TX Panhandle BioBlitz - Socially distant gathering -- is that an oxymoron?

Hey folks,

So, it'll be a much smaller 'gathering' this upcoming weekend at the two WMA's. Aaaaaand, it looks like the weather may be a bit rainy. Shucks. No worries -- we'll still find a way to observe some nature. :)

Do me a favor -- save my phone #'s - personal (Verizon): 817 771 8793, and work (AT&T) 214 215 5605. May not have ANY reception there

Most of the weekend we'll play it by ear on exact locations to meet up and where to blacklight or explore.

Fortunately @oddfitz knows every square inch of Matador WMA, so he can point out some nice areas to explore too.

I'll be able to be at Matador WMA at around 4 or 5 PM on Friday, but if you get there earlier, that's ok. The headquarters spot is where we can 'gather' -- although, please keep in mind that I'm going to try to keep some distance from everyone. It's just a good practice... Apologies for the lack of handshakes or hugs this time around. :(

Here's the location:

The tentative game plan is to stay at Matador on Friday and Saturday, and then head up north to Gene Howe on Sunday and Monday. Two nights of blacklighting at Matador and one night of blacklighting at Gene Howe.

A few things to bring -- water, food, perhaps some bug spray, umbrella (if everyone brings umbrellas, then perhaps it will reduce the % of rain -- that's how weather works), lots and lots of camera batteries. Oh, bring some cleaning stuff too -- to wash hands frequently.

I'm planning on camping at both locations too. My stench will likely keep others at least 6 feet away from me too. Win win! :)

I hope that a product from this 'gathering' is a good digital record of the biodiversity at these WMA's. WMA's are refuges for so many different critters and plants -- let's show that on iNat! :)

Posted on 24 May, 2020 18:09 by sambiology sambiology


I'll definitely be there a little earlier in the day, I'm so happy to get out of DFW for a weekend.

Any news about electricity out at the WMAs?

Posted by annikaml about 4 years ago

I'm so stoked! Can't wait. Hoping the rain is just spotty if it rains at all.

Posted by tadamcochran about 4 years ago

Will be there earlier in day also. Rain or shine. Gonna be great!

Posted by connlindajo about 4 years ago

The good thing about potential rain or the rain that has occurred recently out there, is the dry country amphibians that will probably be above ground at night.... Can anyone say spadefoot's, and fingers crossed, maybe a Western Tiger Salamander? Should be a good time for all... As long as we keep Sam downwind, the later in weekend it gets.....

Posted by oddfitz about 4 years ago

I'll be there earlier too. Can't wait to see everyone, critters and plants included!

Posted by amzapp about 4 years ago

I'll be in the region perhaps a day or two earlier. I may try to sneak into Copper Breaks SP if they'll let me in on Wed/Thurs. The reservation system is so constrained right now, I don't know what will happen.
Also: Along with my usual sheet, etc., I'm going to be toting along my brand new Bushnell Trail Cam. I hope we'll be able to set it up in some secure location each night to record some of the stuff we normally miss.
After this event, weather permitting, I intend to head across the northern tier of counties to sample some areas like Palo Duro Reservoir (near Spearman) and Rita Blanca Nat'l Grassland.

Posted by gcwarbler about 4 years ago

@gcwarbler - are you copying my itinerary??? :-) Sounds like we have similar plans. I've got a route all planned out (we know how plans go) and will be trying to hit several places for Odes across the UP (In TX that's the Upper Panhandle - Hahaha!).

Maybe we can intersect at some of the same places.

See you all (from a distance) at Matador.


Posted by beschwar about 4 years ago

You two are living the dream!

Posted by amzapp about 4 years ago

Yes, it will be lovely! Chuck is retired so he's always living the dream. ;-)

It's been a heck of a semester here; me virtual teaching at a University, and Zachary (son) wrapping up Sophomore year in virtual HS this week. We've had a couple good weekend nature-adventures this spring, but we really need to get out of town and leave the semester and all the bad memories behind for a few days. He's in there now working on final assignments so he doesn't have to be here all next week (last week of online classes).

Sooo looking forward to seeing these places.

Posted by beschwar about 4 years ago

Yes, Lena. I'm living the dream...or nightmare. In fact, I think I'll do this trip virtually; here's how it will work: Ben, would you and Zachary just carry an iPad that has me signed in on Zoom and point it around at various Panhandle destinations so I can see things virtually? I'll take pics of the iPad screen so that I can upload my own "observations". Just be sure to only point the iPad at interesting things. ;-)

Posted by gcwarbler about 4 years ago

That certainly would be an interesting approach to a bioblitz!

