Observing More Rigorously

snake apple
This is a snake apple, or balsam gourd. You apparently can’t eat it, but it won’t poison you.

I’ve mentioned before that I have been contributing to iNaturalist as part of my Texas Master Naturalist volunteer work. My project is identifying the plants and wildlife I see here at Hermits’ Rest Ranch. It’s lots of fun, and I can upload photos right from my phone. The pictures here are a few things I have seen in the last few days.

I realized I needed to do more to share my information with others, which I hadn’t been doing while I was just trying to figure things out. Thankfully, Linda Jo Conn, a member of our El Camino Real Master Naturalist group contacted me and let me know what project (group of observations) I should assign my observations to so they will all be together. She also suggested that I start my own project about the ranch collection.

silver bluestem
A beautiful image of silver bluestem at sunset.

I managed to create a project, Hermits’ Rest Flora and Fauna, though I would rather narrow it down geographically than just have it be my own stuff from Milam County. At least this does leave out my observations in Travis County and elsewhere, though. If you are on iNaturalist, I’d love it if you’d follow this group!

I’m going to try to follow some of my other favorite members and their projects, too.

rabid wolf spider
The iNaturalist guesser guessed rabid wolf spider for this one. It’s a big one!

I’m glad I’ll be able to share my findings with others now. I am having so much fun identifying the plants and animals I see around here! I’ve identified a couple of butterflies, too. I just don’t have the right camera to get bird photos. I’ll keep working on it!

Anyway, if you are on iNaturalist, I’d like to see your observations, so let me know who you are!

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Visitor Viewpoint

steve
My grad school best buddy, Steve, whispering sweet nothings to Alfred the Anatolian shepherd, while Carlton wags his tail.

Hi friends. I took a blogging break last week, but at least I got that newspaper article written. Big busy-ness at my full-time job combined with my part-time job, high school graduation, and entertaining guests meant I didn’t sit down at the computer for two whole days! That may be a record.

I really enjoyed the various guests. Yesterday, one of my oldest friends (the first person I met in grad school), Steve, and his husband Guy dropped by. We have visited them a few times in Las Cruces, but they hadn’t been here, so they stopped after visiting San Antonio.

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For the Love of Lovebugs

lovebug
Back in the 1960s, this would have been a mild lovebug attack.

Speaking of plagues, at the Hermits’ Rest it’s apparently time for another of those infrequent visitations of the insect kind, the lovebug. This is one of their big years, as the front of my car will attest.

Fascinating creatures, they didn’t show up in the US until the 1960s, much to the delight of those of us who were children at the time. We spent a lot of time devising ways to shoot them out of the sky with the water hose, or pulling them apart (eww). Yes, they spend most of their adult lives mating.

Lovebugs were a real danger during the time when I was in college, traveling up and down through the middle of Florida. People were always on the side of the Florida Turnpike, broken down, because the bugs had clogged their radiators. My 1972 Pinto Squire wagon had a very small radiator; that did not combine well with lovebugs.

The rest stops had special lovebug removal stations set up, so folks could clear their windshields and radiators enough to go home. They sold special screens to put on your car grill to reduct the damage. Wikipedia says that modern car paint doesn’t suffer as much, but in the past you had to get the bugs right off or their acidity would eat into paint. You can see why no one liked them.

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The Plague of Mud Daubers

dog dauber.jpg
There are actually dozens and dozens of mud daubers in this photo. That’s what Carlton the Dogman is looking at.

Before I go any further, I must say it’s raining! When it rains to any significant extent once the hot weather starts, it’s worth mentioning. We will have some happy plants, and I set some seat cushions out to get cleaned, too (it’s free!).

rain
The rain chains are flowing, and the dirty cushions are getting a bath. Rain is our friend!

One thing the rain is washing away from those cushions will be mud dauber nests. We always have some here (ours are black-and-yellow mud daubers, Sceliphron caementarium), but this year they are especially abundant. I have always enjoyed watching these guys and find the places they make nests pretty funny sometimes. You never know where one will show up, like on a shovel, in the lawn mower, etc. They were all over those seat cushions, too. They use such nice, brown mud. Quite the construction workers!

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What’s Bugging Me

junebugs
Eww. This looks icky. So many bugs.

If you live anywhere in Milam County, Texas, you will know what’s bugging me.

June Bugs

Lots and lots of June bugs. We say every year around here there’s a plague of something. So far this year, these bugs are the winner. And, yes, I know it’s May. They always show up in late April here. We’re in the South, you know.

The bugs don’t really hurt anything, but they sure cause a mess. In the picture above, that is ONE day’s accumulation. My husband had swept the porch the night before (note that the mop and bucket are there from the previous night’s “adventure” where a skunk expressed an opinion about two of our dogs).

Our new puppy LOVES the June bugs, however. The other dogs will snatch one out of the air as it plummets to the ground, but the puppy would prefer to just sit there and eat then off the ground. Since the pup’s underweight anyway, I guess the additional protein isn’t killing him. So far.

 

Bats and Termites and Flowers

jasmine
This is a very old jasmine vine, judging from the width of its trunk (which doesn’t show up in this pho! And it sure smells good.

I’ve added flowers to today’s post to make it a little more cheerful. My urban home in Austin is on a hill near Bull Creek, and  surrounded by greenbelts. That means there’s plenty of native flora and fauna, plus some darned nice things someone planted once. I’m glad I got to enjoy the scent of the very sturdy jasmine vine behind our house, and the nice collection of cedar sage in the limestone outcropping next to our house.

sage
A lot of people walk their dogs by here, so this lovely planting brings joy to many.

What about the bats?

Well, the guy from the pest control company came by today. At first he thought the scat on my deck was from a rodent, but I pointed out how it’s arranged in a row and encouraged him to look up bat guano on his phone. He agreed we do have bats, and guessed they are mostly hanging out in the cavernous space where nothing else is in the chimney.

I began to imagine a growing smell, so I was pleased when he said they can block the holes in the flashing, put an “exit cone” in, and wait until all the bats have left to finish sealing it. The cone lets bats exit, but not re-enter. That would be nice.

Why so sad?

Unfortunately, when Francisco the bat man was looking for evidence of flying mammals he discovered evidence of burrowing insects that only occationally fly. Dang it, we have termites, and they are in the NEW wood, so they haven’t been there long.

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