“Belly Hunting” for teeny, tiny flowers is hard on the leg muscles. On Sunday, I went to Wilson Ledbetter Park to take pictures to post to the Great Texas Wildlife Trails (GTWT) Adopt-a-Loop project in iNaturalist. It was a follow-up to pictures posted in February before the Great Freeze of 2021. I discovered that the park is covered in teeny, tiny flowers, and plenty of larger one, too.
If you attended the March meeting of ECRMN, you remember that Monique Reed, retired Botanist for the state, called it belly hunting because it requires getting down on their level which is really low. I opted for a lot of squatting trying to stay out of the way of the ants.
Some of the teeny flowers I encountered were Field Madder, Common Stork’s-bill (very pretty flower), Bird’s-eye Speedwell in abundance, Black Medick, Scarlet Pimpernel, and Carolina Crane’s-bill. It isn’t difficult to find them because they are currently abundant in Wilson Ledbetter Park. I have included pictures of these flowers. Often, I came across patches with five or six of these in a space about the size of a square yard. I didn’t see any bees out there, which is a little worrisome, but there were several types of butterflies, flies and ants.
I also recorded the larger flowers – which don’t require frequent squatting. I challenge you to locate Grape Hyacinth, Texas Baby Blue Eyes (some of these are twice the normal size that I’ve always found), Poppy “Winecup” Mallow, Cretanweed (they have darkened lines at the edges of the petals but look similar to dandelions), two different types of Blue-eyed Grass, Fine-leaf Fournerved Daisy, Floating Primrose Willow, and Canadian Meadow Garlic. Here’s a hint: the last two are located near/in the lake/pond. Some are on the fence by the cemetery.
If you’re active in iNaturalist, they’re easy to get identified. If you’re not, you can sign up. It’s free. Enjoy a walk in the park surrounded by many types of flowers, birds and butterflies. I will buy lunch for the first person to find all those flowers at Wilson Ledbetter who posts the pictures in a blog here. I am not liable for any bee stings – in case they show up.
I’d really hoped something good would come out of those horrible winter storms we had last month. When I read the extent of the damage, as reported by Dr. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch, my heart sank.
The 11-day cold spell (10-20 February) in Texas was a disaster. Freezing temperatures covered the state and extended well into Northern Mexico. While many of the immediate effects of the freeze are clear, season long and multiple year effects may linger. The damage to the flora was extraordinary, and it is likely that nearly all above ground insects died over a wide area. Plants already in flower may have been so damaged as to not flower this year.
I immediately went out to look for the kinds of plants that the iNaturalist project that’s tracking the damage is looking for. It’s a work day, so I only had a half hour, but still I managed to find bees, butterflies, and some relevant plants. I’ll look for more this week and this weekend.
My husband and I had noticed a wet spot that we hadn’t seen before. It remained wet when the snow fell, which seemed odd. So, we went to check it out. It is near our arroyo, which has a number of springy areas (more this year than since we moved here) and a stream that runs into Walker’s Creek. We’ve never been able to spot the source of any of the springs other than one in our woods, which we can see coming from between two soil layers on a slope.
I have to say I made a bit of a fool of myself as I walked over there and heard bubbling sounds. I was ecstatic to find a hole about five inches wide, from which clear water was emerging, along with some bubbles. It wasn’t seeping, either, it was flowing pretty briskly. I’d finally found the source of a spring!
(Why was I so ecstatic, you ask? I have just loved springs my whole life. I was born and raised in north Florida, a place just chock full of springs, artesian wells, sinkholes, rivers, and lakes. The water level at my childhood home in Gainesville was so high that my dad had to be careful digging holes for trees, or he’d lose a shovel.
My happiest memories are of swimming in cold, spring-fed lakes or the springs in rivers, such as Fanning Springs, on the Suwannee River, on the way to where mom spent much of her childhood.
My mother’s family came from Green Cove Springs, Florida, a place that started out as a resort where people came to bathe in water from a deep, deep sulphur spring. My relatives lived right down the street from the spring (411 Spring Street!), so we often went to marvel at how deep the spring was, and to look at the little fish that lived in the short waterway that took the spring water to the St. Johns River. Once a naturalist, always a naturalist.)
Back to the Hermits’ Rest Ranch Spring
My semi-educated guess is that the reasonable amounts of rainfall for the past 2-3 years got at least three of the old springs on our property back up and running. And the water sinking in after the three winter storms, with all the ice and snow, allowed a new one to pop up. Maybe it was started in a mouse or rabbit hole, or maybe the extremely busy armadillos on our property helped.
I get to dreaming that I can put some rocks over there and make a small dam to capture some spring water before it heads off to the stream in our arroyo. I don’t want to obstruct it, just briefly delay it.
But, who knows how long we will have a little spring to enjoy? My dogs love it, the red-wing blackbirds are playing in the wet area it’s made, and I even saw a merlin watching the meadowlarks and other birds. It’s like a buffet for that little guy!
By the way, I’ve been hearing sandhill cranes all week, and some landed at Pamela’s place. And more surprisingly, a flock of snow geese flew right over me earlier in the week, honking away. I am in such awe that I forget to take pictures at such times.
Oh, and it looks like some frogs and turtles are still in our ponds, and I’ve seen signs of living crawfish (plus a dead one). Nature will persevere!
I was just going to show the monthly progress of my pollinator garden when the artic blast occurred. It was horrible. One of the things I dislike the most is COLD weather! It ruined the garden progress, along with our water well.
The damage to our wildlife friends was severe. Many birds did not make it through the freezing temperatures. That was very sad for me. I put out ten times the bird seed that I normally use. I hope it helped some of the birds make it through. Nature can be swift and harsh when it wants to, then forgiving and magical the very next day.
I guess it’s my age, but I always think of certain songs that seem to fit the moment and the mood. When the cold weather was on its third day or so, my mind went to “California Dreaming on such a winter’s day… ” Then when the cold was fading away I thought of John Lennon’s “Here comes the sun.”
Here are a few photos taken during the event.
I hope the photos I take next month are more cheerful.
As I perused the damage to my live oaks, palm tree, shrubs, flowers, etc., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, I noticed that plenty of things were green and perky and flowering in some cases. This was less than two full days after the record breaking Great Freeze of 2021. I began documenting what wasn’t damaged by the horrible weather.
I documented Henbit Deadnettle (love to know where that name originated) in bloom and profuse. I found Annual Grass-Meadow, Common Chickweed in bloom, Red-seeded Dandelion in bloom, Common Cat’s Ear, and Asiatic Jasmine (which has now proven to be resistant to any type of attempt to remove it). There were others. What is amazing is that they suffered no damage in the snow/ice/freeze. They immediately perked right back up. Everything was not so lucky.
What is looking particularly harmed that surprises me is Texas Purple Sage and Prickly Pear Cactus. The leaves are shedding in mass off my Texas Sage – a favorite of butterflies and bees, and I found cactus that looks melted. The Texas Ag Extension Service advises to leave them all alone, don’t even prune, because it is believed many will come back given time and patience.
I’m going to go out and sing to my Texas Sage every day to encourage it’s return. Let’s hope it has a tin ear.
P.S. In an aside, there is a picture of three Cedar Waxwings with their faces pointed toward the sun on Saturday. They seemed to be just taking it in. The chain saw cutting broken branches right below them, did not bother them.