Monday, March 28, 2011

Gruene, Texas

(pronounced 'green'), 
est. 1845 by German immigrants
and known for its cotton production,


remains a small Texas town boasting the sameTexas flavor
that's portrayed in history books. 

dance hall and saloon

As winter loosened it's grip,
we took a road trip
to this little, antiquated town,
to wander the monthly Gruene Market Days,
and enjoy the warm sunshine.

 I found myself attracted to vendors who offered items
constructed from upcycled materials. 

horseshoes, anyone? Can you make out the dragonfly?

Birdhouses crafted from recycled toilet tank floats.

And made one new friend.

Because I was so disappointed that I had just missed
Willie Nelson's performance
at the Gruene Hall,
he said he might be able to wrangle me
an introduction to Jimmy Buffet.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Roadrunner, Beep Beep

(Geococcyx californianus)
aka "Californian Earth-cuckoo"

Much to my delight, during my recent visit
to my N. Texas 'hometown',
I came across this fellow!

The roadrunner is a terrestrial cuckoo. 
I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't realize it was in the cuckoo family.
I thought I'd never seen a cuckoo before.

Adopted as the state bird of New Mexico in 1949,
it is often referred to as the "Chaparral Bird",
a bird of desert and scrub, from Arkansas
south and west to California.
In Spanish, it is called "El Correcaminos".

A very clumsy flyer, the roadrunner much prefers to run,
and has been clocked at speeds of 15 mph!  They eat lizards,
snakes, mice, insects, and yucky scopions
- lots of protein to fuel their long, spindly legs..

It's interesting to note that John James Audubon,
(1785 - 1851), was not familiar
with the roadrunner during his lifetime.

Approximately 22 inches long,
the roadrunner is listed as 'of least concern',
yet I hadn't seen one since childhood,

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Bags are Packed

Sadly, my winter visit with my daughter has come to an end.  She has been so very  accommodating, making sure I had my time in nature.  She claims that she is not a birder, but she is the best non-birder there is!  She spots them and hears them often before I do!  If I keep to the bigger birds, she'll remain engaged for hours.  She drove me down country roads, hiked trails, arranged for a cruise in a glass-bottomed boat, wandered the wetlands, cared for me when I had the flu, and brought me bird books from the library.

The New Braunfels area lies on the Balcones Enscarpment, the dividing line between the Coastal Plains and the Hill Country, but only a few hours away from the Piney Woods of the Houston area, and she made sure I experienced it all, with the support of her 'intended', a young man any mother would be proud to call "son-in-law".

I will certainly miss my time with her, although I'm sure she's heaving a big sigh of relief knowing that my plane will be taxiing down the runway tomorrow morning.  Next stop, the Dallas/Ft. Worth area for a few days reuniting with some teacher friends, then back to New England.

A ride on a glass-bottomed boat, you ask?  Oh, yessiree, and what an interesting tour of the springs of the San Marcos River, at the Aquarena Center, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX.

Ever wonder what a 'spring' looks like?  I, for one, had no idea!

Here we have springs. 
Tiny, sandy spots on the bottom of the river where water flows out, sometimes so rapidly and at such volumes, there is no vegetation for several feet around the perimeter.

And, just for fun, check this out:

We weren't the only ones enjoying the tour.

Reflected from the water.

Another glass-bottomed boat just like ours, built in the 1960's
and very well maintained.

Located on the site of an old, 1940's theme park, the Aquarena now plays host to scuba enthusiasts, underwater archeologists, and biology students, as well as providing nature and geological history at it's best for visitors to the center.  The theme park closed in the early 1990's when diving pigs in an underwater theater could no longer compete with parks the likes of SeaWorld in nearby San Antonio.

 Adjacent to the property is a floating boardwalk through what remains of the wetlands,
 which are being restored to their natural state.  Blue-winged Teal, Coots, Wood Ducks, and turtles entertained us this day, but other water fowl freguent the springs, as well.

We met the most delightful, elderly gentleman birder who visits the wetland daily, and helped us locate and identify a Swamp Sparrow, new to my lifelist!  He told me that the Zone-tailed Hawk I had seen a few days previously was on all of his birder friend's wish lists, and that he'd only seen one once.  Imagine that.  And it was flying right over my daughter's backyard one afternoon!!  I almost blew it off as 'just another vulture', but boy was I glad that I kept my eye on it!!

It was a fun day and after a little picnic lunch, we wound it up by taking all back roads home, stopping along the way at every opportunity - but that's fodder for another day's post.

