Josey Ranch Lake

After visiting the Pocket Prairie, I headed over toward the lake. The highlight of this part of the walk was a flock of cedar waxwings feeding around the blooms of a tree. I think they may have been eating tiny insects that were attracted by the blooms. They were very active – chowing down before continuing their migration. I didn’t get any great pictures of them, but I saw enough to identify them while I watched them feed! For some reason – a tend to think of them as slightly larger than they are (maybe because they have a crest like a cardinal, and I lapse into thinking they are the same size).

Otherwise the lake was a disappointment. There was a lone Canada goose and a few mallards. The birds that winter there have already moved northward. There were still a few coots around; they were all on the shore. Perhaps they stay for the summer too. The lake was almost empty.

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The resident boat-tailed grackles are noisy and have a lot of attitude. I took two sequences. On that was walking on the sidewalk as I headed back toward the car…

And another in the front of the drive near the library….I think he might have been warning me to come no closer!

Josey Ranch Pocket Prairie

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Last week I discovered the Josey Ranch Pocket Prairie near the Carrollton (Texas) Public Library. At first it looked mostly like a sea of plants blowing in the breeze…then I began noticing the flowers.

I walked around the path slowly using the zoom on my camera to see the flowers better (and photograph them). There were a lot to see. Some I recognized – the bluebonnets, Indian blanket, Indian paint brush, and pink evening primrose. Others I didn’t. I’ll have to go back and get more detailed pictures to identify them. Spring is a great time to see wildflowers!

I’ll have to remember to take a turn around this pocket prairie when I come to Carrollton in the summer and fall…see it in difference seasons. There seems to be a group of volunteers maintaining the area. There were piles of some invasive plants that had been pulled out and were ready for pickup. The rain garden area seemed almost new. If it rains while I am here – I’ll go over in my rain gear to see how it works!

A Carrollton Garden – Part II

It’s been more than 8 years since my grandmother died – but there are still many plants in the garden at my parents’ house that she started. The pink preference sage all came from a plant from her sister’s garden.

The oxalis was something she saw first in her sister’s garden then ordered some from a catalog (we think). It is growing so profusely these days that some of the plants are being potted to be part of the floral decorations for my niece’s wedding.

The bees like the flowers too.

The evening primrose is self-propagating around a rose bush my grandmother got as a birthday present (the rose bush must be over 20 years old now) and she planted the primrose seeds at its base.

I’m not sure where the daisy-like flowers came from, but they’ve been in the garden for a long time. These days they bloom in enlarging clumps in the front yard garden under the big mulberry and beside the red yucca.

The continuity of plants – passed between family members and through generations. Remembering her…in her garden.

A Carrollton Garden – Part I

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I am visiting my parents this week in Carrollton TX and their garden is responding to the warmer weather. Mounds of oxalis line the large patio – carpeting the partial shade area under the mulberry trees.

Various kinds of iris are in bloom. The Dutch iris blooms seem to last longer than the other kinds.

The mulberry trees are a fruitless variety. The trunks of the largest trees have a lot of color when they are wet. Most of the trees have small branches emerging along the big branches. The larger branches have been thinned to allow more sunlight to reach the ground so all the little branches that are within reach of the pole clippers are snipped from the trees keep the canopy open.

The pecan tree is finally old enough to bloom and may produce some pecans this year. Hopefully the nuts will be the paper-shell variety.

The red yuccas are not blooming yet but the seed pods from last fall are still on the stalks. Some of them look almost black (like they were burned). I like the shapes of the empty pods.

More pictures from the garden tomorrow.

Up Close Irises

There was a large vase of irises from the garden to welcome us to my parents’ house last week. Over the course of the evening, I took several opportunities to photograph them at close range – with and without the macro lens. I like the curves of all parts of the flower - from bud to full flower to spent flower. Today - savor the color and shapes of irises!

Travel Day

A week ago, I got up in Texas and got ready to fly home to Maryland. As I got my breakfast, I noticed that the sunrise was spectacular. I quickly grabbed my camera to take some pictures from the backyard. The colors were changing fast. There was a little breeze that caused me to notice the windchimes and I decided to take a silhouette of them with the colors of the sunrise in the background.

Looking back toward the house, there were some hazy clouds that reflected the color. What a great start to my last day in Texas!

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My strategy for the trip was to pack small bags rather than large ones. I was flying on Southwest so there was no charge for checking two of them. I carried my back pack and tote on the plane. The tote was holding a red poncho that I wore on the plane (and is a good substitute for a blanket). The strategy worked well for this trip. It’s great to not have to lift heavy luggage.

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It felt good to get home later that day. I always savor being ‘home again’ after being away for a week.

Josey Ranch Birds – Part II

There was finally another sunny day in Carrollton TX and I headed over to Josey Ranch Park again. I was lucky enough to arrive about the same time two women arrived with food for the birds. Two swans were at the boardwalk before the women could make their way from the parking lot to the boardwalk; the swans must recognize the signs of a forthcoming meal. The pigeons and seagulls flew in quickly.

After the crowd of birds gathered to enjoy the feast – the coots seemed to be arguing – chasing each other and churning the water. The northern shovelers in the background did not hurry over like the other birds.

How many birds can you identify in this picture? (see the bottom of this blog post for the most prominent ones). This is a good picture to see the relative size of the birds as well.

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There are not very many mallards at the lake this time of year. The light changes the green coloring of their head; sometimes the feathers look black!

Lesser Scaups are more prevalent.

The Great Egret is there every time ago – must be a resident.

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Pigeons are on the roof of the nearby senior center and library except with there is food! Iridescent neck feather and red eye – oh my!

The Northern Shovelers are not quite as numerous as the Lesser Scaups and they seem relatively used to people being about.

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I managed to get a seagull taking off from the lake – watch the one to the center right.

Birds in the ID quiz picture: swan (partial) on the far left, Canada geese in the upper third, ducks with large bills and rust colored sides are male Northern Shovelers, ducks with light sides and brown heads (yellow eyes) are male Lesser Scaups, coot in lower right (black with pointy beak), pigeon (partial) on bottom margin, gull?  Inflight in the upper left.

Rainy Day in Texas

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I stood at open sliding glass doors to take some rainy-day pictures last week when I was in Texas. The colors of the wet foliage were bright for such a cloudy day. Even the raw wound from where a big branch had been cut from a tree was colorful.

A squirrel surveyed the yard. I thought the animal might have heard my camera

When it darted off through the treetops.

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A few minutes later – another squirrel was on the ground. The face and paws looked lighter, but it might have just been the light.

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A couple of days later, the sun was out again….and I got a different perspective of the garden, but it was cold enough that I took the pictures from an open sliding glass door again…quickly to not let the heat escape from the house.

Josey Ranch Birds – Part I

After the sadness of seeing the dead crow, I headed over to the Josey Ranch Lake to see the birds that were still very much alive. The day was still cloudy…but the birds didn’t seem to care.

There were Lesser Scaup – which I had seen during precious visits to Carrolton during the winter and early spring (February 2015, January 2017, and March 2017).

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The Northern Shovelers are there for the winter as well.

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The Great Egret is there all through the year.

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As are the Mute Swans.

Canadian geese are not as common. I had not seen them before this year at this small lake in Texas.

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American Coots and pigeons were plentiful and sometimes were in mixed groups on the shore.

The sea gulls – far from any sea – seem happier on the water.

Mourning a Crow

Every time I visit my family in Carrollton, TX, I photograph the birds at the Josey Ranch Lake Park. The first bird I saw last week was near a trash receptacle beside the parking lot….and it was dead. It was a cloudy day to beginning with and finding a dead crow seemed to fit the weather. Seeing a dead bird is not that common; recently I am more likely to find feathers scattered from a predator taking a bird rather than a whole carcass. I mourned the crow the rest of the morning.

I wondered if the bird had died in a collision with a car…or whether it was West Nile Virus again causing crow deaths. My family had commented that they had been seeing more crows and assumed that the population was healthy and growing again.

I took the photographs with a zoom rather than getting close…just in case the bird died of an infection of some kind. A few white feathers are visible; evidently that is not so unusual for crows even though most of the time we think they are totally black.

More tomorrow about the birds that were active on the cold blustery day…helped me get over seeing the dead bird first.

Texas Sunrise

I was in Texas last week (Carrollton near Dallas to be precise). They were experiencing their first round of cold weather. The first morning I got up to early enough to see the sunrise (not hard this time of year).

