I went out at 7 a.m. to measure the snow fall for CoCoRAHs. I saw some tracks over my driveway, down my patio and across my back yard. I have attached pictures to see if anyone can identify the critter to whom they belong.
Please let me know, so I can accurately post them on iNaturalist. I’m guessing a raccoon or skunk. They seem too large for a squirrel or cat, and to distinct for an armadillo.
The weather keeps giving us more and more to observe and learn from! We had a pretty significant ice storm, especially in the northern parts of Milam County on Thursday of this week. We’ve all marveled at the beauty of plants encased in ice, while also worrying about our trees, livestock, and furry friends out in nature.
The birds seem to be doing just fine, judging from how many Sue Ann has been seeing chasing each other around and somehow finding things to eat (bluebird and mockingbird battles have been fun, plus our loggerhead shrikes and phoebes are competing for bugs, like a daytime drama!). Egrets and herons are also finding some cold food in the ponds.
We’re sharing some of the photos we took, so we’ll have a record of our observations. Next up? More snow and colder temperatures than most of us can remember are coming in the next few days.
Here are Carolyn’s photos, including her CoCoRAHs precipitation gauge taken on February 12 at approximately 5:40 a.m.She left it sitting in the kitchen waiting for the ice inside to melt, so she could take a reading. Over two hours later, when she left for work, it had not completely melted.
And here are a few of Sue Ann’s photos. You can see more on her blogs from Thursday and Friday.
Way back when TMN training was beginning, I heard Alan Rudd’s stories about little grasshoppers that jumped into the water to eat algae or escape with interest. Over the next year I encountered pygmy grasshoppers in just three places, locations including Taylor Park on Granger Lake on Day 1 of the Bioblitz.
On Day 3 I encountered some again, this time at Alan Rudd’s place, where I had seen some in the fall. It seems they remain active through winter in very sheltered areas. Unbelievably I ended up with a mating pair sitting on my finger, something that isn’t likely to ever happen to me again.
How did this happen? I saw one sitting near the water and tried to scoop in up in a container I had along for photographing Pardosa spiders. Of course, being a grasshopper it immediately jumped out as I expected, but landed upside down in wet mud, and I could see her tiny feet waving around in the air. So I offered her my finger, which she grabbed onto and was happy enough to sit there while I took as many photos as I wanted.
As I started taking photos, I realized there was more than just mud stuck to her. Eventually I realized it was an entire male grasshopper. When I finished with the camera, I put the grasshoppers back where they came from.
A little later I thought I saw a grasshopper jump into the water and burrow in the mud. I wasn’t sure, because little frogs were doing exactly the same thing to avoid me. I took a photo, and sure enough it was a grasshopper, proving that Alan hadn’t been exaggerating.
Whoops! After carefully looking at the supposed Paratettix hiding in the mud, I believe it is actually a frog, Acris blanchardi, so my underwater photo of Paratettix hasn’t happened yet. You’d think it hard not to be able to tell a grasshopper from a frog, but there you go. I’ve deleted the observation and resubmitted under Acris.
Linda Jo commented that this isn’t the first time such a mis-identification has occurred!
We will be celebrating Valentine’s Day soon and at my age that doesn’t mean a dozen roses or a box of candy from a six-foot good-looking guy! It is a time that gives me pause to think about the appreciation I feel for a group of people.
I appreciate the value system of our Master Naturalist group. There has been due diligence in protecting us and still providing opportunities. On the state level, the Virtual Volunteer Fair was awesome, but the event impacting me the most is joining the Winter BioBlitz. Linda Jo has been such a supporter for all of us in participating in iNaturalist, but I always found an excuse.
Excuses including: I need a new iPhone, more books, more expertise…
First time out I came back with my photographs and spent hours pouring over plant identification references. I don’t regret the time spent, but it was overkill when you have Linda Jo checking your work! I ended up with three research-quality entries (my yaupon holly is shown below), and you would have thought I had just gotten a gold star on my research paper. ( Please do not ask me about lichens or mosses though.) I encourage anyone hesitating to take the big step, take it!
So, to all of you that have worked so hard to keep us active, safe and appreciated, thank you and Happy Valentine’s Day!