Michael's Rediscovery of Nature

Ramblings and observations of a former biologist and a lifelong naturalist, who has recently returned to his roots in east Texas. After a many years of working from coast to coast in an industry far removed from biology, it has been a pleasant change of geography, activity, and attitude. No stressful job decked out in a three piece suit. No city living. Instead there is a rediscovery of the woods, of something scurrying through the leaves, of the clear notes of a bird call, and of reliving the joy that I had when nature was a playground and a classroom.

NANPAMichael is a former biologist and a Texas Master Naturalist.  Originally from Newsome, Texas (Between Pittsburg and Winnsboro), educated in Dallas & Garland schools, then off to the University of Texas system where he received a degree in biology and worked as a biologist with the University of Texas system. After many years away from nature and biology, he recently relocated on the banks of Lake O' the Pines where he has been rediscovering the joys of nature. He is somewhat surprised that he has become a birder. Most of his interest in nature was centered around reptiles. Perhaps just like birds evolved from reptiles starting in the late Jurassic, he has begun his own evolution. During his formal education, his interests in biology/nature grew to include community ecology and population studies, all with a binding of evolutionary processes. He liked birds, but they were secondary at best. All at once he finds them fascinating.

Great News! NETFO is Joining Us

NETFO

We got great news that NETFO is going to move over to the ETN server.  NETFO is the Northeast Texas Field Ornithologist group.  They have been around since 1990 and we are so glad to have them with us.  They will have their own section which basically will be a website within our website.  We will also be intertwined with much of their information and content as well.  

Anyone interested in NETFO and their bird reports, field trips, etc will be able to go directly to their website.  Much of their information will also be available on the ETN site.  In the meantime, you can visit their current site at NETFO Website

As soon as I can start getting them moved over, I will publish their new web address.  I hope it won't be too long.  Surely before the end of the month.  

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Wasting My Time in the Woods - Not Ever

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The weather forecast says rain for the rest of the week. Maybe up to 7 inches. Wow. I have a lot of work to do on the computer and around the RV so maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. Besides, I enjoy rain and storms.

So I mentioned this to a friend, Steve Sutton who with his wife, Fabienne Devolter, own Lake O’ the Pines RV Motel and Marina. He pointed out that I should go out in the woods with my cameras that day since it would be the last chance I would get for at least a few days. I thought it was a good idea, but I was leaning towards getting to work. So I headed for my computer.  

About 15 minutes later, Steve dropped his Kawasaki Mule off in my driveway and said go to the woods. Well, I couldn’t argue with that. So, I packed my gear and headed out.

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Kristi Mears Thomas
I absolutely love this, and all of the photographs you managed on a gloomy day! Sometimes the best captures happen when you aren'... Read More
Friday, 11 March 2016 19:14
Michael
Thank you for your comments. The day was cloudy but the overcast really made for a great day to capture the color if you could us... Read More
Friday, 11 March 2016 19:45
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Need to be Working But All I Can Do Is Play

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There is a delight when you get new toys.  You want to play with them all the time.  Do we ever grow out of that?  I really think not.  

I recently upgraded my camera and added a longer telephoto lens.  I now have a Nikon D800 and a Nikon 200-500 lens.  What a change.  Before this, my longest lens (of any quality) was my Nikon 18-300mm which is a surprisingly good lens.  I was mainly using a Nikon D3300 and sometimes my old Nikon D60.  The upgrade was significant.

Naturally, I was out with it just as soon as I could be.  However, it has also been a very busy time for me with work and I had to really move some things aside in order to "play".  Actually, I took time I should not have taken but . . .  Then, I had a bout of food poisoning.  Seems like things have been stacked against me.

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Dead Ancestors Are Delicious and Oh So Nutritious

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With Spring coming, I start to get antsy.  We have had some warm days and nights lately (in February) and the other afternoon I heard tree frogs calling. It won't be long before the pond and creek bottoms are blackened by little tadpoles. There is no telling how many thousand of them that I killed . . . uh caught as a kid, put in a jar or aquarium and watched for hours.  I meant well but the mortality rate was high.  Of course, it is in nature, too.  

Each male and female frog may have many hundreds eggs.  In order for the frog population to remain stable, only two need survive and in most cases that is what happens.  Otherwise, we would be knee-deep in frogs.

Did you ever wonder what happens during the Springs that don't get enough rain for the frogs to successfully breed?  Here in east Texas, that doesn't happen often but when it does, there is an interesting development (no pun intended).  

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Kristi Mears Thomas
Wonderful blog, Michael! Thank you! You are so right - Nature is just so amazing!
Thursday, 25 February 2016 05:31
Jill Wright
Wow!! Fascinating facts about "arrested" tadpole development and how it benefits the next generation - I learn from your posts ev... Read More
Monday, 29 February 2016 16:35
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Japanese Climbing Fern Lygodium japonicum (Thunb. Ex Murr.) Sw.

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During this time of year, some of us are eager to see more green in the rather barren east Texas woods of winter.  Sometimes the green we see is not as welcome as we might first believe. While there are many pleasant shades of green out there that come from several types of evergreen trees and vines, there is one shade of green that my eye is particularly trained upon: Japanese Climbing Fern.  

The Japanese Climbing Fern is native to Asia and tropical Australia.  Like many other invasive species, it was introduced here due to its striking appearance and its ease of cultivation in local gardens.  After its introduction in the 1930's, it became a very popular garden addition.  Unfortunately, while it may make a particular corner of a garden "pop" with its striking leaves and healthy growth, its escape into our natural habitats can be disastrous.  Japanese Climbing Fern can form dense mats, twining and climbing over anything in its way: trees, shrubs, telephone poled, etc.  The dense growth shades out native species and reduces diversity in a habitat.  

Being a fern, it does not produce a flower and does not reproduce via seed.  It thrives and colonizes by rhizomes and spreads rapidly by wind dispersed spores.  Those tiny powder-like spores are dispersed not only via the wind but also by any conveyance they can hitch a ride including the mud in your shores, your clothing, your pets and, of course, with free roaming wildlife.  Another way it is moved from place to place is in pine straw bales used for mulching your landscape. That is another reason you should insist that any pine straw used to mulch your beds be weed free.  You should be leery of what pine straw mulch may bring into your garden as several non-native invasive species can travel the U.S. in these bales.

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