23 de julio de 2022

National Moth Week: Blacklighting with @SamBiology and TMN's

Warm and muggy, fun and friendly, several TMN's from neighboring Houston chapters met after dark at the Discovery Nature Center in Bellaire, Texas, to attract some nighttime invertebrates. They call it 'MOTH-ing,' but really a number of creatures arrive at the mercury and UV lights, not just Lepidoptera. Many beetles, some wasps, and other amazing Earthlings came to sit for a while so that adults could oooh and aaaah over their beauty.

It is such an easy thing to do, and not much equipment is required! A twin-sized white sheet, some clothespins, and a blacklight powered with an A/C outlet nearby or a battery pack. I used a smartphone coupled with a $14 selfie ring light and a Xenvo clip-on macro magnifying lens. Portable and convenient. A headlamp helped light the way between 7 stations.

We learned about many species, like the beetle that helps carry the Oak Wilt fungus from tree to tree, the strange and effective way the mantisfly hunts at the sheet, and why moths in particular are so crucial to a functioning ecosystem; moths feed many other species!

Thanks to my friends, Mary Spolyar @rednat and Sam Kieschnick @sambiology, I learned just a bit more on how to be the best steward in my own yard and property by learning about species beyond my backyard. A special thanks to DeAndra Ramsey, the TMN's of the Gulf Coast Chapter, and the Nature Discovery Center for having us. It's one of my favorite things to do!

For more information on attracting insects at night, visit NationalMothWeek.org and get outside to log some insects for science July 23-31, 2022!: https://nationalmothweek.org

Publicado el 23 de julio de 2022 por dirtnkids dirtnkids | 42 observaciones | 4 comentarios | Deja un comentario

25 de noviembre de 2021

'Shoot the Bird' 2021

The kids stayed at home and we brought our friend, Mary, to the coast for our 7th annual Shoot the Bird at Thanksgiving . We began at Anahuac NWR's Chenier Plains Visitor's Center where I was able to ID a new species of Aster: Drummond's. It was relatively quiet, but the spiders were out beyond the boardwalk to be shot with the long lens in low lighting ... never a great combo. Did the best I could with what I had! Shot 'em all.

Turning off to head toward the refuge, we witnessed from the car a red-tailed hawk and adult bald eagle engage in an in-flight kerfuffle. Something to see indeed, but by the time I got out of the car with the camera, the fight was all but over. Shot both guys for good measure as they flew away.

Next we spent several hours exploring the refuge which was relatively free from the non-feathered two-legged species (aka people). All to ourselves! A couple huge flocks of birds flew over: snow geese and white pelican. I ignored the second as I was focused instead on the beautiful juvenile bald eagle flying overhead, begging to shot, I shot him!

We tripped over a sunning cottonmouth. Thankfully, we were looking DOWN and not ups, so no one was bothered by the encounter. The 600mm long lens really comes in handy. I shot him!

Out on the jetties of the auto tour loop, highlights were watching many harriers hunt and flush creatures from the reeds. Fulvous whistling ducks and rosette spoonbills were in great numbers, more than we usually witness. Shot what we could.

We finished up first at Smith Oaks Rookery where we saw some gawd-awful ugly little cormorant babes in many nests there. Had no idea these birds raised families so late in the year. Didn't shoot any, though. Onward to the Boliar Flats Sanctuary because we just couldn't finish the day without shooting all the pretty shorebirds. Looked and looked for Snowy and Piping Plover, but alas, we not only didn't see any, I didn't get to shoot them either.

You're welcome, Mr. Turkey, for keeping your life as yours. Because it is just so unnecessary to exploit and kill another just for a day of gratitude and pleasure. DISCLAIMER: No animals were exploited or killed in our Shoot the Bird Thanksgiving Day outing.

Publicado el 25 de noviembre de 2021 por dirtnkids dirtnkids | 69 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

03 de noviembre de 2021

Diversity at Seabourne Creek NP Butterfly Garden

While many of the gardener types ripped and tore at the soil getting rid of weeds, I opted for more purposeful and joyful work instead: logging diversity! The native Conoclinium and Persecaria were clearly the nectar plants of choice, loaded with wasps, butterflies, skippers, and moths. with the fire spike (non-native) being the second-place contender.

