Achieving Nature Goals

Okay, I have a little something to say. After all that iNaturalist work last weekend, it was this weekend where I met some goals, or desires, or whatever.

While walking around, I remembered to open up a balloon flower to find the seed. My friend Linda Jo was right! They look like little yin-yang symbols!

Balloon vine seed, and my fingerprints.

While we were walking the horses, Sara very patiently let me try to get photos of all the butterflies and moths swarming in the pasture, even when her horse stepped in fire ants.

Waiting for Suna to take pictures.

Everyone’s patience was rewarded, though. I saw a butterfly on the fence. It sat still. I got its picture! It was an American snout, the ones we saw so many of last week! Finally one stood still.

No, not a great photo, but you can see the snout!

After achieving that goal, I felt fine. Then, on my way home, one of the dragonflies I’d been seeing all summer finally stood still. I was really curious what they were called, but they are very dart-y ones.

Hello, black saddlebags!

These always look like two mating to me. I was happy to see what they actually look like. Cool insects, and another goal met.

I looked at my iNaturalist totals and was happy to see I hit 1800 observations today. I’d been disappointed not to get there last week. Luckily, there are lots of interesting things to see on the Wild Type Ranch, where we walked!

Most recent observations. Over 1800!

I think that’s good for someone who has jobs and stuff. Still, I look forward to lots more in the future. We hope to visit neighboring counties with few observations and see what’s there!

Here I am looking for bugs with my “helper.”

Glad I found my voice. Sometimes I just need to shut up. Hee hee.

Everyone Says I Was Happy

I guess the family isn’t used to me really, really enjoying myself. But I did this weekend. I didn’t have to worry about work issues, people issues, or world issues. I just hung out with nature and relaxed. I recommend that.

Camphor-weed. I got that right!

I’m a taxonomists at heart. I like labeling things. That’s why I feel such satisfaction identifying things successfully on iNaturalist. It tells me where things belong (when I get it right).

Couldn’t figure this one out. Had to upload it as unknown! All the suggested flowers had five petals.

I also enjoy helping research on what grows in Texas, especially places that hadn’t had much coverage. While Jacob’s Well had lots of observations, since Master Naturalists volunteer there often, the place we stayed at had only three that weren’t by me, all from 2018! I did science! No wonder I was happy.

You can see where I walked!

Plus, I got to “spontane.” I could go wherever I wanted, as long as I wanted. No one told me to stop taking pictures, walk faster, or stop talking to the birds and cows.

This one had five petals. It’s a bluebowl or Giliastrum rigidulum. It’s only found in the part of Texas where I was.

And there was something new around every corner. Yes. I WAS happy. I still am. I got to see my animals tonight, including the chicken that just doesn’t seem to lay eggs, ever.

Suna, that’s not a hen in that henhouse.

Before I get back to thinking about Kanban cards (and yes, I dreamed I was trying to capture my weekend activities in Agile stories), I’ll leave you with a few more interesting plants I saw. I can’t believe I made over 100 observations this weekend. All fun.

I say to you, go find your fun. Now more than ever, we need to balance our lives and bring in some fun. Have a good work week!

Switchgrass. I even got a GRASS right! This was in a beautiful prairie restoration with many blue stems, gramas, and other native grasses.

How Many Invasive Species Did I Find?

Last week I had a lot of Master Naturalist fun participating in the Texas Invasive Species BioBlitz 2020 that got set up by Texas Nature Trackers. You may remember I talked about it a bit last week. The idea was to see how many observations you could get from a list of invasive species found throughout the state. I knew I had easy access to a few, so I figured I’d try.

Here’s the main page for the event.

I got a good number of invasives pretty quickly, since I knew right where there was some Arundo donax (river cane), Johnson grass, and a lot of nandina on my own properties. I must have spent 3 hours the first weekend looking for invasives (and observing lots of other things, too).

By the time I went to Austin on Tuesday, I was doing okay on the leaderboard. Just a few walks around the neighborhood of Bobcat Run produced more “goodies” like Japanese honeysuckle and privets.

My final list of plants.

By the time the week was over, I was proud to be in the top twenty of number of species observed, and doing okay with number of observations as well.

Here I am, number 17, and Linda Jo number 2 (I couldn’t fit number 1 on the screen, darn it.)

Of course, my fellow Chapter member Linda Jo Conn was in second place in number of observations and first place for species. Some other guy had way more observations, because he had multiple photos of some of the species. I did a few, like things I saw both in Austin and Cameron, or ones in distinct locations. However, I could have ROCKED the numbers by just walking across the lawn and taking pictures of Bermuda grass (I would NOT do such a thing, of course).

Regrets

Darn the luck! The day after the bioblitz was over, I drove down a street I don’t usually go by, and there were a whole bunch of mimosa trees taunting me with their fluffy pinkness. Argh!

Beautiful invasive mimosa tree, just one block off of where I usually drive every day.

Then, yesterday I walked to the horse barn (I’d been driving our utility vehicle because I have a sore tendon), and right on the side of the driveway was a cheerful annual bastard cabbage/ wild mustard plant. I’d been looking and looking for one, because I knew they were there! So, that’s two more I could have found if I’d been a bit more diligent.

What Did I Learn?

I think the project did what it was intended to do: it got me much more aware of invasive species wherever I saw them, and because I kept talking about it to friends and family, I raised awareness as well. That’s exactly the kind of thing I want to be doing as a Master Naturalist.

Oh, and also, I had fun. What have been your fun projects while we’ve been not gathering in large groups and such?

Serpentine Visitor

I miss all the good stuff. Last night at the ranch, while Vlassic and I were safely snoozing in our Austin bed, the ranch dogs started barking like crazy and would not stop. Lee got up and looked out the front door but couldn’t see anything.

They continued to bark, and apparently the whole family yelled at them a lot.

Then, as Lee and Chris were going to bed, they found out what all the ruckus was about: a three-foot plain-bellied water snake. According to eye witnesses, all the dogs were hiding around the corner, in order of size, with Alfred peeking his head out, barking and ducking back behind a wall. The rest were his backups.

Head of snake. Chris graciously fished it out of the dumpster for me.

Chris got the snake out with a broom, then it chased him, then he took his machete (I do not know where that came from unless it was MY machete that I won in some raffle once) and made the snake dead. Boo hoo. I was not there to convince them the snake wasn’t venomous.

Body of snake

The family believed it was a water moccasin, due to its head, which is all mushed up at this point, so the pit viperness is obscured. It does look a little triangular to me, too. I’m glad my iNaturalist friend aguilita identified it for me quickly as a regular ole water snake. In any case, it doesn’t belong indoors.

Bottom of snake

They think it must have come in when the wind blew the back door open. We are all glad the dogs didn’t go sniff it, since there are a lot of dogs getting bitten these days (Cathy J of Master Naturalists reported one rattlesnake bite and one copperhead bite just last week). Ah, rural Texas.

Vlassic, mighty disappointed that all he got out of this incident was a bit of dead snake smell.

I’m so glad to be back in Cameron. I’m also very glad to have naturalists who will help with identifying wildlife!

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

A One-Hour Urban Experiment

salvia_gregii
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!

agave
It’s pretty, even if it’s not native.

Continue reading “A One-Hour Urban Experiment”

Katydid Awareness

katydid
Katydid on the garage entry thing in Austin.

My whole life I’ve heard about katydids but, I guess I’d never seen one in person until yesterday. I was driving into the parking lot at work, when I saw a bright green leaf, but the leaf turned out to be an insect.

I quickly parked my car and went over to see what it was. Of course I took a picture so I could upload it to iNaturalist. What a cool bug it was, too!

When I uploaded the photo, I saw lots of potential katydids, but I figured it was probably the most common one. That turned out to be wrong, as the person who reviewed it for iNaturalist said it was actually a Central Texas Leaf-Katydid, which is more rare and more local. That’s cool!

I also sent up two flowers to be identified after I got to the Hermits’ Rest yesterday. They are two of the more late-blooming wildflowers. I am pretty sure I got the ram’s horn right. That’s one I look forward to every year. We only have a few:

ramshorn
I guess I like these because although the flowers are delicate in appearance, they are really big.

The next plant I am not so sure of. We have quite a bit of it, but when I uploaded it to iNaturalist, there wasn’t much about this one, if, in fact, I identified it correctly. It appeared to be Lady Bird’s Centaury, which must be named after Lady Bird Johnson, right? It said it had not been reported yet. That sounds fishy to me, so I am awaiting a correction from one of the botany experts by morning. It’s great to have the opportunity to learn this way.

centaury
It was really windy when I took this, so I had to hold the plant.