September 16-18 bioblitz at Riverby Ranch

A Fall bioblitz is planned for September 16-18 at the Riverby Ranch Mitigation Area (iNat project page), 95 miles NE of DFW. Brandon Hall, on-site restoration ecologist (@bhall002), will be hosting us. Facilities at Riverby Ranch include a restored cowboy bunkhouse sleeping 17, two restrooms with showers, and a kitchen. There's also plenty of room for car or tent camping. Electricity is available for moth lights, but bring battery powered lights also in the event that they may be useful. For comparative purposes, folks can also visit the nearby Bois D'Arc Unit of Caddo Nat'l Grasslands 5 miles to the south of Riverby Ranch (a wooded upland area with a couple of ponds). As we leave Riverby Sunday morning, we can spend some time at the Bois D'Arc Unit.

Bunkhouse reservation list (message @pfau_tarleton to be added). Bring your own bedding (there are some twins and some full beds.)

Here's a Google Map and a downloadable KML file for your phone. Riverby Ranch property boundaries are in black with the yellow pin showing location of the bunkhouse (which will serve as our headquarters; 33.837521, -95.883909). Blue lines are roads. Green, orange, and red pins are locations accessible by personal vehicle (color coded for ease of walking about--green easiest, red more challenging). When out and about, please use the buddy system rather than going out alone. The portion of the Bois D'Arc Unit of Caddo Nat'l Grasslands that some folks may wish to explore after leaving Riverby are outlined in purple.


Update:

The updated map shows pins of locations of interest that include description of the type of habitat, likelihood of aquatic habitats, and are color coded by ease of movement through the habitat (red = thick brush or mud vs green = open understory or lack of brush). These areas alone could keep everyone well occupied for days but, whenever people are ready, Mick and Brandon will be available to take groups further back into areas represented by pins or to some more unique areas of interest.

People can show up any time on Friday, but our preference is after lunch time. There are still on-going maintenance activities and personnel on-site but on Fridays folks usually take off early and I’d like to avoid overlap as much as possible.

A few important notes on liability/safety things:
• Before anyone can do anything on-site, Mick or Brandon need to have a signed release form in hand that will be available at the bunkhouse (aka Motel). So please stop here first and sign the form.
• People are free to roam the main roads, but Mick or Brandon need to have an idea of where people are in case of emergency. If there’s a way that everyone can be a part of a group message to be able to reach out to Mick or me should the need arise, that would be great. Brandon's cell is 254-592-5688.
• To the extent possible no one should go to an area alone, especially if they have Verizon as a cell phone provider.
• There’s also potential that people’s navigation apps won’t work. Do not assume that can rely on your phone for anything. In the past, people have been misdirected or had to walk a good distance to be able to call for help in the early hours of the morning.

The kitchen has a fridge/freezer, basic electric coil range, pots and pans, silverware/cutlery, utensils, plates, cups, coffee maker, microwave, toaster, and basic spices. A charcoal grill is also available.

The beds in the bunkhouse (aka Motel) are a mix of regular twin and full size.
Bring your own bedding.

Current conditions really good considering the hot dry summer. We’ve had a good two weeks of rain and cooler temperatures which have allowed things to really green up. It hasn’t been enough to refill surface water in major wetland areas though. There’s no rain forecasted in the next two weeks with temperatures in the low 90’s and sunny so I expect things to start to dry out again. Even if we do get rain, I don’t anticipate it to impact access to most of the points of interest on the map.


Brandon describes the conditions at Riverby Ranch: “Much of the site, particularly forested and grassland restoration areas, are still in early successional stages, but are progressing well. Those areas that were able to remain resilient through past agricultural activities such as the mature forests and wetland areas are nearly fully recovered and are the real backbones of biodiversity on the site. Many of the wetlands have permanent groundwater influence that offer unique (and very muddy) habitats. The site is certainly lush, and both the quantity and quality of wildlife here has surprised everyone – I’ve found a number of what I think are state first or rare plant species, aquatic areas are rife with every swimming and crawling thing you would hope for, and the higher tropic levels are responding better than hoped. There has been an explosion of beaver, otter, bobcats, raptors, snakes, and even a black bear sighting. Over the past few years we’ve encountered a number of species of note including a western burrowing owl, LeConte’s sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, quail, upland sandpipers, and large numbers of breeding ducks, shore birds, and innumerable dickcissel.”

