East Texas Naturalist Blog

Information and photographs mainly about nature in east Texas. Our authors have widely diverse backgrounds and write on a variety of topics.

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail


In June of 2015, Governor Greg Abbott signed a resolution designating Jasper, Texas as the Butterfly Capital of Texas. Although the resolution was passed because of the community’s efforts to help conserve the Monarch Butterfly, which passes through Jasper as one of the three major flyways for migration in the Fall, the resolution designated Jasper as the Butterfly Capital — not the Monarch Capital — of Texas. The Monarch is stunning, and important — it’s been designated as the State Insect of Texas. But since we are simply the Butterfly Capital, I think we should capitalize on some of the other gorgeous species that are indigenous to our Deep East Texas county.

By far the most stunning, in my opinion, is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, scientifically known as Papilio glaucus. Black tiger stripes on its forewings makes the common name easy to remember when you see it gathering nectar Spring through Fall, with a preference for red and pink flowers.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail can be seen throughout Eastern North America, and utilizes a number of host plants. Two of those hosts are very common in Jasper County — Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) and Black Cherry (Prunus serotina). They lay their eggs on the leaves of these host plants, and the caterpillar eats the leaves before that magical transformation into a butterfly. 

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Exciting Times on Lake O' the Pines - Eagle's Nest, Week 3

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Relieved to see that the eaglet has survived the recent storms, and is covered in a coat of gray down, which fits the timeline of 3-4 weeks of age. The black juvenile feathers will begin to grow in soon.  Mom and dad are taking turns at the nest and with hunting and feeding, and are never far from it.  In the last photo we can assume that mom is perched on the left; females are about 25% larger than males, and have deeper beaks.  It will be so much fun to watch this family in the coming months, and I can't wait for Michael and other friends to be able to get out with us and document this life.  Just think of how much we're all going to learn!  

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Latest from the eagle's nest. Part 2

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Going through some photos of the past couple of weeks for the site, and found a batch that I had not edited during all the excitement of seeing the hatchling for the first time. 

Lake O' the Pines, Caddo, and surrounding areas have been hard hit with almost unprecedented rainfall this past week.  Thoughts and prayers are with our friends and family who are dealing with the aftermath. And as I'm posting this, it's pouring again! Mother Nature can be a fickle force, and while we all know better days are ahead, that's of little comfort when homes are being threatened.  

Hoping that we can get out on the very steadily rising Lake O' the Pines soon and check the nest, and that this little family is also safe and sound through all that is happening around us....

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Michael Mathews
Super photographs, Kristi. It is so hard to get good pictures from so far away, with the light not exactly at the right angle, an... Read More
Saturday, 12 March 2016 15:20
Kristi Mears Thomas
Thanks, Michael. It WAS super exciting. Can't wait for you to see the babies!
Saturday, 12 March 2016 15:26
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Latest from the eagle's nest.

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Watch for more, coming soon......


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Michael Mathews
You did so well. I can't believe you got a shot of the baby eagle. GREAT JOB!!!!
Saturday, 05 March 2016 19:24
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Piney Woods Violets


One of the flowers I was very familiar with as a child in the 60’s was what we called Piney Woods Violets. My familiarity was not so much because they were by far the largest and prettiest violet in the area, but because they were so common. The woods behind my folks’ homestead in Jasper County were dotted with them all spring, and the handfuls that my sister and I gathered routinely made no noticeable dent in the population. Back then, the pines and oaks were old enough to form a large canopy that shaded out the dense undergrowth. We could wander freely and follow the creek forever without fighting tangles of blackberry, yaupon and wax myrtle.

After graduation from high school, I spent many years in other places of Texas — mostly Beaumont and then Austin. But I found that the city never gives as much as it takes from our lives, so when I had the opportunity to head back home in 1999 and settle in what used to be my grandparents’ pasture, I jumped at the chance. One of the first things I noticed was that you couldn’t walk in the woods anymore without a machete, and the Piney Woods Violets were nowhere to be found. I hacked quite a few paths through the underbrush before I ran across a few little colonies here and there.

One day when I wasn’t looking for violets, but traveling down a route that my great grandmother used to take in her wagon to visit her folks, I stopped at an old country graveyard and a familiar sight greeted my eyes. The entire back half was dotted with the beautiful blossoms underneath several large pines.  I was delighted to find that, given the right habitat, they still flourished.

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Recent Comments
Michael Mathews
Great start to your blogging on ETNs. It was very entertaining and brought back old memories of my own. Glad you are on here wit... Read More
Monday, 29 February 2016 12:31
Kristi Mears Thomas
I thoroughly enjoyed your first blog, Laura, and love the photo! Looking forward to learning what's going on in your neck of the ... Read More
Monday, 29 February 2016 14:16
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