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The garden still had a surprising amount of green I wondered how long it would be before the plants succumbed to frost. There were some that already had dried to brown (leaves and flowers) but the soft greens of oxalis and sedum

And the brighter colors of kale dominated the view.

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I took my pictures and hurried back inside…it was cold. Little did I know that the next 3 days would be cloudy…and then wet.

Texas Vegetation

Dallas in June – hot and mostly dry. There is some native vegetation that thrives in the heat. Everything benefits from a little water. The red yucca has become more and more popular in recent decades. It looks delicate but is prolific enough to sometimes be used in public landscaping.

Crape myrtles need extra water but do well in the heat. I photographed a crape myrtle with white blooms in the early morning on the day the sprinklers watered the garden.

The desert willows are even more resilient to the heat and dryness since they are native to the desert southwest and have only recently become common in landscaping in Dallas.

The blue run juniper my parents planted year ago to fill in around the other plants in their front yard (replacing grass) is mature and full of blue ‘berries.’

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June is the peak of summer vegetation color in Texas!

Josey Ranch Lake – Other Birds

I’ve posted about the herons and mallards at Josey Ranch Lake earlier this week. There were some other birds at the lake.

The grackles are probably the most numerous birds at the lake. I like to photograph the birds showing their attitude.

The next most numerous birds are pigeons. Most of them were on the roofs of the senior center or library – surveying the lake or grooming.

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A Great Egret was feeding in the shallows near the Great Blue Heron….the lake seems to have enough food to support quite a few birds.

I saw one swan. I wondered if something had happened to the others. In April I saw two and several times in previous years that have been 3 or more.

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Josey Ranch Lake - Mallards

When I first got to Josey Ranch Lake, I thought I all I would see was Mallard Ducks and grackles! All the ducks I usually see when I visit Texas in the winter had gone north to their nesting grounds. When I looked closer at the Mallards, I realized that the ones that appeared to be napping in the shade were either molting males or juveniles just getting their adult plumage. I decided that they were probably juveniles – maybe the same ones I had seen as ducklings in April.

A pair of males on the lake also looked scruffy – probably juveniles getting their plumage.

Then I saw a female with a large number of mid-sized ducklings on the lake….probably the second group of the season. The lake is a good place for duck families evidently!

Josey Ranch Lake – Blue Herons

I saw two types of blue herons at Josey Ranch Lake (along with green herons and a yellow crowned night heron…for a total of 4 different kinds of herons): little blue and great blue. Great Blue Herons are birds I see frequently in Maryland and in Texas. They are large beautiful birds…and I enjoy photographing them. There was one at Josey Ranch Lake – standing serene in the lake shallows.

The  Little Blue Heron is not a bird I see in Maryland, so I was thrilled to see one at Josey Ranch Lake. It was the first heron I saw when I arrived for my walk. It was fishing in the shallows near the senior center. The bird looked a little battered – had some feathered missing in its neck – but seemed healthy and finding edible tidbits in the water.

Josey Ranch Lake – Yellow Crowned Night Heron

Another heron I saw at Josey Ranch Lank was  Yellow Crowned Night Heron. This heron is much larger than the green heron; in the image below the yellow crowned night heron is on the right and the green heron (adult) is on the left (a ball is in the center).

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Both herons were in the fallen reeds looking for breakfast and both found a crayfish. The pictures of the green heron catch were not clear enough to see the crayfish…but the shape and antennae or evident for the night heron’s catch.

This was a bid I had to look up in AllAboutBirds when I got back from my walk. I’d taken enough pictures from various angles to make the identification. It looked like a heron although the head looked more rounded that some of the other herons. The markings give it a different ‘facial expression’ as well – our minds always jump to that thinking, assigning a ‘personality’ to the bird that overlays assumptions made for our species onto the bird.

Josey Ranch Lake – Green Herons

Josey Ranch Lake is near where my parents live in Carrollton, TX and I try to make a walk around it ever time I visit. This time I’ve been busy with other things but managed to get over one morning – and saw 4 kinds of heron in less than 30 minutes! The most numerous were the Green Herons. They are only slightly larger than a grackle….so hard to distinguish at a distance. I was thrilled when I zoomed in on some fallen reeds at the edge of the lake and spotted one that hunting. Another bird appeared in the standing reeds. One caught something a gobbled it down – not sure whether it was a small fish or crayfish.

But the thrill of the day was few feet way at the edge of large stand of cattails….2 juvenile green herons! They were hunting on the logs and seemingly finding tidbits to eat. Their wings did not appear developed enough to allow then to fly; they still had a lot of down and coloring more like a starling than a green heron. But look at the legs!

Josey Ranch Park in Carrollton, Texas

The baby ducklings I posted about yesterday were the spring highlight for me at the part….but I was pleased with other sites too.

The buttercups in the grass…and the serendipity of catching a butterfly in flight between flowers.

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The male grackles were facing off…asserting their dominance.

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There was a scissor-tailed flycatcher that posed on a post for picture.

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I hadn’t realized how similar they looked to mockingbirds that are also in the area….except for the vary long tail.

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I saw two pairs of ducks (other than the mallards) that are probably getting ready to leave for their breeding ground further north: gadwalls (photo is of the male)

And northern shovelers. Both were probably more numerous in the area a few weeks ago.

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There was a squirrel that did not look happy for me to walking nearby as

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An American coot that didn’t seem to know I was there at all.

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My round-trip walk was about 2 miles…good exercise…and a good outing for some photography.

Ducklings

There were two cohorts of Mallard ducklings at Josey Ranch lake in Carrollton TX last week. I walked saw them on two different days – one group had 7 ducklings and the other 8. There are some larger turtles in the lake that might be a threat while the ducklings are so small – but the parents (sometimes with extra helpers) were attentive and keeping the ducklings in the shallow water away from deeper water where the turtle could pull them under.

Most of the time the ducklings stayed together. There were several instances that it appeared that the female was making sure all of them were still with her! There seemed to be more males that females around the lake and all the adults seemed to be near where ducklings were.

Enjoy the ducklings – one of the sure signs of spring!

Savoring 2017 – Anticipating 2018

2017 was a busy year. Here are some highlights.

January

My daughter and I drove from Maryland down to Dallas to visit family and then spent a week in Grapevine TX for a AAS conference before driving on to Tucson. It was the trek between Tucson and the east coast for the year.

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Not long after I returned – I bought a new car: a Prius Prime.

February

February was the trough of the year in terms of activity but we did buy another car – a Honda CR-V for my husband.

March

In March a flew round trip to Dallas to do the chauffeuring for a trip to Oklahoma for my parents to visit other family members.

When I got back, we made a short visit to Pittsburgh – and enjoyed the Phipps Conservatory and the Aviary.

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April

April was the start of field trips: Delmarva Birding with my husband and then the field trip volunteering I do with Howard County Conservancy.

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May

In May there was another family visit in Texas and then moving my daughter from Tucson to State College. The packing up was some of the hardest physical work I’ve ever done…and then driving cross country with very sore and stiff muscles. Now that time has passed, I can see it as quite an adventure.

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June

In June I started volunteering at the Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy exhibit. That continued into early September.

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July

I made my first road trip in my Prius in July – to State College to help my daughter move into her apartment.

August

In August we drove to Nebraska for the Solar Eclipse.

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September

September was full of Howard County Conservancy field trips. The stream and school yard assessments with the high schools were the more numerous for the season.

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October

Staunton River Star Party is becoming an annual event or us. This was our third trek down to southern Virginia’s dark sky site.

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My sister visited later in the month and we toured two places I had not been in more than 5 years: Fort McHenry and Nemours Mansion and Gardens.

November

I was back in Texas in November for a family birthday celebration and then

Down to Harlingen for the Rio Grande Birding Festival.

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December

This December was by first time to volunteer as a conservatory docent at the Brookside Gardens Model Trains Exhibit. What a joy!

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Then we went to Pittsburgh…I’ll post about that trip in the new year.

Anticipating 2018

There are already some things on my calendar for 2018: getting the eBotanicalPrints section of my website up and running in January, an 8-week class that will fill one day a week in February and March, a family visit in Texas for birthdays in April, Howard County Conservancy volunteering for school field trips in the spring and fall, and Brookside volunteering for the butterfly exhibit (April-September) and probably the model trains in December. I’m sure there will be a lot more that will fill the year.

Happy New Year to us all!