13 de marzo de 2020

Town Creek Riparian Habitat: Combatting Invasive Exotic Species December 8, 2019

I am revising the way I am recording the progress - or lack of - in the Johnson City and Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park's Town Creek riparian habitat rejuvenation efforts. This effort is due to a combination of formal and informal entities interested in improving the visual and endemic or native species occupation of the Town Creek riparian habitat. Riparian habitat is the unique flora and fauna that inhabit creeks, rivers, streams and lakes of most of the continents of planet Earth. Here in Central Texas, that typically means spring fed pools, ponds, creeks rivers and streams that represent oases from the all too frequent hot and dry - for the most part - savannas and forests. Think of the number of times you travel to a favorite state park or natural area in the Hill Country and the days aren't hot and dry and seemly lifeless. That is where our riparian habitats come in and play the roll of oases in the midst of a dry hot hell;-)

So this is one of the reports I wrote for the local volunteer list that I use to communicate with fellow citizens wanting to participate in our informal volunteer effort and the official LBJ National Historical Park's effort that uses volunteer groups and networking to help in restoring the native riparian habitat of Town Creek:
______________________________________________________________________________________

Hello everyone

I want to give a quick review of LBJ National Historical Park’s Town Creek riparian alien species eradication effort. Cheyenne Dolin put together a team that included Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist, Angela England, who heads up the Giant Cane eradication in Barons Creek, Fredericksburg.

I worked with Angela on the large Ligustrum on the pond, the one we had not touched the first time we worked at the pond. As some of you know, the Ligustrum we did girdle shows good signs of stress and Angela is confident it will not survive. The other, larger Ligustrum took more effort as it has numerous merged branches on the main trunk and each had to be girdled effectively in order to accomplish the deed. Angela got down on the bank where Cali did the first Ligustrum cutting and I sat on the bank and worked the back of Angela’s girdling. What Angela suspects and Cliff told me way back when, was to girdle in summer and now we know why. In late fall/winter the Ligustrum, while evergreens, do not have much of the xylem and phloem in the cambium layer and hence the bark tends not to be easy to pry off the tree. That makes for more work and repeated efforts, so next month when we meet again, we’ll have a different strategy for attacking our offending aliens. Beyond that, we had a good time uprooting lots of small Ligustrum along the Settlement boundary fence by the wetland and inside the wetland as well to the point that most of the small green saplings have been removed. In fact, Angela demonstrated that many of the small Ligustrum could be removed by hand and now that the native deciduous species have lost their leaves, identifying invasive Ligustrum just got a lot easier, much to their peril. I also uprooted some of the Japanese Honeysuckle as well as some of the larger of the small leafed Ligustrum with the LBJ NHP’s uprooting tool.

As Angela and worked on the Ligustrum at the pond, we talked about various techniques for invasive species control. I asked her if she knew of the recent study using shade to control Giant Cane and she told me she had just read it. We talked about herbicide use vs non-toxic approaches and she is generally supportive. As I said, Angela mentioned she headed up the effort to remove Giant River Cane in Fredericksburg.

Our next effort will repeat same time and place the first Tuesday of January and I am attaching a flyer to go with this hear message so everyone can have the info. Between now and then, I’ll see if I can’t encourage others to join our efforts on the Settlement so we can get as close as possible to realizing our goal of controlling these alien invasive species. Rather than girdling, I’m betting uprooting with tools and by hand will take up most of our time. It might be the most effective method at our disposal this time of year, so please join us if you can.

I would like to give Superintendent Susanne MacDonald a big shout out and thanks for putting this project together and allowing Johnson City volunteers to participate. Her willingness to have the park sponsor a supportive volunteer effort to help the park deserves a big thank you! See you all next time.

Cheers

Bill Arbon

Ingresado el 13 de marzo de 2020 por billarbon billarbon | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

06 de julio de 2019

Experiences With The Great Barracuda

I promised this story to Joe MDO, https://www.inaturalist.org/people/349183, about an experience or two I had years ago. I'll start with the Stella Maris, Long Island, Bahamas story and add others when and if anyone wants to hear more.

In summer of '77, my wife and I went to Stella Maris with Alan Tennant, author of The Snakes of Texas, and his wife. We stayed a week or so and each day had a completely different and exciting adventure snorkeling in various place around the northern half of the island. Long Island is one of the Bahama out islands far from the gathering hordes of tourists and the wildness of the place and its beautiful waters is really beyond compare. The island is partially surrounded by deep ocean water - greater than 3000 feet deep - of Exuma Sound and the Atlantic Ocean along the east and north coast similar to'Tongue of the Ocean' which wraps around the west side of the Nassau. Long Island has a very sizable shelf of typically shallow, clear and calm water where boats seem to bob at anchor in thin air. Visibility is always excellent (well of course, I wasn't there always). In shallow or deeper water, doing a 360 degree spin gives the impression that there is no limit to how far you can see. I always reckon it was like sitting on the sofa of your living room. Inside the room it's as clear as can be and just look out the window and see as far as you are able. Of course, that's not true. Is it? But I digress. We're after Great Barracuda in this story and we got'em like it or not. Here's how that happened.

One of the excursions you take - or are offered at Stella Maris, is a trip to the coral heads off the northeastern tip of the island. The water where you're taken is about a hundred feet deep, but it's still part of the sandy shallow shelf that fringes the island. Peppered on the bottom are these large columns of stacked coral that grow towards the surface, so the coral heads can be quite close to the surface while the base may be in 90 feet of water (anyone who has been there more recently than me and wishes to dispute my story is welcome). The boat from the eastern dock at Stella Maris is a large cabin cruiser type that can carry plenty of people and gear, which it has to as this is a scuba diving trip and there are a good number of scuba divers angling to get to the bottom of these coral heads. Local Bahamian guides accompany us and they free dive to the bottom to point out interesting items and highlights. While all the divers went to the bottom, I tried to follow free diving, but truth is, you have to acclimate to the technique and I just wasn't there long enough, but venture I achieve about a third of the way down to the bottom. I was able to get down to the coral heads and poke around a bit before fleeing to the surface for air. As I had grown up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I had been accustomed to free diving, but that was just too many years prior to this trip.

One of the highlights of the trip is to feed the Nassau Groupers and you are given sandwiches and such in plastic bags to lure the fish close. Ha! Lure, hell, the Groupers are so used to the routine, they command the show and woe indeed is the person who is not able to pass out the treats fast enough. Before the show ends, the final participants show up for their treats: Great Barracuda. Big ones. And yes, I know my mask magnifies my surroundings and what I see, but I saw these guys from the boat as well and they were good sized. No doubt about it. And they were not aggressive. I swear. Anyway, with the end of the sandwiches, and the return of the scuba divers from the bottom, it was time for everyone to get into the boat. For some reason though, I didn't get the message and the first thing I notices was I was alone in the ocean. No one but me and the fishes. Knowing now I needed to vacate the scene, I started to the back of the boar when all of a sudden things began to hit the surface of the water and sink. The large chunks of an off color sort of creamy pinkish meat was sinking slowly around me. The guides were feeding the Barracuda their treats of fresh conch and I was in the middle of the feeding pool.

