Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pollinate Me Baby!

I don't often watch cable television, but sometimes I find myself in a hotel for a night and will "plug in" for a bit. One particular evening at a hotel, a commercial came on the television for a hardware store. The point of the commercial, "don't waste your time turning your backyard into an oasis, come to so and so (it may have been Ace, but that doesn't really matter) and get the job done quickly so you can watch the game, or read some comics." Well this post is a tribute to that commercial and my continuation of living a life in a world of beauty, sweat, hard work and some fun in there too!
For the record, I will turn my backyard into an oasis! Here's an idea, next time why don't you tell me to stop using my brain or stop filling it with new ideas. Or better yet teach me one way and tell me it's completely okay to be so narrow in my thoughts that I shouldn't look for answers to life's questions anywhere else. As if the answer or answers can be found in only one corner of the world, yeah, not likely! I like my dreams and using my imagination, and I'd like to keep it that way! I will spend as much time getting the job done as is required and I will not be persuaded to sit in front of the television constantly (sure I enjoy movies and the John Stewart show...Colbert too for that matter) instead of relaxing and watching the birds pick bugs from the compost pile or the butterflies and bees pollinate my wildflowers and plants. So this is my tribute to the on-going work in what will be my first masterpiece for a yard. Just saying....

No captions just the beauty that can be found in my yard, your yard, and your neighbors yard. Just stop and take a look; in my opinion some of the answers to the worlds problems can be found in our backyards....Oh yeah and when I'm finished with this post if you need me you know where I am!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Take Two from McCurtain County

The trip was more bust than bang, although it really depends on how you look at the world. To me locating a new population of Bachman's Sparrow is a pretty important little find. After Thursday there wasn't all that much more that happenened in the way of the red list species, unfortunately. Just the same I still managed to enjoy myself while searching more areas, with good company from Tim Ryan until Saturday morning. At one point on Sunday I located a wonderfully large Blackberry thicket and proceeded to plunder it for it's juicy goodness which I added to my lunch a little late; plain yogurt, honey and blackberries...mmmm. Carter Creek was tucked away pretty far up into the forest and it took a little while to get there, and was the boundary for one of my search areas. It served as a nice break/lunch spot during an extremely hot (98 degrees) and humid (80%+) day, admitidaly I took a little break in the water which served as a great recharger to get me through a very long and bust day in the field. It was more than just satisfying.
I also took a few minutes to take note of as many of the butterflies and odonates as I could. The stream had thousands of Water Willow (above Justicia sp. with a Dainty Sulphur doing its job) blooms throughout its pools and the beautiful little purple and white flowers were pretty popular for the pollinators. Below are a few of the species I was able to get photos of.
Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)
A wonderful little Stream Bluet (Enallagma exsulans), first I've identified but seemingly common.

A pair of Powdered Dancers (Argia moesta), caught in the throws of bugginess!

Reakirt's Blue (Echinargus isola)

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) on Water Willow
I ended up leaving the area on Tuesday of last week after being handed a couple of hints. Hint number one: Sunday evening I spent inside the tent in the middle of a pretty severe thunderstorm and shower. What made it even more interesting was the amount of water flowing under my tent, at least two inches worth, enough so that it made the tent floor into a water-bed of sorts. Hint two: Monday afternoon I was traveling an especially littered and rough forest service road, later I would find that I had picked up a nail which was leaving enough air out of the tire that it was completely flat in about 2.5 hours and me without the spare. Two signs is enough for me, I spent the night in a cheap hotel had breakfast early in the morning which is a whole other story and the fuel for a song I wrote. It didn't take long to get the flat fixed, and shortly thereafter I got the hell out of McCurtain County!

I added a few more photos below just for the sake of sharing, taken at different moments during my last foray into the frontier.

Ipomopsis rubra - Standing Cypress

Coreopsis tinctoria - Plains Coreopsis

Asclepias tuberosa - Butterfly Weed
Reversed Haploa (Haploa reversa)
Diana Fritilary (Speyeria diana)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A quest for the Pine Woods Sparrow!

