If you have a question about the Sibley Nature Center or the Llano Estacado, please submit it for possible inclusion here. Our contact information is shown at the bottom of the page.
[New FAQs added 6/5/06; newest entries are at the end of the list]
- What are the little birds with red on their head that come to my bird feeder all year?
- When do I take hummingbird feeders down?
Leave them up until December, but make sure fresh syrup (4 parts water/1 part sugar) is in the feeder
- What is the best product to feed birds?
Buy scratch grains to put on the ground, black sunflowers for tube feeders, and Niger thistle for tube feeders. Put some of the scratch grains in the alley to pull English Sparrows and all the doves away from the tube feeders. Put some of the scratch grains under tree or shrub branches for cardinals and the more unusual winter sparrows and thrushes. Crushed pecans on the ground will attract yellow-rumped warblers and in some years, red crossbills.
- How do I get to Sibley?
We're located at Hogan Park, just north of Wadley and about a half mile east of North Lamesa Road. Here's a link to a Google Map that will give you a visual location and driving directions if you need them.
- What are the best trees and shrubs to plant in Midland and the surrounding area?
Order our brochure for two dollars (if you receive it through the mail, or just a dollar at the building
- How do I get rid of the geckos taking over my house?
Why get rid of them? They are great bug catchers!
- What can I do about all the squirrels?
There is not much you can do, but make sure they can not access your attic so they do not cause damage. An old country boy in town eats his squirrels he ate 83 in 2003, 123 in 2004, and 157 in 2005, and he collected all of them in his yard. There are a few neighborhoods where the numbers are diminishing, which indicates that a squirrel disease has struck.
- Where are some good hiking trails near Midland?
Besides the Sibley trails, a person can also go to Comanche Trails Park in Odessa (next to I-20, just west of the Crane Highway exit), and lots of folks like to walk the road loop in Big Spring State Park, along Mohr Oak groves, Agarita bushes, and lots of other limestone loving vegetation, and to enjoy the view from Scenic Mountain.
- What are some good books on the Llano Estacado?
El Llano Estacado by John Miller Morris and Dan Flores Caprock Canyonlands and Horizontal Yellow. The best wildflower identification book for the region is Wildflowers of the Western Plains by Zoe Kirkpatrick. Call Sibley to see if we have them in stock, otherwise call a local bookstore, or do a search on Amazon.com!
- For whom is the Sibley Nature Center named?
D.J. Sibley was a resident of Fort Stockton. As a doctor in WWII helped conceive of what later became known as MASH units. After serving as a doctor in Fort Stockton for many years, and then lived the rest of his life in Austin.
- Why are butterflies flying around in late December?
Adult butterflies often find crevices in walls, trees, and rock outcroppings where they can survive cold winter nights. They stay motionless until warmed up enough to flutter around. Since it is rare that there are flowers blooming, they often nectar on tree sap, which also often flows from wounds on trees during warm winter days.
- I have seen flocks of birds with white patches in their wings and their bills look sort of large and bluish what are they?
Lark Buntings winter on the Llano Estacado, and on south into Mexico. For years Midnats (Midland Naturalists) counted the most on any Audubon Society Christmas Count anywhere in the nation. In recent years, the numbers in the Midland area have dropped dramatically, but big concentrations have been seen from up near Cedar Lake near Seagraves, to the Big Bend State Park, near Presidio. Their numbers have declined nationally and several explanations have been offered (do a google search!)
- Do I need to worry about the fox that visits my yard? How does it get to my roof?
Gray foxes are the only canid in the world that can climb even telephone poles! Unless the fox is drooling, charging a pet or you, or otherwise acting very strange, do not worry. (See Wild on the Prairie 87 and 104 for descriptions of foxes.)
- Every winter two weeds grow in my lawn one is a grass, and the other is a tiny plant with purple flowers what are they?
The grass is Rescue Grass, introduced for winter grazing to the United States from South Africa. Many people call it wild rye or ryegrass, but it is not. The tiny plant with purple flowers is henbit, another introduced species, this time from Europe. Like so many weeds, it travels the world with humans. Dont worry about killing it it dies in a month, and besides, to have a little color in the lawn in the winter is not so bad, now is it?
- At my dove hunting lease in Andrews County, I have no doves why?
According to Calvin Richardson of the Midland office of Texas Parks and Wildlife, the sandy regions of the area produced few sunflowers in 2005. After the supplies of doveweed (Croton) seeds were used up, the doves moved on. Another explanation may be that the particular ranch also suffered a hail storm during which many of the doves were killed we have seen hailstorms kill 1000 doves in 10 minutes!