Barracuda began swishing and zooming, speeding through the water grabbing their 'prey' and it was like I was just with them. Among them. One of them? I don't think so. The place was literally swarming with Barracuda - most other fishes having disappeared, and as I neared the boat a piece of conch landed right in front of my faceplate. Interesting, I thought, and then a huge head, mouth open wide, teeth shinning, glittering, smiling lips, converged on the tid bit, mouth snapped shut, and brushed past my face. Wow, that was close! Cool, though. Yes, but then again. Deciding I'd better turn myself in, I looked up out of the water at the people on board and let them know I was still in the water. Pandamonium ensued and in no time, I was heaved aboard amid a profusion of apologies, none of which were necessary, thank you. I had one of the most memorial - but not the last encounter with the Great Barracuda! I hope everyone can have as great an experience with these toothy speedsters.

PS, I don't have any photos to share of the Great Barracuda. Yet. Oh, and the native guides who fee dived to the bottom? They could move about and stay down almost as long as the scuba tourists;-) Seriously.

Experiences, part II

So this second experiences with Great Barracuda is probably my first as an adult and not part of an earlier family experience of living on the Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi, Mississippi. This experience happened out of the water with me as an observer and not participant in the diving that went on in the Gulf of Mexico where this experience took place. I got a summer job one year during my college years working offshore Louisiana for Brown and Root, the oilfield equipment and support company. My job was as a welder's helper on a Pipelay barge which is an ocean going barge towed by ocean going tugboats. The tugboats pull the barge along as five sections of oil field pipe are welded on board and then lowered to the bottom linking oil drilling platforms with pump stations and at the like. The barge is a free floating affair that is in every way ship except it has no self propulsion, hence it rocks and rolls like you would expect. From my earliest memories of steaming back from Japan on an Army transport ship in the late '40s, I felt right at home above and below decks waiting my shift's turn, or turning in afterwards. Rockabbyebaby rings true. But I digress.

Often after my noon to midnight shift I would go up on deck, find a secluded spot on the railing and sit and watch the sea, the waves, and the play of the barge's lights upon the water as we rose and fell with the waves. As it turns out, just like on land, sea creatures in myriad forms are attracted to the lights cast by the barge and as these lights have to match the power of sunlight to give working men vision to weld and seal the pipeline before its 150 foot plunge to the bottom of this portion of offshore, I got to take in the scene with an emphasis on nature instead of industry. As this was summer, the water around us abound in warm water and tropical species of fishes, many of which were pelagic instead of coastal and shallow water types. Oh, and the water was crystal clear so peering into the depths was not a problem and in fact, I never did stop thinking of a way to get into that water. Alas, it did not come to pass.

It did do so for the professional divers and it was they who had the actual personal experiences with the local Barracuda, which were numerous. The reason for that was simple: Flying fish. Out here offshore the Atchafalaya River and Bay was the motherlode of fishes and out on the blue water, the motherlode of flying fish. Flying fish are large sardine like fish, silvery and deep blue on top and like sardines, are tasty to lots of other fish, hence their need to escape. They have evolved the ability to glide thanks to their long airfoil shaped pectoral fins which extends their leaps from the waters to many meters from where they leaped to escape a predator. Their flights are spectacular and it is not uncommon to see numerous individuals flying at the same time. Around the pipelay barge, Flying fish congregated, especially at night in the bright lights. And that's where my second story comes in; a bit about that in a moment.

One of the functions of the pipelay barge is to make the pipe connections to oil wells (heads) and such, all of which are underwater, on the bottom to be exact, because the pipe and the well heads have to meet up and the pipelines lie solidly on the bottom of the Gulf. It is the responsibility of the professional divers to make the actual connections there and have their own welding abilities, etc, all of which takes place as they dive to their job sites. They were paid many times more than I was, and for good reason, one of which is the dangers they face. While the Great Barracuda is usually content to chasing tasty Flying Fishes, sometimes they get unruly and on one occasion this happened. One of our divers who was already vexed over the difficulties he was having connecting two parts of the pipeline surfaced to shout for a speargun. He said he was being harassed by a Barracuda and wanted some protection with him or he would not go back down. A speargun was produced and back down he went. The barracuda was not heard from again.

But my own experience happened at night and what I learned was that Barracuda are smart. Hell, probably all fish are smart (so many teach people how to feed them), but I had the opportunity to see another cunning Barracuda in action. This was at night on the dark side of the barge where I was, but the water around my location was lit by our lights so I could see the action clearly. What I saw was several schools of Flying fish being herded by Barracuda into the light of our barge. Both species played cat and mouse with the Flying fish moving constantly forward of the Barracuda. Once the big predators got too near, the Flying fish leaped out of the water and flew a distance away, but still around the lights, so the pattern would just repeat itself until...One large Barracuda herded his school of Flying fish ever closer to the side of our shell living quarters and after feigning an attack made his prey flush right into the steel side of our barge, knocking themselves senseless, floating on the surface and easy meal for the enterprising Barracuda. Watching and observing during the 40 some odd days I was on the water allowed me to see much of the offshore life of the Gulf of Mexico I had longed to see. From daylight sightings of mating sharks, to a stupendous night-time surface display of a beautiful Sailfish right in front of me were some of the other highlights of my toil. I wouldn't have traded them for anything, but one thing I knew at the end of my voyage. I would never go back to the oilfields to make a living. And I didn't.

Ingresado el 06 de julio de 2019 por billarbon billarbon | 6 comentarios | Deja un comentario

Earth Day Volunteer Effort to Help LBJ National Historical Park Reduce the Invasion of Alien Species

We did it. As you may have noticed below, Town Creek - It's an Adventure! Creek Cleanup Notice, I described our efforts to help the park work on their own Town Creek and wetlands riparian habitat projects. If you're interested in the details, read below, but here I am pasting my summary of how our efforts are now beginning to demonstrate benefits to our approach towards the major invasive species in our area, Ligustrum, Chinese Tallow, and Japanese Honeysuckle. Here is the excerpt from my enewsletter to our volunteer group and those allies working on or supporting our efforts:

To start off, I have news and information I want to share about Town Creek and LBJ NHP’s riparian habitat and the progress we are making on our efforts at both places. I think you’ll be surprised.

First, some great news. Chinese tallows are dying, tall limbs are loosing their leaves. The other day I walked to the creek behind downtown and took a look at the tallows I had girdled prior to our work at the Settlement. I discovered several branches had lost their leaves and died. I was stunned, quite frankly, but a day or so later, showed Cali when she came downtown to give me a copy of the riparian book she obtained from Hill Country Alliance (as I already have a copy of this book, the one she gave me will be available to anyone wishing to learn more about natives vs alien invasive ones.). We made certain the limbs were ones I had girdled which meant trudging into the underbrush to manually get hold of the actual branch and make sure it was the object of our interest. They were and we confirmed the dying branches. So the next day I checked the trees at the Settlement, and the same phenomenon is happening. The trees are dying high up - photos included. As this process continues, I am sure we will see a significant set back for this species on the wetland and portions of the creek we’ve worked. And this bodes well for our efforts and lends credulity to our current work and points the way to further efforts.

