A One-Hour Urban Experiment

Salvia gregii is a really popular landscape plant. It’s supposed to be native, but I’ve never seen any that wasn’t put there by someone.

During the four days of the week when I’m in Austin, I do yoga three days at lunch. But on Wednesdays, I’m on my own. Sometimes I just work, but often I take a walk around the area, which has some interesting plantings and natural areas as well. The office is on land that used to be full of deer when my kids were little. Now there is a lot more office space and less deer land.

Anyway, I decided to give myself a challenge last Wednesday, which was to see how many new iNaturalist observations I could make during the lunch hour. I wanted to focus mainly on things that were blooming or bearing fruit, but if something else interesting showed up, I’d take advantage of that.

So, off I went with my trusty iPhone X, which takes reasonable pictures, sometimes. I took pictures of the native/nativized plants that had been planted around the buildings first. There were some really beautiful agaves that I just had to record, even though I know they are landscape plants. Look at this Queen Victoria Agave!

It’s pretty, even if it’s not native.

I walked around the office complex, where I saw this fungus, which I originally thought was the seed of some bush:

bird's nest fungus
Mushrooms are just the coolest things

It turns out that’s a field birds-nest. Here’s what Wikipedia said about them:

Cyathus olla is a species of saprobic fungus in the genus Cyathus, family Nidulariaceae. The fruit bodies resemble tiny bird’s nests filled with “eggs” – spore-containing structures called peridioles. Like other bird’s nest fungi, C. olla relies on the force of falling water to dislodge peridioles from fruiting bodies to eject and disperse their spores. The life cycle of this fungus allows it to reproduce both sexually, with meiosis, and asexually via spores.

Then went down my favorite stretch of road (Riata Vista approaching 183, for north Austinites), where maybe someone had once planted things, but they’ve gone wild. There’s always something interesting blooming there.

I’ve always liked these, because they smell nice and bloom in the summer.

And sure enough, I found fruit. I kept seeing grapevines, but no grapes. Then I turned the corner and saw these mustang grapes. I think they were delicious, even if they ARE tart. That means I better go collect some from the ranch! This is my year to make jelly, I hereby affirm!

I had a grape vine in my back yard for 20 years and no grapes. Must have been a dude.


I am glad I looked both high and low in my quest, because I might have missed these cheery blossoms in the middle of the corporate lawn.

This is a powder puff, which is a type of mimosa, as you could guess from the leaves.

Right after that photo, I looked up, mainly because a hawk was shrieking overhead. I looked over at the urban hawk nest I already knew about, on the building nearby, but didn’t see a hawk (I’d seen one earlier, just surveying his or her domain). So, I kept looking, and lo and behold, there was another hawk nest in an old oak tree next to the artificial pond.

She’s a little hard to spot, but that’s a Cooper’s hawk and nest.

I was really surprised that there are two nests so close to each other, both occupied. It does explain the large number of hawk sightings at work lately, though.

By the time I got the last few images, I was overcome by humidity, but I was amazed at how much I saw in such a short time, just by looking around rather than just walking fast.

Planview map
This is where all my observations were.

If you’re wondering where I was, the map at left shows most of my observations. All in all, I made 57 observations! I surprised myself. I’ve now made close to 150 observations, and don’t feel like such a newby.

I spared you ALL the observations, but you’re welcome to look them over on my iNaturalist page and filter on June 2018.

Any other ideas for nature challenges I can make for myself? Yesterday, I looked for insects and similar critters. They move around a lot.

More later! I have another nest to report.

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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