Lepidopterans at Mission Tejas State Park


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Campsite six at Mission Tejas State Park turned out to be a great spot in the late fall afternoon sun to butterfly watch. I think I’ve seen hackberry emperors around a few times before but I’ve never spend a lot of time watching them, so I wasn’t even sure that’s what it was when I noticed several of them basking in the sun on the trees at the site. Luckily we had brought the fold out nature guides of Forest’s and I was able to confirm it was hackberry emperors hanging around out campsite.

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Joining it was a red admiral and a couple of honeybees as they feasted on the sap coming out of the tree at the campsite. I was impressed how well the bees and butterflies got along as they took turns sipping sugary sap.

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Earlier as we were about to start a hike we came across a fat caterpillar on the trail. Actually, Chris found it first after Forest and I had managed to miss it. It turned out to be a luna moth caterpillar. Later we found a squished one in the parking spot at the campsite. *oops* We put this one on a stick and moved it off the trail so other hikers would avoid it.

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Chris really was the caterpillar man this time around, finding this caterpillar crawling along the edge of the window of the truck. It must have fallen off of the trees above. I did have to do some comparison looking online between Lochmaeus manteo, the variable oakleaf caterpillar moth and the Double-lined Prominent Moth, Lochmaeus bilineata, before I settled on the latter. My book had the caterpillar favoring the first moth but iNaturalist and Google really showed that it was the latter. Very neat, I’d never seen one of those before!

Flora, Fauna, and Fungi at Lake Livingston State Park | Part II


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White Heath Aster, Symphyotrichum ericoides

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I think this is likely late goldenrod, Solidago altissima. Either way, an open field of goldenrod flanked by bushy bluestem is my kind of fall scene!

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Bushy Goldentop, Euthamia leptocephala. Solidago’s look-alike cousin.

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The trail we were on when I saw this mushroom was an elevated boardwalk. I hadn’t seen a mushroom that large before so I hopped down, clambered over some smilax vines and rotting logs and took a few photos. I know mushrooms get much larger in other areas of the country but this wasn’t something we normally see here in my part of the world.

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I put this into iNaturalist as Carolina Mantleslug, Philomycus carolinianus but I’m not actually sure that’s what it is. I had to stop and take a photo of it before I got to the fungi!

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Horned Passalus Beetle, Odontotaenius disjunctus

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Cherokee Bean, Erythrina herbacea

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There’s actually several plants in this photo but I was mostly curious about the gourd like fruit. Down near the picnic area of the state park there’s a little bridge that goes over a small inlet from the lake to cross over to another picnic area. In here is where I was stopped by these fruits. Most of the leaves are off of the vine and what is left is wilted. My best guess was Buffalo Gourd, Cucurbita foetidissima but it is usually a drier species. That’s not to say this isn’t it but it could also be something growing like a cucumber that was thrown out by a picnicker. I would have hopped off the bridge to inspect but I had Forest with me and I didn’t want to deal with him getting muddy down there as well as some of the random trash that had piled up. I kind of wish I’d done so to confirm.

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Blackberry Knot Gall Wasp, Diastrophus nebulosus

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Yellow Passionflower, Passiflora lutea

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I’m not sure what kind of gall this is. My Google-fu did not come up with a correct combination of words to result in something that made sense. Errr seconds after typing that I decided to give the Google-fu another chance and I think there’s a likelihood that this is a Wool-Sower Gall, Callirhytis seminator, just that this one is older and not in good shape. Yeah, let’s go with that!

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Sumpweed, Iva annua

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Another view of the Halberd-leaf Rosemallow, Hibiscus laevis, that I should have included in the other post.

And that wraps up our trip to Lake Livingston! Next time I have several posts from Mission Tejas State Park and then for Thanksgiving we are heading to a completely different habitat so expect some diversity in posts in the next few weeks!

Flora, Fauna, and Fungi at Lake Livingston State Park | Part I


I never know with these flora, fauna, fungi type posts whether to write up something to go with it or just share the photos. Part of me writes for an audience, albeit the tiny one that I have, and part of me writes for myself. I am sure most people skim over a lot of these types of posts but I do write a lot of them for me. Sometimes I delve back into older posts to revisit things we’ve done and it is honestly amazing how much I forget that we have done, or I’ll forget some tiny detail and a photo will bring the entire situation back to mind.

Anyway, I’m breaking this into two posts because I have a lot to share!

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Downy Lobelia, Lobelia puberula, I believe. None of the other lobelias made sense.

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Acorn Plum Gall Wasp, Amphibolips quercusjuglans

After we saw these at camp, Forest and I started collecting them and he had a group of them in his grabber toy—which is a swim toy but has turned into a whenever toy.

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I’m going to share a lot of random goldenrods. I tried to identify them but I think I need to spend some time reading a goldenrod key or descriptions so I can tell them apart better. So, you get generic ‘goldenrod’ for all of my goldenrod photos! The only goldenrod I really know is the coastal marsh species, Solidago sempervirens because I learned it in college!