On a quest for the elusive Bachman's Sparrow and unknown populations of this Audubon Red list species. I arrived late in the afternoon on Wednesday of last week, Tim Ryan had already arrived and was patiently waiting to hit the field, set-up camp and just get moving. It didn't take long before the tent was up, and we were off for a little bit of scouting. By the time that was over I think we were both pretty worn out, enough so I couldn't even begin to muster the energy to get my guitar out and pluck a few chords like I had promised; it would have to wait until the next evening.

Up and out early in the morning, we spent all day Thursday checking recently thinned and disturbed stands of mature pine for any sign of the species. For most of the day we had no luck. Driving miles and miles of beautiful National Forest roads is not such a bad thing, even if you are not locating the species you were looking for. We had ample opportunity to take in all that the Ouachita National Forest had to offer and at given times, when we would find seemingly decent habitat, we would stomp around and give the area a good search. No Bachman's to be found, but let me assure there was plenty of flora and fauna about and I've provided a few of the photos that go along with the journey. My wife and I (but mostly my wife since I'm not home much) has been building a nice little garden of wildflowers and herbs around the house, and I have been paying attention to those a bit more when I'm out in the field; I'm always looking for some new beauty to add to the collection at home. Of course I relocate the same species along the highway and gather seed stock from there. Why? Because it is illegal to harvest anything from a National Forest without the proper permit, which I do not posses. In order to figure out exactly what it is, I have been taking photos and making sure to take good notes and label any samples that hop in the truck with me from the road side.
Beauty to be found in Ouachita National Forest; above: Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)Below: correct me if I'm wrong; White Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Late Thursday afternoon we hit the jackpot. After having struck out all day and getting turned around on the seemingly endless National Forest roads, we found ourselves in some particularly good habitat. I remember saying out loud, "now this looks like exactly where a Bachman's Sparrow would want to be." About ten minutes later, we heard it; I gave Tim a wide eyed look and he said "what do we do now?" Stumbling for my gear and moving as quickly as possible to get myself out of the truck, I responded, "we chase it!" And off we went down through the woods. Five minutes later I was on a sparrow, a few minutes after that we kicked another out of the grass accidentally (no, not literally!). All of the sudden, as if they detected our excitement, numerous birds started calling in close vicinity. I estimated no less than four calling individuals in the general area. A very exciting ending to an extremely hot and long day!

I decided to return to the same location Friday morning, but not after Tim got to finally hear me play a few tunes around the campfire on Thursday evening, after a celebratory Shiner! He also insisted on taking video of the whole experience which he later threw into a nice little edited highlight reel, which I have thrown in here just for the fun of it; just don't expect all that much! We returned Friday morning to the same area from the afternoon before. I wanted to check the entire location and get a better handle on the number of Bachman's present, no such luck though. There was a dense fog well into the late morning and the birds were not calling, moving or making themselves known. We ended up mapping the roads and checking around the peripheral areas for more potentially suitable spots. Finding ourselves at the lake at one moment, we took a few minutes to snap some photographs of the foggy situation.

Birds, birds what about the birds? Well, the resident warblers were out and making themselves very apparent (wish I could say the same for the Bachman's Sparrows), Black & White, Kentucky, Common Yellowthroat, Pine and Prairies as well. I was pretty surprised at the number of Prairie Warblers we actually heard and observed, far more than I had expected. Yellow-breasted Chats were out making their ruckus as well. We had an exciting moment with a pair of Scarlet Tanagers, it had been at least five years since I had last heard the chekkk-brrrr call of the male. It filled my mind with memories of NW Massachusetts in the spring; a nice way to bring back fond memories! We ran into two Broad-winged Hawks throughout the couple days Tim was with me, unfortunately no photos to go along with it. Hmm, let's see, of course we had a number of Brown-headed Nuthatches and lots and lots of the other smaller but much more common species like Carolina Chickadees, wrens, Tufted Titmice, ect, ect, ect. . . There is far more to talk about, having spent seven days out in it so I think that will warrant a part II.