Oh, and speaking of girdling. I checked in with Cliff Tyllick about several things and he realized that he might have misled me into thinking that Ligustrum had to be girdled at the base of the tree. But it was I who misunderstood, not Cliff, and as the photo of Alison Northup showed in the TXDOT online magazine, you may girdle the Ligustrum anyplace the volunteer feels most comfortable working. That means waist high or so is not a problem. I would also believe, based on what is happening with our Chinese Tallows, that a wider girdle would be more effective than a smaller one. I would imitate the work we did on the tallows as an experiment and see if we don’t get better results. I would also recommend the same technique we used on the tallows, to scrape away the bark and living layer of the Ligustrum with the use of a flexible small saw in place of the linoleum scrapers we used. The saw makes quick work of the scraping and can bite deeper into the trunk when used well. But this is up to the volunteer to decide how to work the Ligustrum, just doesn’t have to be at the base, but does have to include each branch of a single shrub or tree.

To be continued...

Ingresado el 06 de julio de 2019 por billarbon billarbon | 3 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

25 de febrero de 2019

New Place Added

I have just created a 'place' for the LBJ National Historical Park, Johnson City, Texas which can be accessed here:

https://www.inaturalist.org/places/lbj-national-historical-park

This place will enable all the observations made nearly everywhere in the park, from downtown Johnson City to the west end of the Settlement. the area contains the prairie restoration area on the Settlement and includes observations of many of the taxa in the Central Texas area. Take a look and see if one of your observations is showcased. As this is a program generated entity, I take no part in the selection of the observations.

Ingresado el 25 de febrero de 2019 por billarbon billarbon | 17 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

13 de noviembre de 2018

*NEW*Daily Post - Well, Maybe Not Daily, LOL!

Reading several iNat's observer posts got me to thinking. Some of you have nearly daily - or weekly posts of your daily excursions into the natural world, be it your back yard, your vacation of a lifetime, or the great outdoors you are fortunate to have nearby. You do that because a good naturalist keeps a diary - a journal - of what he or she sees. Some of the journal entries are long and elaborate giving details and circumstance of what is seen, felt, experienced like a good writer such as Peter Matthiessen, Diane Fosse, or say George Schaller or Edward O. Wilson would write. Never mind the classic authors like oh, say Charles Darwin, Alfred Russell Wallace, or Marston Bates. Be sure to throw in Roy Chapman Andrews as well, and many others like Rachael Carson (The Sea Around Us, Silent Spring). Anyway, you get my drift. To me one of the things I like about the specimen collecting most of us do here on iNat is we always get our prey...er, subject...er, specimen. And unlike collectors and 'naturalists' of the past, we don't have to get our image after blasting our quarry out of the sky, or the forest or the prairie or swamp or what have you. We just go 'click' and we've got our prize.

And just like back there in real science academies and halls of learning,, our image becomes our specimen, becomes a sample laying dormant in our collections that first number a few, then grow into the thousands in no time. Now our observations go into a body of work of both our own and into an 'academy' of like examples that now make up the iNaturalist data base, a museum, if you will. Of course, our observations are labeled, dated and located geographically with the aid of smart cameras, computers and software, but the result is just as if a specimen was found, identified and catalogued by a scientist in the field many years ago. From there, here on iNat, your observation is seen, IDed - or not, your ID is approved - or not and your object is included with others who have identical identifications elsewhere - or not. And that is usually the end of it, isn't it?

Well, if you ask me - and you aren't, I know - that all seems a bit too much like the old days where specimen were collected by gunshot, mostly, skinned, tagged, stuffed and delivered to a museum or warehouse somewhere where other scientists could compare their specimen. And so on. But often what is missing in collecting these specimen is the natural background of their existence. What are these specimen doing at the time you observed them. What were they doing? Why? What was the outcome if they were seen in imperiled situations? Wasn't there more to the story than we're seeing besides the sheer volume of images we're producing?

So as I have seen some of you have already done, I would like to see more journal work done by us all, starting with me. Tell us about your most notable weekly outing, experience or specimen and give us real context.

With that, I'm off for another look at LBJ National Historical Park Settlement to see what I can see today. I'll tell you more about what - if anything - I find. Of course, there is always hundreds of specimen right at your feet every day, right?

Now let me give credit where credit is due: I owe three people for this project: amzapp, ellen5, and mikaelb. There are many more of you, I assure you, as well. So thanks to you all:-)

Day 1, November 13, 2018

I walked out to the LBJ National Historical Park today expecting to see not much in the way of insects, plants or flowers due to the extreme Arctic Cold Front blowing in from the High Plains yesterday. Temperatures for this area was predicted to be 29°F. That prediction was way off, fortunately, and I shot photos of butterflies, bees and other insects and a few plants and flowers primarily of Cowpens Daisy. Reptiles were a no show and I thought birds were following suit, but was wrong. While not getting shots of many, the first bird I saw was a Sparrow Hawk soaring in the clearing blue skies that had produced about a half inch of rain for the area. Nevertheless, I was totally wrong about birds. As I worked along the old pioneer rock corral I spooked a Mourning Dove that flew up nearly underfoot. Later walking a fence line I had followed many times previously along a gravel road, a small bird shot into a clump of Cowpens scarcely ten feet in front of me. Still, I could never find it in the foliage. Tough luck. Just then my luck changed.

I walked out into the dirt road boarding the pasture I had been reconnoitering for a few months and was presented with small birds perched in Mesquite trees along the riparian dry creek a few yards parallel to the road. I slowly stalked towards the birds and was able to close a dozen steps thanks to the windy day to get a closer shot. Then my camera's battery failed and I could only stop and look as birds crept close to me and gave me great profile, dorsal and ventral shots I could not record. Most, if not all of these birds were Warblers, but with my vision and their mute colors I could not ascertain their species. I don't think they cared. What I noticed was the twinkle in their eyes, glad to be alive. Turned out the birds were a mix of Sparrows, Bluebirds and Warblers, as my observations show. At any rate, that was the highlight of my walk and I'll just have to see where I go and what I see...tomorrow. Observations will be added as needed.

Just a note to say I have hit up against reality and there will be no way I make a daily report of my observations. There is just not enough time in the day, so I hope I'll at least from time to time, be able to describe important experiences. But here is my alternative to writing up each day's highlights: Video. Yes, that's right, video. As it turns out, I have been posting short video clips I've been shooting hand held of various critters that allow me the time of day to record a significant event, be it a call, a song, or some activity that we know happens all the time out here in Nature, but don't actually see it ourselves or pay any attention when it happens. Hence, I am adding these amateur video clips to my Flickr page which you can access here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/151313979@N08/ And of course, they relate to an observation for x species and I also have the link on the observation page. I think just from the volume I see on the video that many are finding their way to the videos and I hope that enhances everyone's appreciation for what is happening out there in the 'real' world. I know most of you have similar experiences and would encourage you to follow suit.

Happy viewing.

Ingresado el 13 de noviembre de 2018 por billarbon billarbon | 10 observaciones | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

12 de marzo de 2018

Videos to accompany my iNaturalist Observations!

Here is a link to my Flickr page where I have posted appropriate videos for some of my iNat observations. Enjoy and learn about our specimen's lives. The videos are crude and the camera is hand-held making for a bit of distraction, but the nice thing is they are short and add a dimension to the observation, I think.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/151313979@N08/with/25902651537/

Let me know what you think.

