Nature Trail Tour - February, 2009
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 | March, 2008 | July, 2008 | September, 2008 | November, 2008 | January, 2009]
Donna Chafin, of Lubbock, and also of the 2009 class of the Llano Estacado chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist, also photographed at Sibley on January 31st, along with Debi Cates. She also turned in over 400 photographs, and the two sets were quite different, so we decided to use hers for the February virtual trail, since February was only a few hours from when she photographed.
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Have you ever examined coyote scat in detail? Notice the hairs, the seeds, and the iridescent sheen from the oils from the tissues of what the coyote ate.
The starburst pattern of a yucca makes a person realize that "fireworks" grow along the trail.
A dead yucca looks more like an underwater sea anemone.
Golden clumps of broomweed and the green yellow leaves of yucca enliven a winter mesquite thicket.
From the ground level, the thicket appears to be unpenetratable, but rabbits and rodents find myriad ways to zip through.
Debi found the scat of the bobcat in the open, but Donna found a proper bobcat scat site - every blob of scat carefully covered.
Broomweed will begin to put on leaves early in the winter, while the bloomstalks of the year before still shine golden.
Donna picked out the dark seed heads of windmill grass against the white foamy background of the Lehmann's lovegrass.'
This is somewhat similar to Debi's study of Lehmann's lovegrass and yucca, but with a mysterious dark zone between yuccas.
Golden desert holly, green cory ephedra, gray mesquite, and an old gray tumbleweed - the subtle colors of winter.
Notice the bracts at the base of the seeds of the desert holly and how it is cupped by the leaves.
The ground level perspective turns the yucca, mesquite, and tasajillo into giants - the perspective of a mouse (or packrat).
A packrat lives in a house with a roof of sticks - a bobcat will not dare tear up such a prickly house, but a coyote thinks it is worth the trouble, for they will eat the stored mesquite seeds.
Tasajillo stems and berries became shriveled with the dry winter of 2008-2009.
The white of the ground up caliche (chat) is in stark contrast to the gray mesquite thicket.
Why did one mesquite grow so much bigger than the other ones around it - is it the oldest of the thicket?
Algerita leaves prevent deer and other browsers from grazing it, and keeps people at a safe distance, too.
Animal trails slowly erode the soil of the pasture - creating a slight depression that will carry rainwater off in channels.
Gray and gold (mesquite and tumbleweed) - in the mesquite pasture the subtle differences of gray to silver coloration become noticeable to the discerning eye.
In the winter most yucca will have some yellow leaves, as the oldest leaves die back. The color is mimicked by the golden balls of tumbleweeds lodged in the gray mesquite.
A large lotebush with its squatty shape is unlike the spiky yucca, the upright mesquite, and the upright seepwill in the far background. In the foreground is Cory ephedra.
A coyote had a tummy upset, and its scat was shapeless. A dedicated mammalogist would have collected the scat and examined it for parasites. Notice the yucca leaves that had been pruned by a packrat and hauled off to adorn its nest.
Notice the one old dead mesquite trunk, a darker brown and pitted with weathering among all the growing (and gray) trunks.
Among all the willow trunks… which one is the Russian olive trunk?
Cottonwood leaves filter down through the mesquite thicket, adding organic material. Does the mesquite grow better because of it?
Behind a clump of cattails in the pond, slack water is found, while in the open, the water has tiny waves from the wind. Does that mean extra organic material will be found there, brought by the movement of the surface water and then released when it is stilled? Hmmmm…another question for a student to research!
We thought that the resident badger had died or left, but Donna found some diggings that happened sometimes during 2008.
The dissected leaves of the alley mustard is an adaptation for water conservation - less water is transpired from it than if the leaf was shaped like a cottonwood leaf.
Under a Russian olive, rescue grass and alley mustard glow green, bright against the gold of the cattails.
As the cattail leaves age, they grow paler and paler, until the tips are almost white against the gold of the tumbleweed beyond.
Looking at the interwoven leaves of the cattails, it is easy to see why people of long ago figured out that they could be woven together to form useful objects.
Russian olives are raggedy and dense, even in winter.
Golden giant sacaton is spectacular in the evening.
The water is full of algae, so it appears green, semi-hidden in the golden swamp of cattails, in the pond nestled in the pasture that is bordered by trees.
Purple martins have yet to successfully nest in the house erected for them. The purple martins nest a quarter mile away at a country club, but not at Sibley.
Why are the feathers on the rump of the pied-billed grebe all fluffed up?
The coots seemed to work hard at yanking old cattail leaves out of the water, so there must be some benefit. Snails might live on the submerged leaves, and this might be the way the coots find snails easily.
The coot stopped to scratch an itch, or to realign a feather.
