May 29, 2020

Brazos Bend SP - 7 Day Itch

Life is just barely slowing for the summer. Spring Interns are 'graduated' which means I have time to myself for an entire Friday. No Saturday classes to plan for or communicate about! Two of the CPC interns joined Scott and me on today's hike, all social-distancing, of course.

We took the prairie walk so they could see all three species of Vervain and distinguish between the three: V. brazilian, V. halei, and V. xutha. The dragonflies were all out, as were the mating butterflies. The surprise of the day was the Reakirt's Blue in the prairie, as well as the GIANT wolf spider off the path. Scott mistook it for a tarantula, it was so big.

After our friends parted ways, we marched on a bit further. Sadly, photos of juvenile Barred Owls did not turn out well enough for ID, but while Scott was bench-napping, I was able to record some parent calling back and forth with cicadas singing in the background.

The rookery was also in full swing. I found it funny that iNaturalist had 'monkey' right up top to name the juvenile ibises. I guess AI was confused by the striped bills and the ugly little faces (only a Mama could love).

All-in-all, another great hike at BBSP, third week straight. We'll see if next Friday pans out for another day trip. *crossing fingers*

Nice to see you again, #MyBrazos. (PS - I included the handful of observations from yesterday's volunteer stint.)

Posted on May 29, 2020 22:48 by dirtnkids dirtnkids | 31 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment

May 22, 2020

Brazos Bend SP - Getting OUT!

Last Friday went so well that Scott and I went for another prairie and live oak loop walk, particularly looking for Texas invasive species. Found some!

Dragonflies were the show-stoppers today, as was the robber fly (Promachus hinei), that I first dismissed as a dragonfly, but because I am inclined to shoot everything, it was a Life species for me. As was the wasp (Pseudodynerus quadrisectus) and the Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta).

On the Pilant Slough trail, I heard the call of an Acadian Flycatcher! My husband didn't believe me, so I played the call on iBird, then recorded our observation doing the same, then found the bird. It pays to do Empidonax 'homework.' (I knew it would pay off one day.)

It was a great day. Every walk at BBSP is like walking a different park. You never know what you'll find there.

LIFE'S BETTER OUTSIDE.

Posted on May 22, 2020 22:50 by dirtnkids dirtnkids | 76 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 15, 2020

Brazos Bend SP - First Time Since COVID

When I asked Scott where he wanted to go on his Friday off, it was a resounding 'Brazos Bend.' The weather was threatening to be wet later in the day, so we got our day passes trekked out early to walk the prairie trail. We were not disappointed!

Swallowtails were everywhere, as were other Lepidoptera species. And though we heard several Prothonotary warblers, we were only able to get a glimpse of two. Same for the Northern Parula who was heard but never seen. It was great to be out hiking the park -- not volunteering in any capacity -- with my best friend and husband in tow.

Highlight of the day was hearing the prettiest song from the top of the oaks; it was a single Painted Bunting. Sadly, as we approached, he quit singing (before I could record), and I got one lousy, blurry picture of him before he was off and away. Dang birdies. :D

Posted on May 15, 2020 21:02 by dirtnkids dirtnkids | 40 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 14, 2020

ID'ing and Pressing Flowers with Della at L-DPP

It's easy to social distance where there are only two of you! I held the video recorder and Della engaged the digital audience while we waded together through a blooming Deer Park - Lawther Prairie. We were specifically on the hunt for wildflower, especially those we can cut and PRESS. The rain held off until we were done shooting, and I felt pretty privileged when a firefly flew right into my hand. Weather and bugs are not usually so cooperative.

Highlight of the day were the two new insect species at the Black Jack daisy patch (where we caught honey bees for the previous video) and the ladies' tresses orchids that were in bloom. It made up for the fact that liatris and guara weren't quite showy ... yet. Next month.

Posted on May 14, 2020 21:09 by dirtnkids dirtnkids | 24 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 12, 2020

Belated Mother's Day at Challenger 7

This is the first outing my mother and I have had together in nearly two months. We social-distanced -- even from each other -- wearing our masks and refraining from getting into each other's bubbles. It was weird riding in a car fully 'faced up' with someone in the car with me. (So far, I've only driven with members of my household.)

At any rate, Challenger 7 was quite the dragonfly place to be! I had hoped to see more birds (we heard several, but saw nary a one), but what the placed lacked in feathered wings it sure made up with the double-doubles. Several new species made my life list today, and the subjects were cooperative for shooting!

Posted on May 12, 2020 00:20 by dirtnkids dirtnkids | 22 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 29, 2020

First 'City Nature Challenge' for Houston Area

Inspired by my naturalist friends and edcucators, I participated in the Houston area's City Nature Challenge as a Texas Master Naturalist of the Coastal Prairie Chapter.

https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/texas_nature_trackers/naturechallenge/

Being at home with my family all weekend, most observations were made from my yard and neighborhood. Stats for me:

- Total species: 160 (top # was 350+)
-Total observations: 189 (top # was 600)
- Favorites: Swainson's Thrush, Cerulean Warbler, Phaon Crescent
- Wished to have seen / expected to see, but didn't: Swainson's Hawk, Coral Snake
- Wished to have shot: Swallow-tailed Kite
- Best viewed: Mississippi Kites in the act of copulation (camera was down!!)