If you ever find yourself in the San Marco area, be sure to find time to visit the Aquarena Center.  There's even a little aquarium, featuring some rare and endangered species, like the Texas Blind Salamanders. 

The welcome mat is always out!

The winners of my give-away have been notified and their books are on their way!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Honey Creek State Natural Area

It was a cold and frosty morning as we gathered at the old homestead for the 2 mile interpretive tour of Honey Creek, but the azure blue sky held promise of another beautiful day in the Hill Country.

Honey Creek State Natural Area, originally a ranch owned by German immigrants in the mid-1800's, totals 2293.7 acres, lies approximately 30 miles north of San Antonio, and is accessible by a weekly guided tour only.  Due to the bone-chilling temperatures, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people availed themselves of this opportunity.

Nesting grounds of the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler, Honey Creek is a truly beautiful location.

Spanish Moss

Ball Moss - feeds off the air!

The lasting effects of a Yellow Sapsucker!

THIS is Honey Creek!

Yellow Indian Grass at the water's edge.

At least 20 feet up high, in the crook of a tree,
 grew this big, beautiful cactus!

Although birds were scarce on this frigid morning,
the dappling effects of the sun couldn't disquise THIS bird,

nestled in among the rocks on the path up a gorge.
I'll always wonder if this was placed intentionally, long ago, by hunters/gatherers or later by settlers, or if it is just 'one of those things'.

Tradition holds that as they explored their new surrouondings, they found that there were hundreds of swarming bees.  Where there are so many bees, there must be honey, and so the creek became known as Honey Creek.

Today's the last day to enter the give-away on this post.
Donated items include Crossley's new bird ID book and
Peterson's Young Birder's Field Guide.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spring Butterflies

The neighbor's pear tree is in full bloom here in New Braunfels, TX
and it is a magnet for butterflies.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Spicebush Swallowtail (Pterourus troilus)

Spicebush Swallowtail (Pterourus troilus)

Proof to all my northern friends that
spring is on it's way!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Nature Appreciation Give-Away

Last July, when I reached 50 followers, I was so very excited.
Never in my wildest imagination did I expect to reach 100.
I'd like to show my appreciation by having a give-away to celebrate 100 followers and the coming of spring.
Give-aways are fun because everyone likes to win. 
It's only human nature!

 I am pleased to have a brandy new copy of Bill Thompson, III's
Bill is editor of Bird Watcher's Digest
and author of the blog
Bill of the Birds on Blogspot.
He has very generously made arrangements with his publisher to donate a book just for this give-away.  Written with the cooperation of his daughter and her classmates, The Young Birder's Guide is truly an inspirational tool for sparking the excitement in children and engaging them in the world of nature.  It's easy to use, easy to understand, and very well illustrated.  I think I'd like a copy for myself.  Afterall, I'm just a grown-up child!

I also have a copy of the newly published
Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds,
compliments of the
Princeton University Press,
 to give away.
I have been reading some excellent reviews about this new birding resource guide.  Nina of Nature Remains, for one, very eloquently convinced me of the need to check it out further!  Two other reviews by Monarch's Nature Blog and The Drinking Bird left me drooling.  Sounds to me that this reference book is sure to revolutionize the way in which we identify birds, and lordy knows,
I need all the help I can get!

In addition,
   I have made a Field Guide Tote Bag
to throw into the mix,
very similar to the one pictured here. 
Adapted from a pattern by Atkinson Designs,
this bag is the perfect size to hold a field guide
and rests comfortably out of your way,
but is easy to grab.  
The handle doubles as a tape measure
for quick reference or for scale.

For my crafting friends, I have a copy of the pattern Hooterville.

And finally,
I have decided, after much deliberation, to pass along my copy of Richard Louv's

To participate, simply leave a comment on this post.  I'd love to hear how you have introduced nature to someone new, but it's not necessary.  And if you think to, let me know what your choice would be from the prize list should your name be chosen by the random number generator. 
(This give-away will close one week from today.)

but certainly not least,
I would like to congratulate
Donna M., follower #100!
Her prize is this adorable,
handmade owl pillow, made from
and a copy of the book,

Owl MoonOwl Moon, by Jane Yole, a Caldecott Award-winning story
of what happens when a little girl goes out one moon-lit night on an
owling adventure with her father.  The illustrations are beautiful, the text full of lovely descriptions, and I know Donna will enjoy sharing this story with her grandson.
Congratulations, Donna, and thanks!

I will close
with some food-for-thought:

'How will today’s kids
(who will be the leaders of tomorrow, afterall)
feel any need to protect the environment
if they’ve grown up without experiencing nature?”
-Bill Thompson, III