- Where are the robins and waxwings this winter?
There has not been any cold weather to push them as far south as Midland -- only 3 robins were found on the Christmas bird count, and no waxwings. All of the montane birds we normally have in the winter have not arrived.
- What is the sprawling shrub around town that has the little yellow star blossoms just coming into bloom in mid-January?
It is winter jasmine, a passalong plant that is rarely sold in local nurseries. Every town in west Texas has yards with winter jasmine -- people dig up the offset plants and share them. It is originally from China.
- Where are the cranes this year?
Only 600 or so are in Midland County, and they seem to be roosting at night on private land far from a road. If you drive the county roads around old Cole Park and near Valley View, you may find some. There was very little grain planted this year in Midland County, so the bigger numbers are in other counties.
- In the Sibley Nature Center column in the Midland Reporter Telegram a salt playa was mentioned recently. Can people go to that playa?
Most salt playas are on private land, however, Pleasure Lake, east of Stanton on I-20, allows four-wheeling and other activities on that playa. Many of the plants that are adapted to saline soils can be found there.
- When do the Purple Martins come back?
Scouts may return in mid-February, and by March for sure.
- Are metal houses okay for Martins? Some people say it gets too hot for them.
A number of metal houses have produced young for years. Once in a while dead babies will be found in a house after the parents leave, however, and the cause is not accurately known. It might be disease, parasites, death of the parents, pesticides, or maybe even unusual heat of many days duration.
- Was the bittern in the MRT story the one that has been at the Center all winter, and was photographed for the February virtual trail?
That story was written over 5 years ago, and it was about a different bittern.
- In February we see lots of dead skunks, and we learned that February is the season for the males to wander looking for females. Our dog got skunked what do we do?
Online you can find a product called Odor Destroyer Burr and Deborah Williams have used it on their dog Lila twice, with great results but they wish Lila would learn to leave skunks alone!
- Will there be wildflowers this spring... and where and when?
The Sibley Nature Center has received calls from as far away as Minnesota this week about this, and we have had to report that the showy fields will not happen this year. Two factors are to blame for this; last year's good rains created a good crop of grass, so there is less space for the wildflowers to grow. We also have not had good rains since October, so the winter rosettes (wildflowers germinate in the fall in October, November) did not grow to any size. What winter rosettes exist are small, and until last week's light rain had been curling up. Last week's rain will help a few species now, but not those that bloom later in the spring.
- Some of my box turtles emerged very early -- are they in danger?
Unless we get a near zero freeze, it is unlikely. The turtles will come out on the warm days and then go back to their winter quarters when the temperature goes down. 90 percent will return to depths sufficient to protect them during a regular cold snap of 20 degrees.
- Have the sandhill cranes left?
Normally they leave in late March, but with the warm winter, they may leave early; on March 8th a few were seen southeast of town.
- Is the white burrowing owl still at its residence?
As of 3-8-06 it was -- burrowing owls live 5-10 years, so it may be there a while, since we have seen it for a year now.
- In June I had a baby snake come in my house what is it, is it dangerous, and what can I do?
After a rain (or even after a thorough watering) blind snakes sometimes are found in a person&Mac226;s house. Adults are rarely more than 4 inches long, and appear to be worm-like, with tiny black dots for eyes. They eat termites, and can not bite a human. Just take them back outside and let them go.
- What were the red bugs after the rain in early June?
These were velvet mites, or rain bugs. They eat termites, too. Termites swarm after a rain, and the females dig into the soil, but the males just die so the rain bugs get stuffed.
- Where do all the frogs stay that showed up in the little low area near our house after the June rain?
Those are not frogs, but toads, and they stay about 2 feet under the ground. The vibrations of thuder awaken them. They mate, eat their weight in termites, and then go back underground to aestivate (suspended animation) and can live at least two years before another rain.
- Where do all the little brown moths come from that show up in June?
Most of the "millers" (brown moths) larvae feed on native bunch grass. After a good rain, they emerge from their cocoons as adult moths, mate, and lay their eggs on the new green growth of the grass.
- There were hundreds of flying ants in my yard this morning, but they were gone by noon what was going on?
Like the termites, ants are stimulated by rain to mate. Only after a rain is the soil soft enough for the newly fertilized queens to dig a new hole.