Identification Question

by Eric Neubauer

On March 16 and 17, I walked my property and nearby roads taking photos for iNaturalist observations. My neighborhood is former blackland prairie turned into grazing land and farm fields, and it includes gravel roads, wooded patches, tree lines, and a creek. Despite years of heavy cultivation, native prairie grasses and wildflowers still pop up on their own. These managed to survive in the road margins and tree lines.

Spring is definitely here, and a lot more is going on than earlier in the year. In all, I took almost 400 photos including multiple shots which allow me to choose the best focus or angle. Over the next three days I selected photos and identified them as well as I could before uploading them to iNaturalist under the user name eaneubauer.

Gorgeous image of a gray hairstreak from Eric’s iNaturalist observations.

I often use  iNaturalist for identification. I’m not very familiar with plant species, but a search of particular plant groups in Milam County made it easy to identify most of the plants I found. The previous efforts of several ECR chapter members were largely responsible.

I never know what I will encounter. I’ve found surprises like young fishing spiders thousands of feet from any permanent surface water. For identification of animals, I usually have to include nearby counties or even the entire state because of limited Milam County animal observations. I also find other observers very helpful with identifications, especially if I can narrow my observations down to the family or genus level and the photos are good.

Silvery checkerspot observed on March 24.

Most observers have a specific interest. Butterflies have a large following. Even groups like jumping spiders have their fans. Some groups can be difficult to identify from photos. Grasshoppers come to mind. Flies are a real challenge because of their great diversity. If you see a lot of flies in one area, don’t assume they are all the same. I’ve learned that lesson, and found some oddities as a result. Right now I have a “dark frog-headed fly” which I can’t seem to find among the 802 species observed in Texas. Here is a link.

The mystery fly

Maybe someone who knows will comment on it.

Welcome Home, Boss

by Larry Kocian

Yesterday, many of us mentioned hearing and seeing hummingbirds in the tree tops, gardens, and at some feeders. Today, just after noontime, this hummingbird posed for the camera. Enjoy the short narrative as to what happened.

I looked out the window and saw a hummingbird at the feeder. I grabbed the big camera and went outside, somewhat hidden, and stayed motionless for 15 minutes or so.

Can’t tell who it is from here.

It was still raining off and on, pleasantly mild, thundering, all foliage was wet. The hummingbird sat on a tiny branch on a large Crape Myrtle tree next to the feeder. Did he see me? Most likely! So it was standoff. I stayed motionless and was not going to move, no matter what was itching or biting me. This went on for many minutes; it seemed like forever.

Big raindrops began to fall again. A couple of Carolina Wrens landed in the same tree. The hummingbird was aggravated with them and chased them off. I waited a few more minutes, raindrops more frequent. Then, the hummingbird made his move.


My camera clicked rapidly at the fast-moving target. I wondered, “What type of hummingbird are you, who are you?” I asked repeatedly.

Then, after feeding a couple of times at the left feeder, he came right at me to the camera. I zoomed the lens back, he positioned himself in the upright position, and revealed his identity, proclaiming, “I am back.”

The Big Reveal!

Then he went to the second feeder to feed. Welcome home, Ruby Red-throated Hummer.

Here’s a Colorful Project

by Sue Ann Kendall

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I wrote up a version of this for my personal blog, but thought I’d share it here, in case it inspired any of you to do something similar while you are sheltering in place (or any other time).

This fun project I did yesterday didn’t require any human contact nor leaving the property where our office is. I decided to see how many different yellow flowers I could find in the weed/wildflower collection known as our empty lot.

I simply ambled outside with my phone and tried to get good pictures. Yellows are difficult in bright sunlight, so it was good practice for me to try to get photos with a lot of detail and not just glare. As you can see, I managed to fill a whole screen in iNaturalist!

Most of the field actually LOOKS purple, because there is so much common storks-bill (Erodium cicutarium) growing in it, but when you look closer and closer, the yellows dominate (purple is in second place, with field madder and a little patch of grape hyacinth that must be left over from when there was a house here – I plan to replant them in the “flower bed” I’m making).

