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  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 relocated to 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.

Warthogs invade South Texas

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No, this is not a joke.  

It does show once again the dangers that arise with the importation of non-native species. Far too often, with no natural predators, their populations get out of control and the damage they do to the local ecosystems can be devastating. 

 The article below is from the Houston Chronicle.  http://www.chron.com/sports/outdoors/article/Warthogs-invade-South-Texas-6671689.php 

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Are You A Male or Female Wasp? OOOWWW! Yep. You're a Female.

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From an early age I have been fascinated with wasps.  In fact one of my early memories is of reaching out to grab a paper wasp nest.  They did not appreciate the gesture. 

The stings did not make me stay away from them.  A few years later, we had a wasp nest on our porch and I would climb up with a wide mouthed jar and quickly put it over the nest so I could get close and look at the nest and all the wasps.  Naturally, all of the wasps were not on the nest at the time and when one that was out flying around came back, I would be stung again.  Usually more than once.  For when the returning wasp stung me, I would drop the jar and before I could get down, the other wasps that were on the nest, under the jar, would also take their shots at me.  They were a little excited from the jar over the nest and my face a few inches away.  When they suddenly could get to me, they stung me, too, sometimes repeatedly.  Imagine that.

They have always been interesting to me and I have messed with them and their nests time and again.  I used to have a collection of nests and dead wasps pinned to them so they looked like they were still alive working the nest. 

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Don't Worry About All Those Masses of Green Plants on Lake O' the Pines! The Hippos Will Eat Them!

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Within the past couple of weeks, Lake O' the Pines has been inundated with clumps of floating plants.  Some of these clumps are more like floating islands, up to twenty feet across.  Most are smaller a foot or two up to three of four feet across but there are so many of them.  It is astounding.  Some old time residents said they had never seen anything like it here before.

So what are all these clumps of plants and where did they come from?  

It turns out that they are water hyacinths, Eichornia crassipes, and are an invasive species native to tropical and sub-tropical South America.  These plants are one of the worse invaders in many countries through out the world.  They were widely introduced in North America, New Zealand, Africa, Asia and Australia.  In many areas they caused serious damage.

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Alligators in East Texas - Things You Should Know

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The recent high water has gotten the wildlife moving.  Alligators may have been on the move.  A combination of high water and the breeding season has alligators crossing the roads and moving into ponds they have not been in before.  This is likely just a temporary result of the flood waters.

Alligators are a very mobile species.  In north east Texas, they can show up in some of the most unlikely places.  While it is important to remember that these are wild animals and all wild animals are inherently dangerous, generally alligators seek to avoid human contact as best they can. 

American alligator was listed as anendangered speciesby theEndangered Species Act of 1973. Subsequent conservation efforts have allowed their numbers to increase and the species was removed from the list in 1987. Alligators are now harvested for their skins and meat. The American alligator is a listed game species in Texas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Outdoor Annual 2014-2015 dedicates an entire page, (page 66 in the 2014-2015 publication), to alligator hunting regulations. It is essential that the Alligator Hunting Regulation pages of the current Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual be studied and referenced before attempting to take alligators.

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Hey, Eagles! How Can I Take Your Picture if You Keep Flying Off the Nest?

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EaglesNestingRules

Yesterday, Saturday the 5th of December, I went on a field trip with fellow Texas Master Naturalist, Kristi Thomas.  Kristi also publishes her photographs on this website as well as writing a blog here.  She is an outstanding photographer and a great contributor to this website. 

She had also invited members of NETFO (Northeast Texas Field Orinthologists - http://members.tripod.com/netfo_tx/) for an event at Lake O' the Pines.  Part of the trip included a boat ride to observe water birds and visit a nesting location for Bald Eagles.  

Seeing the eagles and their nest was a treat and we have had some minor discussion about the eagle's nest in our talk forum - http://easttexasnaturalists.com/forum/bird-sightings/45-bald-eagles-nest-on-lake-o-the-pines.html.  One of the things we talked about was the location of the nest.

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