Nature Trail Tour - July, 2007
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[Additional Tours: February, 2006 | April, 2006 | May, 2006 | July, 2006 | August, 2006 | October, 2006 | January, 2007 | February, 2007 | April, 2007 | May, 2007 | June, 2007]
The plentiful rains and cool temperatures of 2007 were a delight and wonder truly a year to remember. This was an optimum July not normal. Several people contributed to this photoessay thank you Richard, Leslie and Charlie!
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Sawtooth daisy is a symbol of July on the Llano Estacado. The 3-6 foot tall spires shoot up all month long, and late in the month buds begin to form.
The buds take two weeks to finally break and bloom.
The plant "drips" resin and other liquids, and every plant has some sort of ant on it. Here, a long-jawed ant meanders about. Normally the Sibley staff only finds them in May and often under dead mesquite branches.
Charlie discovered a new ant on the Sibley property. We have not yet figured out the species. It is amber-colored and smaller than a harvester ant but much larger than a "sugar ant." The hole was perfectly circular, but did not have a "turret." Charlie could not find any ant carrying anything - so for now, it is a mystery. We have sent these pictures to a entomological listserve, and when we get an answer, we will post a photoessay on the ants of the mesquite brushland.
Above the hole was the old seedforms of a Chocolate daisy.
Long-jawed ants are the same color and size, but in close-up, it was obvious they were not long-jaws.
Charlie hung out, watching the ants for 15 minutes, but noticed no other activity than milling around. They did not seem to be excavating and carrying soil out, nor bringing seeds or other food items inÉ a few had darker abdomens but did not behave differently. If they were honey ants, he did not notice them going to aphids, leafhoppers, or to nectaries on plants nearby.
Roadrunners have large droppings.
For comparison, the droppings next to a foot that wears size 12 shoes.
Charlie had to patiently take one step at a time to get closer to the whiptail.
Devil's bouquet usually blooms in the fall when the normal September rains arrive, but this year, they started two months early.
Prairie zinnia usually bloom through May and then fades away until the fall rains, but it did not stop blooming this year.
Sunflowers are also more likely to bloom in the fall, but they started early this year. Notice the hatch of insects - but the photographer was not aware of the insects when the picture was taken, so no closeup was provided.
Tetraclea is an unusual flower, usually found in May during wet springs, but it appeared in an area where the ground was cleared for the new Sibley greenhouse.
Tetraclea is a member of the verbena family, but looks nothing like other members of the family.
Salsify, otherwise known as goatsbeard or oysterplant, first arrived in Midland in the 1960s, and has become a common "weed" in alleyways and along roadsides. The big puff of seeds quickly blows away, but an overnight misty shower kept the seeds on the plant.
In the Junior Master Gardeners' compound, the kids planted a waterlily.
Leopard frogs from the much bigger Sibley pond 300 yards away somehow discovered the pond this spring - possibly during a rainy night.
When a person comes close, the frogs hide under the lily pads.
If a person sits down, within five minutes they reemerge and sometimes clamber up on the lily pads.
Ash-throated flycatchers are more often heard than seen. They nest in holes in trees, telephone poles, or in pipes. Their voice is a soft ventroloquial wheep that is hard to trace. They sit in mesquite trees and then fly out in short swoops to catch flying insects.
Was this a young kingbird? The photographer was not a birder and could not describe its behavior. It does not have the complete coloration of an adult kingbird.
At the Junior Master Gardener compound, the kids made scarecrows. This one was made in honor of the leader and founder of the group (she has one long braid, not two, though.)
The scarecrows are close enough together that it looks like they are conversing.
The female great-tailed grackle (at the top of the picture) came when the male began squawking about something below him.
Leslie photogaphed a sphinx moth at a horsemint blossom. Two horsemint plants bloomed for the very first time at the Sibley Center - how did the seed arrive?
Two forms of sneezeweed are found in Llano Estacado playas. This is the short species. It will cover large swaths of ground.
It blooms for two to three weeks and then dies.
By mid July it was fading and going to seed.
The grass in the foreground is Arizona cottontop. The photographer had been attracted by the sneezeweed in the background, but when Sibley staff received the picture, it inspired a series of pictures of the native grasses along the trail.
Warm season grasses begin to grow in May when the soil temperature reaches 70 degrees. If rain is received they will bloom, but normally the grasses green up in May, then turn yellow all summer, and then green up again and bloom in the fall. The three awn (white and pink) is the only one that normally blooms in May, and it kept blooming this year until July. The yellow Paperdaisy kept on blooming too.
Bristlegrass has large seeds, and birds love them. It will set seed in the spring sometimes, too, but this year it kept growing, blooming, and setting seed all through July.
Sand dropseed normally is a fall bloomer.
Windmill grass is in the foreground. Beyond is the delicate seeds of black grama, which sprawls over the ground, growing 3-5 inches with every rain.
Windmill grass has black seeds. A stalk of dropseed swoops in from the right.
Arizona cottontop, windmill grass, and black grama mix with sleepy daisy that is beginning to fade. It is hard to believe that this area was bareground last year!
The spikes of Panicum are mixed with windmill grass, the white rabbit tobacco, and the sleepy daisy going to seed. Rabbit tobacco usually has quit blooming in July, too.
Johnson Grass, introduced for the mule teams that built railroads in west Texas grew huge in 2007 - some of the stalks were 6 feet tall. It can be a horrible pest!
Vine mesquite grows in clay soils. We had not seen it in the playa for ten years, but it reappeared this year.
Bristlegrass is in front of popotillo.
Mesquite bloomed over and over in 2007, but did not start producing beans until late July. The blooms were knocked off by the rain, but a dry spell in late July finally allowed the pollinated blooms to set seed.
Lazy daisy does not open its blooms until the sun is overhead. It is normally a fall flower, but covered great swatches of land in July on the Llano Estacado this year.
Purple thistle kept blooming as the cocklebur grew.
Purple nightshade kept blooming, too.
Tumbleweeds germinated by the millions in the playa near the pond. At this size, they can be picked and boiled and make a great potherb.
The pasture looks boring - the little balls of green broomweed and the green mesquite - but there was lot to see along the trail, wasn't there?
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