Apr 19

Cactus Flowers (and a surprise)

Posted: under photography, Plantlife, Wildlife.
Tags: , , , ,  April 19th, 2009

Plains Nipple Cactus, Coryphanta missouriensis, is a small, inconspicuous ground-hugging cactus that almost disappears (shrinks a lot) after between flowerings.   Unless you know where you have a patch, you do not see it then.  But when it flowers, it opens elegant little flowers with long, pointed petals.  The lacy pattern of the spines on the plant, and the starry shape of the flowers, makes this one of the spring joys around here.


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Mar 18


Posted: under photography, Wildlife.
Tags: , , ,  March 18th, 2009

The first odes of spring showed up after the rain, not surprisingly:  the first was a tiny Citrine Forktail male seen flying from one (too brief to grab a shot) perch on dead week stalks sticking out of water,  late Sunday.    On Tuesday evening, behind the #3 gabion, I spotted three pairs of Plateau Spreadwings*, Lestes alacer,  all trying to oviposit on one tiny clump of Eleocharis…the only clump that had greened up.

Spreadwing Damselflies ovipositing

Spreadwing Damselflies ovipositing

The third female is out of sight behind that blurred leaf at the bottom (you can just see one eye and a few segments of abdomen.)   The males have bright blue eyes and a pale blue or pale green stripe on the thorax; the females are shades of brown/tan/beige.


The male holds on while the female makes a slit in the stem of the plant and inserts eggs.   These stems are so thin it’s hard to imagine any room for eggs inside, but after the long drought, no water plants with thicker stems had emerged from last week’s rain.  Only this single little clump.  Unfortunately, we’re not expecting any rain, and it’s already warm–the little rain pool behind the picture is already drying up/sinking into the soil.

I spotted a male Common Bluet at another rain pool, but the pictures weren’t clear enough to post.

*EDITED:  The spreadwings were IDed as Plateau Spreadwings by Dennis Paulson, from the TexOdes list, via email.  Thanks!

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Feb 26

Wild Plum Season

Posted: under photography, Plantlife, Wildlife.
Tags: , , ,  February 26th, 2009

Mexican plum, the tree-sized wild plum around here, blooms even in drought years.   Not only is it snowy white and beautiful, it has that amazing wild-plum fragrance…and as it’s an early bloomer, it attracts everything that’s hungry for nectar.

Mexican Plum in full bloom

Mexican Plum in full bloom

It doesn’t look like this long–especially in a drought year–and the tiny white petals are already blowing off it in today’s stiff warm breeze.

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Jan 12

Wildlife and Cactus

Posted: under Activities, Plantlife, Wildlife.
Tags: , , , , , ,  January 12th, 2009

Today’s wildlife experience was an armadillo, drinking noisily (they slurp, sounding rather like dogs) from the overflow guzzler at Fox Pavilion when we came back around that way after a long, two-hour stroll around the place.   I thought I’d turned the water off completely, but some grit must’ve been in the faucet, because the water had overflowed.


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Dec 20

Food: who eats what

Posted: under Activities, photography, Wildlife.
Tags: , , , ,  December 20th, 2008

Robberfly taking a large dragonfly

Robberfly taking a large dragonfly

I’ve started working on a long-term project to define who eats what and is eaten by whom. Published sources are not as much help as you might think, since they’re not really local and the local mix of food sources varies from both historical record (we have different plants, in different proportions, and thus different proportions of animals for the meat-eaters to prey on) and from published sources set in a different area.

It’s being every bit as difficult I suspected it would be. Critters do not all come and pose in front of the camera with an array of their food sources so consumption can be documented. Nor are they limited to the foods we put out. Killing a lot of native critters to do stomach content analyses (a very accurate way of finding out what *that* individual ate, but non-reproducible in that individual) isn’t something I want to do, or have the time and expertise to do anyway. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dec 13

Lust for brains: the Sacrificial Squirrel

Posted: under Wildlife.
Tags:  December 13th, 2008

Admittedly, no one ever said squirrels were brilliant. But we have squirrels running the wires between power poles all the time (squirrels, and opossums, and occasionally rats.)

In December, though, the Eastern Fox Squirrels we have go crazy…chasing each other up and down trees, across the yard, making strange wild leaps in the air (often with a flip or reveral) and tail-signaling like crazy. “I’m handsome, I’m brave, I’m strong, you want me!” “I’m beautiful, I’m lithe, my tail’s bushier, I’m not at all sure you’re good enough for me.” “Com’ere!” “Catch me!” “I’ve got you now, my pretty!” “Fooled you!”

All day Friday a pair of squirrels were busy dashing, leaping, showing off, with brief pauses to eat the birdfeed. I wasn’t watching closely, so I didn’t see whatever “Hey, watch THIS!” move the sacrificial squirrel made about four in the afternoon. I was working away on the book, writing, when a loud (very loud!) BANG! was followed by the loss of power and frantic beeps from the UPS. Well after dark, the repair truck showed up, and sure enough, under the power pole, was the show-off.

Now I could be wrong. It could have been some prudent older squirrel or timid young squirrel who put a foot wrong and caused the power outage. But given the recent behavior of squirrels in our neighborhood, I’d bet on the mating game. Someone just had to show off for someone else.

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