What Can Survive Unscathed 200+ Hours of Freezing Temps in Texas?

by Carolyn Henderson

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. 

Sad prickly pears

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. 

The happy cedar waxwings
Such beautiful birds!

Help Carolyn ID Her Tracks

by Carolyn Henderson

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.

An Ice Storm!

Sue Ann Kendall and Carolyn Henderson

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.

Shepherds purse

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.

Mockingbird chasing bluebird

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.

Thick ice!

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.

Central Texas “Snow”

by Carolyn Henderson

Central Texas received its first notable “snow” this morning. It was very pretty, but also disruptive. It started with my daily trip to check my CoCoRAHs rain gauge. It was frosted over inside and out, and I did not have on gloves. The frost did not melt when I removed the lid to get out the gauge so I could see it. 

Hard to tell what’s going on in the rain gauge!

It was quite white on all surfaces that were not shaded by trees, and it was lovely to look at this morning. Of course, you all know it’s not snow, but it is often as close as we get around here.

Orchard Park says, brr.

After seeing news footage of what hit New England yesterday, that’s a good thing, really. Also on the bright side, my son has finally agreed that the tomato plant that wouldn’t stop has finally stopped, and I can remove it.

A cold day on the golf course!

Big Versus Little in Nature

by Carolyn Henderson

I have developed a relationship with a Yellow Garden Spider over the spring and summer this year, all courtesy of a tomato plant. Then, a kleptoparasitic Theridiidae genera intruded. This illustrated that big does not always win. 

This large yellow spider (pictured) showed up on my tomato plant (I only planted one) when it reached about two feet tall, sometime in April. It set up house, via a web, and seemed to just stay parked there. It never moved off the web nor did it bother my plant. The tomatoes grew all around it, and I picked them without problem. The growing spider and I were coexisting on friendly terms. I eventually posted it on iNaturalist, and it reached research grade. The tomato plant has become spindly and leaves are turning brown. I normally would have removed it by now, but I didn’t want to remove the spider’s home. 

On Wednesday, my son noticed some very small, metallic spiders on the web with the big one. The big spider had snared and wrapped its daily catch in webbing, and these little spiders were attempting to get at it. You can see it in the pictures.

I thought at first that they were recently hatched babies of the big spider, but I was wrong. I posted a picture on iNaturalist and a helpful identifier who goes by chuuuuung said the little spider is a kleptoparasitic Theridiidae genera – a thieving parasite. The little thieves were going to work on the big spider’s catch. (We are trying to get a video to attach, so come back later if you see this message.)

I have left them both alone. Nature is nature, and you definitely  don’t always win if you are larger. Today (8-6), the garden spider caught a good size wasp and wrapped it up. The Theridiidae were waiting in the outer reaches of the web to take their shot at it.  Meanwhile, the tomato plant is growing more tomatoes.