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Lots of fungi—they will be the same as the goldenrod because I haven’t sat down to try to identify them. I put them into iNaturalist as ‘Fungi’ and hoped someone with fungi knowledge would identify them. Maybe I’ll get around to figuring out what they are eventually.

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Halberd-leaf Rosemallow, Hibiscus laevis

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A nice mix of goldenrod with giant ragweed—a great fall pair! So, I actually like ragweed outside of the allergen aspect, and I think giant ragweed is really an interesting plant.

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Giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida

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Southern Slender Ladies’-Tresses, Spiranthes lacera var. gracilis

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So, I think we saw at least three species of goldenrod.

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Partridge Pea, Chamaecrista fasciculata

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Green hawthorn, Crataegus virdis

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Slender Vervain, Verbena rigida, a non-native, if my identification is correct. Didn’t see much of it, though.

Alright, I’ll share the rest of what we saw in a separate post. I just finished photos from a camping trip over the weekend before Halloween and I have photos to process from a bushwhacking hike we did looking for a rare plant. We’ll be camping again for Thanksgiving and I know I will have a boat load of photos from then to share. So, stay tuned!

Camping at Lake Livingston State Park | October 2018


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October felt a million months long. So long that this trip to Lake Livingston State Park feels like it happened about three months ago and not four weeks ago. We only stayed a night and cut our trip short Sunday morning as I wrote about here that Forest had had a rough night from being sick. And I completely forgot I had already somewhat explained here, in that post I referenced, about tagging monarchs. Seriously, October was long.

Because we only camped one night we weren’t able to get a site in the Piney Shores Loop, which has had renovations in the last few years and is where we’ve stayed the two times previously. Instead we got site 74 in the Hercules Club Loop which was fairly nice, though I suspect it has the potential to be wet during rain events based on the topography and well, wetland indicators I observed.

We arrived fairly early in the morning since it is about an hour and a half from the house and the camping loop was thankfully not full of RVs. There was a bluebird sky and it was a gorgeous fall day, perfect for lounging around camp. We played at camp and then took a hike along the Pineywoods Boardwalk Trail, popping over to the Oak Flat Trail afterwards. Once lunch was wrapped up I shuttled Chris to the fishing docks near the camp store and nature center and then Forest and I met a group of volunteers and rangers doing a craft at the Archery Range. It wasn’t supposed to start until 1pm and we arrived about five minutes early and there was a large group of people already assembled. Thankfully we didn’t miss much and we made a cute little birdhouse ornament type craft. I’ve been trying to go to any of the ranger/volunteer-led activities if a state park has them and I think they have been worth it so far.

After the activity we picked Chris up from fishing and hung out at camp for a few hours before dinner. An early dinner meant getting everything cleaned up and Chris wanted to fish a bit. We detoured to the playground first for Forest to climb on the slide a few times. The slide there is rather antiquated in my opinion and slightly dangerous in that it wobbles. I remembered us trying to go up it last year and it was totally not safe for us then and I’d say really only bigger kids needed to be on it. I’d say that TPWD needs to update their playgrounds but considering they need to upgrade a lot of other things too, I’m pretty sure this is low priority.

Chris drove over to the fishing piers and Forest and I walked over from the playground. I noticed clouds gathering on the north side of the lake and by the time we got over to the piers it was very ominous looking. We looked at the radar and there was a line of storms moving west to east across the north side of the lake and we were unsure if they would track south or not. It thundered loudly for a good portion of the night but never rained. This would have been a test to our tent’s weatherproofing as Chris had sprayed it at home since our leaky adventures a few weeks prior. Paired with Forest’s coughing fits and the neighbor’s not shutting up after the 10pm quiet time, it was not an easy sleep.

The next morning was as gorgeous as the day before but due to Forest’s increasingly bad cough we skipped cooking breakfast and packed up quickly. We were home by 10am or something like that. I mean, it was nice to camp and get some outdoor time in but also great to feel like I had some time at home over the weekend.

Overall it was a great trip. As per usual I have a second or maybe third set of photos to share of flora, fauna, and fungi…just need to figure out how to break that down.

Tagging Monarchs


*Behold, crappy phone photos ahead!*
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After I started raising the monarch caterpillars last year I read about tagging them with tiny stickers from Monarch Watch so that those counting the fall migration back to their roosts in the mountains of Mexico could attempt to put together the pieces of where the final generations of monarchs came from. Chris ordered some stickers back in the spring or summer and they are all mailed according to where you live in the monarch migration process. So, the further south you are the later you get yours. Considering last year we had monarchs in early August I was a bit disappointed we weren’t getting ours until sometime in late September. However, this year was different than last year and I didn’t have monarchs showing up until mid-October. And then October proved itself to be completely jacked up with cooler, rainier weather, so the migration moved further west on the I-35 corridor or stayed put for a longer period than usual. We had one female that we managed to catch, who laid eggs on my milkweed, and what I think was a male that we were not able to catch. We tagged the female who was rather ragged by that point and I highly doubt will make it to Mexico. But, you never know.