Cheers

Bill Arbon

Ingresado el 12 de marzo de 2018 por billarbon billarbon | 10 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

12 de febrero de 2018

Town Creek - It's an Adventure! Creek Cleanup Notice

September Update

We are joining with the LBJ National Historical Park again to work on invasive and exotic species of plants and trees in the wetlands, pond and Town Creek on park property. I wrote this notice to the local environmental group this past week:

National Public Lands Day, Wednesday, September 18th 8:00AM to 3:00PM

Now I have more news about the upcoming activities at LBJ National Historical Park. I met with Cali Janulis yesterday and we checked on the progress of our work to date at the Settlement. We confirmed evidence that the girdling we performed is working on the many trees we treated. There may be a few things we could still do on some of those trees to assure their demise, but all in all, we were pleased with what we found. Of course, there is much more that needs to be done and that is where Wednesday effort comes into play. The NPS will direct the activity at the Settlement which will begin at 8:00AM. The meeting location will be at the entrance to the Settlement via the walking trail from LBJ NHP headquarters on Lady Bird Lane, just uphill from the creek. I will attach the flyer that Cali Janulis sent as a reminder of Wednesday’s goals. Actual physical work on the Settlement is scheduled to last through the morning until it gets too hot to safely and comfortably work, sometime around lunchtime. After lunch, there will be a workshop style gathering for participants inside the Event Center/museum by the pond we worked on previously. This will allow attendees who cannot help with the physical work at the Settlement to learn additional details about the invasive/exotic species management and control. I did hear there was some fear that there would be too many volunteers wanting help while there was not enough to do to occupy everyone. That is not a worry as if there is adequate hands on at the park, we also have work to do on Town Creek here in downtown so there is not a lack of places to help out. Once the work is being done, of course there are other places to visit on Town Creek to that might give us a vision for what can be done in the future. For instance, I would recommend you travel to the LCRA Pedernales River Nature Park where Town Creek flows into the Pedernales River and compare what is happening there with what is happening on the LBJ NHP Settlement. I have found the contrast interesting and you may as well.

As I said, work will wrap up at the park around noon. After lunch we are to meet on the Settlement’s Event Center for the afternoon program for all of those who wish to attend. I am sure that by that time we will be able to know if anyone wishes to work elsewhere on Town Creek because the temperatures for the afternoon will be well into the 90s. And, before I forget, I need to link this email to several web sources to aid volunteers in having appropriate tools and clothing for our joint effort on the creek. I have a write up of our activities on my iNaturalist Journal page which you can find here. Oh, you're already here! Cool!

Cheers

Bill Arbon

May Update:

Well, Earth Day has come and gone. The lowdown is, we had a great Earth Day exercise helping out LBJ National Historical Park’s Town Creek restoration efforts. All of you who said you would show up did so and the amount of work we accomplished is really impressive. For those of you who left early, no sweat, as others came and supplemented what you already had started. John Sone’s appearance was most unexpected as he has a family medial issue to deal with; his early appearance was most welcomed.

Ditto for Terry Casparis and the others of you from our group of local (and extended) area; Wes Cortney, Brad Adams, and Karen McCann along with myself gave the group a good sized labor force to uproot Ligustrum, Japanese Honeysuckle and Chinese Tallows - especially in the wetlands that crosses the trail to the event center on the Settlement.

By the time I left (2:45 to feed birds), our group with the addition of some PEC employee volunteers had essentially worked their way though the wet land marking Honeysuckle, girdling Tallows and making piles of branches and trees to be carried away to the creek bank depository. Meanwhile, lunch was provided by Friends of LBJ here in town.

At the conclusion of the effort at the park, several of our volunteer holdovers came downtown to help on our section of Town Creek. We were joined by LBJ National Historical Park Superintendent Susanne MacDonald and Deputy Superintendent, Justin Bates. I gave them a quick tour of the downtown portion of the creek and I know they were impressed with our efforts. Afterwards, the remainder of us determined that to heck with the work on the creek, being as tired as were were. We opted for wine, French bread and cheese instead;-) Wish you were here, LOL!

Heads up: I think we need an effort on our portion of the creek next week after the waters subside. Now that we have hands on experience, it’s time to get Town Creek Downtown in shape before chigger season and summer heat. Anyone have a day you want to recommend. I’m listening.

Cheers

Bill

_________________________________________________________________________________

April 16, 2019 Update:

LBJ National Historical Park is having a followup volunteer effort on Earth Day, Monday, April 22nd, to restore the ecosystem of Town Creek on National Park property. Our Johnson City citizen's volunteer informal group is going to join with the park the help restore native riparian species to the creek banks. As per below, we have already had a single effort and hashed out a good plan to deal with invasive alien species that inhabit the creek habitat. I will post additional information here as time goes by. In the meantime, scroll down this post to find tools and clothes we recommend for working on the wild creek at the national park. The project begins at 8:00AM for the early birds, and ends at 4:00PM for the Johnny come lately - like me. You may also come and go as you need, take a break for lunch, chores, or whatever. Anything you can do to help will be appreciated.

When was the last time you played ‘piggyback’ with your friends? A while ago, I’ll bet. We’ll we are going to play piggyback on Earth Day, but in a different sense. As you know the LBJ National Park is hosting an Earth Day effort on Town Creek, Monday, the 22nd of April. The volunteer effort ends at the park at 4:00 PM. Our Town Creek volunteer group is going to pick up the effort after the four o’clock hour here in downtown Johnson City. We need to have about an hour or so effort on the creek to take out some Japanese Honeysuckle and a few other invasive species that have taken root along our downtown section of Town Creek. I am not planning a huge effort, so, please plan on moving downstream after the National Park effort ends and joining in another Tertulia afterwards. We’ll end our Earth Day environmental work on a party note. Stay tuned for further details; there may be a few surprises.

*Cliff Tyllick brought his expertise to Johnson City a while back. Cliff demonstrated to me the techniques to girdle Ligustrum and we used his procedures on the larger Ligustrum at LBJ National Historical Park's recent volunteer effort to remove alien species on riparian areas at the park. I appreciate Cliff's efforts and I believe we are faithfully following his instructions while experimenting ourselves with various strategies to eliminate aggressive non-natives.

See observation and photos of Chinese Tallows in Willow and Cypress tree wetland being girdled :

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/21082018

____________________________________________________________________________________________
Update March 1, 2019:

Hello everyone

Yesterday, several groups of volunteers met at LBJ National Historical Park to walk the riparian areas of the Settlement and Town Creek to strategize a plan to begin remediation of invasive species affecting the upper portion of Town Creek here in town. We identified three areas at the park where eliminating Ligustrum, Chinese Tallow and other species would be of benefit of the upper Town Creek watershed at the park. The National Park has tools at its disposal that will help uproot smaller saplings and young invasive trees. We will add our labor to the effort and there should be teams of people working in the various areas to begin a process of thinning out the major trees sources of alien species that negatively contribute their seeds to the Town Creek riparian habitat.

The volunteers agreed that the target date for the first effort on Town Creek@ LBJ National Park will be Saturday, March 16th, 2019. We will be directing our attention to the old pond on the Settlement that is home for turtles, frogs, fish and other aquatic species. Ligustrum, Japanese Honey Suckle and other invasive species will be the targets for our activities. If you can join us, please do so and while this will be an all day affair, it will be perfectly fine to schedule your effort any time during that day. Please be sure to equip yourself with appropriate tools and clothing. See the list below. Please let me know if you plan to help out. Email me via this web page: http://www.lbjcountry.net/jcpage.htm

Thanks, everyone!
_____________________________________________________________________________________________

This post is dedicated to an effort in Johnson City to encourage a creek cleanup/restoration that has been ongoing in town for a number of years. Beginning in 2014, volunteers here and friends from outside of town joined together to begin an attempt to reduce and control non native invasive species taking over Town Creek. Added to that was a trash cleanup that saw large pieces of debris and foreign objects like wheels, telephone poles and other matter removed from the creeks. We did a pretty decent job and to cap it off planted Cypress trees along the creek which are now large enough to grab viewers attentions even while driving down our streets. Now it is time to think about another effort to help native species out and take out as many Ligustrum and Chinese Tallow as we can to make more room for our native Box Elders, Dogwoods, Willows and other of our native beauties. I have been given some advice by Cliff Tyllick, an Austin volunteer group leader on a technique he employs to kill off Ligustrum without the need of cutting it down or using herbicides to kill it.* He may be able to attend one of our efforts and demonstrate his technique for us. When and if that happens, I'll post an update here on this notice. Efforts will start on the creek cleanup/restore project as soon as we are assured that the Cedar season is over and we have enough warm weather to bathe in the creek;-)

Here's a link to the Austin based volunteer efforts and tools/technique used on Walnut Creek:

https://www.meetup.com/Keep-Walnut-Creek-Wild-The-Meetup-Group/photos/26708754/?albumsOffset=1&photosOffset=0&_cookie-check=OvQjZP5Oa5Y2g6fx

Remember we have a list of gear whose possession and use is encouraged:

Appropriate clothing and head gear - hats, sunglasses, safety googles and clothing you don't mind soiling.

Rubber gloves and boots

Regular work gloves

Change of shoes and clothes

Plastic trash bags and perhaps trash boxes of some type. Perhaps the city can provide one of those again.

Tools you might want to use in the creek; shovels, trowels, branch cutters, hand saws and anything else you feel appropriate.

Shoot me any ideas you have on any of the above.

Cheers

Bill

Ingresado el 12 de febrero de 2018 por billarbon billarbon | 5 observaciones | 1 comentarios | Deja un comentario

31 de diciembre de 2017

Bird Flight Or My Contribution to Science

Wings and flight are at the very essence of what is a bird, are they not? Humans have long regarded birds as heavenly creatures for their ability to slip gravity, to defy our own terrestrial existence. During most of human history here on earth, we've looked at birds and particularly, bird's wings for inspiration to find ways to do that ourselves - giving us the dream of flight. Beyond the power of flight and travel, few of us ever considered there might be more to bird flight than meets the eye. What has perplexed us is how birds have the lung capacity to achieve not only flight itself, but the ability to span the globe on wings hardly larger than our own hands or on huge wings, fly at altitudes [And have been reported to fly to 33,000 feet (some 12,000 meters or more Protor and Lynch, Manual of Ornithology, 1993, pg 16).] and endure cold temperatures at which humans couldn't live. But we've never combined into the same thought bird's two advantages that enables birds to achieve the feats they do on the wing: the ability to fly at all and the ability to fly tirelessly. The two abilities are linked in a most unexpected way.

For many years scientists puzzled over the avian respiratory system and proposed novel and extremely complicated ideas to explain all the elements of the avian breathing such as the link at the bottom of this page.* I especially remember one long and credible explanation of bird respiration that appeared in Scientific American in the early 70's. The model bird was a duck standing on the ground and the hard-to-follow explanation for air flow and air sac function was a 'had to' read over and over again proposition in order to grasp the whole breathing cycle because to understand it, you had to consider chemistry, physics as well as biology. Realizing that birds have all these air sacs and pneumatic bones that intercommunicate with each other and are in turn connected to the lungs results in a confused mess to try to understand how the whole system functions, it being so alien to mammal's system. Needless to say, the author was trying to convince that birds received adequate O2 just by compressing its lungs with its feeble thoracic muscles attached to the ribs. In this scenario, birds inhaled and air via the lungs passed through the lungs to the air sacs and then out again (in stages) resulting in an exchange of atmospheric chemistry sufficient to enable birds to rise above the world's tallest summits and span oceans on just a few breaths of air. It was my understanding that the air sacs would be full of stale air as there was no physical ability to adequately compress the air sac. While none of that was claimed in the article - because it avian respiration was not as thoroughly understood then, what turns out true enough is a bird's ability to span oceans and scale peaks the like of which humans can only dream. There is that word again.

Our understanding about the respiration system of a bird at rest is complicated because we know birds don't have large muscular diaphragms - like we mammals - to inflate and deflate their lungs like a bellows as we do. That's why we now know that bird's weak chest muscles can't possibly generate sufficient air to enable energetic and sustained activity, even if, apparently, the air birds breath passes through their lungs twice. But the amount of energy a bird uses at rest is miniscule compared to that which would be needed in flight. What nagged me for years was the claim that a bird at rest, despite breathing only a small amount of atmosphere, used the same mechanism and respiratory system for flight. That is, that birds thoracic muscles was sufficient to move all the air needed for strenuous flight as well as for rest. Added to that of course, was the idea that air sacs in birds exchanged their dead air - air sacs being dead ends anyway - for fresh air strictly by chemical means. That's how I remembered the Scientific American articles' claim.

Still, this explanation worked for me (and apparently still does for legions of Ornithologists) until, in the late 1980s, I met Timothy Rowe, co-author with Lowell Dingus of The Mistaken Extinction - Dinosaur Evolution and the Origin of Birds. Tim invited me to a talk at annual convention of comparative anatomists at the University of Texas given by the late Farish Jenkins, a Harvard researcher. Dr. Jenkins discovered that the wishbone (furcula) of a flying bird functioned like a spring and aided the bird's muscles in lifting the wing for its wing beat cycle when flying. Dr. Jenkins had measured energy production in every muscle in the wing and determined its energy demand vs what was available via respiration demonstrated the furcula was an energy saving device and aid that helped enable a bird to fly without becoming exhausted. How he determined this was amazing. Dr. Jenkins had trained starlings to fly in a wind tunnel(not his innovation as Ornithologists have been flying budgies in a wind tunnel in 1966) and he filmed the birds while flying...with both normal and X-ray cameras. Using X-ray was Jenkin's innovation. What the developed film revealed was the function of the birds' bones and muscles during flight. In both regular film and X-Ray film you could see the bird up close and all the mechanics of flight provided by feather, bone, and muscle. But there was more and that's what I saw.