Posted by amzapp about 4 years ago

I noticed since Friday, rain chances have decreased for this weekend in the Childress area. Looking forward to a great weekend immersed in nature!!!

Posted by txstack about 4 years ago

I plan on arriving to Matador around 2 pm Friday. See you all there Safe!

Posted by mikef451 about 4 years ago

@gcwarbler Hahahaha!! Noooooooooo!!!!! I'm Zoooming away from my nightmares on this trip. As much as I love observing with you, Chuck, I'm afraid I can't bring myself to do this for you. :-)

I think Zach and I will probably arrive at Matador later in the afternoon. We are spending Thursday night and morning at Lake Tahoka and I expect to stop at a couple intermediate stream crossings and places like Silver Falls on the way NE from there.

Yes, the weather is looking spectacular!

Posted by beschwar about 4 years ago

@oddfitz - One thing I plan to focus on during this trip are Odonates. Sam says you are the Matador Expert, so if you can think about places where you might know of permanent water in all forms (seeps, springs, ponds, mucky weed-filled marshes infested with ticks and mosquitos, etc... :-)) outside of the obvious streams that I see on Google Earth, I'd love to pick your brain on Friday.

Posted by beschwar about 4 years ago

@oddfitz Todd, one thing I plan to focus on is incredibly tiny dull brown moths, so if you can show me where all of those are, I'll appreciate that as well.

Posted by gcwarbler about 4 years ago

If it's like I'm seeing in Lubbock and Crosby Counties, brush up on your Schinia, Pelochrista, and Euxoa.

@beschwar Silver Falls is my absolute favorite place. So many great insects! Check the restroom building walls for bugs, and check the Silver Falls sign at both the entrance and exits. if you're looking for Odes, find a way to safely get under the bridge. That area has different species than what's in the creek area by the concrete picnic tables. Watch for rattlesnakes.

Posted by amzapp about 4 years ago

I'm shocked.... Ben wants to see Odonates and Chuck wants to see Moths. Soooooo out of character for both of them.... Ha! I'm sure we may be able to find one or two of both on Matador's 28K acres....

Ben, there are permanent water holes (solar wells/windmills) on every pasture at Matador as well as the Middle Peace River that bisects the property. I'm hopeful that Chip, the lead biologist at Matador, will give us permission to access a couple of the "closed" areas of the WMA. One of which has an amazingly robust spring for that area. lake Tahoka and Silver Falls should be "interesting" considering the approx. 12" rain that area received two days ago. Maybe the Falls will actually be flowing.

I'm rolling that way Thursday morning as there are a couple of stops I want to make just west of Childress. I expect I will be at Matador around daylight on Friday. So if anyone is in the area, feel free to text or call me. 817-319-9903

@beschwar @gcwarbler @briangooding

Posted by oddfitz about 4 years ago
Posted by oddfitz about 4 years ago

I will be there. Plan to arrive around noonish on Friday. So @oddfitz hopefully I can reach you. I seem to have the worst luck with getting a cell signal anywhere I go.

Posted by brentano about 4 years ago

@oddfitz - Todd, those spots, and especially the springs, are exactly the places I'd love to visit. I'm pretty confident there are more species on the WMA than are documented at the moment. I think I know where a couple of these are (ridiculous amounts of time on Google Earth and looking through all the historical imagery), so it will be terrific if Chip allows us to roam a bit wider on this trip.

Posted by beschwar about 4 years ago

I neglected to mention to all, that there are fire rings next to each covered picnic area in the camp ground at Matador. During the hunts, weather permitting, they usually allow campfires and the gathering of dead wood from the WMA. Since it has been so damp out there, I'm hoping we get permission to do that for those that may want a fire.

Posted by oddfitz about 4 years ago

FYI to those of you planning to visit the SPs in the area. Currently, you must book a day pass in advance to enter the parks. Copper Breaks State Park has day passes available every day right now but Caprock Canyons State Park is sold out through Sunday. I was there today and tried to talk my way in with my annual pass. Not happening. Be sure to book your passes online as the recording on the phone reservations line says the hold is over 3 hours.

Posted by jwn about 4 years ago

@jwn, Same experience for me. I had obtained day permits for Copper Breaks for Wed-Thurs but only managed to arrive at 3:30 pm on Thursday. They honored my pass, but they close for day use at 5 p.m., so I had only about an hour hike there today.

