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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Growing Up In the Woods of East Texas

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Let me start this with what sounds like another version of "when I was your age, I walked four miles to school and it was uphill both ways" story.  I was actually born at St Paul hospital in Dallas, but then it was back to the farm in Newsome, Texas (Camp county between Pittsburg and Winnsboro).  We lived on a small farm where my grandfather grew cotton and potatoes.  My grandmother maintained a huge garden which fed us for most of the year.  The house had no electricity or running water.  We got our water from the well and light from kerosene lanterns.  The only thing that was "piped" into the house was butane for our cooking stove and heaters.  

I know it is a little hard to believe how different it was from now.  My kids never lived without central heat and air, cable TV, a telephone and all the other normal accouterments.  By the time they got to school age we had computers, cell phones and video games.  I had blocks, plastic army men, a baseball and later a high tech item, an Etch-a-sketch.  Quite a difference.

When I started having an interest in animals, I learned about them mostly at my grandmother's knee.  From her I learned about such about things as hoop snakes (grabbed their tail in their mouth then rolled after you so they could bite you or sting you with their poisonous tail), spreadin' adders (whose very breath was deadly), grass rattlers (striped and looked like garter snakes but were rattlers without rattles and deadly) and so many other "facts" about so many creatures. I learned that if you pull a hair from a horse's tail and put it in water, it would turn into a worm; that "horny toads" could squirt blood from their eyes that would blind you if it got into your eyes; that centipedes stung with their feet and if they ran across your foot, stinging you all the way, you would die; and, of course, frog and toads would give you warts if they urinated on you.  

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Last Paddle of the Season

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Have I mentioned that I hate winter?  I really am not that fond of fall either for I am constantly reminded that winter is just behind.  

So here we are with beautiful fall weather - I'm not stupid, I do love the weather right now, but the fact that winter is near creeps in now and then.  We had a very nice day, on Tuesday with no wind and the temperature in the mid-80's.  I decided it was time to drag one of the kayaks down to the lake and enjoy what might be the last paddle of the season.

I took my longer yak, the 16 foot Wilderness Systems Tarpon and just for fun I grabbed my spinning rod & reel.  Wow.  It was so beautiful.  I paddled around the lotus plants and went quite a ways out .  The water was very still and it was just a great day for yakking.  

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Scientific Names Are All Wrong

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When I first got pretty serious about snakes, which was when I was around 11, I had my first exposure to scientific names.  It wasn't enough to identify a Texas Ratsnake, I wanted to know the proper name, the scientific name.  At the time, that was Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri.  And I learned that the many water snakes that bit the daylights out of me each time I caught one, were Natrix rhombifera and Natrix ethrogaster.  The little Red-Eared Sliders that I caught and some I bought at the 5 and dime, were Pseudemys scripta elegans.  

In my considerable years of absence from the scientific world and especially that of Taxonomy, things sure changed.  Our local ratsnakes went from Elaphe to Pantherophis; watersnakes - Natrix to Nerodia; sliders - Pseudoemys went to Trachemys; and there were many other changes.  Of course, this is a natural occurence in biology.  

Specimen are examined and classified as belonging to a certain genus. Sometimes, if there were no similar genus, one was created for them.  (I am ignoring species designations here which work in a similar fashion).  

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Michael Mathews
Here is an example of exactly why taxonomy can drive one crazy. http://www.migration.blairsociety.com/Inciliusnebulifer.html... Read More
Tuesday, 18 August 2015 10:46
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How About a Lizard

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Along with the missing turtles, I have seen very few lizards this year.  

When I was doing an estate sale in Harleton, I regularly saw a 5 Lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) and a 6 Lined Racerunner Whiptail lizard (Aspidoscelis sexlineata).  At the RV park I have seen one Anolis lizard (Anolis carolinensis) and a couple of times I have seen 5 Lined Skinks - including one on my site when I was moving big rocks to make an outdoor fire ring.

On my several trips across the highway where I walk in the woods, I have seen 2 Anolis lizards.  Two.

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Quiet Afternoon

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It has been a quiet day.  I made a very short walk today, impeded somewhat by my dog sitting.  I have a young male chihuahua staying with me and I go feed his four relatives twice a day.  The little ones stays with me because the others beat the dickens out of him.  So he is my new "buddy".

I walked around the RV park and that was about it, but the day was not a total nature washout.

Around 5 PM, I was sitting out in my "yard" overlooking the lake when I started noticing a lot of bird activity.  Of course, my mockingbirds were there.  I expect them to land on my chair at any time - they are rather bold.  But in the sycamore tree just thirty or so feet away, there was a lots to see.  The chickadees were flying back and forth as were the Titmice.  Then I noticed a bird I don't see all that often, a Nuthatch.  He explored the tree trunk for a few minutes.  Then came a pair of blue jays who only stayed for a few seconds.  Next was a male cardinal who flew past.  Up in the sky was a pair of turkey vultures floating with the cross currents.  A couple of crows flew by as well.  Out at the edge of the lake, the great blue heron was perched on his usual post and I could see several great egrets in sight.  This was all in the space of maybe ten minutes.  

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