More information about the Riverby Ranch Mitigation Area:
https://res.us/projects/bois-darc-lake-prm/
https://res.us/home/restoring-at-scale/restoring-at-scale-docuseries/

Tag others that you'd like to invite:
@alisonnorthup, @aguilita, @amzapp, @annikaml, @aprilsee, @ashwinvn2, @bacchusrock, @baxter-slye, @benjamindurrington, @birdsandbugs27, @bosqueaaron, @brentano, @butterflies4fun, @catenatus, @centratex, @charley, @clairesorenson, @cmeckerman, @connlindajo, @cosmiccat, @currenfrasch, @elytrid, @gcwarbler, @gusbarksdale, @gwaithir, @henrya, @inhat83, @jcochran706, @jwn, @jwwalker, @karen762, @k_mccormack, @k8thegr8, @kimberlietx, @knightericm, @lorimalloy, @lovebirder, @megachile, @melissa_duron, @mikef451, @nanofishology, @oddfitz, @pynklynx, @rick57, @rlhardin, @rymcdaniel, @sambiology, @sam_moore_, @squaylei2000, @tadamcochran, @wildcarrot, @williampaulwhite17

Posted by pfau_tarleton pfau_tarleton, June 26, 2022 02:17

Comments

Wow, that sounds great! It will be nice to visit a place that has that liquid stuff that I haven't seen on any of my recent hikes here in central Texas...

Posted by jcochran706 5 months ago (Flag)

Sounds good! I will plan on being there.

Posted by mikef451 5 months ago (Flag)

Interested and following!

Posted by gwaithir 5 months ago (Flag)

Yep! I'm in. IIs there a way to get an address or GPS point for the building so Ic an use Waze to get there?

Posted by williampaulwhite17 5 months ago (Flag)

Coordinates added in description.
Don't jinx it @jcochran706--may be dry there also come September!

Posted by pfau_tarleton 5 months ago (Flag)

I'm damn curious about the black bear sighting. Herp guy that I am, that's just intriguing. Any photos of tracks or scratches?

I tried to get on the bunkhouse list but I get an access denied when I try to sign in? that may be my google accounts being messed up too though

Posted by williampaulwhite17 5 months ago (Flag)

Fig. 2, p. 7 in this TPWD document shows Fannin Co. to have confirmed bear sighting
https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_pl_w7000_1046.pdf

Texas doesn't yet have a stable breeding population, so I've read, as all the sightings are of single juvenile or subadults--most likely roaming from the established populations E and NE of TX

Posted by pfau_tarleton 5 months ago (Flag)

The forest between FM 2155 and 2175, does that have a stream or permanent water source? or is that on Caddo National Grassland's property? Then the Bois D'Arc Creek of Farm Road 79 is on property? And a pond near the bunkhouse?

Wondering if I should bring minnow traps/dip net

It looks like there's a lot of unpaved access roads on property; do you know if it'll be OK to drive on them or do they want us sticking to paved roads?

And I'm assuming I need to bring my own bedding/sleeping bag for the beds?

Posted by williampaulwhite17 5 months ago (Flag)

I plan on participating!

Posted by annikaml 5 months ago (Flag)

I will put on calendar and plan to be there. Not sure about a big bunkhouse. More people to annoy with snoring. So will have to think about that.

Posted by brentano 5 months ago (Flag)

Tagging a few other folks...@beschwar @ryan697 @kaylakwest

Posted by brentano 5 months ago (Flag)

I edited the post a bit to add detail. Anything within black polygons is Riverby. As September approaches, we'll have Brandon report on status of bodies of water as those vary seasonally. We're also going to have folks let us know in advance what taxa/habitats they'd like to focus on so Brandon can point each of us in the directions most likely to have what we're looking for (I'll send out a survey in August). There's some benthic sampling equipment available for use. Feel free to bring any collecting gear of your own. Some roads are passable with regular vehicle, others by UTV. Brandon can chauffer as needed to get folks to the best places.

Posted by pfau_tarleton 5 months ago (Flag)

Looking forward to it!

Posted by connlindajo 5 months ago (Flag)

Please add me to the bunk list.

Posted by bosqueaaron 5 months ago (Flag)

Interested and following... looking forward to it!

Posted by lorimalloy 5 months ago (Flag)

Tentatively attending, contingent on schedule. Sounds like a great site!

Posted by inhat83 5 months ago (Flag)

I'm a definite maybe! It's on my calendar. Let's hope we get some rain between now and then. :)

Posted by tadamcochran 5 months ago (Flag)

Looking forward to it!

Posted by amzapp 5 months ago (Flag)

Sounds great to me! I'd like a bunk spot please.

Posted by elytrid 5 months ago (Flag)

Hey all! Looking forward to hosting all of you out here. If you have any site specific questions don't hesitate to shoot me a direct message on here. I'll be coming up with tentative spots to take everyone to.