Posted by gcwarbler about 4 years ago

Arrived in Paducah after 5 pm today and did some roadside observations. Already observed several new to me species!

Like Dorothy said, "I don't think this is Kansas" or something to that effect. I was thinking this afternoon driving up here, "I am certainly not in Lee or Milam County anymore."
Billboard seen on trip up: Alguna dia es hoy.

Posted by connlindajo about 4 years ago
Posted by pfau_tarleton about 4 years ago

What a fantastic weekend Pete and I had with y'all at Matador! We enjoyed meeting all of you, and appreciate all the nature knowledge you shared. I'm currently downloading 432 photos, many of which will probably get deleted, but CAN'T WAIT to see the images again. Hope y'all had tons of moths and other insects last night, and are enjoying Gene Howe. Hope to see you again sometime,
Sharla Stack - txstack

Posted by txstack about 4 years ago

Holy moly -- what a wonderful trip/gathering this was. I'm so glad that many of you were able to make it, but also bummed that many others were not. I hope everyone returns home safely. It took me about 10 hours to get home with all of the stops for roadside flowers and bugs! :)

Soon I'm going to put up another journal entry about our gathering. I've got loads and loads and loads of photos to go through and edit and crop and all that. Not to mention a few hundred notifications that I've got to check on too! :) First world naturalist problems, yeah?!?

Thanks again everyone. So wonderful to escape everything. Stay tuned for details for the next gathering!!!

Posted by sambiology about 4 years ago

Thanks again for putting it together, Sam! I had a blast, saw lots of cool stuff and it was such a relief to get away from the normal day to day. Can't wait to find out where the next nature jam will be held.

It's always great seeing everyone that attended!

Posted by tadamcochran about 4 years ago

What a great time indeed. Got to see some great stuff and hang on with such great people. I always learn from and am in awe of you all. I took 2999 photos not counting ones on my phone. Slowly sorting through them so I can start editing the keepers. Wow.
Look forward to next gathering.

Posted by brentano about 4 years ago

Great to see some of you for a bit on Matador! Sorry we didn't hook up at Gene Howe. We got sucked into a late night mothing while camping at Lake Marvin (look for a few that might interest you @gcwarbler!) and then hunting for Odes the next morning while Zach slept off the late night. :-)

@oddfitz - I just noticed that your Comet Darner observation at Matador is a pretty uncommon find for that far west. Great photos of the female! I saw both male and female briefly, but they didn't want to pose. :-) If you haven't already, maybe you can also upload to Odonata Central?

Posted by beschwar about 4 years ago

Sam, thank you so VERY MUCH for organizing this. Both WMAs were beautiful, with plenty to observe. Always nice to reconnect with old friends, and to meet new ones.

Posted by annikaml about 4 years ago

Enjoyed the gathering and am looking forward to the next. I saw so many new things while there and learned about porcupines, vultures, oenotheras, etc. etc. . An awesome and memorable experience. So glad to see everyone.

Posted by connlindajo about 4 years ago

@beschwar @briangooding already documented the record on OC. I'm fine adding it again if a duplicate is truly needed. But Since we only got clear shots of the female and that was what was added, I think we should be good. I do have a couple of very blurry shots of the male, they are unmistakable to those of us that saw him. But I haven't put them on iNat or OC due to quality and good shots of the female. If anyone has thoughts as to otherwise, let me know and I will add them.

Posted by oddfitz about 4 years ago

@oddfitz - I don't see any reason to duplicate. Just wanted to be sure it was reported there. Thanks! I'm guessing @briangooding also posted the Bleached Skimmer from there? No need for all of us to upload to OC. :-)

Posted by beschwar about 4 years ago

Hi all, sorry to "re-activate" this thread, but I was fortunate enough to, once again, be selected to assist with management activities at Matador this past week.

Speaking to the biologists on site, their Christmas Bird count is going to happen Friday December the 18th. If anyone has any interest in assisting I'm sure they would appreciate it. Plus if you happened to observe something other than a bird with a camera, I'm sure they would understand. They are not posting it to their Facebook page during the ongoing COVID concerns. However they will not turn down any help.

If previous counts I have helped with are any indication, social distancing is not an issue as each person and or persons in a vehicle are given their own area to canvas. The social distancing bio-blitzes are giant parties in comparison. As they generally meet at daylight at headquarters, assignments are made then you are free to roam all day or as much of the day as you can, then turn your sheet in at the headquarters when you are done.

Here's the link to the Journal entry if any are interested. Thanks.

Posted by oddfitz over 3 years ago

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