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 an active member of the Cypress Basin Chapter of 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.

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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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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Shotgun Photography - Surely One of Those Pellets Will Hit

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There are many ways to practice the art of photography but to me there are two basic approaches with a wide variety of offshoots from those.  

I have referred to these techniques or styles as shotgun and sniper.  I have used both but honestly I have many, many more shotgun photos than I have as a sniper.  

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Aren't Ladybugs Cute? Not the Hoards of Them In My House!

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For all my life, the ladybug has had the image of one of the "good bugs"; a princess of insects.  We all played with them as kids and have seen them used in cartoons, advertising and even on toys and wallpaper for kids.  What a joyous bug and what a great reputation they have.  Ah.  There was even a nursery rhyme.

Ladybug ladybug fly away home,Your house in on fire and your children are gone,All except one and that's little Ann,For she crept under the frying pan.

Well, I don't have the same joyous feeling about them these days.  Like "little Ann" in the nursery rhyme, they have crept under the frying pan, behind the books, in every nook and cranny.  Not just a few, but rather dozens and dozens.  

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Kristi Mears Thomas
Michael, I love this! Such good information - thank you!
Thursday, 03 December 2015 05:47
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