Nov 15

Bird Populations

Posted: under Wildlife.
Tags: , ,  November 15th, 2009

Driving home from church today,  I saw several more “winter hawks” in the sky or perched along the road, which brought up the topic of our disparate bird populations through the seasons.   We have year-rounders, winter residents, winter visitors, summer nesters, and migrants in fall and spring.

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Nov 07

First-of-Season Winter Sparrows

Posted: under Activities, Wildlife.
Tags: , , , , ,  November 7th, 2009

Forgot to mention yesterday that though I had heard a White-crowned Sparrow call in the yard a few days ago, I hadn’t spotted one until yesterday evening, up in the dry woods.  I came into the south end of the dry woods trail and startled some White-winged doves, who flapped off with their usual noisy behavior, but one smaller bird just hopped to the top of a cactus and sat there.

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Nov 06

Census: New Species

Posted: under Activities, photography, Wildlife.
Tags: , , , , , ,  November 6th, 2009

Our on the land with visitors yesterday, I spotted a new fly (new to me):


That spotted abdomen was very obvious with the naked eye.   It’s a similar pattern to a spotted jumping spider we have (also white spots on black) and until I saw it fly I was thinking  “There’s another P. audax, never saw one on heath aster before.”   The “face” and antennae are the same golden color as the wings.

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Sep 18

A Week After Rain

Posted: under Land, photography, Plantlife, Water.
Tags: , , , , ,  September 18th, 2009


The water that didn’t run off soaked in; it’s amazing that in one week it’s turned so green.    The darker streak in the middle distance is the grass waterway when it rains and right now is just dry enough to walk on in regular shoes.

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Aug 26

Drought & Yard Birds

Posted: under photography, Water, Wildlife.
Tags: , , ,  August 26th, 2009

Some of the birds on the place usually stay away from the house, but in this severe drought we have the only substantial water (the creek’s dry at the south end of town, a mile downstream–and probably beyond that, too.)    In the past week,  with a slightly decreased workload, I’ve been out looking for migrants in the back yard–hearing more different songs.   Today I was lucky enough to photograph this gorgeous male summer tanager:


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Jun 12

Oops, sorry…

Posted: under Wildlife.
Tags: ,  June 12th, 2009

We’d gone out in the hot (very!) afternoon to look at the effect of rain on the grass garden, skirting the tiny (only two fruit trees left, and never had more than six) orchard on the mound a former owner had scuffed up to put a house-for-sale on. ..but luckly, he ran out of money.

So we walked on a path Richard had mowed along the west fence and then along the north fence, and then turned back toward the orchard.  One of the remaining pears is on the NW corner of the “hump”, and near it are a few natives woody plants.   I noticed that the kidneywood was blooming and stopped to smell it and start to photograph a handsome large wasp nectaring on its upper flowers when I heard a rustling in the dense shade under the pear.  I thought it was a big lizard (we have big lizards that make a lot of noise on bark) but didn’t see it–and suddenly a little gray and red blur with a black stripe down its back ran down the far corner of the hump (where a peach tree used to be) and across the grassy area to the north horse lot, squeezing through the gate.

It was a young gray fox.   I’m SO sorry I disturbed it–foxes love to nap in dense shade in the middle of the day, and this one is probably in our garden because there’s water in the water garden and ample mice and grasshoppers and other prey.   And I scared it.

The fox loped the length of the north horse lot, ducked behind the big enclosure full of roses (pipe gates and wire making a big circle around the Cecile Brunner so the horses can’t eat it–there’s now a huge mound of rosebush that the birds love.  I half-expected the fox to hide in there, but it ran out from behind the roses and exited our northwest corner…which put it right next to the secondary drainage outlet.  Plenty of cover in there.

Still…I’m sorry I scared it.   It’s a very hot day.  If it hadn’t panicked, I’d never have known it was there.

No, I wasn’t quick enough to take a picture.   I was staring.

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Apr 05

Cactus & butterfly

Posted: under photography, Plantlife, Wildlife.
Tags: , ,  April 5th, 2009

Though our prickly pear cactus has been hit by a disease or parasite, as well as the drought, a beautiful lace cactus, Echinocereus reichenbachii, that a rancher lady gave me off her place is thriving.  They used to be common on the gravelly-rocky hills around here, but they’re salable and have been pirated off some slopes where I used to see them every spring.

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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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Mar 16

After the Rain

Posted: under Activities, Plantlife, Water, Weather.
Tags: , , , ,  March 16th, 2009

Plants around here take immediate advantage of water, so the change in color after less than a week from the first drop of rain is striking.

Near Meadow

Near Meadow

Not only does green show on the mowed maintenance path, but at the base of the taller clumps to either side.   Rain started Wednesday; this was taken Sunday.  Last week,  no green.

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Feb 22

Early Spring (and a mystery)

Posted: under photography, Wildlife.
Tags: ,  February 22nd, 2009

Even in a drought year, trees put out buds–at this time of year, the elms and hackberries  and the early oaks may flower, and some of the migrant birds enjoy a lofty “salad” of buds from them.   Here’s one of our taller elms showing golden-green lace against the blue sky.

Early spring elm

Early spring elm

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