Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I visited the beautiful BALCONES CANYONLAND NWR this week and wanted to share my experience with all of you faithful Blog friends!  The BCNWR is part of our national parks system and located in the far upper NW quadrant of the Lake Travis area, on the outskirts of Austin, Texas.  This refuge is home to the endangered BLACK CAPPED VERIO and GOLDEN CHEEKED WARBLER, for which there is currently much ongoing research and habitat protection plans to secure the future of the species:  http://www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=21561

At the main entrance just west of the city of Lago Vista you can take a short hike and see a beautiful spring fed pond and typical rocky limestone outcrops.  The springs were only trickling when I was there and recent years of bad drought have left much of Texas praying for rain.  The springs were at least flowing somewhat and not completely dry although many of the stream beds were dried up.
Since this whole refuge is focused on the preservation of 2 little bird species I though I better at least keep my eye out for one or the other while on the trails.  The ranger at the entrance informed me that the Warblers had probably migrated already, but that I should be able to see some Vireos if I was lucky.  He was kind enough to play me the sounds of a BCVireo on his handy dandy iphone bird call app (!) which I was thankful for because I am sure I would not have been able to identify them through looks alone.  I am fairly certain I heard those little flitty birds calling to each other the whole time I was hiking the main trail and sure enough I could never could get a good look at the actual birds!  They were small, they were fast, and they were good at hiding just out of view!  They mainly stayed in the tree canopy but their call is a fairly unique song and not too difficult to identify. Since it is mid August right now, it is HOT HOT and HOT (typical Texas) and not the best weather for a casual hike in the hill country, but I still enjoyed myself and because of the time of year all of the grasses were seeding as were the trees. Central Texas has some of the most beautiful Mesquite Trees you will ever see, and on this day I got a pretty good view of a mature specimen (above).  Several areas of the trail were littered with Mesquite beans that had fallen and many of the branches were still heavy with more pods.  There is a funny thing about Mesquite beans - they say they taste like candy to a horse and are simply irresistible to them.  But horse owners beware! as ingestion of the bean pods can change the intestinal flora (temporarily) and lead to quite a belly ache later on.  (Don't tell the horses though - they luv 'em!).
One of the really cool parts of visiting west central Texas is the hill country topography.  This is a view from along the road on the western edge of the NWR.  The road is cut right through the chalky limestone and the drive takes you through some of the most gorgeous hilltops (mini mountains?).  The views are breathtaking and the air is filled with the smell of ashe juniper.  It's really unlike anywhere else I've been.  This whole hill country area is part of an ancient geological formation called the Llano Uplift which is basically a huge fault line that runs from east of Dallas all the way down to far SW Texas below San Antonio.  The shift in the earth's crust caused the 'lift' which created the eastern boundary of the escarpment and the rolling hills to the west.  Because of the honeycomb limestone formations (under the earth) this part of Texas is known for it's multiple springs and cave systems.  Unfortunately the rocky limestone also makes it very susceptible to environmental pollutions entering the water table.  Unlike a sandy substrate, limestone doesn't filter water very well.  Instead of filtering down through sand, rainwater just travels along the surface of the ground until it meets a limestone crack or hole, then drops down and travels the fault line deep underground and straight into the water table.  If you drive the Austin area highways you will see signs designating environmentally sensitive watershed areas.  
And of course, I just had show this sign cautioning hikers to beware the rattlesnakes!  I'm SURE they have Rattlesnakes in this hill country territory (along with Coral snakes and other assorted beauties) - but luckily I didn't run into any on this trip! So until next time, Happy Nature Adventures and may your hikes be free from Rattlers!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Hello blogging friends! I haven't posted anything in a really looong time (again), but this spring the wildflowers are so spectacular I just had to share...I don't know if anyone is even following my blog anymore, probably not, but just in case anyone IS browsing along and looking at the latest nature blog posts - here's some shots of our wildflowers here in Central Texas, along with some local wildlife too. I took a whole day out of my semi-busy schedule and dedicated it to collecting some wildflower pics for the 2012 spring archive file. Anything I happened upon that was pretty, blooming, or wild I tried to capture in a picture that day so here are the results for your enjoyment!
To start with, here's a neat little blue spiky plant (I think it is a member of the Larkspur family but not sure). These guys grow in profusion in the springtime and their striking deep blue color is a real standout.

