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.

I Can See Clearly Now - How a New Lens Changes Perspective

Chickadee - Taken with new lens 18-300mm
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I added a new lens this week, a Nikon 18-300 Zoom  (AF-5 DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR to be exact).

Naturally, I had to stick it on my camera and immediately start shooting.  The light conditions were not great for it was near dusk and most of my yard was in shadow.  However, the birds were active on my feeders so I sat on my steps and took a few shots.  

The Chickadee was kind enough to pose.  The picture of him, shown here was shot in aperture priority and handheld so it is a little soft, but it shows promise.  It shows what the lens is capable of doing.  

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Hitchhiking Bugs Don't Need Thumbs

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My granddaughter found an interesting insect on her patio this weekend.  She is nine and loves "bugs".  She had her mother take a picture of it and send it to me so I can tell her what it is and why it had a baby riding on its back.  

What Lin had found is a walking stick.  To be precise, she had found a female walking stick who had a hitchhiker on its back.  The hitchhiker wasn't a baby, it was a male.  Ah, what an opportunity for talking about the birds and the walking sticks to a nine year old.  I don't believe my daughter took advantage of the perfect lead, but that really is not the point of this piece.

Walking sticks are really neat insects.  They are members of the family Phasmatidae and can be quite large.  The one pictured here, that my granddaughter found is nearly six inches long.  Well, the female is.  The hitchhiking male is more like two and a half inches.  They look very much like a small plant twig which is great camouflage.  Their movement is also very slow and steady which adds to their ability to remain inconspicuous. They also often remain motionless for long periods.  When disturbed, they often extend their legs and antenna which increases their appearance of being a twig.

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Making Progress on the New Website - Slowly But Surely and Other Cliches Explain Our Progress

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Even though we have not made the new website live yet, I am going to continue blogging about it and on it.  The blog is to explain our progress as well as point out what we would like to do in the future.  

Hopefully we will be live before long.  Even though this blog won't be seen until then, it will still be relevant for it discusses our vision for the website.  

From the beginning, the idea was to have a website to simply spread our love of nature and hope to show others its wonders.  Maybe in doing so we will be able to get others involved in enjoying and appreciating nature just as we do.

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The Things I Did at Nine Years Old Would Get Me Put Under the Jail Now

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When I was growing up in east Texas, I caught everything I get my hands on including using various kinds of traps.  In particular, there is no telling how many snakes, lizards, turtles, toad, frogs and salamanders that I at least temporarily added to my collection.  At the time there were no laws related to collecting or capturing reptiles and amphibians.  Wow, has that changed.

One important part of all this is that you cannot even temporarily capture or handle reptiles or amphibians even if you are just trying to photograph them if you are on a road, shoulder or unpaved part of the right of way unless you have a Texas hunting license with a reptile and amphibian stamp.  It is up to a $500 fine.  

This also includes your actions as a citizen scientist working with the TPWD Texas Nature Trackers (only on public roads).  That program is for private lands, not public areas or roadways.

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BIG NEWS!!! The East Texas Naturalist Blog is Expanding.

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Coming very soon, the blog will include at least two other bloggers/photographers.  Others may be joining soon.  

Nature will remain the main focus, of course.  The two new bloggers are excellent photographers and will be such a tremendous addition to the site.  We will be looking for other photographers and writers to join us.  

That brings up the obvious invitation. 

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