New iNaturalist Project

Yesterday I was thinking about how many observations of plants and birds and such I make around the office park where I work in Austin. I said to myself, “Suna, that would make an interesting iNaturalist collection, and then you could also see observations other people make around there.

This pecan tree was here long before the fake pond and office complex.

Since I’d just taken a nice, long walk where I took many photos of plants, trees, birds, and such, it seemed like good timing.

Of course, nothing is simple, so it took me a long time to find the hidden option for making a project a “collection” with a defined set of boundaries. The nice thing about these is that any observations you make in that area automatically get added to the project, so you don’t forget to add them. I remembered that Linda Jo Conn (the great iNaturalist guru) had showed me how to do it when I made the Hermits’ Rest collection, but I had to re-remember.

Heron on fake pond, which is surrounded by cypress trees and has lots of nice riparian plants

I’m really happy with how it turned out in the end, though, and especially pleased that three other people had made observations there in the past. So, I’m not alone. I’m just the more obsessd person with it.

Why it’s interesting

The area where our relatively new office complex is located interests me, since I’ve actually been observing it since 1997. When we were building our house in Brushy Creek, we’d drive through the complex as a shortcut between Jollyville and Round Rock. Now, of course, there are large zoomy highways to get there. Back then, there were only a few companies with
large buildings there, and we enjoyed seeing many deer in the wide expanses of grass and groupings of trees.

Now, many more buildings are present, but there are still a few relatively natural areas, along with some places that were once landscaped but gone wild. There is an interesting mix of native and introduced plants.

Native plant!

Plus, our office has the courtyard where the hawks live, and it is full of mostly native plants, just groomed to death by landscapers.

I’ve written about this site before, especially one article last June when I did another major sweep of the area. That’s when I first started on iNaturalist and was practicing my identification skills.

I hope any of you on iNaturalist will enjoy what I share there. Of course, I’ll share a lot of the photos here, too!

Yellow iris that was planted by the pond

Something for the Dogs

First, thanks for all the kind thoughts yesterday. And those virtual hugs. Y’all are the best friends and readers.

Ooh, the Spy Who Licked me!

Today let’s move on to something that not only cheers me up, but it makes a certain pair of weenie dogs (Vlassic and Pickle) very happy each month: the BarkBox shipment!

I’ve been getting these for a while now, and each month Anita and I are charmed by the effort this company goes through to make a quality product that is fun for both people and dogs (a very good marketing strategy).

Great logo.
Continue reading “Something for the Dogs”

Ups and Downs

We all have them. There are just some times when the difficulties, negative surroundings, and struggles to get things done just overwhelm us.

Yes, cheerful tree, I see you.

Today I feel that way. My hip hurts. Things break at work. Friends and family are sick or injured. I miss my kids.

I know I’ll feel better soon, because I have good coping skills. And a therapist. And a spouse and friends. Just think of me.

This is my ugh face.

I’m probably thinking of you.

Green and Greener: A Photo Essay

Look! A fairy!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, the day when those of us with Irish ancestors (or Irish children or both) celebrate their heritage. This day always coincides with the part of the Texas spring when it’s so green that it almost hurts your eyes.

Dewberry on a fence

Each year I try to burn the spring green into my brain, to carry me through parched brown summers.

New growth

So, yesterday, when the late afternoon light was especially suited to enhancing the green of spring, I took many photos. Some were interesting. Others breathtaking. I hope you enjoy the Hermits’ Rest at its greenest.

The Hermits Creeklet with budding willows and dewberries.

Very green

Wow. That’s green. Alfred is king of the woods.

Cedar elm

My favorite

Baby blue eyes say thanks for looking.

Ranch Life. Not for Wimps

Yesterday I went to feed the horses but they would not come down to where we usually feed. They whinnied from the end of the narrow passage to their water trough.

We aren’t coming any closer, thanks.

I gathered their feed tubs and turned around to go get food. There I saw a very sad sight. A poor cow had died giving birth. Poor beautiful mama. I won’t share photos.

No wonder the horses would not come up. Even food didn’t convince them, so I took them their food.

Thanks for Indy, Human Mom.

Then I heard it’s harvest day for the sheep. Well, that’s their job and all, but sigh.

You really toughen up and remember life is hard when you live in the country.

But here are happy cows and green grass.

Birding Experts on Birding

Last night I went to the El Camino Real Master Naturalist meeting, as I do most every month. I wrote up a post for their blog with lots of details about what I learned, so here I want to share my deep enjoyment from listening to women who are passionate about birds and birding as they share their passions with others.

Three women from our group spoke about how they engage in bird watching, each with a different perspective and knowledge base. I sat there like a little kid, all enthralled at the details they shared. It was thought-provoking to look at how each of them engaged in their hobby. Here’s what I saw (just using first names here).

Ann tells us you really, really need a good bird book.

Ann has been birding for many years, and she does it for the same reasons I do: basically, she likes birds a lot. Her passion and enthusiasm for identifying new and unusual birds was very obvious, but she reminded me of my methods for birding. She said if she didn’t know what a bird was from quickly observing it, she’d often just move onto the next, in contrast to her birding friend who just HAD to identify every single bird she saw, in a scientific way. Of course, Ann knows pretty much all the birds you can see around here; she just doesn’t stress over what she doesn’t know.

Joyce shares the various ways we can upload our observations to help researchers.

Joyce also loves birds, and watches them in a very accurate and detailed way. She keeps good records of her feeder, counting them carefully, and only identifying the ones that come into her feeder watch zone. There is a great deal of discipline to her approach to observing birds, which goes along with her amazing attention to detail in other parts of her life. We need birders like Joyce, too, to provide accurate data for researchers. (Of course, she’s also having fun.)


Here, Ann is listening to Cindy tell us her suet recipe. Some samples are on the table.

Then, there’s Cindy, whose approach to birding is to figure out how she can practically help the most birds. She shared with us her recipe for making lots and lots of suet for little money, so that the woodpeckers and other birds that like to feed on trees and eat more than just seed can be satisfied. She’s not there just to watch or count or record she’s there to help the birds thrive.

(All the women also carefully feed and water their birds; I was just contrasting their main styles.)

Another birder style was described by Ann, who talked about a very intense young man who asked to come to her house, because he was on a mission to get three more birds on his Milam County list of 100, and she had some of them in her yard. As soon as he saw one, he went on to look for the next. No lollygagging, watching behavior, or anything. And he didn’t stick around to chat; nope, he had to go to Bell County to work on his count there. These are the kind of birders people often gently poke fun at, but hey, they aren’t hurting anyone, are they?

Bonus sinset from the meeting yesterday.

Like any other hobby, there are many ways to enjoy birding (don’t get me started on process versus product knitters). Do you like to watch birds? Do you feel like you need to know what they are? Do you just enjoy their antics? Do you use them to tell what season it is? Share!

Now, that is a yellow flower!

By the way, I was almost late to the meeting, because I had to take this photo of beautiful evening primroses along County Road 140 across from the cemetery.

A Bubbly Question

So, I know there are a lot of words for fizzy beverages that many people drink (my favorite is sparkling water, so don’t lecture me).

But I just thought it was redundant to label this occasional treat beverage as “sparkling flavored soda.” Isn’t all soda sparkling?

The word “sparkling” is hard to read. Do the Fresca people feel sort of bad about it?

Just wondering.