Journal archives for October 2015

11 October, 2015

Cibolo Nature Center Bioblitz

Yesterday I participated in a Texas Nature Trackers Bioblitz at the Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne, TX. I led a small group looking for odonates (dragonflies and damselflies). We were very fortunate to have the extremely knowledgable Terry Hibbitts in our group, and we learned a lot from him about odonates and other varied nature topics. What a treat!

Highlights for me included finding a lifer dragonfly, a Pale-faced Clubskimmer. These are not particularly uncommon, but they are inconspicuous and rarely land. I've seen dragonflies I suspected were this species before, but none of them ever landed so I could photograph it and confirm its species. Here's the photo:

Pale-faced Clubskimmer

Another highlight was finding a robber fly with a Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly in its clutches!

Robberfly with Blue-ringed Dancer

We found 17 species of odonates and were able to photograph 14 of them for iNaturalist observations. Unfortunately even though we observed many Common Green Darners, Black Saddlebags, and a few Wandering Gliders, we were unable to photograph any of them since they were constantly in flight. Here's our list:

Common Green Darner
Black Saddlebags
Wandering Glider
Blue Dasher
Eastern Pondhawk
Variegated Meadowhawk
Pale-faced Clubskimmer

Blue-ringed Dancer
Powdered Dancer
Kiowa Dancer
American Rubyspot
Smoky Rubyspot
Southern Spreadwing
Double-striped Bluet
Dusky Dancer
Variable Dancer
Springwater Dancer

In addition to the fun we had finding and photographing wildlife, it was also fun teaching folks how to use the iNaturalist app:

Lee Photographing Grasshopper

All of the observations I made during the bioblitz are attached to this post. Here are the photos by themselves on Flickr:

What a fun morning!

Posted on 11 October, 2015 20:55 by mikaelb mikaelb | 36 observations | 1 comment | Leave a comment

20 October, 2015

Nalle Bunny Run Group Walk 2015-10-17

Thirteen folks (all from the same hiking group) joined me for the monthly group walk on the Bunny Run this morning. We enjoyed beautiful clear and slightly cool weather and tallied 20 species of birds. The first highlight was while I was orienting everyone before we started. Just after I finished explaining how Cooper's Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks were returning to central Texas for the winter, this Sharp-shinned Hawk soared by:

Sharp-shinned Hawk

An interesting find we made near the spring was this Mourning Dove kill site. Since all the feathers were together on the ground, it wasn't a hawk or falcon that got this bird. A hawk or falcon would have carried it up to a perch to eat it, spreading the feathers over a much larger area. This was a ground predator, maybe a fox or a cat, that got this dove.

Mourning Dove Kill Site

At the eastern edge of the preserve, emerging out of the cedar breaks into the open sandy prairie area, we spotted this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk in a dead cottonwood:

Red-tailed Hawk Juvenile

It hung around for a few minutes before flying off to the northwest. But a couple minutes later I saw another hawk flying in from southwest. It was an adult Red-tailed that landed in the same tree!

Red-tailed Hawk Adult

From that same spot we got to see two Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, a House Finch, and we got to compare Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures almost right over our heads.

Here's our complete bird list:

And attached are a few iNaturalist observations. What a fun morning!

Posted on 20 October, 2015 02:37 by mikaelb mikaelb | 7 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

21 October, 2015

Bleakley Ranch Camp Out

Last weekend I got to camp out with Hill Country Conservancy's EPIC group on one of HCC's conservation easement properties, the Bleakley Ranch just west of Dripping Springs.

We camped by the ranch's stock tank which is large enough to be cool and clean enough for swimming in the deeper parts. Everywhere else things were dry. I made two circuits around the stock tank, one Saturday afternoon and one Sunday morning. Odonates were the most obvious animal, with Blue Dashers being maybe the most common dragonfly. The next two most common dragonflies around the edge of the water were Eastern Pondhawks and Common Green Darners. There were also smaller numbers of Black Saddlebags, Red Saddlebags, Checkered Setwings, and I saw a single Twelve-spotted Skimmer. Here's a Blue Dasher which was right next to our huge camp kitchen:

Blue Dasher

The most common damselflies were the tiny Familiar Bluets at the water's edge, many mating. Here are three males that were nicely lined up:

Familiar Bluets - 2

I also found a single Variable Dancer on Sunday. But the damselfly I was most excited to find was the Great Setwing. At two inches long, it's the largest damselfly in north america. I estimated finding half a dozen, always in the (usually dry) small tributaries feeding into the stock tank. It's not a rare species, but it's one I haven't seen very often and I was thrilled to get my best photos yet of one:

Great Spreadwing - 2

Birds were few and far between. By the tank there were almost always a couple Eastern Phoebes to be found. Away from the tank there were small mixed species foraging flocks of Carolina Chickadees, Black-crested Titmice, and newly returned winter resident Orange-crowned Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. I got lucky and got this close-up shot of one of the Orange-crowned Warblers:

Orange-crowned Warbler

Around the tank there were some water-oriented bird species like Killdeer, a female Belted Kingfisher, and my first-of-season sightings of Wilson's Snipe and American Pipit. Here's the kingfisher about to swallow a sunfish:

Belted Kingfisher with Fish

There were at least two kinds of frogs using the stock tank, Blanchard's Cricket Frogs and leopard frogs. (I never got a good look at one of the leopard frogs, but another camper said they were Southern.) A few interesting plants were Salt Marsh Fleabane and Buttonbush.

There were a few more birds, plants, and insects I observed. See the attached observations and my two eBird lists:

And here are my photos, including all the ones embedded above, the ones with my observations, and a couple landscapes:

Many thanks to HCC for taking such good care of us and letting us spend some quality time on the Bleakley Ranch!

Posted on 21 October, 2015 00:24 by mikaelb mikaelb | 32 observations | 2 comments | Leave a comment