Nature Trail Tour - December, 2007
Take a virtual tour of the Sibley Nature Tour!
[Additional Tours: February, 2006 | April, 2006 | May, 2006 | July, 2006 | August, 2006 | October, 2006 | January, 2007 | February, 2007 | April, 2007 | May, 2007 | June, 2007 | July, 2007 | August, 2007 | September, 2007 | October, 2007]
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Wintertime strips the pasture of greenery, except for the blades of the yucca. The golden broomweed and the red berries of the tasajillo make the scene colorful.
Volunteer Landon Bell, a home-schooled senior in high school, plans to be a landscape architect. The first 21 pictures of the December 2007 Virtual Trail are his.
In October no rain fell, so the tasajillo berries were wrinkled like raisins, but with the Thanksgiving snow, they became plump again.
Nearing the pond, the year's incredible crop of tumbleweed had turned golden. Where the tumbleweed had grown in the open, however, they had already tumbled away, leaving open ground.
In the heart of the golden tumbleweed, green leaves remained, another touch of green to complement the green of the yucca.
When yucca is backlit, it shimmers.
When the leaves of the lotebush have fallen, the thorn-laden branches appear silver, but the trunks appear almost black.
Mesquite branches, now leafless, wiggle out of a large ephedra (popotillo),
On the east end of the pond, the trail winds around mesquite that leans over it. The thicket there is a favorite of the wintering sparrows that visit Sibley.
Under the black willows next to the water well, rescue grass is bright green.
The cattail began to turn gold in November, but continued to have green in December.
Some of the cattails have already begun to rot and have fallen into the water.
In the shallows where the rot is occuring, methane bubbles up through the Chara algae and red willow leaves. One open cattail seed floats on the surface, but so do three unopened ones.
The black willow still has leaves, and seepwillow has leaves and seeds in the foreground.
One cattail seed stalk still has a little fluff on it. The leaves of the cattails danced in the breeze in front of the salt cedar with its "touch of gold" fall foliage.
The surface of the pond was placid, despite a steady breeze.
A red-eared slider (turtle) poked its head out of the water on the sunny day. It will soon spend the winter at the bottom of the pond, its metabolism slowed almost to nothing, and able to absorb oxygen from the water through its skin.
A coot pair dabbled in the water, seining tiny tidbits (scuds, damselfly larvae, seeds, and more).
One coot stood on a clump of cattail leaves under the water. The coot sat, looking this way and that, kicking back and lazing around as the day progressed.
In the foreground is cattail fluff floating on the water, slowly drifting with the wind over the reflections of the cattail leaves.
On the way back from the pond, a patch of Lehmann's lovegrass shimmered in the wind. Yucca clumps added some contrasting texture.
In a patch of grass leaves, a wolfspider had recently dug a hole. New winter rosettes of next year's wildflowers have germinated.
Looking closer, a person can notice that the wolfspider used some clumps of spines off of a cactus on part of its turret. Where did the spines come from?
The answer was not far away, for the highway of a packrat was near by, littered with fresh droppings.
Some of the ground showed the cracks of drying out from the moisture of the snow a few weeks before. What ground dwelling insect had dug a hole? And, notice the cryptogamic soil clumps are black, showing no rain has recently fallen.
One morning the temperature was near 20 degrees F. Here and there frost had formed on the ground. Notice that the ground is bumpy from frost heave.
On some grass blades, the frost had formed spikes along their edges.
The frost was heavy enough to weight down the grass blades just a little.
The golden broomweed seeds were white-capped with the frost.
Examining closely, the observer noted that they too had the spikes of frost.
When the sun came up a little further, the frost melted on the seeds of the sawtoothed daisy.
A few days later, a light ice pellet shower left a few ice crystals in the sawtoothed daisy seedhead.
A yucca pod filled up with the ice crystals. The ones that hit the ground melted away.
How many ice pellets in one yucca pod?
Ice pellets kept coming, and covered the ground after several hours of below freezing temperatures. A small tumbleweed made an interesting pattern.
Snow finally came again, and piled up on the berries of the soapberry.
The snow piled on the yucca pods, too.
Almost four inches of snow piled on the pods.
In the soapberry a dove nest caught snow, too.
Even on the narrow thorns of the lotebush the snow was able to pile up.
A few days after the snow a Painted Lady butterfly came out to sun itself. It had hid in a crevice in a tree or a house somewhere and escaped the freezing temperatures.
Brown cockleburs littered the ground, although some were still on the stalks of the last year's growth. The gourds were yellow, and almost no sign of their big flesh leaves remained.
Amazingly, Landon found one mesquite still with a few leaves - why had they survived?
The rest of the mesquites were leafless.
The catclaw mimosa seedpods held on - although some were merely trapped in the dense branches.
Two weeks later, the pasture looked like it did in the first picture.
Basketflowers still held seeds above grass covered ground.
Saltbush is gray green, and often adds a little "eveergreen" color to a West Texas pasture with yucca, mesquite, and tasajillo
The golden seedpods of the saltbush slowly turn brown as winter wears on.
Did a rabbit hide under this grass when it was snow covered? Or does it consider that one grass its favorite "restroom?"
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