Nature Trail Tour - October, 2009
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During the October class for the Llano Estacado chapter of the Master Naturalists, six members photographed the new trail at the Sibley Nature Center (with a few photographs from the pond area). The class spent several hours researching possible ideas for a trail guide for the new trail. The chapter studies the 8 major habitats of the region via field trips to each of the habitats. Carol Ann Bauer, Chris Cherry, Dave Taylor, Nathan Taylor, Todd Choban, and Leslie Harman did the photography.
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When the broomweed is blooming with its bright yellow, the mesquite pastureland is beautiful!
In the fall, the cattails release their seeds. Someone plucked one of the stalks and laid it on the ground, where it slowly exploded.
Chaff flower is a pest in the grassy areas of city parks, but it is an attractive ground cover when the dark green leaves are dotted with the fuzzy little seedheads.
In the fall, paper wasps females and males hang out on the nest, waiting for the perfect time for the mating swarm. At this time, they are “touchy” and will attack someone who disturbs the nest.
This giant horsecrippler cactus is probably over 50 years old.
A female hummingbird fed on the anisicanthus at the Aubrey and Jean Reid Native Plant Garden.
A new packrat nest was covered with old stalks of tasajillo and some curly strands of dried tumbleweed.
Sawtooth daisies had gone to seed.
The tasajillo was covered with fresh red berries.
Termites usually coat fallen sticks and dead grass laying on the ground, but here they had coated a big living stem of mesquite.
Purple thistle and careless weed (an allergen) grew along the fence at the pond.
Twig girdler beetles visit in the fall and leave this sort of damage on mesquite. The branch above the cut dies (it is where they lay their eggs) turning the leaves brown. In some years there is significant damage, but in most years there is hardly any damage at all.
Yucca and broomweed create an interesting texture.
An Aphanagaster ant carried the down feather of a bird to its nest. It will be added to their storeroom full of rotting material where millipedes live (and dine). The ants also feed off of the rotting mass. Kids call them spider ants, and they are the janitors of the ground in West Texas.
A bobcat caught a rodent, leaving only its head (just like a house cat does with its prey.)
During the construction at Sibley this tarantula hole was dug up. Note the silk lining trailing out of the hole.
Jackrabbits dig out an area to lay down. The soil under the surface of the ground is much cooler than the surface. This “sett” must have been dug when it was 100 degrees, for it is larger than normal!
A big black fly visited the Ericameria in the Reid Garden.
The termites coated a yucca pod, too, high off the ground. Again, this is unusual behavior.
The Aphanogaster ant made it to its hole.
Aphanogaster nests are huge. In the background, notice the brown leaves of the mesquite where the twig girdler had done its damage.
This tawny bee fly is common during most of the growing season. It is on broomweed blossoms.
An orange beetle also found the broomweed nectar.
What is this strange growth on bristlegrass? Is it the pupal case to larvae of a fly species, or a gall?
Cowpen daisy is a common fall bloomer.
Cucumber beetles are common during the growing season, too. They lay their eggs on cucurbits (the gourd family.
Tidestromia (espantes vaqueros) has a sweet smelling bloom, but what caused this damage on its stem?
Damselflies can be found far from the pond.
The gray is croton (doveweed). Bristlegrass and broomweed add to this scene in the mesquite pasture.
Nama will blossom from April to November, if it rains. It is an annual wildflower.
An orb weaver had lunch on its web in the mesquite.
Desert holly is sometimes found growing in the remains of an old packrat nest. Is there any direct relationship?
Merriam’s kangaroo rats dig tunnels that seem to dead end because they close off the hole during the day. This species lives in the mesquite pasture land, while the Ord’s kangaroo rat lives in the sanddunes, and the bannertail lives in clay and rocky soils.
The world’s smallest butterfly (the pygmy blue) is common in west Texas, and here it nectars on a tidestromia barely large enough to bloom.
A robberfly caught a bee.
Tansy aster, another annual wildflower, can bloom from March until November, if it gets rain.
Thread waisted wasps use tiny rocks as tools to pack dirt over the holes where they lay their eggs.
A tarantula wasp grabbed a wolf spider on its side…
And then grabbed a front leg…
And then grabbed its head…
And lifted it off of the ground and carried it (running backwards) to a hole that had been prepared. The hole was hidden under dead twigs under a mesquite. There the wasp will lay an egg on the spider (which is paralyzed, not dead). The egg will hatch, and the larvae will eat the spider, then pupate and wait until next year to emerge as a wasp.
Windmill grass seed turns black in the fall.
A bee with a striped abdomen nectared on broomweed.
This bird had been partially eaten (just the breast meat). This might have been more work by the bobcat.
Bristlegrass and cory ephedra create an unique texture.
“Immatures do not have the fully developed wings of the adults in shield bugs. Not 100% certain of the family, but to me this looks like a Shield-backed Bug, Scutellaridae, rather than a Pentatomid (stink bug) or Acanthosomatid (shield bug)...” This identification was posted by Joshua Stuart Rose of Massachussets (and a leading contributor the fabulous website “Bugguide”) to the Facebook page of Burr Williams, executive director of Sibley, after this photo was posted there.
Callous tissue forms after a woody plant is injured. Mesquite has reddish callous tissue.
A corypantha cactus hid under a yucca.
Cottontail rabbits are plentiful along the new trail.
Notice the pale bracts below the seeds of desert holly. Out of hundreds of photographs of desert holly by visitors and volunteers, Nathan Taylor noticed something no one else had!
Dragonflies wander far from the pond, too.
Grasshoppers were not plentiful the day the class photographed.
After this photo was posted on Facebook, two entomologists argued whether the caterpillar of the Snowberry Clearwing moth had just shed its skin, or if it was suffering from a parasite.
Horsecripplers usually are half buried in the sand.
Ladderback woodpeckers can often be seen pecking on yucca stalks.
Fifty early instar leaf-footed bugs swarmed on a tasajillo. Why were there so many on one plant, and none on other tasajillos less than 10 feet away?
The Sibley staff has yet to determine what causes some mesquite beans to be this shape and size. Despite the hole, we have yet to find what bug emerges.
Some old mesquite wood was picturesque!
The catclaw mimosa has small leaves and small beans.
The catclaw mimosa also has its own unique gall (caused by an insect.)
A mockingbird surveyed the pasture, watching for other mockingbirds and curved-bill thrashers that might steal his special clump of tasajillo berries.
A number of the yucca stalks have holes created by the ladderbacked woodpeckers.
Examining the orb weaver spider closer, a person can see the shiny black knobs of its “book lungs” just behind the last pair of legs. Joe Lapp of Austin identified the lungs when the photo was posted on Facebook.
Portulaca, when it is through blooming, has hairy stems and small cups where the seeds were. Look in the virtual trails from previous months of this year to see the complete growth patterns of portulaca.
Can you find the ant on this rabbit tobacco bloom?
Saltbush with its golden seeds and bluegreen cory ephedra that looks like grass adds texture to the mesquite pasture land.
The threadwaisted wasp ended up nectaring on the broomweed too.
Yucca seeds in closeup.
The packrats are building huge nests this fall. Does this mean a cold winter?
Do you see the saltmarsh moth caterpillar?
Todd Choban found a new perspective to examine tasajillo berries.
A paper wasp left its nest and the swarm to feed on a spiny yellow aster.
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