers but not a lot more. The Johnson grass, Giant ragweed, and Western ragweed might be worst down there, while further north there are Partridge pea, Silverleaf nightshade, Sunflowers and other plants. No herps were seen. In the shade of the Cedar elm tree, on that middle bench, the temperature was 81F and relative humidity 80%. We could feel the humidity!

Walking to the next location, we came across Rudy working on one of the trails and talking with someone. That person mentioned that she had seen a fox (enough of the tail to identify it as such) this morning. The smiles we got from this were immediately wiped out by her report that she knows someone who periodically comes and releases Mink here. I knew that minks were mustelids but didn't remember much more - but the thought of adding something from outside the preserve was very disturbing, particularly when it is a weasel-like predator. When I later checked, I saw that at least historically Mink have been found in this area, but I could not find any observations of this species on iNat. I'm thinking that if a semi-aquatic, roughly weasel-looking mustelid was already catching mudbugs in the preserve, somebody would have seen it. And so, if somebody really is releasing them here, it seems like it could mess with the stability of our other wildlife. Letting something go in some place that it did not come from is a big "no-no" in my book.

Meanwhile, from the boulder trail eastward to the yucca meadow we found no herps. I did snap a reasonable iPhone photo of a Red paper wasp, and we were seeing some of the usual dragonflies (Jim commented that we seemed to be seeing fewer than we had previously). The temperature was coming up to 85F and the humidity was barely sliding (79%).

At the yucca meadow, I rather impulsively tried my hand at Facebook Live and found that, as one of my colleagues at the hospital used to say, "it ain't rocket surgery!" So after walking around pointing the phone at Comanche harvester ant colonies and such, we stopped Facebooking and looked further. I got a short video clip of a bumblebee and got a passable photo, and then managed a shot of what iNat believes is a type of Sand wasp. No snakes or lizards presented themselves. The temperature was 86F by then and with a humidity of 77%, it was truly feeling hot.

We walked back and encountered a police officer in the parking lot with a Havahart trap containing an adult raccoon (I guess we could have added Procyon lotor to the data sheet, huh?). He told us it had been trapped in a nearby neighborhood and he wanted to release it here "in case she had any babies in a nest" so that she could return to them. Chances are she would be returning to the neighborhood trash cans, other parks, or perhaps the Village Creek corridor.

So, coming soon to a preserve near you, everyone's unwanted animals. Even if they are native to this area, a small, almost tiny preserve is not meant to absorb animals that need a home. Habitats can support so many of a given species, and when you pour more animals in on top of that, at some point there just are not enough resources (shelter, food, etc.) to support them. So please, find somewhere else!!

Posted on July 23, 2020 19:30 by drawntoscales drawntoscales | 4 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 18, 2020

Southwest Nature Preserve, 18 June 2020

This walk was with Jim Domke, starting at 8:00am and going to the north pond, circling around to the yucca meadow and returning via the ridge, ending at 10:00am. The sky was clear with a few small ragged clouds, slight breeze, and at the north pond the temperature at 8:56am was 79*F, 72% RH.

We saw a number of dragonflies as we came to the north pond, and we observed an orb-weaving spider (probably genus Neoscona, per Meghan Cassidy) working on a Pondhawk that it had caught in the web.

The north pond is an alternative spot for sampling, location on the north end of it, by the Black Willow, 32*39'56"N / 97*13'22"W / elevation 600 ft.

Five minute observation at 8:45am at the Black Willow on the north end of the pond: multiple dragonflies including the blue male Pondhawks, cricket frogs hopping on the banks and cricket frog calls at CV 1 or maybe 2; a turtle surfacing on the pond, probably Red-eared Slider; honeybee; water primrose around the pond and moderate algae on the water surface encroaching out from 10 to 30 feet toward the center.

855am - observed a small Little Brown Skink near the pond edge and got a good look at the head/forebody to be sure of the ID, but no photo (I was not able to capture it).

Yucca meadow, five minute observation at 9:35am. Bird calling, not identified, insect choruses heard, multiple dragonflies including a Neon Skimmer. There are still many yellow primroses blooming.