I noticed that several participants were shooting domestic/captive species as well as wild. I stuck with wild species only, and stayed away from my own pocket prairie that was intentionally planted, though with Coastal Prairie native varieties. Had I known ...

For the away-from-home, I choose a rarely used, generally ignored 'pocket prairie' patch that I'd been dying to walk for weeks in the Telfair area. I put on my boots on the last day of the challenge and logged these species listed below. Bonus find: V. xutha in an over-grown field.

Posted on April 29, 2020 16:04 by dirtnkids dirtnkids | 31 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 29, 2019

'Shoot The Bird' for Thanksgiving

Our 5th annual event. This time, no kids. :D

We began at San Bernard NWR, then to Quintana, and finally a long beach walk down the west jetty.

San Bernard NWR Bobcat Woods: https://ebird.org/checklist/S61817619
San Bernard NWR Moccasin Loop: https://ebird.org/checklist/S61820455
Quintana Bird Sanctuary: https://ebird.org/checklist/S61825722

We got tired of counting, so the beach walk was iNat-ing only. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

Posted on November 29, 2019 00:02 by dirtnkids dirtnkids | 76 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 25, 2019

Brazos Bend SP, 11/24/2019 Birding

It was a crisp, beautiful morning, so Scott and I headed out to get some birds. We didn't want to stop until we hit at least SIXTY. Which we did.

Ruddy duck was the bird of the day for us. Notably absent were White-eyed Vireo, Great Blue Heron, Cormorant, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, all of which we expected to see this time of year.

https://ebird.org/checklist/S61712585

Photos -- listed below -- of birds were snapped with my phone from the camera's small LED screen. That way, I can get a clear shot of the bird with the big lens, zoom in the image more if necessary, and finally have a full-frame individual for iNat. It's unlikely I'll ever swap them out for the real-time images (too much work), but the SmugMug gallery has them there for all to see, linked from within the checklist.

Happy Birding!

Posted on November 25, 2019 13:11 by dirtnkids dirtnkids | 28 observations | 3 comments | Leave a comment

October 23, 2019

NPSoT BioBlitz 10/22

What is BioBlitz? Read here:
https://npsot.org/wp/story/2019/11953/

For this outing, I chose an area near where I live that is slated for development. Many trees had already been removed, and many more were 'marked' with the dreaded orange tape. LOSERS ... all in the name of progress.

Shooting and logging weeds keeps me happy. The weed of the day turned out to be Frostweed (Verbesina virginica), something I only just recently discovered on my own property. (It's been growing for years; I just never checked to see what it was.) Everywhere there was frostweed, there were pollinators, particularly butterflies. They were a decided distraction from the [doomed] plants I was there to catalog.

In reverence of the wild places near Houston which are quickly disappearing, I stuck with only wild plants. One day soon, these beauties will all be gone.

Posted on October 23, 2019 22:00 by dirtnkids dirtnkids | 29 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 21, 2019

TCAH Houston Arboretum Field Trip

My four TCAH students and I went to a (delayed due to weather) field trip to Houston Arboretum Nature Park today. Two of them grumbled all the way there about not wanting to go, one had just gotten his braces taken off early morning (so was very happy), and the other one is always glad to be outdoors.

The school crowd split into three groups: elementary, middle, and high school. I went with the elementary school kids and parents because my kids are all old enough now to not want to have anything to do with Mom. It's okay. I prefer the younger kids anyway.

Two families (a mom, a dad, and four girls) in my group were great at finding stuff to look at, real nature addicts!. I showed them all how to use iNaturalist, so they were keen to see if they could stump the naturalist. At the end of our walk, they were logging all the species for me.

At one point off the trail, a ribbon snake was in chase of a leopard frog, who were both headed right for us. My job was to calmly get everyone to stop walking long enough to not get entangled in what was an unfolding food web. The parents were the only ones who couldn't stand still ('Eeek! Snake!), and so the snake went one way after meeting our feet, the frog another. Everyone was content when it was all over ... except the snake who didn't get to eat. Sadly, no photos.

Those kids ... they found so much great stuff for me! Not only were they the ultimate butterfly and mushroom hunters, but when they pointed and asked me 'what bird is that?' I lifted the 600mm to shoot the Pileated woodpecker only to find someone else entirely: Red-headed juveniles. WHOOP! Sighting of the day for sure.

I logged the sighting on eBird when I got home as I wasn't there to count birds. https://ebird.org/checklist/S60824091

The Gulf fritillaries were everywhere, mating and laying eggs. We brought one 4th instar caterpillar to add to Squishy's habitat (what we call our 1st instar) so that we can have a chrysalis for my 4th grade students.

Posted on October 21, 2019 21:24 by dirtnkids dirtnkids | 16 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment