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.

Get Back! No Pictures For You

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I try to have a picture with each of these little messages, blogs, stories or whatever they are, but this time I was not fast enough to take one.

I was grilling butterfly pork chops and turned to go back in the RV to get a plate when I saw a large bird out of the corner of my eye.  I looked up and there was a Pileated Woodpecker flying from one tree to another just about 100 feet away.  I stepped inside and grabbed my Nikon D60 with a 200 mm lens on it.  I walked slowly towards the tree but only got a few steps when he took off for the far beyond.  No chance to get a picture.

Hopefully I will get another chance.  I believe he came from the woods across the highway where I usually walk and perhaps I will catch up with him there soon.  I haven't been walking over there lately because of all the rain.  It is really muddy over there with the slightest rain.  With the nearly constant rain for the past 3 months, it is really sloppy over there.

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Turtle Parade - They Have Been Marching Uphill All Month

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Last summer I wrote a blog about the absence of turtles.  I still do not see as many as in years ago, but I have seen more this year.  In particular, outside my window where I sit at my computer.  There is an almost daily stream of female Elegant Sliders Trachemys scripta looking for a good place to lay their eggs.  

I have taken at least a dozen of them out of the main area of the RV park and put them down towards the end of the populated area where they can lay their eggs in a place much more conducive to survival of the offspring.  

It does make me feel a bit better about the numbers, even though they are still low.  

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My Answer Was Based on Keen Logic, Years of Experience and Intensive Deductive Reasoning - Only Problem Is That It Was Absolutely Wrong

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I was recently asked why there were so many earthworms on the sidewalk lately.  I should add that it has been raining almost non-stop for about three months and we are more than a foot over the annual rainfall average.

I thought I came up with a very likely explanation.  I answered that the worms may be forced from the ground due to it being saturated with water keeping them from being able to breathe.  Sounds like a great reason and it was except for one thing.  It was not correct.

A little research quickly revealed that the worms come out of the ground after heavy Spring rainfall in an attempt to migrate.  The moisture on the ground and sidewalk allow them to have the ability to migrate faster and farther than they could underground.  Apparently they have a built in dispersal "need".  

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Ecology of My Yard - Who Knew So Many Things Lived Here?

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Walking in the woods is always a lot of fun.  Observing nature in such an environment presents a myriad of potential subjects to view, examine, photograph and to enjoy.  The biodiversity in the mature hardwood pine community where I walk is tremendous.  There are so many possibilities whether your purpose is to observe species interaction in the community or to measure the biomass of the forest or to observe the species diversity of the bird population or just to enjoy your stroll and see how many interesting subjects you can find for your camera.  The forest presents a wealth of opportunities for your study or enjoyment.  

It is to the woods that I often head when I am wanting to get close and enjoy nature or as we old hippies used to say "commune with nature".  Isn't that a cool phrase?  "Commune with nature".  What does that really mean?

To commune with nature, you become one with nature and attain knowledge of the things about you.  In particular you gain knowledge of the terrain, bodies of water, the plants, animal populations, people, weather and the general state of the setting.  It is not necessarily a conscious effort.  When you enjoy nature and are in the woods it is what comes naturally as you walk through the woods.  There are many different levels of that, of course. You may start with just a nice walk and make some natural observations: flowers, birds, scenic views and the like. The more you go, the more you observe and slowly the community comes alive. No pun intended.  

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I Used to Be a Former Biologist. Wait, Wait. What Does That Mean?

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From the beginning of this blog I have referred to myself as a "former" biologist.  I may or may not edit the places that say this for my status has somewhat changed.  I have been doing some consulting for a couple of land owners as a biologist.  In a minor way that changes my status from "former" to "current".  Well, I think that is true even if, as in these cases, I am doing this as an unpaid service.  It is still biological work.  

Actually, what I have been doing is making some biological surveys of two tracks of mixed hardwood forest in Upshure county.  The land owners want an idea of what animals are found on their property and some idea of the size of the populations.  In particular, they want to know about deer, hogs, coyotes, and beaver. 

Both of these surveys are rather informal.  They just want a general idea.  That is a whole different process than doing an actual population study.

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