I watched in amazement as the starlings' wings - bones, muscles, and feathers - worked in unison during each and every up and down stroke of the wings (complete breath cycle from wing up to wing down). Most unexpected for me was the fact that the sternum rocked back and forth alternately depressing and allowing for expansion of the posterior and associated air sacs - the most prominent in birds. Since the air sacs are not muscular, they cannot expand and contract like the lungs (via thoracic muscles). It turns out that the action of the sternum assures the enlargement of the air supply, enabling a double passing of air through a bird's lungs providing for maximum gas exchange efficiency why in flight, but not when stationary. When at rest, the air sacs are not sufficiently depressed, instead, it was assumed for years that air exchange with the air sacs was chemical and not dynamic. Thus the ability - the need - of a bird to fly and the bird's need for maximum pulmonary efficiency for sustained flight are intricately connected. Bones, muscles, feathers, lungs and air sacs work together to produce a complicated, but amazingly most highly efficient breathing apparatus in the Animal Kingdom.

After the conference there was a reception for Dr. Jenkins at Tim and Elizabeth Rowe's home and Elaine and I were invited. There I explained what I had seen. Afterwards, once Dr. Jenkins had gone home, he refined his understanding of bird flight to include the evidence that the sternum in addition to the furcula directly enhance the ability of a bird to breathe and thus fly seemingly without reaching exhaustion as we would expect for ourselves - from our own understanding of mammal respiration and mobility. In other words, the bird respiratory system is bio-mechanical involving the bones, muscles, air sacs, and lungs to achieve maximum efficiency, not strictly anatomical like it is in mammals with only diaphragms and a set of closed lungs that allows short bursts of strenuous activity. Birds have to fly to breathe.

Many years ago a University of California, Davis, study demonstrated that cockatiels allowed to fly were more successful breeders than non-flying ones. This is not surprising. These revelations mean that flight is not an either or proposition for flying birds, but a necessary, if not an evolutionary (not to speak of revolutionary) advantage. Farish Jenkin's information has now made its way to ornithological and veterinarian texts in one form or another these days and I would expect further developments on the subject in the future. By 1993, Noble Proctor and Patrick Lynch in MANUAL OF ORNITHOLOGY - Avian Structure and Function, basing their comments on Jenkin's work, included the fact that the furcula (wishbone) acts in birds like a spring that not only aids birds in flight by reducing the work load required by the flight muscles, but also deflates the anterior air sacs resulting in a more complete exchange of respiratory gases. Now we know thanks to the conference I attended that birds have a highly efficient pulmonary system that operates best during maximum utilization. For flying birds, that means in flight. These revelations help explain bird's abilities to fly continuously for long periods of time. One species of shorebird, the Bar Tailed Godwit, migrates non stop across the whole Pacific Ocean between its Alaska breeding ground and its New Zealand winter hunting grounds! What, besides magic, would explain little shore birds' breath taking annual globe trotting migrations from northern and southern hemispheres, or the mind boggling knowledge that migrating birds such as geese routinely scale high mountain ranges around the world during their twice a year pilgrimages from breeding grounds to wintering grounds - and from basically sea level to Tibet in a matter of hours without using rising air currents or other 'energy saving' devices. Geese are not alone, as everyone knows, even the tiny hummingbirds span the Gulf of Mexico twice a year during their annual migrations; they are not alone, of course. Incidentally, there is another surprising ramification of the form, function and evolution of bird flight. This information has been generated by paleontologists and ornithologists regarding our understanding of the origin of birds - what they are and what animals were their ancestors and the like. The evidence such as the possession by dinosaurs of a furcula points to the fact - not the possibility - that birds are directly descended from dinosaurs, actually, just another type of Theropod related to the largest land predators ever!

After the conference, I did a couple of things to spread the word as to what we had seen and understood. I wrote an article for a parrot organization newsletter I edited describing the implications of the information as I understood it at the time. I also called a couple of friends - an ecologist and an ornithologist - to tell them what I had discovered. I sent my article to Dr. Catherine Toft at the University of California, Davis, and talked to Dr. John O'Neill at LSU and discussed my observations. Both scientists had collaborated with the parrot breeder organization whose newsletter I edited on a number of projects and I distinctly remembered Dr. O'Neill asking me if what I saw was true, what about non flying birds like Ratites, the Ostrich, Emus and the like. I told him that sounded like a good research project for him - X-ray those obligate bipedals while running on a tread mill!

Ornithologists are a hard headed group. Apparently, Ornithologists have yet to understand how birds are able to achieve the feats of flight they do around the world and research continues to probe into the avian respiratory and cardiovascular system in search of clues to solving the mystery of flight. Recent research is still mostly focused on energy generation, chemical exchange and cardio function without incorporating the bio-mechanical evidence reveled by Dr. Jenkins. Blood components and mitochondria is under scrutiny as if the question of how birds achieve the feats they do cannot be explained simply by an understanding of their anatomy and the way their bodies work. BTW, in my opinion, the mystery of flight has been established without a doubt, without debate that a bird can fly without a wishbone, i.e., wishbone is not essential to a successful flight. Determining the function performed by the wishbone was Farrish Jenkin's first discovery.1 Adding my observation about the function of the sternum - in addition to securing the powerful flight muscles to the body serving as an integral part of the whole respiratory system - was his second important revelation.

1 http://articles.latimes.com/1988-09-19/local/me-1562_1_wind-tunnel

Even after Dr. Jenkin's ornithological research continues to center around blood chemistry (trying to reveal differences in avian hemoglobin/mitochondria and other highly technical, but ultimately invasive procedures to explain bird's flying ability. A sample of these efforts can be reviewed below but what I notice is a continuing reluctance to accept Dr. Jenkin's discoveries which really offer a much more simple explanation of how birds fly - and breathe.2

2 http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/birdrespiration.html

*Sources:

https://www.palaeontologyonline.com/articles/2017/fossil-focus-archosaur-respiratory-system-breathing-life-dinosaurs/?doing_wp_cron=1572050458.9290409088134765625000

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/flight-of-the-kuaka-a-godwit-makes-the-longest-nonstop-flight-ever-recorded/

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/us/farish-jenkins-fossils-expert-dies-at-72.html

sad note added October 4, 2018: Obituary for Dr. Catherine Toft, University of California, Davis .

https://biology.ucdavis.edu/people/catherine-toft

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/11/071108-dinosaurs.html

http://jeb.biologists.org/content/214/15/2455

Birds just have to fit into this diagram for us to understand the complexity of different species ability to fly high and widely.
http://jeb.biologists.org/content/jexbio/214/15/2455/F1.large.jpg

No statistical difference in lung size of high altitude and low altitude related species
http://jeb.biologists.org/content/220/6/1079?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=J_Exp_Biol_TrendMD_0

http://jeb.biologists.org/content/220/6/955?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=J_Exp_Biol_TrendMD_0

One flap, one breath but 5-6 fold increase in heart rate which keeps the chemistry constant at altitude
http://jeb.biologists.org/content/214/24/4071.long?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=J_Exp_Biol_TrendMD_0

Related: How birds fly high and far without drinking water:

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/09/science/la-sci-migrating-birds-muscle-20110910

Compare this journal entry with this article. Notice any difference between the two?:

https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/blog/2014/01/30/the-amazing-muscles-and-bones-that-make-birds-fly/

***Important Breaking News from the New York Times. Please read:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/04/27/opinion/shorebirds-extinction-climate-change.html

Ingresado el 31 de diciembre de 2017 por billarbon billarbon | 6 observaciones | 5 comentarios | Deja un comentario

15 de diciembre de 2017

R.I.P. LCRA's Pedernales River Nature Park.