Wildlife was hanging around here and there on my photo shoot day...I came upon a small group of wild Turkeys roaming around the woodlands and this is the only one I could snap a picture of. This hen was moving along a a good clip trying to stay clear of me and my camera (!) I don't know that these turkeys are really that wild. They don't seem to have a home, but I imagine the state wildlife agency has released them because they seem to know what a human is. And this week I had one in my tree up by the road near my house so I guess there's more than a few of them around right now. Anyway, it is neat to see them roaming around - maybe they will stay until next Thanksgiving....:)

Of course, no Central Texas wildflower post would be complete without some Bluebonnet pictures, and this year was a bumper crop for BB's. Just to be a little different, I thought I would share some pictures of these most unique Albino Bluebonnets - something you just don't see every spring around here. For some reason this spring we had quite a few of them, I think it is the first year I've ever seen any. They say only about 12% of the seed from an Albino BB will be white, but I don't know how true that is. Now you can say you've seen some too!

Here's a few more:

Wild Foxglove - one of our most spectacular spring flowers. You can see them dotting the hillsides and pastures with their lavender to whitish colored petals. The large blooms are unmistakable and really stand out from the other plants!

A group of (?) - not sure what these are, they look a little bit like Gayfeathers, but not really. I'm currently trying to figure out just what they are, but they were very impressive! (And it almost makes me sneeze just to look at them!:))

A field of Coreopsis:

And a herd of cattle:

I guess you can't get much more Texas than that! Till next time my blogging friends....

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I told you in my last post that I would publish some LOTUS pictures in BLOOM if I could get back out there and get some. Well, I DID get back out there and I DID get some great shots of beautiful LOTUS flowers in bloom! It is interesting to note that all the while I was wading and shooting (you see, it is quite difficult to get out to these particular Lotus so I had to wade waist-deep out to them!) I kept hearing these 'bleating' noises all around the pond area. I recognized the sounds as something frog-related, in fact, green tree frog-related to be exact. Well.....I took this shot (above) and I didn't realize until I downloaded the picture that there was a GREEN TREE FROG sitting right there inside that bloom looking out at me taking his picture! This was a great surprise to me and it really made my evening to see that little frog peeking out at me in my picture. I had no idea he was in there. This of course is now my favorite of all these LOTUS BLOOM pictures, and maybe even my favorite plant picture of all time. Anyway, here are some of the others pictures too. Isn't the AMERICAN LOTUS a beautiful native Texas plant?!!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wow. Well I haven't posted an entry on my blog in a really, really long time - too long! And so I'm sorry to any of my loyal followers out there (!) It isn't that I haven't been having any fun adventures or exciting nature trips,- just that time and activities have pulled me away from my logging duties and I've neglected to share with my followers, whoever they may be! Anyhow, it is way past time for an adventure update so lets get back to it!

I have to share one of my most recent kayak excursions with you.....on a hot, sunny day in August I decided to grab my kayak and paddle out to see one of my favorite lake spots and check out what nature was displaying. Summer was just starting to wind down and the plants here in central Texas were finally starting to breathe a little bit with the (slightly) cooler weather and ever so little bit of rain. They were finally starting to show some signs of life after our (typically) brutally hot, dry, and crackly-crunch summer! One of the neatest native Texas aquatic plants (in my opinion) is the AMERICAN LOTUS (Nelumbo lutea) and on this day I got to see them ALL OVER the lake!

