14 April, 2021

Journaling the year

Don't use this journal feature much at all. But I am considering doing so more to preserve my own experiences if no other reason. So that being said here is my first rather long entry for this year.

Last year I observed with no little amount of jealousy as folks posted fantastic odonates from other parts of Texas on iNat and or social media. One guy in particular, Ben Schwartz, doing his dragon big year really had me just in awe of his finds and photos. I started thinking maybe I could do that next year(2021). But with my oldest graduating this year and heading off to college among a myriad of other things I decided it probably wouldn’t be the best idea.
But, I thought, what if I just set myself a goal or challenge to up my species count to a certain number. That would still entail a certain amount of planning and travel but if I was realistic enough it should be doable. My count at the end of last year was 106 species, combining dragons and damsels. I thought man I’d love to get to 200. But that would be a really lofty goal. So, I settled in on 150. Not only more realistic but I think it should be doable. Especially if I count new one’s that I find this summer when I go on vacation to Wyoming rather than only Texas odes.
So, with that I began some early planning. First step was to calculate where to go for early, short season, flyers. Emailed a bit with Ben after studying his finds last year around this time. And he was so gracious in providing me detailed directions to locations and what to expect to find. I’m talking tour guidebook level specifics. Can’t say how much I appreciated that.
Armed with that information I set my sights on Southeast Texas the third weekend of March. My first of a few planned overnighters. Had 3 locations locked in with one really being my main focus. I left early Saturday morning for the 4 hour drive and started my exploration around 11. It was beautiful sunny day but really wish I had gotten an earlier start than I did. One part of that stop was walking up a very shallow creek to a certain point where there is a bog created by a hillside seep. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware there was a fork in the creek and I took the wrong one.
Pretty soon I was certain that I had taken the wrong fork and headed back. Stopped at the car for a very late “lunch” and to refill my water. While a beautiful day the humidity in the woods was thicker than soup. But off again down the correct fork. Finally found the bog with is full of carnivorous pitcher and sundew plants. By this point it had clouded up. Not ideal for dragon hunting. I saw some flying about but the lighting made flight shots nearly impossible. Did manage a few but there were a couple of big guys that I really wonder what they were.
After 6 hours of near constant walking I get back to the car to head into town and go check in to hotel. Was planning to camp but forecast called for heavy overnight rains. Plus, the camp site was full so I would have had to do dispersed camping and wife wasn’t too thrilled with that idea. But after checking in I headed back to a place deep in the woods near my starting point for Sunday. This was where I had planned to do my dispersed camping and brought my moth lights to set up. Figured I could still do that.
Got them set up and turned on just before dark. Let me tell you there is something super cool about standing alone in pitch black woods miles from nearest house or any such building. With just black lights on and waiting to see what bugs come to visit.
It is a little early maybe still for lots of moths I thought but all in all not a bad turnout. I had five individuals of one species that had never been documented in Texas and nearest it has is Biloxi Mississippi area. So the mothing was definitely worth it.
The next morning, I headed back to this location in slightly misty and cloudy weather. First stopping by a roadside drainage where it was pretty sure thing to pick up one new species and one that I have long wanted to see I might add. Also, another possibility of an incredibly rare clubtail. Alas I didn’t see that one. When I started hiking at the main location for the day, I’ll admit to being a bit forlorn. I was only certain of the one new to me species with a possible second. And on this cloudy Sunday there was quite literally nothing flying.
After only about 3 hours I decided to call it off and head home. After reviewing photos for the weekend only added 3 new species to the count.
The next weekend was Easter, a fact that somehow had completely passed by me. The forecast for the weekend down there was nice and sunny and warm. So, wait I have a 3 day weekend and great weather? What if I just make a day trip down on Good Friday and then still have the whole of Easter weekend with the family.
Four hours down and four back? Sure, why not. I decided first stop would be the roadside creek to look for the one I missed. Almost as soon as I exited the car a pickup pulls up and the guy asks me if I’m looking for dragonflies. Well yes sir I am. He proceeds to tell me he lives in the house on the hill next to the creek and owns 250 acres fronted that it runs through and that I’m welcome to pull up by the house and explore all I want. Well, it would be rude to not accept his hospitality.
Thus, my 10-15 minute stop there became an hour and a half. Saw lots of great stuff on his property including the one I was looking for there and one I was really hoping for the previous weekend that would have been found in the boggy area. As I was about to leave he comes out of the house carrying a couple of books and says let me see if you know either of these guys that have visited us before. Of course, the one on top was Greg Lasley’s book. Told him I knew him and that he sadly had passed away just this year. He was sorry to hear that and said they had a great time with Greg when had come there.
Moved on up to my primary target area where I had been the previous Sunday and set off. Beautiful location that used to encompass two large beaver ponds now being taken back by grasses and pines. Hiked until late in the afternoon and photographed some more great dragons. Left not long before dark and home by ten pm. Finished that day with another 4 new species.
So 7 new species in 3 days to bring me up to 113. I am pretty confident that 150 is attainable.
Species found first weekend Painted Skimmer, Cocoa clubtail and sparkling jewelwing. Good Friday finds were Ashy clubtail, Saracenia Spiketail and Banner clubtail.