Update: 4/24/2018

Hello all,

I had a horrible experience this past week at my local LCRA Pedernales River Nature Park yesterday. First I discovered they had mowed the wild brush and bushes absolutely to the water's edge on the lake the lawn of which they keep manicured. This time they encroached to water's edge, including a small spit into the lake which was the one spot previously left natural. Cut clean to the soil almost. All the brush, bushes and plants along the lake's edge were species that many butterflies utilized when blooming for feeding, including migrating Monarch. Now all that is gone. It will take years for the foliage to grow back, but under LCRA's Pedernales River Nature Park maintenance plan, the whole riparian zone and flood plain downstream to the park boundary will be 'managed'. That is not good news for wildlife or migrating species that used to depend on the area for foraging in an increasingly developed Hill Country.

That's bad enough, but now the trees lining the lake have even more fishing lures and lines caught up in the branches from the few 'fishermen' that go there to fish. I have numerous photos of lures and hooks swinging in the branches now that I'll put on flickr soon. All of this was bad enough but then - because now you have to pay to go to this 'nature' park, there were few - very few - visitors. But all it took was one to do what I watched or almost witnessed. I barely missed the actual event, but as I was leaving on the paved 15 mile per hour road, I came upon a five or six foot Western Coachwhip that had just been run over and squashed. I stopped, yelled at the person driving away at the top of the hill (too far for me to be heard), cursed and took photos of the carnage (pun not intended). I am sick of the uncaring, indeed, hostility to wildlife and nature ever present in our society.

_____________________________

Update 12/17/2017:

I have put two album of photos on flickr; a before and after the recent work carried out by contractors at LCRA Pedernales River Nature Park. The links to the albums are as follows:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/151313979@N08/albums/72157688059284962

https://www.flickr.com/photos/151313979@N08/albums/72157661677487837

Thursday afternoon, December 30th, 2017. I had a meeting with one of the LCRA persons familiar with the agencies' project to redo the natural habitat at LCRA Pedernales River Nature Park. He actually lives in the same town as I do. We had an amicable discussion, but I was never told the purpose of the land clearing which included many endemic shrubs, bushes, and small trees. I am guessing, based on earlier conversations with various agency personnel, that establishing conditions similar to a prairie was the goal, an all too familiar scheme of local government agencies in possession of chunks of Texas Hill Country land. It also dawns on me that perhaps LCRA has something else in mind for the park as it now seems the altered area has been reduced to mostly Live Oaks and grass, as my photos show. I have many problems with this view of our portion of the Hill Country because it is fraught with issues over description and misunderstanding. For example, the nearby Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park has embarked on its own Prairie Restoration Project at the LBJ NHP Settlement about a mile upstream from the LCRA park, both of which encompass Town Creek, a recharge stream that flows through both parks and downtown Johnson City.

I doubt the LCRA spokesman thinks the brush clearing was as extreme as I do. Perhaps because there is a movement in government agencies to 'restore' prairie habitats across the country. Organizations and websites have sprung up over the years advocating the restoration of native prairie landscapes in areas that turned out to be unsuitable for dry farming agriculture, critical habitat, or for many other reasons. This may be LCRA's vision which is shared (and, I might add, is typical of most 'habitat restoration' projects) by the LCRA employee, for the nature park . I was told LCRA doesn't intend to treat the property as a manicured lawn, which is helpful, but does not answer the question: what is the goal? Now that all the bulldozing is completed, as I was told, the clearing is finished, (but I can't believe it wasn't stopped because of my complaints). From this point forward, LCRA will just let whatever grows in place to grow back naturally. (Aside: what was already growing naturally has been eradicated and now we are just repeating the regeneration step, get it? No? Me neither. If you are just going to let what survives to survive, what was the point?) I worry that in time, the agency will try to make the area a permanent urban like park, complete with routine mowing and continuous cutting back of encroaching 'woody' invasives at the expense of biodiversity. I don't know why it's necessary to destroy the habitat (and all the critters in it) and then leave it alone. Honestly. I'll believe it when I see it.

In the meantime, both LBJ NHP and their Settlement Prairie Restoration Project (ongoing) and this one by LCRA have native plants as their focus. Alien and invasive plants are targeted for removal by either herbicides or mechanical means in an effort to rid the landscape of onerous species. That has to be appreciated as a positive. The native species that are desired for planting range from indigenous grasses, shrub, brush or trees in place of the often invading alien species that more likely got here by way of escaping home gardens and farming practices should be naturally beneficial. Keeping in mind that land here in the Texas Hill Country has been historically cleared of vegetation to enhance grazing and farming. Reclamation or restoring native species is seen as an enlightened correction to past practices that have negatively impacted and transformed the Texas Hill Country in ways that is contrary to an idealized historical view of the land. In both the case of the LBJ National Historical Park effort and this LCRA effort, a view of what the property should look like have been decided in offices by specialists who have studied the flora of the landscapes. Problem is, the Edwards Plateau and eastern Texas Hill Country are being treated as adjuncts of the Great Plains, hence 'prairie' restorations. Again, undesirable plants are slated for elimination with the plan to reinstate the similar native species in place of the intruder. That's the general plans for both places as far as I can tell. But the devil is in the details and from what I see and hear, the details aren't as they should be. Let me let the following link of noted Hill Country expert, Steve Nelle, make my argument for my above criticisms.

http://www.remarkableriparian.org/pdfs/news/GrasslandMyth-July%202012.pdf

Steve Nelle has published many articles that basically helped form my opinions about both the Texas Hill Country in general and our precious and fragile riparian habitats as well. His website offers a wealth of information and suggestions on where, when and how to proceed. I think his suggestions should be applied literally to both our special parks, the LCRA Pedernales River Nature Park, and the LBJ National Historical Park Settlement here in Johnson City, hometown of the 36th President of the United States:

http://www.remarkableriparian.org/pdfs/news/GrasslandMyth-July%202012.pdf

_______________________________________________________

*Important Update* - see bottom of this message:

This week the riparian area of this unique Hill Country river park will become like your manicured lawn from this day on. From the old road south of the Pedernales an area that stretches from east of the dam on the river to the park's boundary near Deer Creek is being bulldozed of saplings, brush and small trees. From what I can tell, and my observation is a tentative one, the flood plain is being cleared of all vegetation - mesquite trees, cedar elms, pecans, you name it and they have been stripped and smashed into oblivion. This means there is now no natural vegetation to help waterfowl and wildlife hide from humans. I am going to post the progress of this destruction (you can be assured LCRA will take issue with this point of view of their activities). I'll include photos I have of the area before this action was initiated as the one above, and will update the journal post with additional observations as this destructive project proceeds.

Photos now posted showing area and species affected. None of the landscapes depicted here appear as they did in these pictures. To be continued...

I have created a place for the riparian habitat on the land adjoining the river. You can see the species observed before development here and add any you may have in your photo archives. Just follow this link:

https://www.inaturalist.org/places/lcra-pedernales-river-nature-park

I just revised the size of the above place here on iNat. The riparian area along both the Pedernales River and Town Creek have now been nearly cleared of vegetation. There is now no cover for waterbirds and other species to hide from humans and the area of clearing has progressed up slope out of the river flood plain. My latest boundaries take the expanded area into count, but I am now certain I will even have to expand it further because it is obvious the clearing is not complete. I now have complete before and after photos that I will post here and on flickr to enable a wider audience to see what we're loosing.

