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?

Invasives and Dragonflies

Happy National Invasive Species Week everybody! Whee! I don’t know if we are supposed to celebrate them or deplore them this week, but I’m celebrating along with naturalists in the US, I guess. What I’m doing is participating in the Texas Invasive Species Bioblitz 2020 on iNaturalist. The project’s goal is to identify the locations of as many invasive plants, animals, etc., as possible in one week.

Here are the things I’ve found. No, these are not my photos.

While I’ve made over a hundred observations in the last few days in my quest to find invasives, I’ve only found seven on the list of official targets for the week. At least I’m contributing! It’s fun to see how some people are going all out finding things.

The floating plants are floating primrose-willow and will have beautiful yellow flowers soon. Logs are for the turtles, who are hiding.

I need to drive around more, because those are all I have on the ranch. I was disappointed that my potential chinaberry tree was a benign native soapberry. Then I said, wait, that’s a GOOD thing.

Dragonflies

Skimmer, skimming.

While I was off looking for some hedge parsley or bastard cabbage (where did it GO?) I wandered around our back pond and had fun observing turtles, water plants, and minnows. There were also quite a few dragonflies flitting around, and I did my best to get some photos.

I did not do a good job at all, as my blurry photos below attest, but I did enjoy myself very much. The skimmers were especially pretty, all bronze and dazzling, but they all were good to see. We have fewer these days than we used to.

I observed a damselfly or two, but they were really far away. Certainly looking at these insects while watching the dogs splash around in the pond is a great way to relax. And no dogs were stuck in cars yesterday!

The ranch house from the back. Looks majestic.

Book Report: Unnatural Texas?

Hey from Austin! You didn’t think my holiday was all traipsing through the mosquito fields and staring at the ocean, did you? Of course not. I also read a lot. Admittedly, I read a few magazines, but I got deeply into this book, which I got at the Texas Master Naturalist Conference a couple of weeks ago. It’s whole title is Unnatural Texas? The Invasive Species Dilemma, and it was written by Robin W. Doughty and Matt Warnock Turner.

The authors didn’t want to put “invasive” in the first part of the title, because, as they frequently point out, none of the plants and animals they talk about actually invaded in the first place; someone brought them to this continent. In fact, the only animal who’s actually “invaded” that they talked about is the nine-banded armadillo, who’s been going farther and farther northward, on its own, for the past couple of hundred years. (I would add to this list the caracara/Mexican eagle and a couple of other birds that are coming northward since it’s getting warmer).

This dude invaded our neighborhood all on their own.
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