by Sue Ann Kendall, your blog editor
Many thanks go out to Linda Jo Conn, who suggested that our chapter members should get outside and visit a local cemetery. I have missed doing iNaturalist stuff and actually getting volunteer hours for it SO much since we’ve been asked not to make observations on our own property, which rules out the 600 acres around me. But, ha! There’s a cemetery right down the road, just oozing with history and life.
Yesterday was a pleasant, if rather damp day, so I took off, camera in hand, to go see what I could see at Walker’s Creek cemetery.
I actually didn’t make it off the Hermits’ Rest Ranch before I had to observe something. Look who was hanging out right beside the rake I use to get the gate to open when I’m not in the car!
Now that I have a firm grip on the fact that I need to check the head first, I knew this was an old friend, the water snake who lives in our front pond. I was surprised to see this one out in January. It made me wonder what other January life I’d find down the road.
I walked past Walker’s Creek, and checked out the damage from the recent flooding. I scared a very large red-eared slider while I was peering over to see if I could see any tracks in the mud, which also scared me. But, I was lucky and found tracks AND a skull, which I’m guessing is a coyote. Oh boy, I was already having a good time.
NOTE! You can click any of the small photos to see them larger, throughout this blog.
I made it to the cemetery and started taking pictures of plants. One thing that’s helpful is that most of these are the same plants I have down the road, so I could recognize them. At least I found a couple of different ones. Also, I quickly realized that, since the cemetery is regularly mowed and well maintained (ish), the most interesting stuff would be on the borders, so I declared anything within a yard of the fence was part of the cemetery. Heck, I was in charge of this solo expedition, right?
By the way, this post won’t have a lot of photos of graves. I wrote a long blog on the headstones and what I figured out about the past culture of the area where I live now on my Hermits’ Rest blog. If you like grave facts, check it out.
Click the “read more” to see lots of photos! And remember, if you want to know scientific names or details about any of my observations, you can check them out on my iNaturalist observations page. You can see if I got the IDs right, too.
I spent a long time taking photos of very small flowers and plants just coming out of their winter slumber. See if any of these tiny buddies are covered when Monique Reed comes to talk to us at the next chapter meeting!
Another type of plant that was all over the cemetery is vines. They were easy for me to identify, because they are the same ones I have at my house, minus the poison ivy. That was a good thing. Interestingly, there was no dewberry in the cemetery. Someone must be making an effort to get rid of it.
You will notice several photos of saw greenbriar (Smilax bona-nox). That’s because I was rather charmed by how many different colorations the older ones took on. I also threw in new growth and berries from my property, just to showcase the variety of this prickly vine.
On to another kind of living creature. Cemeteries always have a lot of lichen, moss, and fungi. I didn’t even get photos of all of them. Here are a few.
Of course, there were trees. We are in the post-oak savannah, so there are many large example of those here. It’s what makes this cemetery so beautiful, even if the roots mess up graves, and they make it harder to maintain the cemetery, according to Holly Jentsch, who said that on my Facebook page. I forgot to take a photo of the old crepe myrtles around a few graves, but they make it lovely here in the summer. I’ll get photos when I come back. Here are all my trees.
And it wouldn’t be Texas without a few cactus plants. Around here we generally only see two kinds, and yep, there were some at the cemetery. In fact, it almost looked like the Christmas cholla were planted as part of a sticky border.
Did I see any animals, you ask? I often see deer or skunks around this area, but didn’t see any yesterday. I did see a LOT of evidence of armadillos, however. They are busy at my house too, but here, they dig around the headstones a lot, which can’t be good for them.
The only animals I really saw were birds, and mostly I heard them. There was a flock of white-winged doves, and a large cardinal family (interesting note, in this area, we often see flocks of cardinals rather than pairs or small groups). I heard eastern bluebirds, wrens, and chickadees. Oh, and white-crowned sparrows. There were nowhere near as many birds as I usually see.
I’ll close out my observations by sharing whatever else I saw that didn’t fit in above. I have to say I had a BLAST spending a couple of hours observing nature and figuring out some cultural stuff as well. I hope to return every month or two to see how things change. That will make me “endure” a walk past some of the loveliest bluebonnet patches I ever saw in a month or two, so it won’t be torture! Perhaps I’ll make my own little cemetery iNaturalist area.