________________________________
*Updated 11-17-2017*
Hi everyone

I have additional information to give you about LCRA's Pedernales River Nature Park development and how this activity is going to affect more of LCRA parks in our Hill Country and Austin metropolitan area. Any of you with interests in such places as Canyon of the Eagles, or McKinney Roughs Nature Park, the Bastrop LCRA parks might want to contact LCRA officials or others who may be able to bring the destructive development proposed for all these parks to a stop. Here's what I learned Wednesday.

According to the contractor working at LCRA Pedernales River Nature Park, the officials in charge of the park have decided against a natural park in favor of a manicured park that I assume they believe will bring more visitors to their parks. What this means for Pederanles Nature Park is that the river front riparian habitat between Town Lake and the park boundary at the Stanton Ranch has been removed entirely. Additionally, the clearing (and poisoning) of all species including native species such as persimmon, cedar elms, small oaks, mesquite and basically any small tree has taken place. Additionally, the clearing has now proceeded up the hill above the old road that runs east and west south of Town Creek, in addition to the area on both sides of Town Creek itself both above and below the low water crossing that takes visitors to the lake. The clearing of brush also included all Agarita growing anywhere between the entrance, the pavilion at the top of the hill and downhill to the river. In other words, the prairie you drove along on your way to the river is gone. In its place are a few oak trees (logs and dead trees removed) and you now have an unrestricted view of the hillside (like a lawn). The pond on Town Creek, home to so many types of birds and waterfowl has been completely cleared of Rattlebush. In the words of the contractor, the person in charge declared that no Rattlebush be allowed to remain. Of course, that applied to the river bank as well. There is no place between Town Creek, where it enters the Pedernales and the eastern boundary where any vegetation has been allowed to remain as cover for wildlife.

The contractor told me - being a country guy - he knew the operation was destroying endangered species and animal habitat and the first iteration of 'the plan' included preserving much of the native brush, but the latest person in charge overruled the whole operation and ordered the extreme clearing to take place. I have both before and after photos I'll place on flickr as soon as possible, but it won't be in time to save the area from devastation. The results are obvious. The crews are about done here at Pedernales Nature Park, unless the officials at LCRA decide to completely clear the remaining 200 acres of land at the park. The impact of this activity makes a mockery of the idea of a 'nature' park as it's obvious nature will only survive now in spite of LCRA, not because of it.

Don't forget that LCRA's plan is to follow the same brush removal at all the aforementioned parks; Canyon of the Eagles, McKinny Roughs, and one or both of the LCRA parks in Bastrop.

to be continued...

**Update as of December 3, 2017

Ingresado el 15 de diciembre de 2017 por billarbon billarbon | 10 observaciones | 10 comentarios | Deja un comentario

09 de octubre de 2017

A Rattlesnake With an Incredible Story

This is a very large western diamondback rattlesnake that my wife and I encountered. His story and ours is one of the strangest I've ever heard described, even if you go back and read all of J. Frank Dobie's Texas classics where rattlesnake stories are told. And this story was not one of just surprise, wow, we were lucky to be alive kind of close call story, at least for us two humans. In fact, it was just the opposite and it was the snake who we could not believe was alive, so let me tell the story.

One night in early March in the early 2000s Elaine and I were returning home to Johnson City from a shopping trip to Austin. We were just a few miles inside Blanco County where the highway, US 290 twists and turns over several steep hills and valleys and one of those had a blind corner as you crested another steep hill. We were driving our Doge Caravan in the left hand lane with very little traffic on the road that late winter when our headlights illuminated what quickly came into focus as a very large diamondback rattlesnake coiled in the middle of our lane. At 60 mph there was no time to miss the big snake; the best we could do was straddle the critter which we did. But just before the big snake disappeared under the hood of the Caravan it was clear the snake was taking on the moving vehicle and he struck as he disappeared from our view.

From other experiences we've had with rattlesnakes and autos, - almost all in west Texas, we knew the outcome of this confrontation was not in the snake's favor. We made a quick decision to turn around, go back and take the snake off the road where his body could be consumed by other critters without becoming road kill themselves. When we arrived at the scene our fears were realized. I stopped the car off the road, illuminated the prostrate snake in the headlights, took a large stick I keep in the car for such purposes and picked the limp snake up, it's head dangling lifeless with blood oozing out of its mouth and dripping on the highway. I moved the snake off the road and dumped it in the drainage ditch confident that it would be a feast for raccoons and other varmints. With that we got in the van and went home to put up of groceries goods and get to bed.

That night a cold front came through and the morning was overcast and cool - really cool. By this time I had begun to think about the snake again and then decided to go back, and at least just cut the rattler off for a souvenir - probably one of the surest ways to get snake bitten. But that didn't happen to me but I still wanted that very large snake's very larger rattle. So I went back to the hilltop to perform my sad act. But the snake wasn't there. Well, so that's natural. My prognostication was right, the snake was probably some critter's meal and thinking so began walking the ditch back down the slope from which the snake had more than likely taken out of his canyon. In about thirty steps I found him again. Only now he was not dead or eaten, but coiled in rope fashion and lying quietly still. He did not move nor rattle at my approach and I'm sure the cooler weather was having an impact on his comfort. Most importantly, nothing had touched him in the night and the blood from his mouth was now dried and not weeping. So what I did next, anyone of you would have. I picked him up with my stick again, put him in a huge cardboard box and took him home to nurse him back to health. And that's what happened to him. Three weeks later he was actively looking for a way out of his 75 gallon trash can container, giving us every indication that he was ready to go home. He obliged us our support by never rattling or striking at us when we opened his locked trash can to see how he was doing. Finally, I took him back to the uninhabited (by humans) canyon, carried him well down the side of the hill off the highway and set him free. Then I took his picture. You can still see the dried blood on his nostril.

So how big was he or she? I didn't measure or weigh him, but he is one of the largest - if not the largest - diamondback I've ever seen. And I'd say I've seen five around his size, mostly in west Texas. I give him five to six feet of length, his girth, as you can see from the photo is nearly uniform and his head was almost as wide as my hand on which I've been bitten before, say three or more inches in width. While he is a large snake, I am a small person. His color, as you see here from my old 35mm Konica camera was a very dark ground color, nearly black as seems to be the norm in this part of Blanco County in way of comparison to other observations on this website. Anyway, he crawled away into his rocky terrain and I climbed way back to the highway and went home. We have never again seen a rattlesnake on this part of US 290 even though I've seen three in this area off road, it really does speak to the secretive lives of these - and most - snakes. Oh, if you want to read the story of my snake bite, look for Alan Tennant's article on snake bite in one of the issues of Texas Monthly in the late 1970s. A special note is that this snake never fed while captive. He did show interest in a store bought rat, but did not attempt to kill the rat, so the rat was removed and the snake liberated as we had no intention of keeping such a dangerous snake in our home.

Ingresado el 09 de octubre de 2017 por billarbon billarbon | 1 observaciones | 8 comentarios | Deja un comentario