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.
Michael 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. More

What Do You Mean They Reproduce Without Males?

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While Googling for some information tonight, I got sidetracked and searched for an old "friend".  Well, it is a lizard, but I am sure you know what I mean.  Anyway, I discovered a link to an old paper that I co-authored years ago.

It was fun to see the old paper again and to remember how we traveled to Laredo in the heat of summer to collect some specimen of Laredo Striped Whiptail lizards, Cnemidophorus laredoensis, for the study.  

Trying to catch these lizards is not easy under any circumstances.  They are extremely fast and evasive and the hotter it is they more fired up they are.  On the day we spent in Laredo collecting them, it was extremely hot and very humid.  

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Giant Wasp Spotted in Upshur County - The Time to Panic is NOW!

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I recently bought a macro ring flash for my cameras.  Naturally I have been playing with it.

I just wanted to share this picture that I took with it.  

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They're MINE ALL MINE!!!!! The Mockingbird's new song

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My bird feeders have been sort of a neutral zone all Spring.  There has been a wide variety of birds frequenting them and there have been very few skirmishes.  Not at all like the hummingbird feeders which are the scene of daily wars between the various hummers.  The seed and suet feeders have been relatively peaceful.  Of course, there have been some issues.  Some as simple as the bigger birds chase off the smaller birds, but even that was relatively calm.  I have not seen much really aggresive behavior.

That all changed when the first mockingbird fledgling appeared.  All at once the parent mockingbirds have claimed the feeders.  No other birds are allowed to feed without being harassed.  That includes the seed feeders which the mockingbirds don't use.  Any chickadee or titmouse that dares to try to feed will get a fast rush from one of the parent mockingbirds.  The rush is like a bullet.  It is the fastest flight I have seen by them at any other time.   The suet feeders, which the mockingbirds do use, are in the middle of the seed feeders but they don't care if the other birds are on the seed feeders or the suet feeders, the offending birds are chased away.

Their viligance is not continuous.  There are long periods of time when the mockingbirds are not in sight.  So the feeders are still available for most of the day, but when the mockingbirds return, they stay at least a few minutes chasing the other birds away. Once the other birds quit trying to feed the mockingbirds fly off.  The mockingbirds are there fairly constantly during early morning feeding times and near dusk. Inbetween running the other birds off, they spend a fair amount of time feeding the fledglings.  The fledglings fly to the parents and bob their heads up and down while making a soft screeching sound as they wait for the parent to drop some food into their mouths.  

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They Went That a Way - Adventures in Tracking

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From the time I was around eight years old until I was twenty-nine, I was immersed in nature.  As a young boy, I spent almost all my time outside and was often in the woods exploring and catching everything I could get my hands on.  Somewhere around the 6th grade, it became a little more organized as my interest in snakes grew and I turned to books to learn more about them.  As I have said elsewhere, my interests grew to include all animals.  It was not a surprise that I became a biologist.  But at twenty-nine, I left my job as a biologist so I could provide better for my family.  (Being a biologist was great fun until payday).  Sadly, I immersed myself so deeply in my new occupation that I completely left all my interests in the outdoors behind.  I occasionally took a short venture in the woods or desert and I did do a little nature photography when the chance presented itself.  There are a lot of sad parts about this but the worst is that I quit adding to my nature education.  The years have shaved off some of the knowledge that I had and I find myself having to refresh myself with facts and information on broad areas of biology.  Luckily, I have retained a great deal as well. I still feel I have a good base.  I just think about how much more awareness and enjoyment I would have now if I had continued my education in the outdoors and kept adding to it through the years.  

Well, all I can do now is pick it back up and immerse myself in it once again.  The training with the Texas Master Naturalist (TMN) program has helped with that.  It has also been enlightening in many ways.  

This past weekend was the final weekend of the basic training for the new class of the Cypress Basin Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists.  Instead of our usual location at the Wildlife Management Area at Caddo Lake, we were on a private lake at the Wilkes Power Plant in Marion county.  It is a beautiful location and was such a great place for our excursions.

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Never Mind Taking Time to Smell the Roses; Take Time to Paint the Squirrels Toenails

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It is hard to beat a weekend like this.  I woke up at 4am which is not my favorite time of day.  Actually, for much of my life that hour is closer to my bedtime than a time I would wake up. 

A little before dawn I got up, walked and took pictures (as usual), then came back to the RV.  I have spent most of the morning in and out; watching the Sunday morning news shows; watching the birds, squirrels and my new resident, the chicken, at my feeders; and sitting for a while in the warm sun.

Pleasant morning watching all the different species of birds coming and going: chickadees, English sparrows, titmice, the pair of cardinals who have a nest about fifteen feet away, a few cowbirds, and, of course, the mockingbirds are out in their usual numbers.  

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