Lotus plants seem to hide inconspicuously under the water all year long and then in the late summer - boinggg! They pop up all over the water's edge! They have great big, full, flat leaves, that are round and velvety green. They bob on top of the water or they poke straight up on a single central stem, but either way they are impervious to water as you can see from this picture of a water droplet on a leaf.

Apparently, one of the differences between a Lotus and a Water Lilly is the 'crack' along the topof the leaf. A Lotus is completely round without any break on the leaf and Lillies have that pie shaped section

The shallow lake water was also filled with some sort of aquatic plant that looked a lot like 'Anacaris' which is a Texas native, but I am not positive of the ID. Anyway, it made for some thick paddling at times, but the little fish I saw seemed to like it just fine - they were scurrying around in huge schools just under the greenery and flashing their white bellies with just about every paddle stroke.

Lotus plants seem to have 3 growth stages. First, they pop up with that big, beautiful green leaf, and then an awesome bloom comes out! Lotus have a most exquisite white flower. You might be able to see one of the creamy, white blooms in this mostly camouflaged, green shot I took (!) These Lotus were just going into bloom and it was really tough to get close enough in a kayak to get a picture. And believe me, I had my snake eyes open! I am actually surprised I didn't have a visitor while I was snapping up shots (!) but no snakey adventures on this day :) I'm hoping to get back in a few days and get more bloom pics, if I do I will try post them in a follow-up.

For the final stage of growth, after the blooms are finished, a brown seed head appears above the water with tiny seed 'container' holes. These seed heads are really beautiful and they make excellent cut flower arrangements too. They are great for decorating - last a really long time.

I wish you could see how beautiful this day was! The wind so calm, the water so still. The air was just barely moving - I even had a dragonfly stop to keep me company.....!

Anyway, it was hot, hot and hotter, but the Lotus didn't mind and a quick dip in the lake now and then was sufficient for human cooling too. It was lots of fun on this day and a pleasure to share some AMERICAN LOTUS pictures with you - Enjoy and Happy Nature Adventures!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I've been slowly learning more and more about tracking over the past several years and I really like it! I recently attended a short tracking seminar and so I thought a few tracks would make a nice nature adventure post! Here are some pictures of tracks & signs that I've collected fairly recently and a few pictures from a local seminar. I think tracking is a really amazing 'hobby'. Once you start paying attention to the little subtleties found on the ground, on branches, or in the brush, a whole different world is revealed to you. You really start paying attention to little things that you might easily have overlooked before. You start searching around for evidence that something was there and you want to know more about what it was doing, where it was going, and what it was. Tracking makes it all possible!

I've read a few books on tracking and listened to a couple of speakers talk about the 'spiritual' nature of tracking and the more I get into it, the more I understand what they mean. The tracks, the scat, and all sorts of other signs left along a trail or in the dirt are the remnants of the presence of an organism without necessarily having any physical parts of the individual remaining at the spot. Tracking reveals the 'essence' of the being. You can see what was there and how it moved, and if you are really, really, good you might be able to tell how much it weighed, whether it was sick or well, or maybe even the specific variety of a certain species. I'm definitely not a very good tracker yet, but I can tell a deer track from a raccoon from a opossum and think thats a fairly good start anyway! Oh, and I do find it harder and harder to look up from the ground when I'm walking!

So I guess I've got the tracking bug and I can't imagine not stopping to take pictures of good tracks, scat, and signs of wildlife - because it is just so cool. I love to learn about it. Here are some pictures taken at our local wildlife association meeting last week where the subject was - you guessed it - TRACKING!

Some raccoon tracks taken down by the coast last spring:

And some sort of Heron tracks were there too:

Deer tracks from the trails near my house:

Cheating by leaving a little snack out to collect some more deer tracks!:

Domestic animal tracks.....! Here is an unshod horse:

And Homo sapien (wearing shoe) over mountain bike!:

Deer Scat (which is a nice way of saying, "Poop"!):

And some evidence of antler rubs: