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

Turtles, Lizards and Snakes - Oh My!

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After making the comment back in October that I haven't seen many reptiles, I have made an effort to spend a little more time this Spring watching to see if my initial feeling was correct.  Well, I have definitely seen more reptiles but still not in the numbers of my childhood.  Not by a long shot.

A walk in the woods (across the street from my RV) has produced Anolis specimen but in small numbers.  I can usually spot 5 or 6 in a half and hour walk.  I used to be able to see dozens in that time period.  I have seen a fair number in town (Gilmer) around houses.  

My walks have also produced a few Five Lined Skinks, Plestiodon fasciatus, but I am still surprised that I am not seeing any Sceloporus in what I know is excellent habitat.

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Animals Just Won't Say "Cheese" - Taking Better Nature Photos

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As should be apparent from this blog, I love taking pictures.  I always have.  At times I have gotten rather serious about it.  At one time I had a color darkroom and owned nearly a dozen nice cameras (mostly Nikons), lots of lenses and a mound of filters, flashes, battery drives, tripods, light meters, light umbrellas, etc.  

I am self-taught. Everything I know about photography I learned through trial and error while devouring book after book.  I have never had a photography class (although I have taught a few).  

At one point, I was very serious about photography, especially nature photography. I took hundreds and hundreds of pictures; reviewed my images critically; and used that self-criticism to get better.  

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Digging Into Fish Brains

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I spent another fascinating day yesterday, training as part of the Texas Master Naturalist program.  But first, here is how my day started.

This was the view from my front door when I got up Saturday morning to get ready to go for my training at Caddo Lake.  (I live at Lake O' the Pines).

Friday evening included a short course in Entomology.  The presenter was Allen Smith, an entomologist with the Texas Forestry Service. He brought along his traveling insect collection that was quite interesting.  Even more interesting were his personal anecdotes about being a life long insect collector.  These revelations produced smiles, some laughter and in more than one case, comments that included the phrase ". . . your poor wife".  Overall, it was an interesting and entertaining event. 

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Someone Flicked the Spring Switch to ON

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It is amazing what a difference a couple of days have made.  It has been so rainy and cold for over a month.  The temperatures were so much cooler than the calendar would suggest.  Then a couple of days ago the sun came out.  The temperature actually moved into the lower 80s.  On top of that, the trees are turning green. I made mention of the fact that the birds didn't care what the weather was presenting, they were acting like it was Spring.  Now all the signs are there.  It is so cool.

The first hummingbird came to the feeder today.  It was a beautiful male.  About an hour later, another male came.  I am pretty sure that it is a different one.  The first one was in much better color.  It was nice to see them here.

I also have a pair of Robins building a nest in the tree/bush just outside my window.  This is the same bush that I see the Phoebees in quite often.  The Robins have been really busy today, flying back and forth with twigs and grass.  I don't know that they will really stay there for they have not been exposed to the "normal" human traffic in that spot.  That includes a two year old who is quite active and is often pushing all sorts of rather loud wheeled toys just under the branch where they are nesting.  We'll see how brave they are.

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Spring - Well, sort of . . .

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Three weeks ago we had 5 1/2" of snow, then another day of snow the next week.  It has rained most of the time for about a month.  The lake is up over 4 feet above normal (and what it was a month ago).  The temperature has been about 10 degrees lower than normal so we have had a lot more 40s and 50s than 60s and 70s.  However, it is Spring.  Today is the first full day of Spring.

The weather may not show that Spring is here, but the birds don't care.  They are here in numbers on and around my feeders.  There have been numerous species including chipping sparrows, house finches, goldfinches, cardinals, titmice, and chickadees. Nearby are "my" pair of mockingbirds, some phoebes, a nuthatch, and about thirty yards away, a bluebird has been around now and then.  

On the lake, the white pelicans are back.  With them is a species of duck, but the light has been poor so I can't tell which ducks.  The coots are still there as well.

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