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Habitats of the Llano Estacado
Alkali Soils

Photoessay – Tahoka Lake - May 12-13, 2009

Tahoka Lake is a large salina (salt lake) set deep into the Llano Estacado. The bottom of the salina is over a hundred feet below the surrounding plains. Cliffs of limestone, alkali seeps, draws with springs, sandy ridges, and freshwater pools create an amazing diversity to the location. Mrs. Clyde May, the owner of the western side of the lake is working to preserve the location as a non-profit education facility that educates folks on the history and ecology of the salinas of the Llano Estacado. Dr. Eileen Johnson, of the Lubbock Lake Landmark archaeological site, led an archaeological field school there to examine a pastores camp and stone fence, as well as to survey the site of American Indian use. Several researchers have studied the use of the salinas by shorebirds and other birds during visits to the lake.

Debi Cates and Donna Chafin were asked to photograph the site for a year by the Sibley Nature Center staff. Debi was only able to do it for a few months, but Donna continued contributing through the growing season and beyond.

The following photos were taken by Donna Chafin

Related 2009 photoessays: Feb 7 | Feb 21 | Feb 28 | Mar 7-8 | May 1 | Jun 17 | Jul 6 | Jul 16-Aug 4

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PhotoCastilleja sessiflora is found in many colors.

PhotoRaccoons feed on the ranchhouse porch.

PhotoCoons are busybodies and get a little cantankerous when habituated to feeding.

PhotoTwo coons sometimes share the bounty.

PhotoThe family graveyard is a holy place, especially early in the morning.

PhotoDawn brings a softness to the hills.

PhotoCalylophus tubicula is a perennial evening primrose that prefers rocky hills.

PhotoAsh throated flycatchers return to nest on the ranch every year.

PhotoYucca angustifolia (or glauca in some books) is the Great Plains Yucca and may be the only species on the ranch.

PhotoLook at the reproductive parts of this Krameria – what an incredible bloom, which later produces a spiky burr unpleasant to step on.

PhotoThe blooms of Calylophus tubicula change color as they wither.

PhotoThe mesquite was well leafed out high above the lake.

PhotoCattle will graze on new hackberry leaves.

PhotoTexas purple thistle is common over most of the Llano Estacado.

PhotoA white evening primrose viewed from the side reveals its delicate structure.

PhotoThe mesquite is well leafed out high above the lake, but less so down close to the lake. Big salinas can be incredible cold sinks, and have freezes late in the spring, while the uplands do not freeze.

PhotoGermander is a common spring perennial wildflower on the Llano Estacado.

PhotoEvery evening primrose begs to be photographed so their beauty will last longer than the few hours the blooms last.

PhotoA species of sida grew near the freshwater pool.

PhotoCurved bill thrashers are the boss of the bird world, hollering loudly if something is amiss.

PhotoThe freshwater pond greens up quite nicely in the spring.

PhotoBlue damselflies are easy to find, but which of the several species is it?

PhotoThe fly was probably too big for the damselfly to attempt to catch.

PhotoSalt cedar blooms behind the rapidly growing cattails.

PhotoA scissortail pair claims one of the electrical poles near the ranchhouse. The male’s tail is a bit tattered, but was it from fights with other males, or from a predator?

PhotoSleepy daisy (Aphanostephus sp.) is a common perennial wildflower on the Llano Estacado, and will bloom whenever there is sufficient moisture in the growing season.

PhotoThe curved-bill thrasher allowed Donna to get very close as he lustily sung, bragging about his home.

PhotoBasket flowers have intricate buds.

PhotoRed winged blackbirds lift their red and yellow epaulets when showing off in territorial disputes, and during mating rituals.

PhotoThelesperma (golden wave) is another common spring annual wildflower.

PhotoThere is a high population density of mockingbirds on the ranch, and constant singing and fussing, even at night.

PhotoA very small spring calf nuzzled its mother.

PhotoA hungry robin demanded food, but

PhotoIt had to share with a dove.

PhotoA house finch ate cherries from a chain.

PhotoSalsify seedheads are spectacular but delicate.

PhotoAn old deer skull slowly mouldered away on the ground.

PhotoPrickly poppy is scattered on the ranch.

PhotoFlies gathered on fresh coyote scat beginning to dry.

PhotoIs that a tiny caterpillar on the bloom of the Texas bindweed?

PhotoNotice the tiny hairs on the hairs of the salsify blooms.

PhotoA wasp nest had been built in an oriole nest before the nest was torn apart and fell from a tree.

PhotoCorypantha vivipara is a common cactus on the ranch.

PhotoSeedpods of ground plum are startling to find. Its blooms are somewhat like a lupine or loco plant.

PhotoChara is a common algae in freshwater ponds all over the Llano Estacado.

PhotoLace cactus has pink blooms, too.

PhotoMating water striders zipped across the pond’s surface.

PhotoPlains killifish are found in the freshwater pond (the front fish). The fish behind is unidentified, so far. How did the killifish get to the spring fed pond? They are common in the creeks east of the Llano Estacado.

PhotoThe middle school science classes from Tahoka came to the lake under the leadership of Don Hilger (on the right).

PhotoFlies swarmed a carcass of an animal – a gross lesson for the students!

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Sibley Nature Center
1307 E. Wadley, Midland, Texas 79705
phone 432.684.6827
email info@sibleynaturecenter.org