What have we got? Let’s take a look. Many of these flowers look really similar, but are different sizes or have other subtle differences. Note that I may have gotten something wrong in my identification, so if anyone corrects me on iNaturalist, I’ll correct it here, too.

Common Dandelion. Taraxacum officinale. Delicious and nutritious. Bees love them.

False Dandelion. Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus. Plus a tiny wasp and tinier beetle.

Prickly Sowthistle Sonchus asper. It’s everywhere. And very prickly. Note that there are aphids or something on it.

Smooth Cat’s Ear. Hypochaeris glabra. Looks like a teeny dandelion on a very long stem. Compare to the first dandelion and you’ll see how small it is.

Cutleaf Evening Primrose. Oenothera laciniata. Smaller than most evening primrose, but a beautiful buttery yellow.

Crete Weed. Hedypnois cretica. I thought it was a dandelion, but look at the leaf and the cool petal shape.

Woodsorrels. Genus Oxalis. I’m not sure which one it is, but it’s certainly oxalis. Sour tasty leaves!

Bur Clover. Medicago polymorpha. It’s about finished blooming and starting to make burs. Yellow is a hard color for my camera, and I couldn’t get a good shot of these.

Straggler Daisy
. Calyptocarpus vialis. Lots of leaves, tiny flowers. They are pretty up close, though.

I got a lot of bugs and other things, but I’m just going to leave this parade of yellow-ness alone, in all their glory. I’ll see what other themes I can come up with over the next few weeks as all the flowers bloom away.

Do you have any suggestions? Share with the group!

Pollution and Corona Virus

by Ann Collins

These images are some Ann clipped from her reading.

I’ve been seeing that some areas of pollution have cleared up somewhat since people have been restricted in travel. Can this be true? The canals of Venice are clear, and dolphins have returned. Satellite images of northern Italy show a huge reduction in fouled air.

Small bits of good news.

Is this Mother Nature’s way of saying, “Hey people! Stop destroying this wonderful world I’ve provided for you?” If we can’t be responsible caretakers, we get a wake-up call in the guise of a pandemic and mandatory quarantines, huh?

Factories have shut down, travel is curtained, people are socked up at home (not so much running up and down the road at any and every impulse).

Just a reprieve

Sadly, the reports indicate that all will return to normal. Factories will belch poison into the air again, cars will spew brown smoke again, planes will dart about like flies in the sky. Here we go again! Didn’t we learn anything? Probably not. We have become so self centered that we won’t make even the smallest sactifice, even to save ourselves.

Mother nature has sent us to our rooms.


PS from the webmaster: We have learned that dolphins really were not swimming in the canals of Venice, though it’s certainly a lovely image. Let us know if anything else we share is not verified!

A Spring Day in Texas

by Catherine Johnson

This past spring on a cool, clear day, my daughter Rosie and I picked up Master Naturalist Donna Lewis and Danielle Ramos in Milano at dawn.  We traveled to Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site for an enjoyable edible plant walk.  Master Naturalist Patrick Still and his wife also attended. 

The group of travelers (this was before social distancing).

Along the way we saw chickens, longhorns, and wildflowers.  We then toured the “Birthplace of Texas” where in 1836 Texas declared independence from Mexico to become the Republic of Texas.

A new friend!

After lunch and Jet Fuel coffee to keep us going, we headed to the Antique Rose Emporium in Independence.  Donna kept us laughing with her tales.  Once she was visiting a nearby farm and a “nice” miniature horse bit her.  The children on the tour got scared and ran away! 

Beautiful gardens.

The Emporium was stunning, and we found our favorite blooming sweet peas.  We also found artisan beer, wine and snacks at the new bistro there.  While relaxing on a porch surrounded by flowers and wind chimes, we noticed a long black crack on a building which turned out to be a snake! We said nothing so as not to “scare the children”. 

Yeah, kids, that’s just a crack in the wood.

As we left, we saw a bride having her picture taken among the roses. We were too tired to stop for dinner, so Donna got home by dark—–a perfect spring day in Texas.