Posted on 14 April, 2021 01:00 by brentano brentano | 7 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

07 February, 2019

Fair Warning, Overload coming

So, for reasons that are my own I decided long ago that I won't count birds from before I consider myself to have started birding. Also thus decided that I would (most likely) not post anything to iNat from before I first started using it. My first post was March 1st, 2014. Recently you may remember I posted my 10,000th observation. I was doing a bit of review after that and "realized", kind of already knew really, that I had skipped posting a number of things in that first year of iNatting while I was getting used to it.
More recently I was able to photograph my first daytime screech owl in DFW. But knew I had seen and photographed one in the valley on my first ever trip down there. A valley only subspecies though so kind of different. But when I posted the DFW one it showed as my first one on iNat. So I started going through my ebird records and saw that that trip was within a month or so of my beginning to use iNat.

At which point I realized I have a ton of stuff from multiple trips I happened to take that spring all over the state. I was a relatively new birder also then so I was chasing everything, spent 3 days in the valley and made my first trip to High Island that spring. So many of what were my firsts that will supercede what I have posted currently showing as firsts.
It took me a while but I tracked down the external hard drive where I have all those photos and realized I never even edited most of those for some reason. So I've been working on doing so quite a bit.
Thus consider this a warning that you will soon see a massive inflow of observations from 2014 by me. I have greatly enjoyed reliving the memories as I edit the photos and found some cool stuff. So I am excited to be able to share all these.

Posted on 07 February, 2019 20:22 by brentano brentano | 1 comment | Leave a comment

28 January, 2019

10,000 observations

On March 1st of 2014 I gave in to peer pressure from my new friend Sam and posted my first observation to iNaturalist. Just a single image of a Question Mark butterfly. Fitting since it was a question on whether I would ever post anything again. At the time I was really only interested in birds and used ebird for that. So why would I want to post to a second site? Especially where I could only post what I had gotten pictures of.
Thankfully Sam kept on me about trying it again and I did. Slowly I began to get interested in other things because I could post them and get help knowing what it was. And then well, if I was going to post something I might as well post some other things too.
Gradually the interest in other things led to calling myself just a generalist and ultimately primarily an iNatter. It has gotten to where every time I go somewhere I am looking for things to observe. And then of course more things to go with that for the day. I plan trips to add observations. And iNatting has morphed into an obsession, addiction, passion, love, way of life
So that now, as of yesterday just shy of five years later I posted my 10,000th observation. And I am so very thankful for Sam pushing me to make those first observations. I have made many new friends, some of whom I spend a lot of time with. And have explored areas of Texas I probably never would have gone. And seen things I know I never would have seen.
So, here’s to iNat, all the creators and designers and pushers. Look forward to the next 10,000 and beyond.

Posted on 28 January, 2019 22:05 by brentano brentano | 13 comments | Leave a comment

11 August, 2015

My love for iNat

I love this site, app, tool, thing called iNaturalist. Okay I cannot compete with the love that my friend Sam Kieschnick among others has for it. But I really do.
I love the ability to record and track my observations. I love the ability to learn about things that I had no idea about before. I love learning more about something I thought I knew a little about. I particularly love being able to find out where I can go to track down something that has recently come to my attention. I love the community of nature nerds that it brings together. Sam calls it facebook for nature people.
I even love the competition. As an example there are two Odonates that I learned about a couple months ago that I really wanted to see for myself. I have been trying to figure out where to search and could i find time to drive to where they would be. They are not found, at least regularly in the DFW area, have to go to east TX. So a few weeks ago on my dashboard I see that Sam has made a trip to a WMA and has photos of both of them. This simply wont do. He wasn't even at the presentation where I heard about them.
I am now not only jealous but competitiveness sets in that I have got to be able to say I saw them too. Now I will never even try to compete with Sam on plants. But, dragonflies! I got into them a year before he did. The gauntlet has been thrown down.
So last Friday finally able to get away a friend and i headed to Gus Engeling WMA. Got one of the two for sure and I am certain i saw the other though I didn't get a photo to be able to confirm. And Sam always says if you don't have a photo it doesn't count on iNat. LOL.
Oh well I saw a baby alligator and he didn't.

Posted on 11 August, 2015 23:24 by brentano brentano | 4 comments | Leave a comment