My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Monday, March 28, 2011

Afternoon Delight

I  currently spend the last couple of daylight hours enjoying the wildflowers. Most afternoons,  I drive home slowly, stopping often to photograph wildflowers. Some days, I have to go back to a spot I found, while working, to get pictures in the beautiful evening light (or occasionally morning light). And I found I have a fish-eye effect on my camera which is sometimes useful in making the wildflowers stand out more.

Here are a few of my favorites. (Actually several because most of them are favorites. )

Dotted Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium pruinosum)

Showy Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa)

Spider Lily (Hymenocallis liriosme)

Thistle Bud

Texas Indian Paint Brush (Castilleja foliolosa )

Texas Prickly Poppy (Argemone aurantiaca)

Lanceleaf Coriopsis  (Coreopsis lanceloa)

Showy Evening Primrose Pair

Showy Blue-Star (Amsonia ilustrus)

Lyre-Leaf Sage (Salvia lyrata)

Today I planted several bins of wildflower seeds and then four willows and a bald cypress.  I'm praying for rain tomorrow or else I'll have to finish watering all the plants that need it before taking a mini vacation this weekend.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

So What's New at Anahuac?

In the last few weeks, the staff and volunteers have been hard at work at new projects. And some are being done by contractors. Shoveler pond is getting is rehab and will be made into a deeper pond so it can once again serve as a fishing and crabbing spot.

Building terraces in Shoveler Pond to prevent bank erosion

And we have a big new viewing platform that looks back north over the field just south of the maintenance area. It has water on three sides and should have good views of lots of birds since I think this field will stay wet all summer.

New Viewing Platform

And today I watched  the footings  being built for the bridge over a little gulley that, when finished, along with a little more paved pathway, will provide a handicap accessible path to the viewing platform overlooking the rookery area.  It is a riparian area and a great place to look for little birds like sparrows, warblers, kinglets, and gnatcatchers, and should be great for migrants. The pond has been a good place to see ducks, kingfishers, vermillion flycatchers and swamp sparrows. Eagles can often be found in the trees to the south of it. Cormorants and great egrets roosted here all winter and black-crowned night herons also roosted there.

Building Footings for footbridge in Skillern Unit

A volunteer made a HUGE bat house to provide a new home for the bats currently living in the maintenance building.. It will be fun to watch them come out at dusk.. It is across the road from the Visitor Information Center so is easy to access.

Bat House by Maintenance Building

And I'm finding some new wildflowers, as well as growing populations of ones that started blooming in January.

Mass of Indian Paintbrush

Roadside Wildflowers

Blooming shrub in Skillern Unit

It's pretty exciting to be here right now.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Busman's Holiday

I took this past Friday and Saturday off to volunteer at other places. A friend and I wanted to learn more about the operation run by volunteers at Armand Bayou to restore the native prairie there. They raise thousands of grasses and forbs and then plant them out in the prairie.  They also have to wage a running battle against the invasive tallow trees that are trying their best to build a forest of nothing but themselves.

We lucked out and found that a busload of high school students had given up a day of their spring break to come out and plant. So we learned how the planting process works.

The plants had been thoroughly watered and loaded on a big trailer pulled by a tractor. Most of them were big bluestem, Indian Grass or switchgrass but a few of them were wildflowers.  Holes had already been drilled in eight rows eight feet apart.  Then the area was divided into block of  fifteen holes by eight holes.

Kids planting one gallon pots of grasses and forbs at Armand Bayou Nature Center

 The kids were divided into two groups.  The first group were shown and told how to plant, especially to first be sure the hold was the correct depth and fix it if is wasn't so the plant would end up level with the ground. Then they got their plants and started planting. Then the second group got their instructions and started planting in a different section.

The soil was damp and rain is expected this week so they didn't have to water the plants. (Normally they have to pour in one gallon of water, plant, and then water with a second gallon of water. The kids mostly planted with their bare hands, but called for a shovel if they could not move dried clay soil or needed to dig the hole deeper. In two hours, they planted  around 1000 grasses and forbs. I think the current ratio is ninety percent grasses and ten percent forbs.

We also got to bump up some plants and weed the tiny big bluestem growing in gallon pots. We found it takes at least three months to get grass from seed to planting size. And we got to see some young plants, still in the potting sheets and discuss the mix used for starting seeds and the soil used for bumping up into one gallon pots. We felt we had gotten a lot of good information that will help us start up a much smaller program.

Then, on Saturday, I went to the last workday that Audubon will hold at High Island for the season.  The purpose was to get the trails cleared out, take invasives out, and get the place ready for the influx of visitors that will come to see spring migration. Be sure you check out the area just past and around the kiosk when you visit.  I did that.  Another couple completely cleaned out the banks of Perky's Pond.  Another lady cleaned out the kiosk and stocked it for the season. It seemed that there were very few of us until I saw the pile of brush waiting to be burned and then went to lunch and saw a whole lot of people eating.  I think we must have had around forty volunteers. We had really delicious grilled hamburgers.

Cleaning out  the edge of Perky's Pond

Gary, the designated wheelbarrow driver,  hauled most of three huge piles by himself

Our cook who spent a long time grilling hamburgers for us
The migrants are starting to come in.  Northern waterthrush, northern parula, palm warbler, and eastern towee were all seen on Saturday. The rookery in Smith Woods is also hoping with hundreds of birds hanging out there and some of the great egrets already sitting on eggs. A couple of friends and I enjoyed them as well as the birds on Bolivar Jetty.  Currently the south winds are causing most of them to hang out off the jetty, rather than on Bolivar Flats.

Marbled Godwit at Bolivar Jetty

A few great egrets at the rookery
 After all that fun, I woke up Monday with sore hands and a discombobulated mind from having to switch to daylight savings. But I did finally make it out to the butterfly garden where I murdered more thousands of fire ants, freed twenty or so plants from weeds, and got three sites ready for trees.