The amounts of rain received over the last few days varies, but a stroll around Wilson Ledbetter Park on Sunday shows just how much a little rain can do.
The 0.40 inches I received at my house was enough to elicit excitement because I had none for so long. The 2.5 inches friends a few miles down the road received also inflicted envy. Based on the location of Wilson Ledbetter Park and rain reports, I would estimate 0.50 inches there so far this week has really “greened” up the place.
I was there a month ago and all grass was brown, almost no flowers bloomed, and trees were turning brown, too. Today, grass is green, several types of flowers are blooming and most of the trees look perkier
The bright yellow Rio Grande Copper Lily was popping up in many areas. Also blooming in the yellow category were Bitterweed, Spreading Fanpetals, and Texas Snakeweed. To be honest, Bitterweed never went into hibernation. Drought and 108 degrees didn’t faze it.
In the pink/purple category, Shaggy Portulaca, Tievine, and Texas Vervain were in bloom. Violet Rueilla and Purple Nightshade were abundant, but they never completely died off. The Whitemouth Dayflower, a vivid blue flower, was in abundant bloom both near and far away from the little lake.
Texas Bull Nettle was really starting to put on medium sized white flowers. Try hard not to touch that one because all those nettles will really make your skin itch. Other whites were the Santa Maria Feverfew and Turkey Tangle Frogfruit. I would bet that Turkey Tangle Frogfruit could survive anything. It totally ignored the 8 days of below freezing temperatures and ice and the drought with excessively high temperatures.
All that color was popping out at me in a short stroll around the park. If the amount of rain forecast for this week materializes, I hope you’ll go out to Wilson Ledbetter and take it all in, too.
Over here in northern Milam County, we’ve had some rain three days in a row, which has been a welcome relief after pretty much nothing since May. Today there was even a little bit of rain in our front pond (tank in Texan), which had dried up completely as of last week. This was too late for all the fish, who made all the egrets and herons happy as they all died. I assume more will show up.
Today I went out around our ranch, the Hermits’ Rest, to see what had made it through the drought. Was anything blooming? What insects are still there?
I can tell you that the bees survived just fine, and you can thank some humble plants for that. The turkey tangle frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) has not stopped blooming and has formed mats where the grass once was. Bees and wasps are all over it. The other plant that’s attracting so many bees you can hear it from a distance is the scarlet toothcup (Ammannia coccinea). Now, the latter is a bog plant, as is its friend the floating primrose-willow (Ludwigia peploides). We seem to have some kind of springy area that has supported them all summer, to the delight of the flying insects.
Other plants have been thriving. Of course, the silverleaf nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium) is fine. It’s like iron. In fact, some of them have fruit large enough that they look like cherry tomatoes! I wouldn’t eat them, though. I don’t trust anything named “nightshade.” The lesser balloon vine (Cardiospermum halicacabum), which just loves our ranch, is also plugging along happily. There are so many of the vines in the dried-up bed of Walker’s Creek that it smells like a Bed, Bath and Beyond store! I had no idea how fragrant those tiny flowers were until I encountered thousands of them in a confined space! The other thriving plant is the violet ruellia (Ruellia nudiflora), which is having a great year, according to Linda Jo Conn, our iNaturalist approval maven. One of our rental houses seems to have a purple carpet in the yard. Way to go, little flowers!
One more happy vine is the sorrelvine (Cissus trifolioata), which is more numerous than the smilax this year. It has some healthy-looking fruit, which I learned just this year is related to the grapes (none of which fruited here this year).
A few of our usual summer stalwarts are barely hanging on, though. There are many passion vines, but the flowers were looking pretty straggly until after the rain. They finally look normal. I have found one sad little Texas bindweed (Concolvulus equitans), a couple of prairie coneflowers/Mexican hats (Ratbida columnfera) (my photo is too blurry to share), a few velvetweed (Oenothera curtiflora), and sparse Lindheier’s doveweed (Croton lindheimeri) (it’s usually everywhere – in fact, my chickens had a tree version last year by the time it got cold). And there’s vervain (Verbena halei) and green poinsettia (the native one Euphorbia dentata).
Two plants are here in large numbers, but I didn’t recognize them at first. The asters (Synphyotrichum sp.) and the broomweed (Amphiachris dracunculoides) have had all their foliage eaten by the eight gazillion grasshoppers of the season, so it wasn’t until I found a few sad little blossoms that I realized what they were. Yes, it was a fine year for differential grasshoppers, obscure bird grasshoppers, and prairie boopies (look them up, I’m tired of typing in Latin).
Speaking of insects, in addition to the grasshoppers, we’ve had lots of dragonflies and damselflies this summer, and a variety of small crickets (not the usual giant annoying ones). The chickens love them all. The cicadas Donna wrote about recently are few and far between, but I’ve heard them.
One way I’m hoping we are attracting insects is the number of milkweed plants on the ranch. I’m happy to see lots and lots of zyzotes milkweed (Asclepias oenotheroides) and a good number of green antelope horn (Asclepias viridis) out in the fields. Even better, I’ve seen many dispersed seeds. Come on over, monarchs!
I’m glad some of our plants and animals have made it through the summer. I will be interested to see how many trees we lose in this drought. The previous one was very hard on the older trees on our property, which slowly keeled over from 2012-2015. I hope you got rain where you are, but not too much. Some of our chapter members had a hard time in the past couple of days. We are due for more rain, but I won’t complain. I miss the ponds and my horses miss the grass!
The purple martins at my property had just started laying eggs the last time I checked them. So I knew they should have babies anytime now.
After the f days of rain, I knew I needed to check to see if water had gotten into any of the gourds. A wet nest can be deadly for birds.
The first thing I do is gather everything I might need to clean and replace wet nesting material. You should always clean the site and not throw anything on the ground. All that does is alert snakes that there is food up the pole.
So, nesting material, recording paper, a sack to put debris in, and clean towels to wipe out the gourd should be taken with you as you go to the housing. You don’t want to have to run back to get something. It’s best to not lower their housing for longer than 30 minutes at best, especially when they are feeding young.
As I thought, there were eggs in three gourds and young in the other nine gourds.
YEAH!!!!! How exciting! I love babies. Sadly one of the gourds with eggs had gotten a lot of water in it. The nest was wet and not fit for the martins. The eggs were cold. I had to remove everything, clean it and put in fresh pine needles. It is possible that the martin might lay a second set, but not probable.
I measured one of the oldest healthy babies to be five days old. Now I will know when I should check on them again.
After months of trace amounts of rainfall, we have finally gotten some much needed rain. From the morning of Wednesday, December 30 to Thursday morning, I have received 3.81 inches of rain. As I write this on December 31, over an inch of rain has fallen again today.
These first two photos are of Mustang Creek where it crosses County Road 133. I am standing in my pasture looking across the road toward the neighbors property. It looks like the fences are going to need some repairs, again.
The next few photos are of Mustang Creek as it winds through the pasture.
This last photo is of North Elm Creek. You have to know just how deep this creek bed is to fully appreciate the volume of water flowing through it.
Unfortunately these photos are not of the creeks at their peak. Both had receded by the time I hiked out to the pasture to take these pictures.