Nature Trail Tour - March, 2008
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 | January, 2008 | December, 2007]
Photography by Burr Williams, Richard Galle, and Mary Lambeth. Ms. Lambeth did most of the photography for volunteer service hours for the Texas Master Naturalist program. She recently moved to Midland from Junction before completing her hours there, and was happy to find the Llano Estacado chapter!
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The beginning of March is drab, unless there has been plenty of fall and winter moisture. The red berries of tasajillo offer some bright color.
Yucca gives some green to the landscape.
Last year's rain grew lots of tumbleweeds, and when added to the tasajillo and mesquite, going off trail is super-scratchy!
Desert holly leaves are white, but new broomweed leaves have begun to grow, promising some green for the spring.
The desert holly leaves have begun to decay, and the webbing of their veins have become visible.
The rains of 2007 caused many of the yuccas to bloom, and their seedstalks poke up through the mesquite and tasajillo.
Backlit yucca seedpods have a hit of reddish brown.
Filaree began blooming early, but without any rain, the plants may only have a few flowers before they die. In the foreground the parachute like seeds of the perennial spiny yellow aster rest against its new green leaves.
One of the grass species of the pasture had sprouted new green leaves, while the old seedstalks have trapped tree leaves blowing from Hogan Park into the Sibley Nature Center property.
Under a mesquite and near last year's golden grass stalks, the new leaves of perennial baby white aster began growing.
In a few days the pink buds of the baby white aster opened into white daisies.
Some yuccas had begun to turn yellow. If a person digs into their roots, a larvae of either the Yucca Skipper (a butterfly) or a species of beetle (as yet unidentified) will be found.
Past the tasajillo a large lotebush has provided winter protection to jackrabbits and quail, who have cleared the ground underneath almost bare.
A cloudy day and dark mesquite bark make for a dreary scene, enlivened only by the gold of dead tumbleweed.
The down feather of a dove was caught by the brambly stem of a tumbleweed at the edge of the trail.
A small flock of house finches lit on a mesquite on their way to forage for seeds in the tumbleweed beyond.
Most of the house finches left as the photographer neared.
One house finch stayed, squinting his eyes, when he faced the chilly breeze.
The gray patch near the eye of the house finch is unusual - when it was first spotted, the photographer wondered if it was a purple finch, a species that rarely comes to Midland. Purple finches have more streaking on the breast feathers, however.
Here and there, the old golden seedstalks of the broomweed appear in a landscape that seems to be monotonous (always the same.)
Three months of drought had stressed the tasajillo. Some of its branches had died and turned white, while others were shriveling up after turning pinkish-red. A dead branch still held a red berry, however.
The crusted dry soil, held together by dark cryptogamic flora, broke apart.
Despite many mockingbirds and curved-bill thrashers, the tasajillo still held plenty of berries.
In one tasajillo a cactus wren had built a winter nest. In the mouth of the nest were old bird droppings from some other species of bird - the cactus wren would not "sully" its own nest!
One mockingbird popped up out of the thicket to see what was coming down the trail (that might steal its food!)
Some harvester ants were busy, despite the cool temperatures.
A male popotillo had tiny anthers sticking out of its conelike flower.
Some tobosa grass had begun to green up despite not having any rain since December. It grows in soil with clay, which holds moisture longer than sandy soil.
Tobosa is rarely grazed by cattle (only when green.) When dry, the leaves are rough with silica which irritates the mouth of livestock.
A mammalaria cactus had some of its red fruit left. The species blooms in late April and May, but does not set fruit until the following March.
Mammalaria fruit is edible, but birds usually find the fruit before a person can. The cactus are usually well hidden under grass and shrubs.
A broken waterline caused a small puddle in the new housing development near the Sibley Nature Center. A killdeer came to poke in the water and catch any soil invertebrates flooded out of their homes.
The killdeer ran about on the bare soil, in and out of the water, ignoring the photographer
It kept running about, sprinting a few feet, stopping, then running again.
Finally! The killdeer pecked and then swallowed.
After pecking in the mud, the killdeer washed its beak off and then dug around in its feathers, preening.
The cockleburs at the pond had dropped almost all of their leaves, but the seedpods were still on upright stalks.
In the pond, a coot floated. Beyond, two red-eared sliders basked in the sunlight that came and went. A small one is to the left, but the bigger one is easy to spot.
A second coot joined the first, emerging from a hiding place in the cattails browned by winter's freezes. The spring winds had blown smaller tumbleweeds into the pond.
One of the coots walked on barely submerged cattail leaves, picking water snails off of the vegetation.
It must have gotten a drink, too.
The coot paid no attention to the photographer, even turning its back to the visitor.
The second coot swam by, as if to warn the first coot.
The second coot came by again.
The second coot snuck up on the photographer from a different direction.
A mosquitofish (gambusia) swam near the surface of the water. None of the Sibley staff had ever noticed the iridescence of the skin on a gambusia before - what colorful highlights!
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