Is the coot seining - it is definitely swimming, and its head stayed in the water as it moved, so did it filter out food as it moved? And if so, what sort of food?
Coots often talk in grunts, as if they were commenting on what they were finding.
Richard Galle visited the pond on another day, and found a red-eared slider basking in the sun on some of the cattail leaves floating on the water. (The coots were there, still busy.)
The benches at the west end of the pond have withstood 26 years of use and abuse.
Two years ago, the hollow base of the elm was filled with Africanized honeybees. The wax and honey caused it to rot even more, and the trunk fell, but we cut it down even further.
The winter resident sharpshinned hawk caught a coot and plucked it in the trees at the west end of the pond.
This could be an owl pellet, but it might be the pellet of one of the hawks that spend so much time at the pond.
A burr oak leaf had fallen on the coyote tracks in the mud.
The sharpshinned hawk had eaten a grackle, too.
The harrier hawk had caught a rabbit, and brought it to the grove at the pond for eating at its leisure, leaving the bones on the ground.
The golden background made the tree silhouettes easy to see.
Notice the faint reddish cast to the coyote willow twigs beyond the golden cattails, and before the pale and tall cottonwood in the background.
Does this female house finch have a deformed beak that is crossed?
Why are the tracks of the coyote going both ways, did it spin and run at the approach of a human? Notice the white alkali efflorescence on the cocklebur seedpod.
The golden light of evening is so restful and so pleasing to the eye.
During the rains of )ctober 2008, the pond level rose and stayed long enough to leave the alkali efflorescence on the plants covered by the water.
A house finch pair kept a close eye out for the sharpshinned hawk.
A great-tailed grackle left a feather among the buroak leaves - while it was molting.
Some strong winter winds brought down one of the old dead elms on the west end of the pond, and a packrat promptly started building a nest under and on the trunk.
Cottonwood twigs are white against the sky.
After a few weeks, coyote scat begins to decay. The hair is last to rot, and it seems to uncurl as the rest of the organic material disappears.
A mockingbird came to the trees while Donna sat on the benches, forgetting she was there.
Trees always grow in the direction of the light, and in doing so, the branches curl in strange ways.
A "birdpoop" fungus grew at the base of a log on the ground.
Cory ephedra looks like grass from a distance, but on close examination turns into a strange unusual plant.
Cottonrats dug out underneath a mesquite crown (a buried trunk) for extra protection from a badger seeking to dig them out.
Donna noticed the hairy leaves of the winter rosette of the huisache daisy, too.
Under some wood at the Junior Master Garden, another packrat had set up housekeeping, leaving dozens of old mesquite seeds just outside - preferring to chewy on the pulp of the bean instead.
One of the scarecrows at the Junior Master Garden caught Donna's eye.
A coyote had scratched the ground when it urinated on a mesquite as it left record of its passing… the dust and the urine mix and the smell somehow is made stronger by the action. Territorial scent posts are common, if you know them when you see them!
Donna is the first of our volunteer virtual trail photographers to record the reality of our greenhouse.
Mesquite has large buds in the winter.
Back at the building, Donna found the bat silhouette on the sidewalk.
Winter jasmine is a passalong ornamental in West Texas, but is rarely sold in nurseries.
Donna capture the pastel colors of the faded winter jasmine blossoms.
The patio in front of the nature center was very inviting after a long hike.
Live oak acorns litter the ground on the patio… and most were empty hulls. What had eaten them?
A child had poked holes in the nopalito cactus in the garden in front of the garden.
A fallen pad held some of the live oak acorns.
The bench and flagstones in the garden come from a quarry north of Garden City.
Sotol and algerita grow in a flower bed in the parking lot.
Back lit holy sage and sotol in front of one of the live oaks in the parking lot glowed.
The old pods of desert willow danced in the breeze.
A cactus wren nest had blown out of one of the rosewood shrubs at the building.
The fox that lives in the ceiling of the building has a scent post on the edge of the parking lot.
Silhouetted yucca pods make a bold statement.
A jackrabbit dropping lay among a tiquilia branch on ground speckled with spiny yellow aster.
Skunks dig small pits, digging up wild onions and beetle grubs.
Spiny yellow aster in the winter are scraggly and strange. A few seeds remain.
A windmill grass seedhead was still golden.
The old harrow behind the building was made in Canton Illinois.
How would you like to ride in this seat all day, bouncing across a plowed field?
A closeup of sotol leaves show its spines.
Sotol sends up woody bloomstalks that make wonderful walking sticks (and you can buy them inside the building.)
The tip of the bloomstalk was curled over.
Frank Gray and Larry Hall made a wonderful wooden fence for the front of the building.
The live oaks in front of the building now have tree squirrels.
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