Southwest Nature Preserve – 4 September 17

Field notes from today, a walk at the preserve from 11:00am to 12:12pm. I walked to the north pond, then back and up to the ridge top, then down the boulder path and back. It was sunny and warm, with my slow and imperfect thermometer saying 84F in the shade of the black willow at the pond, and later 88F up on the ridge just before noon. Weather Underground said that the humidity in Fort Worth was 64% and barometric pressure 30.02 and rising.

Dragonflies were everywhere, especially at the pond, some depositing eggs and many flitting around over the water’s surface. Several turtles came up for air in the pond, most of them looking fairly old and melanistic, but at least one with the clear pattern of a red-eared slider (which is what they probably all were). I saw cricket frogs at the water’s edge, but no other species.

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A willow on a sort of pedestal of roots

I wondered about one willow at the water’s edge, a couple of feet out in the pond and looking like it was supported by an elaborate sort of pedestal of roots, as if the ground had been eroded away leaving only a mass of relatively fine roots supporting it. I wish I knew how that willow came to be like that!

There were insects everywhere, including what Clint identified as a fifteen-spotted ladybug. I knew that our native ladybugs were under some threat from competition by introduced Asian ladybugs. Apparently the fifteen-spot is one of the introduced species. Ladybugs, or “ladybird” beetles, are predators of some plant pests, and so people have been tempted to bring in more of them, and in so doing they threaten the original, native beetles.

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Fifteen-spotted ladybug

Walking up through the oak woods to the ridge top, I spotted two or three subadult Texas  spiny lizards, with body lengths of about two to three inches. There were also webs of funnel web spiders seemingly every few feet, wherever there was an old log, downed branches, or a hollow in a living tree for the spider to take advantage of.

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Yesterday, seeing all the silk from orb weavers and funnel web spiders at Fort Worth Nature Center, it had occurred to me that this was a sort of arachnophobe’s nightmare, or perhaps an opportunity for desensitization. I took it as the latter.

Along the way, I stopped to photograph some lichen, a gray, foliose mass growing on a small oak branch. Lichens are composed of fungi and either cyanobacteria or algae, living in a symbiotic relationship. Other than this, I know little about them, but I know that they often come in interesting forms and colors.

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Lichen, on an oak branch

The most striking colors, though were from sunflowers and from the lowly bitterweed flowers growing in clumps in many places along the trail. These beautiful yellow flowers are a real favorite. The plant is said to have a bitter taste and to be toxic to sheep, but it is always a welcome sight when I am out walking.

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Bitterweed

I flushed a pair of doves at the top of the boulder trail, but otherwise did not notice many birds. Perhaps walking in the heat of mid-day was not the best for birding, but there were certainly plenty of insects and arachnids, and the turtles and spiny lizards are usually out and about in the middle of the day.


I plan to use this space as a sort of repository for field notes and photos, in fairly raw form; if you are interested in what I’m seeing, please feel free to visit or follow this site. Essays and other material are at www.greatrattlesnakehwy.com, where Clint King and I both contribute articles and photos.

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About Michael Smith

From the age of 11 (in 1962), I grew up mostly in north Texas. I’ve been interested in herpetology for all those years, and so I have some experience with the reptiles and amphibians of Texas. I have written on the topic, given talks, been president of and editor for the DFW Herpetological Society. I wrote an article on venomous snakes published in Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. Clint King and I have a manuscript in the editorial process at Texas A&M University Press, anticipated out some time next year. Additionally, I have been licensed in Texas as a Psychological Associate since 1985 and have worked largely with children and families. My background and training are in the areas of applied behavior analysis and infant mental health, and I worked in an early childhood intervention program for many years. In that position, I worked with the child and family together, addressing a wide variety of issues including maltreatment and trauma as well as developmental disabilities such as autism. In recent years I have worked in a pediatric hospital, administering neuropsychological tests.
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