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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Latest from the eagle's nest. Part 2

IMG 1931
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IMG 1901

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
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.

IMG 1784

 

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

 

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Michael
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

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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Michael
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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Paradise Lost?? The Perils of Living on the Edge...


January is a busy backyard bird-feeding month here in east Texas.  It's wintery enough for birds to receive handouts from us bird lovers in the form of black oil sunflower seeds.  For the lucky birds in our backyard, we are spoiling them with a fine mixture of a songbird seed mix including safflower. They do love it - we have a large flock of goldfinches that have taken up residence here at the edge of the woods, and they play very nicely with our year-round population of cardinals, blue jays, house finches and Carolina wrens. The Carolina chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches also welcome their similarly sized new feeder mates with hospitality. The red bellied woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers generously share birdfeeder space with them as well, and our new visiting brown thrasher pecks and claws the ground in and around the azalea bushes and mulched areas along with the goldfinches, white throated sparrows and black-eyed juncos.  It has seemed like a birds' paradise - everyone getting along nicely, no bullies upsetting the peaceful coexistence of so many species sharing the space together.  Even the squirrels seem to have tapered their frenzied eating - helped in part by the baffles we've installed on a couple of the feeder poles.  

Ah, yes...all is well with the world, until reality bears its brutal head in the form of a hawk with sharp talons, an appetite for birds, and an opportunistic mind.  At least one Accipiter has brought this peaceful paradise back to the reality of this world - birds are prey to birds of prey, in the form of Cooper's hawks and sharp-shinned hawks, and they have found their opportunity at our backyard birdfeeder paradise.  

These two species of hawks, as I have learned, are somewhat difficult to differentiate in the field.  Both inhabit east Texas, both juveniles are similar in appearance, and both have a craving for their own kind, even if smaller than themselves.  I have wondered if I should post a sign for my seed eating friends near the feeding poles reading, "Eat at your own risk - cannibalism is sometimes practiced here".  Our little birds have learned the drill - when the unwelcome bird-eating guest swoops out of nowhere, they immediately hide in the bushes, or stand dead still within the camouflage of leaf mulch and vegetation.  Now it is a battle of wills and patience.  Who will move first?  Who will give up first?

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Michael
I enjoyed your blog and the observations were interesting. I have one in the pipes about my feeders too, but it will pale in comp... Read More
Friday, 29 January 2016 14:15
Kristi Mears Thomas
Jill, I whole-heartedly agree with Michael...such a lovely job! I enjoy reading about your backyard guests, both welcome and unwe... Read More
Sunday, 31 January 2016 08:53
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Water, Water, Everywhere . . . 2016 will be a Great Year!

HighWater

   As we look around us now, it's hard to imagine that not very long ago we were commiserating about the lack of rain and considering hosting community rain dances!  Our area lakes have seen some low levels, but Mother Nature more than made up for the long-withheld wet stuff in December.  Over a course of just one weekend, we saw that deluge of water hyacinth, many of the parks and launch ramps closed, and pelicans roosting on the last bit of tin on the tops of day use picnic tables!

   While it's been beautiful to see the area resoirvers filled to the brim, this double-edged sword is not without consequence....yes, the birds and other wildlife seem to love it, but if you were one of the fortunate folks who live lakeside and had to watch a few weeks back with bated breath as Lake O' the Pines jumped by leaps and bounds, it wasn't such a thrill. Friends and family in the surrounding areas had this predicament, and this tradeoff is not so nice if it's in YOUR back yard, lapping at YOUR door, or mangling YOUR dock! I'd actually taken some photos on Lake O' the Pines that I wanted to post, but did not because it felt wrong.  I know too many people that were either trying to procure sandbags or having to travel alternate routes to get to and from their homes to feel good about doing so.

   From data on the Corps of Engineers website, Lake O' the Pines was a high of nearly 242 feet, and is dropping now and at under 240.  Current release rate is 3,000 CFS, the maximum, so the Big Cypress Bayou is looking good, too.  This is 12 feet above normal winter pool.  Lake Wright Patman saw record levels of almost 255 feet, and was a whopping 33 feet above normal!

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Jill Wright
Beautiful photos and great information about the rains and their affect on Lake O the Pines, Krisiti!! Let's hope we have an amaz... Read More
Friday, 29 January 2016 12:24
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