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 and then to Lone Star Lake 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.

Second Followup on the Mystery Bird and More

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Well, I solved the mystery.  The Mystery Bird mystery.  I found a new tool that is really quite incredible.  It is the Merlin Bird Id by Cornell Lab of Orintholgy.  This is an app for iPhone (and other smart phones).  Easy as can be to use and zeroes right in on identifying birds.

In this case the bird was a Ruby Crowned Kinglet.  The first I have ever seen.  

If you are a birder, you likely already know of this tool, but if not check it out.  Just Google "Merlin Bird Id".

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Followup On Mystery Bird

Well, the mystery bird from yesterday apparently has no watch.  I sat beneath the same tree today, at the same time, but the tree was rather empty today.

It was rather a dull day for a wouldbe birder.  There were a few of the usual old "friends" that I see almost everyday.  Just as I was about to head back in I looked up and there went a bald eagle.  His head was glowing in the light of the sitting sun and, I hate to use a cliche, but he looked majestic.  

Nice way to end the day.  

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Quiet Afternoon

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It has been a quiet day.  I made a very short walk today, impeded somewhat by my dog sitting.  I have a young male chihuahua staying with me and I go feed his four relatives twice a day.  The little ones stays with me because the others beat the dickens out of him.  So he is my new "buddy".

I walked around the RV park and that was about it, but the day was not a total nature washout.

Around 5 PM, I was sitting out in my "yard" overlooking the lake when I started noticing a lot of bird activity.  Of course, my mockingbirds were there.  I expect them to land on my chair at any time - they are rather bold.  But in the sycamore tree just thirty or so feet away, there was a lots to see.  The chickadees were flying back and forth as were the Titmice.  Then I noticed a bird I don't see all that often, a Nuthatch.  He explored the tree trunk for a few minutes.  Then came a pair of blue jays who only stayed for a few seconds.  Next was a male cardinal who flew past.  Up in the sky was a pair of turkey vultures floating with the cross currents.  A couple of crows flew by as well.  Out at the edge of the lake, the great blue heron was perched on his usual post and I could see several great egrets in sight.  This was all in the space of maybe ten minutes.  

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Bald Eagle Observations

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On my walk today, I had a bit of an adventure.  It was rather overcast and damp so I just walked along the lake.

I took some interesting pictures of a spider on the covered dock and a few "landscapes".  I just missed a Great Blue Heron but he was too skidish and didn't give me a chance to even raise the camera.  There was also a Phoebee but in the dim light, I just couldn't get a good shot as he did not sit still for long.

Just as I was heading back uphill to my RV, a large bird flew overhead towards the bridge on Hwy 155.  I saw a flash of white.  At first I thought it was a heron, maybe with a plastic bag stuck to his foot or with an abeherant white tail.  Then I saw the flight was not that on a heron.  I realized that it was the bald eagle that I have heard lived in the area, but who had avoided me for the four months I have been here.  

He landed on he concrete slope by the bridge as I moved back toward the parking lot by the lake to try to get a shot of him.  Then he flew straight to the twin cypress just outside of the little cove by the marina and landed about half way up. I was shooting with a 200mm lens in dim light and hand held.  I knew the images would not be good, but I was getting the best shot I could.  I slowly walked forward to the closest point, expecting him to fly off at any moment.  I managed to get all the way to the edge of the water, maybe 100 yards away.  He watched me the whole way. Perhaps attracted by my red shirt, but did not leave.  For about five minutes, I kept taking his picture, know that the images would not be very good as he was too far away for my 200mm lens and the light was quite dim.

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Where Are the Turtles?

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I can't believe that it is hard to find a turtle in Lake O' the Pines.  I can't believe that I can stand on the dock and not see lots of heads bobbing in the water.  

When I was a kid, turtles were everywhere.  If you went to any body of water, turrle heads would be easy to spot.  I go down to the dock and walk along the water almost every day, sometimes several times a day.  In four months of doing this, do you know how many turtles I have seen?  How many heads?  Absolutely NONE.  Not one single turtle.  That is incredible.  And sad.  

Somewhere back around 2006, I had a friend who was involved heavily with the Sierra Club, and she made me aware of the problems with the turtle populations being decimated by exporters.  Hundreds of thousands of turtles were being trapped and sent to China where they are a delicacy.  She even when to testify for the bill that banned commercial "fishing" for turtles on public land which passed in 2007.  Unfortunatley, due to my absence from the outdoors, I did not see firsthand the impact.  Now, I am absolutely astounded.  

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