Journal archives for October 2018

October 06, 2018

Nalle Bunny Run 2018-10-06

I spent a little more than an hour on the Bunny Run this morning. The birds were few and far between, but the mosquitoes were everywhere! Notable bird observations included an Eastern Bluebird heard and briefly seen near the houses, and my first House Wren of the season, heard and then briefly seen near the spring. House Wrens are a winter resident in central Texas.

Yesterday the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife started their annual Pollinator Bioblitz, so I made a few plant and pollinator iNaturalist observations.

Here is my complete eBird list.

See the attached observations.

And here are the same photos on Flickr.

Posted on October 06, 2018 23:49 by mikaelb mikaelb | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 23, 2018

Nalle Bunny Run 2018-10-20

Only three people joined me on the monthly group walk on Hill Country Conservancy's Nalle Bunny Run Wildlife Preserve last Sunday morning. After two weeks of rain and overcast skies, we were thrilled to experience a dry cool breezy morning during which the sun just barely came out a couple times! The birds were a bit slow, but two of the birds we saw were extremely cooperative. The first was the Eastern Phoebe on the trail to the spring. After struggling to see it through a couple layers of juniper trees, it flew down and hunted insects about 15 feet in front of us for a few minutes:

Eastern Phoebe

The second was a newly returned American Kestrel, perched a the top of a dying cottonwood near the houses. It was there all morning, and we got to watch it make a few flights out to catch dragonflies.

American Kestrel

In the same tree, we were treated to a group of 5 Eastern Bluebirds who nervously shared perching space with the kestrel. Eastern Bluebirds are a resident central Texas species, but I have very few records of them on the Bunny Run, and this was the first group that got to see them here. Here are three of them:

Eastern Bluebirds

The preserve was as wet as I've ever seen it, and hiking through the sandy prairie area there was one spot where we just couldn't keep our feet dry. The spring was overflowing and the downhill pools were as pretty as I've ever seen them:

Drainage under Spring

Waterfall Limestone Pools

Some other highlights of the morning were some beautiful coyote tracks the sand, Texas Leafcutter Ant trails, a distant group of migrating gulls, and finding a deer antler! See the attached observations, and a few more photos on Flicker here.

Here's our complete eBird list.

Posted on October 23, 2018 00:21 by mikaelb mikaelb | 11 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

October 30, 2018

Texas Master Naturalist Annual Meeting 2018

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Texas Master Naturalist Annual Meeting 2018 in Georgetown this weekend. Every session I attended was great, and a day later I'm still full of inspiration and reassurance that my volunteer efforts are helping conservation in our state.

Here are some quick points that really stuck with me from each session I attended.

Connecting the land and water; influences of land practices on river and stream health


Stephan Magnelia, Melissa Parker; Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Native riparian grasses like Switchgrass often have root systems longer than the grass is tall, and help surface water seep into the aquifer. Non-native grasses usually have much shorter root systems.

They gave everyone a copy of Your Remarkable Riparian field guide, which is a big beautiful field guide to our Texas riparian plants. And it describes a simple protocol for assessing the health of a riparian system. This looks like an invaluable guide for land owners with water on their land.

The principles of water slowing and retention that are so important to a rural riparian system are often at odds with urban and suburban creeks which have to be managed by urban engineers to move as much water through as fast as possible to avoid flooding.

Camera Trapping for Science


Tania Homayoun and Richard Heilbrun, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

This was a fun practical overview of using camera traps or game cams to capture images of wildlife for a variety of reasons. We even got hands-on experience! Here's my team's best effort:

Game Cam Training Photos - 1

You can see more of the amazing observation we captured of a taxidermied badger here. :)

Tania runs TPWD's Texas Nature Trackers citizen science program. They will lend you camera traps! As long as you have a plan to use them and agree to post your observations to iNaturalist and share locations with TPWD's iNat projects.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the TMN Program – Leveraging the Whole Community


David Buggs Chief diversity and inclusion officer with TPWD

Get out of your comfort zone to reach out to different communities. Any effort is worthwhile!

This quote from The Nature of Americans study resonated with me:

Americans face a significant gap between their interests in nature and their efforts, abilities and opportunities to pursue those interests in their lives.

We are helping Americans cross that gap, and we need to reach as many kinds of Americans as we can!

The Geography of Grassland Bird Conservation: How International Bird Conservation Efforts are Linked to Actions in Your Backyard


James Giocomo, American Bird Conservancy

Our grassland birds are in steep decline, and Jim Giocomo is working on the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture to try and save them. A large part of planning for this program is based on data from Breeding Bird Surveys, Christmas Bird Counts, and eBird. It's satisfying to contribute to all three.

Is this City for the Birds? Tracking Grassland Birds in an Urbanizing Texas


Tania Homayoun, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
James Giocomo, American Bird Conservancy

Urban and suburban hike and bike trails, athletic parks, and sometimes even parking lots (with scattered trees) can provide habitat for some of our grassland birds. Jim and Tania are working on a citizen science program to learn more about this. I hope I can participate with Lake Creek Trail!

How iNaturalist Guides Policy


Sam Kieschnick, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

iNaturalist provides us with a tool we can use to influence local policy, but not in the way I expected. Its scientific power is secondary to its social power. Local parks can be championed by dedicated iNat users to document the plants and animals there. iNaturalist makes it easy to show off this diversity with lots of photos. First build awareness and community among other people who live near a park. Then share with park management, then local politicians and leaders. Policy makers will initially be attracted to the photos, then take notice of the dedicated community.

In iNaturalist, the data is secondary to the constituency.

Posted on October 30, 2018 00:54 by mikaelb mikaelb | 1 comments | Leave a comment