Since this is a very very large privately owned work site and there is some liability associated with having a large group out here over the weekend there will likely be a series of guided wanderings where another on-site ecologist or I will take you to any number of spots around the property. Minimized risk AND you get to go to hard to access areas most people will never have access to.

Posted by bhall002 5 months ago (Flag)

I’ll be there!!

Posted by baxter-slye 5 months ago (Flag)

@cosmiccat Re-tagging you on this one. Hope you can make it.

Posted by connlindajo 5 months ago (Flag)

I'd love to go and be added to the bunk list.

Posted by cosmiccat 5 months ago (Flag)
Posted by cosmiccat 5 months ago (Flag)

@royaltyler want to come with us?

@pfau_tarleton I work on Fridays, so I'll be there either late Friday evening or Saturday morning, depending on when I get off. Also what size sheets do I need to bring for the bed?

Posted by cosmiccat 5 months ago (Flag)
Posted by annikaml 3 months ago (Flag)
Posted by annikaml 3 months ago (Flag)

I'll go provided the weather isn't bad.

Posted by eaneubauer 3 months ago (Flag)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Just checking in....less than a month away!

My thoughts are that we focus our efforts on the Riverby property Friday and Saturday, and then for those of us that stick around beyond Saturday, spend Sunday morning at the Caddo Bois D'Arc Unit before heading back home.

For those that trickle in Friday and Saturday, we'll somehow devise a way to schedule pick up/drop off times for those that want to explore some of the "off the beaten path" areas at Riverby. It's a big place, and we'll have some guided access to the best spots.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Posted by pfau_tarleton 3 months ago (Flag)

Sounds awesome. Hopefully the rain helped conditions up there.

Any place to find herps is awesome :)

Is it possible to come and go from the ranch house? I'm wondering about road cruising in the general vicinity on Friday and/or Saturday night. Maybe this'll be the year I finally see a timber rattler. Or massasauga. Or prairie kingsnake.

Posted by williampaulwhite17 3 months ago (Flag)

@williampaulwhite17
Yes, there's open access to and from the ranch house onto Farm Road 79. View from the road:
https://www.google.com/maps/@33.8358744,-95.8842849,3a,67y,17.16h,96.79t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1smKiXR00xs_NXt7DY5Ce2ig!2e0!7i13312!8i6656 (FYI, I think the house on the right is no longer there)

Posted by pfau_tarleton 3 months ago (Flag)

Super bummed that I'm not able to make it to this event... I'll be doing a program in Rockwall this weekend, so alas, my calendar already has that obligation. Oh well.

However, I do have a request! Would ya'll keep a eye open for a skipper??? This one:
https://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Atrytone-arogos
It's under an endangered species act petition, so any and all observations of this butterfly are super important. Thanks!

Posted by sambiology 3 months ago (Flag)

The Google MyMaps link has been updated to include locations that are easily accessible by car where people can go without Riverby staff (Brandon or Mick). Each pin features a description of the type of habitat, likelihood of aquatic habitats, and is color coded by ease of movement through the habitat (i.e. thick brush or mud vs open understory or lack of brush etc.). Green being easiest, red being more challenging. In addition to these, Brandon and Mick will be available to take groups further back to some more unique areas of interest.

I've also added a KML file for those who wish to download the map to their phones or view in Google Earth. Both links are in the journal post, but here also.

Google MyMaps link: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1qMaFJ_WSulshocINDLCrZ6hix7rHdik&usp=sharing
KML file to download: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fGvB0lmtME7SH0DeLA0qa1K0D94ueDUq/view?usp=sharing

Posted by pfau_tarleton 3 months ago (Flag)

@alusk Tagging you per comments at Thursday zoom meeting.

Posted by connlindajo 3 months ago (Flag)

I've added an update to the journal post (above) with some additional details and important information about liability forms and general safety while on-site. Take note of Brandon's cell phone and keep it on hand. But be aware that you may not have cell coverage. Use the buddy system and avoid trekking out alone to the more remote parts of the property. As always, be vigilant of feral hogs, venomous snakes, etc.

Posted by pfau_tarleton 3 months ago (Flag)

I forgot to mention that there is a fridge/freezer and charcoal grill available as well.

Posted by bhall002 3 months ago (Flag)

Super super bummed to say it but I won't be able to make it after all. Really hope we can schedule a return visit to this site in the future.

Posted by brentano 3 months ago (Flag)
Posted by baxter-slye 3 months ago (Flag)

It pains me to say but you can take me off the bunk list. With my current situation I'm unlikely to make the event after all. I'm still going to do my best to make some future events though!

Posted by elytrid 3 months ago (Flag)

Sadly something has come up and I won't be able to make this outing. Hope y'all have fun!

Posted by lorimalloy 3 months ago (Flag)

I'm coming for sure, and currently working out an itinerary which includes stops at promising places in counties I haven't visited before during the drive from Milam to Fannin County and home again. Expecting to arrive about noon on Friday.

Posted by eaneubauer 3 months ago (Flag)

See folks there...I'm super excited to get out there for the weekend. I likely won't arrive until ~3 pm.

Posted by pfau_tarleton 3 months ago (Flag)

Probably 5-6 for me. Gotta get the kids from school and drop them off with my folks before I come on up.

as far as food: I'm just planning on an ice chest with fruit/cheese/crackers/soda (I need my caffiene) for breakfast and lunch saturday and driving over to Bonham for a hot dinner at some point. If I leave that late enough I can road cruise on the way back from dinner

Posted by williampaulwhite17 3 months ago (Flag)

I still don't know if I'm driving up after Ecology lab on Friday (be there around 6 or 7pm) or wait until Saturday morning. Still planning on it!

Posted by baxter-slye 3 months ago (Flag)

I'd be interested in dinner at Bonham Saturday especially since that's where I'm staying and probably eat there on Thursday and Friday too. Itinerary complete, I'll be stopping to look for wolf spiders in 17 counties I haven't done that in yet.

Posted by eaneubauer 3 months ago (Flag)

Nailed down a plan, I think. David and I will drive up Friday after work (if we can manage to pack by then), blitz Friday night and Saturday, and probably head home Sat after dinner.

Posted by baxter-slye 3 months ago (Flag)

To anyone looking for a place to stop on the way there or back, I suggest the Ladonia Fossil Park in Ladonia. Lots of wildlife as well as the only place you can go and commonly find Mosasaur bones/teeth.
Update: There's an old park and a new park and a lot of construction, so it may be messy and a bit confusing if you haven't been before :(

Posted by bosqueaaron 3 months ago (Flag)

@bosqueaaron the old park is totally shut down and is currently under a new bridge. There should be signs directing people to the new park.

@williampaulwhite17 and anyone else interested in dining out, your closest town with decent options will be Paris. If you're not picky, Honey Grove has a pretty standard mexican restaurant and Tigertown is the closest with a good gas station diner.

Posted by bhall002 3 months ago (Flag)

@bhall002 Thanks. It's been a while since I've been up that way.

Posted by bosqueaaron 3 months ago (Flag)

Sadly, I won't be making it up to this one. Hope everyone sees some cool stuff and maybe I'll see some folks at Hidden Springs next month.

Posted by rymcdaniel 3 months ago (Flag)

I will try to arrive between noon and 2pm. See everybody soon!

Posted by mikef451 3 months ago (Flag)

I'm aiming for a 2-3pm arrival. Looking forward to see everyone!

Posted by annikaml 3 months ago (Flag)

@pfau_tarleton I'm trying to look at the map through Google Earth on my phone, and I want to download the KML file to have on hand there, too, but I'm getting a message that says I have don't have permission to view the project. Any tips?

Posted by jcochran706 3 months ago (Flag)

@jcochran706, I was able to download the kml file while logged out of my Google account....so it should be available. I just clicked the link and it gave me the option to download.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fGvB0lmtME7SH0DeLA0qa1K0D94ueDUq/view?usp=sharing

I can email it to you...but need an email address

Posted by pfau_tarleton 3 months ago (Flag)

@pfau_tarleton Many thanks. I was trying to operate from the link to the map, which wouldn't allow me into the "project", for some reason. Once I downloaded the kmz file and copied to iCloud and used it from Google Earth, everything seems copacetic. Can see the maps, pins, legends, descriptions...

Thanks again!

Posted by jcochran706 3 months ago (Flag)

I have to work a little later than expected today. So, David and I will drive up as early as possible tomorrow. Can't wait! I really need a nature break!

Posted by baxter-slye 3 months ago (Flag)

I'm also having to work a bit later than I wanted, so looking at about 6:00 arrival.

Posted by bosqueaaron 3 months ago (Flag)

I'll be there Saturday around 10-11 in the morning.

Posted by cosmiccat 3 months ago (Flag)

I hope everyone made it home safely! Whew...it's gonna take some time for my shutter button finger to recover. I think almost everything I saw was a "that's new to me" something or another.

Try to get all your observations posted and identified by Monday night. Just kidding! I have 1550 pics to work through. Two weeks maybe...how does two weeks sound? I'll try to post a preliminary summary of some kind in a couple of weeks. But no rush!

Thanks Brandon and Mick for being such gracious hosts! I'm predicting that we'll break the 1000 species ceiling easily. There were 726 species documented on Riverby before we arrived.

Here's the project page (also linked to above): https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/riverby-ranch-biodiversity-project

Take a look at Mike's "African Safari" moment from this morning:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/135605966

Posted by pfau_tarleton 2 months ago (Flag)

had a blast but woke up sick sometime in the small hours Saturday night so I left then. If anyone else gets ill, I'm sorry! I felt fine when I left home.

Found but couldn't photograph a dozen plush striped skunks, three raccoons, 4-5 possums, ~8 deer, two cottonmouths...not a bad trip! thanks for putting it together

Posted by williampaulwhite17 2 months ago (Flag)

I'm now 15th in Fannin Co. Hahaha. I got 170 observations with 127 taxa so far; 59 were life firsts. I really appreciate being invited and the friendship. Sorry I couldn't stay for long. I'll get better at being able to stay.

Posted by baxter-slye 2 months ago (Flag)

Thanks everyone for coming out here! I'm already loving looking at the observations trickling in.... you've already added exactly 200 species and none of which would have been observed and identified without your effort. I hope you had a good time and will come back out soon and maybe when there's water out here to catch a whole new crop of flora and fauna

Posted by bhall002 2 months ago (Flag)

I'd love to come out again sometime; that land is usually closed to the public though right?

Posted by williampaulwhite17 2 months ago (Flag)

I had an excellent time exploring the ranch and meeting up with other iNatters. The bunkhouse was great as headquarters for the bioblitz, not to mention the comfortable lodging there. I'm looking forward to another bioblitz at Riverby. Maybe I can even get pictures of those Wood Storks next time!!

Thanks Brandon and Mick!

Posted by annikaml 2 months ago (Flag)

Brandon, thanks for your hospitality. It was lots of fun with memories that will last.
I just arrived home a few hours ago. All the stops on the way home were successful except Rains County. Due to low water the boat ramp was at least a quarter mile from open water, and what remained was too dry to turn up any wolf spiders. I did discover a great spot for going though dead leaves on a forested floodplain to find Schizocosa next spring. There were a few spiders there now. It's the boat ramp at the intersection of the east bank of the Neches River and U.S. 79 near Neches. The adjacent woods are very accessible with little undergrowth. In the next week or two I'll do wolf spider IDs for y'all if needed and get my own stuff up on iNat.

Posted by eaneubauer 2 months ago (Flag)

Thanks to Brandon and Mick for the nice weekend! I had a good time at Riverby. Looking forward to getting observations posted soon. Very much enjoyed meeting new faces and re connecting with familiar ones!
Cheers
Mike

Posted by mikef451 2 months ago (Flag)

There will probably be more, but I found Arctosa littoralis (wolf spider) in the site 4 seep. I thought I was looking at Pardosa at the time. Until I get them uploaded, iNat shows none for either Fannin or Lamar County.

Posted by eaneubauer 2 months ago (Flag)

The small spider found inside the back door of the bunkhouse living room does appear to be Loxosceles. It may not have been reclusa though.

Posted by eaneubauer 2 months ago (Flag)

I finally got my observations uploaded. Many thanks to our generous hosts for facilitating access to such a phenomenal spot! I could walk through those woods and prairies for days, possibly because I'd get lost, but I digress. Enjoyed catching up with fellow naturalists, too, and meeting some new people.

Posted by jcochran706 2 months ago (Flag)

Coincidentally, I finished mine late yesterday. Only 157 for the whole trip I think, but when it takes hours to ponder what the field ID difference between Pardosa mercurialis and Pardosa vadosa is, etc. ...

Posted by eaneubauer 2 months ago (Flag)

I finally finished uploading my observations within the 2 week suggested date and now need to express my way too late expressions of gratitude for this event.

@pfau_tarleton Thanks for including me in the event! @bhall002 and Mick, Thanks for your hospitality and accommodations. The bunkhouse was great! And I really enjoyed my conversations with Mick about nature and ecology and prairie restoration. I think I might have also caught a glimpse of one of the Indian marker trees he told me about.

So great to see all you folks and meeting new ones! Hope to see everyone again soon. Happy iNat-ing!

Posted by connlindajo 2 months ago (Flag)

I, too have completed my uploading and would like to thank everyone involved. Riverby is a truly special place!

Posted by bosqueaaron 2 months ago (Flag)

I'm done uploading.

Posted by annikaml 2 months ago (Flag)

and I finished this morning. whew!

Posted by pfau_tarleton 2 months ago (Flag)

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