Walking back, along the path where there is a small opening with Glen Rose Yucca and a Sumac thicket on the other, we photographed a beetle (Acmaeodera mixta, a wood-boring beetle in the Buprestid family) on a flower, and also a stinkbug (genus Euschistus). These and other observations were added to iNat except the skink, as there was no photo.

Among the conclusions are that numerous things are spotted while moving from location to location, and if this becomes a project, it would be appropriate to include observations "on the move" as well as within 20 feet of the designated spot during the five-minute observation. Additionally, it is not realistic to sample all 5 or 6 locations in one walk, if it is to be kept shorter than two hours.

Posted on June 18, 2020 18:34 by drawntoscales drawntoscales | 3 comments | Leave a comment

June 07, 2020

Southwest Nature Preserve, 7 June 2020

This walk was sort of a "test drive" for an idea in which I would visit about weekly, stopping at several predetermined destinations and observe for five minutes (and I would record observations in between as well).

First stop: 10:00am, 32*39'40"N; 97*13'25"W - pollinator meadow at a bench under a cedar elm. I took some reference photos of surrounding vegetation, including a Silverleaf Nightshade growing up through the grid of the bench. There is a mixture of Galliardia, Mexican Hats, some Lemon Beebalm, and Johnson Grass.

Second stop: 10:24am, 32*39'43"N; 97*13'21"W, 600 feet elevation. 84*F, 44%RH. This was the smallest pond, with water level getting low and tremendous growth of Water Primrose at the margins. Reference photos should show oak, Little Bluestem, Hedge Parsley, other plants. A nearby Northern Cardinal was calling "cheer-cheer-cheer-chip-chip chip-chip" (recorded)

Walking to the trailhead I photographed a Blue Jay.

Third stop: 10:50am, 32*39'47"N; 97*13'21"W, 650 feet elevation. 85*F, 44%RH. I stopped a few feet off the trail on a rogue trail, in oak woodland with closed canopy. The sky is mostly clear, with a few puffy clouds and very little breeze. There is very little breeze. Photos will show Virginia Creeper, Poison Ivy, Blackjack Oak and I believe Post Oak, with yucca, Bull Nettle, honeysuckle and other plants. There is a nearby funnel-web spider.

Fourth stop: 11:10am, 32*39'52"N; 97*13'18"W, 670 feet elevation. 88*F, 44%RH. This spot is on the ridge, where the small loop trail begins - it is a tiny pocket prairie of Little Bluestem. Photos of oak, juniper, Engelmann's Daisy, a small Mesquite, prickly pear, other plants. A Great Egret flew past nearby, and birdcalls may have been from a chickadee.

Fifth stop: 11:36am, 32*39'53"N; 97*13'9"W, 650 feet elevation. 95*F, 47%RH. I am setting the thermometer in shade each time, but here in the yucca meadow the best I could find was in a little shade from a shrubby little oak. The Comanche Harvester Ants are active around the opening to the colony but probably not out foraging. Observed honeybees in beebalm, a couple of large yellow and brown banded Polistes wasps, a Widow Skimmer dragonfly, and a small tan grasshopper. I recorded some insect choruses.

The last stop was a possible alternative location but no photos or observations today. It is at 32*39'50"N; 97*13'13"W, 640 feet elevation. This was just off the trail east of the boulders in a small glade of wildflowers and Glen Rose Yucca. Opposite the trail is a sumac thicket.

Posted on June 07, 2020 20:44 by drawntoscales drawntoscales | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 30, 2019

Southwest Nature Preserve, 23 Nov 2019

A walk there, mostly looking at leaves, and then wrote a blog post afterward at Saw Post Oak and Blackjack in various shades of color, and then some blood-red Red Oaks in one place. There was a small field with lots of what appeared to be Camphorweed, their dried seed-heads in pale spheres looking like a fuzzy constellation of stars.

Posted on November 30, 2019 00:17 by drawntoscales drawntoscales | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment