Journal archives for January 2023

27 January, 2023

Texas: my first visit to South Padre Island and the Rio Grande Valley

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I just got back from my first ever iNatting trip to Texas. It was supposed to be 8 days, but we lost half of the first 24 hours because we were unable to land at Brownsville due to severe fog, and so we had to return to the Dallas / Fort Worth Airport and spend the night there, awake and uncomfortable. We were a group of five people, headed up by Steve Rosenthal, who is a very keen sheller from Long Island in New York State. During the Texas trip, all five of us stayed on South Padre Island (SPI). My husband and I stayed in a two-bedroom condo vacation rental which was directly on the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). The rental was quite expensive, but the unit was spacious and luxurious, decorated lushly with a beach theme, and the views from the 3rd floor unit, which overlooked the dunes, beach, and water, were absolutely fantastic, like a free iMax movie running all of the daylight hours through the big windows of the living room and master bedroom. That same glorious view was also somewhat visible from the side window in the second bedroom.

The nature in that part of Texas was amazing to me. For example, I could hardly believe that almost every one of the numerous common weed species in the city of SPI was entirely unfamiliar to me. Such a learning experience! And the flat areas on the mainland to the south of SPI were almost completely covered in huge expanses of Opuntia and Yucca. The extensive dunes on SPI supported an entire interesting community of plants that are tolerant of salt, sand, wind and dryness. And on a Groundcherry plant on the dunes next to the condo building, I found a Chrysomelid beetle species that was a completely new addition to the iNat database: Lema pubipes. That was a nice surprise.

As for the marine mollusk species, I could recognize almost all of those species from my numerous visits to Sanibel on the Gulf Coast of Florida. But a few Western Gulf species were brand new to me, including the Western Banded Tulip, the Texas Lightning Whelk, the Cancellate Cantharus, and a few others. On the Gulf beaches I was happy to see quite a few Cannonball Jellies, which I had long admired in other people's GOM observations, but which were new to me.

However, a lot of the shell searching we carried out was done on mud flats on the shores of the huge hyper-saline lagoon, Laguna Madre. That was true both on Port Isabel, and on the southern tip of South Padre Island itself. The mud flats were quite rich in marine gastropod species, and in hermit-crabbed shells, but the mudflats were unpleasantly mucky. Steve Rosenthal lost one of his favorite shelling sneakers when he was walking back, having been far out on the mudflats; one leg had sunk so far down into the glutinous mud that Steve came back to the car with only a sock on that foot.

We did also check the nice clean sandy Gulf beaches, and in some cases there were quite a lot of shells there, although nothing really compared to the extraordinary numbers of shells on Sanibel. But I found the Hooked Mussel, the Brown Rangia, and countless examples of the Chemnitz Triangular Ark; and all of those were species that were new to me.

One day we drove out to two of the many fine nature preserves that are situated in the lower Rio Grande Valley. We saw the Border Wall/Border Fence frequently, and even crossed it back and forth a few times where the fence runs a short distance south of the actual border. The part of Cameron County which is near the border there is flat and agricultural, and in human terms it mostly seems impoverished. We saw one small house flying the Confederate flag. In the Santa Ana National Wildlife Preserve, at the bird feeder near the Nature Center, I got to see a Fox Squirrel, the Altamira Oriole and the Audubon's Oriole. By one of the Pintail Lakes I saw a Greater Kiscadee. And in both that preserve and the Sabal Palm Sanctuary, I saw Green Jays, which are very spectacular in the coloring of their plumage.

The weather was mostly a bit cold and windy almost all week, so because of that there were not many butterflies flying.

Near the end of the trip I went on an early-morning bird walk at the Birding, Nature Center, and Alligator Refuge on SPI. I saw a lot of water bird species, including the new-to-me duck species Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Northern Pintail, Mottled Duck, Redhead Duck, and Blue-winged Teal.

All in all, our Texas trip was a very rich iNatting opportunity! In just barely over a week I found over 151 species that were new to me!
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Posted on 27 January, 2023 15:21 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 31 observations | 8 comments | Leave a comment

30 January, 2023

More about our Texas trip -- non-marine gastropods

Next to one of the Pintail Lakes in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Preserve in south west Texas not far from the Rio Grande River, there was a large area of flood debris with a lot of shells of non-marine gastropod mollusks in it, shells of species both from the scrubby woodland areas and from the lakes themselves.

There were two different species of planorbids, one species of Pleuroceridae, one Melania, as well as an amber snail, some shells of the Globular Drop, shells of a Scrubsnail species Praticolella, and many shells of what I think was the Whitewashed Rabdotus, and also many shells of Linisia texasiana.

If I had been less tired at that point, I might have been able to find other species in the flood debris.

Steve Rosenthal found a few shells of the endemic glossy wolfsnail, Euglandina texasiana. But I did not find any. I hope maybe he will give me one of his.

Posted on 30 January, 2023 18:18 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 6 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

31 January, 2023

Crabs seen during our southwestern Texas trip

I found several crab species in Texas, some live, a few dead and some only their burrows:

  1. Thin-striped Hermit Crab, many live ones, inside gastropod shells. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/147133172
  2. Atlantic Ghost Crab, many active burrows
    https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/146929064

  3. Blue Land Crab (only some active burrows)
    https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/146994121

  4. Mud fiddler crab, one live one
    https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/146958234

  5. Mud crab, small one live
    https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/147134066

  6. The Western Gulf Stone Crab, an adult, dead (Similar appearance to the Stone Crab on Sanibel)
    https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/147061504

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Posted on 31 January, 2023 17:49 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 3 comments | Leave a comment

Wild plants in Port Isabel, Texas, 4th Street, north side of Route 100, at edge of Laguna Madre

I took particular interest in the wild plants that were growing on the salty flat area up above the beach on Port Isabel, 20th January 2022. here is a list:

American Century Plant

Spanish Dagger

Sea Ox Eye

Sea Purslane

Alkali Heliotrope

Annual seep weed

Shore grass

Shell Mound Pricklypear

Virginia Glasswort

Tornillo

Carolina Sea Lavender

Camphor Daisy

Honey Mesquite

Christmas Berry

Closer to the parking space that was near the road and near a house:

Common Sow Thistle

Bur Clover

London Rocket

Common Lambsquarters

Saltmarsh Sand Spurry

Dwarf Verbena

Bladderpods

A few of these plants were familiar to me from other places I have visited, but the majority of these were new species to me.
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Posted on 31 January, 2023 18:02 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Weeds by the roadsides in South Padre Island, Texas

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I was interested in the weeds that grow on SPI, most of which were new to me. Here is a list of some local weeds that were growing on the roadsides near where we were staying. A few were familiar to me, but not most of them:

Tridax Daisy

Straggler Daisy

Amaranths

Bur Clover

Black Medick

Camphor Daisy

Braced Fanpetal

Texas Palafox

Whitemouth Dayflower

Eastern Black Nightshade

Bermuda Grass

Coastal Sandbur (or some other closely related sp or spp)

More species of weedy plants all growing in a vacant grassy lot next to Padre Blvd and further north than the previous list:

Southern Goldenrod

Whitetop Sedge

Silverhead --Blutaparon vermiculare

Saltgrass

Parralena -- Thymophylla pentachaeta

Turkey Tangle Frogfruit

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Posted on 31 January, 2023 20:09 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Dune vegetation on South Padre Island, Texas

I photographed many of the plants that had grown well on the dunes in South Padre Island, Texas. Here is a list of some of them:

Sea Oats

Spoonleaf Groundcherry

Beach Croton

Erect Pricklypear

Beach Morning Glory

Seaside Bluestem

American Snoutbean

Texas Palafox

Scarlet Pea

Partridge Pea

Beach Evening Primrose

Wild Cowpea

Largeleaf Pennywort

Southern Seaside Goldenrod

Parietaria sp.

Southern Goldenrod

Brazilian Pepper
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Posted on 31 January, 2023 20:35 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Insects on and near South Padre Island, Texas

I made observations of a few insects on SPI and nearby in January 2023 while I was there for a week. It was relatively cold and windy, so sadly there were very few butterflies out and about. However, here is a list of what insects I did see:

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Pyramid ants

Spotless Ladybeetle

Ochrimnus carnosulus, a Seed Bug

Genus Cochliomyia

Pentacora sphacelata, a Shore Bug

Marmara opuntiella, leafminer on prickly pear.

Red Harvester Ant

Toxomerus marginatus

Queen butterfly

Fiery Skipper

Sarcophaga sp.

Lepidoptera (moth)

Ochrimnus lineoloides, a Seed Bug

American Cockroach, in the condo

Red Imported Fire Ant

Southwestern Dusky Grasshopper

Little Yellow

Umbrella Paper Wasp

Anastrepha sp.

Coenagrionidae

American Dog Tick

Lema pubipes new to the iNat database and new to BugGuide too.

Winged and once-winged insects -- a leafminer

Leafminer on Physalis

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Posted on 31 January, 2023 20:55 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 0 comments | Leave a comment