I wonder why anyone would plant Bat-faced Cuphea in a butterfly habitat. Besides nectar for wayward hummingbirds, what exactly is the wildlife value of this plant? All I saw were honeybees and carpenter bees -- who outwit the flower's pollination strategy with her clever tactics -- on it for the several minutes in three stretches I observed.

Publicado el 03 de noviembre de 2021 por dirtnkids dirtnkids | 32 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de mayo de 2021

Day 1 CNC 21: Gerhart Between the Raindrops

Not the driest day for going out to log wild species for science, my friend and fellow prairie fairy poked me to join her at what used to be the Gerhart Prairie, surrounding ditches, roadside etc. After waiting out a significant downpour under the minivan's lift gate, we hit the field in typical naturalist style bioblitz style shooting as many wild species as we could in an hour or so for the City Nature Challenge. We got only slightly wet.

Bonus for me: there was a nice patch of self heal in the ditch, and since it was we enough, a few of those plants made it home with me to restore my own backyard prairie habitat. One day down, three to go! Now if it would just stop raining ...

Publicado el 01 de mayo de 2021 por dirtnkids dirtnkids | 46 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de abril de 2021

Finding Refuge on Easter -- San Bernard NWR

The Spring TMN class half done now, it was time Scott and I reconnected with some nature spaces for a bit before the rigors of school and administration start back up again. It's going to fast-paced here all the way through April.

The TMN's Cradle of Texas did a fabulous job building boardwalks and seating areas at Bobcat Woods. I cannot say enough about their wonderful work during the pandemic! Pete and Peggy Rompf's photos are on every interpretive sign ... it's as if they're still here and never moved away to California. (We miss you, here in Texas!)

Having woken with a body time clock at 5:00 AM, we hit the road at 6:00 AM and headed to Quintana Bird Sanctuary. We'd heard some great things about migrants having arrived there in the past week. Hooded Warbler and Northern Parula were expected, but the Worm-eating Warbler kept pretty much to himself, seen but not 'shot.' No one else was there, so we enjoyed the small sanctuary all to ourselves. Sadly, the birds weren't really there either.

So ... off to San Bernard NWR! That space is always reliable for some quiet and wildlife. Hiking along the levee of the waterway was great for insects and wildflowers, but while crouched shooting the blue-eyed grass, I broke the silence (said something to Scott) and apparently startled a large alligator who promptly slapped his tail as he 'escaped' me into the water, just a few yards away. (I won't tell him who was the most startled.)

It was refreshing to see that Least Grebe was still there, and a surprise sighting of Virginia Rail made our whole day (LIFER for me, 2nd sighting for Scott). But the yet unknown caterpillar, water snake, and chatty White-eyed Vireos were the highlight of our unplugged lunch break.

Publicado el 05 de abril de 2021 por dirtnkids dirtnkids | 46 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

03 de enero de 2021

Better Late Than Never - January 1st Birding (on the 2nd) Brazos Bend SP

Months ago, Scott and I reserved the only four-sided cabin (the others are screened) to spend three days and two nights birding our favorite Texas state park: Brazos Bend. Life got in the way of our first night, so we delayed checking in until late on the first. We hiked around Elm Lake as the sun went down, hoofed the last 2.0 miles back to the cabin in the dark. SUCH FUN! After a game of scrabble and a couple beers, we hit the sack in comfy semi-hotel conditions, with our 2" memory foam / hard foam mats and quiet surroundings.

After 6AM coffee, we packed up the gear and headed out to Hoots Hollow Trail on the other side of the park. That is where we found our two Birds of the Day: Winter Wren and Ash-throated Flycatcher. Off the trail, with boots wet and mucky make for the best birding, so we counted species and enjoyed watching everyone forage as the day began. It was very chilly ... my hands were stiff and frozen until the sun was fully up.

The second half of the count was around 40-Acre Lake where we found Black-crowned Night Herons and sparrows galore. A lone female Gadwall was a surprise find, while we searched high and low for Rusty Blackbirds (didn't find a single one). Hearing the Sandhill Cranes flying overhead was a welcome sound; cold and breezy, our trail walks were solitary with the masses most likely lining up to enter the park.

On the way out late morning, the line of cars stretched 1/2 mile back. It's smart to arrive early to this gem of a park!


Publicado el 03 de enero de 2021 por dirtnkids dirtnkids | 36 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

07 de octubre de 2020

Discussion on Clematis -- C. crispa vs. C. pitcheri

While on the hike at Brazos Bend last Sunday 10/4 (see last journal post), I was fortunate to stumble across and photo-document not one but TWO different Clematis individuals. With the intent to organize, this journal post will serve as a discussion placeholder for these two observations, as well as others I've seen -- C. crispa and C. pitcheri in particular here on the Gulf Coast.

I am tagging individuals who may be interested: @gary1122, @suz, @sambiology, @rednat, @noreenhoard, @scottbuckel, @sbdplantgal, @jcharris. (At least I think that's how it works!)

Publicado el 07 de octubre de 2020 por dirtnkids dirtnkids | 7 observaciones | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

06 de octubre de 2020

Brazos Bend SP - Annual NABA Butterfly Count

Scott and I joined up with several other BBSP volunteers to participate in the October 4th annual NABA (North American Butterfly Assn.) butterfly count -- our first. It was a clear and beautiful morning and we were greeted by White-tailed deer eating oak acorns and the most vocal Gray Catbird. Meeting. Our assignment was the Red Buckeye Trail and the south part of the White Oak Trail at the southeast corner of the park. It was a slow day for butterflies, but certainly not disappointing.


In all for the morning, we logged 17 species: Cloudless Sulphur, Little Yellow, Gulf Fritillary, Phaon Crescent, Pearl Crescent, Question Mark, Gemmed Satyr, Carolina Satyr, Monarch, White-striped Longtail, Common Checkered-Skipper, Tropical Checkered-Skipper, Turk's Cap White-Skipper, Southern Broken-dash, Broad-winged Skipper, Dun Skipper, Ocala Skipper. Where the butterflies were lacking, the mosquitoes (that giant Gallinipper!) and biting gnats more than made up; thankfully, no ticks or chiggers came along for the ride.

My Life Species of the day was the Yellowjacket Hoverfly, and I stumbled upon not one but TWO different species (or variants) of Clematis ... I was careful to photo-document all parts of the plant this time for comparison.

For the NABA count, 33 species and 445 individuals were counted collectively by the group, a low count as it goes but higher than last year. Looking forward to next year's count on October 3, 2021!

Publicado el 06 de octubre de 2020 por dirtnkids dirtnkids | 41 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

28 de septiembre de 2020

BBSP Muggy Autumn Sunday Hike

Sunday's at BBSP are treasured now that the family is all back in school. Mom likes to shoot new species when she (when I) get the chance, and on this very muggy, semi-quiet day on the trail the wasps and flies were the stars.

We generally stayed off the beaten path since the park just opened up to 300 visitors morning and another 300 visitors in the afternoon. The 'bird-y' trails are also where all the people are. Soon, I will be volunteering again at the Nature Center and Gift Shop regularly, but for now, FAMILY and BUGS!

Publicado el 28 de septiembre de 2020 por dirtnkids dirtnkids | 21 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

26 de septiembre de 2020

Boneset BioBlitz

If there is ever a native plant that hosts too many species to take count of it's Eupatorium serotinum -- Late boneset. There are exactly two of these plants in my backyard pocket prairie, purchased from my friends at Morningstar Farms this time last year. It is a veritable bee, wasp, fly, and beetle magnet (among others). It is so fragrant, I like sitting and shooting wildlife right next to the plant.

Here is what the wildflower experts of Texas say about it:

And attached are the wildlife possibilities as of today ... with still two months of blooming yet to go.

Publicado el 26 de septiembre de 2020 por dirtnkids dirtnkids | 44 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario
Vida Silvestre es una entidad asociada a la Organización Mundial de Conservación