Now that we had a break from that cool, rainy weather the migration has picked back up. I’m starting to see more around town/the state, with a higher percentage being seen by those living along the I-35 flyway. Unfortunately not a lot are coming to my yard—I see them everywhere else! Last Friday on our way home for lunch I noticed a ton of butterflies down along the dam of our pond. Chris and I walked back after we picked up the net and I should have grabbed my camera. Well, the majority of what we thought were monarchs were actually queens, which I was super thrilled about! I haven’t seen queens hanging out around here but I’ve heard from several people around Houston about quite a few queens so I think maybe there is an uptick in them this year.

With all the queens there were gulf fritiliaries and at least one sulphur that I couldn’t identify. And then we found two monarchs! One of them did not want to be caught but Chris worked for the one he managed to catch, as you can see in the photo! We tagged it and released it—hopefully it will make it to Mexico.

Chris was at the zoo last weekend and found a tagged monarch and took a photo of it so I’m going to have to send it in to Monarch Watch/Journey North so they can note that. And he said there were tons of monarchs at our local nursery and I said he should have tagged them! I was out of town for the weekend in central Texas but I saw quite a few monarchs up that way, too.

I have three caterpillars from the eggs that were laid in mid-October that are finally into the voracious chomper phase. It’s taken them quite a long time to get there, normally they would have pupated already. Hopefully we can tag a few more monarchs before the season is over. We shall see!

Gulf Fritillary & Long Tailed Skipper | Wildlife Wednesday


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At the end of September I noticed a gulf frittilary trying to eclose from its chrysalis on a stalk of ‘Ember’s Wish’ salvia. A few hours later I saw it still sitting in the same position but decided to let it be knowing that something was very wrong with it.

The next morning my little friend was still stuck in its chrysalis and the wings had not unfurled more so I decided to see if I could ease it out of the chrysalis and at least let it attempt to walk so it could nectar. Its wings were not going to unfurl and were severely deformed. I debated euthanizing it but decided to let it live and let nature take its course. I fully expected to find it dead there later but it disappeared. I’m not sure what happened with it.

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There has been an abundance of the long-tailed skippers this season and it seems this might be the case in the region as other people have noticed a proliferation of them. Of course I’m unsure if this is just a case of finally learning about something and then suddenly seeing them everywhere or if there was truly an abundance of them this year. And there’s at least one more generation trying to get going rolled up out there on my beans!

Life Lately | October 2018


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Thinking:
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via GIPHY

Chris and I got our early voting in yesterday. I’m not usually an early voter, I’ve done it once or twice before. I like to go on election day but I felt it was important to get it done with just in case I couldn’t vote next Tuesday. I sure hope Beto wins. It would really be nice to send an email to my representative for once and get a response that sounds like they are listening. I don’t know why I bother with Cruz and Cornyn other than to make sure they know there are people other than them living in Texas.

+Got an ocular migraine this afternoon. Since having Forest I’ve started having them more frequently. Probably 2-3 a year. Not sure what triggered this one but it was nearly 3:30 and I looked up from doing something and *bam* there it was. I took medicine immediately because I know it helps. About 15 minutes went by and my vision cleared but my headache kept going. It isn’t a super painful headache, it is dull and kind of makes me nauseous. I did end up having some caffeine this morning because I got a frou-frou coffee at our local coffee place so I’m wondering if that wasn’t some kind of trigger. Ok, back to decaf.

+We’re supposed to get a nasty storm system tomorrow which is going to ruin Halloween here. We usually participate in our city’s hayride but we were camping over the weekend so we didn’t go. Now to find some kind of indoor trunk or treat activity for Forest!

Gardening:
What gardening? This month has been a mess of unseasonable weather. Weeks of colder than usual temperatures and dreary, rainy grey. Maybe a nice day here and there but nothing significant. The deer have been ruthless on the garden the last couple of weeks, eating plants they don’t normally eat. With the garden senescencing plus the deer activity, things look awful.

Next season I think Chris and I are going to separate out two of the beds, one for each of us, to do with as we please—for the most part. That will leave three communal beds plus the cactus bed and the bed around the back of the man-cave/garage for us to rework. And considering a lot of the beds will be installed for five years now, there definitely needs to be some attention taken to a few areas. Plus for my section, I’m having trouble trying to think of shade-loving, deer resistant plants. I mean, I can think of plenty of shade-loving plants but it is the deer part I’m having problem with. I also want to work to reduce the visible mulch—more plants as mulch.

In the edible garden I have worked on getting fall crops sown in some areas. I could be planting more but am leaving several beds for Chris since he wants to sow onions and will want to have a bed for snap peas in December. And honestly, we hardly ever eat the amount of greens we grow—in reality I’m the only one eating salads regularly around here—so I’m trying not to go overboard but it is hard when there are empty spaces. I do need to follow up with resowing some seeds where there was spotty germination. But radishes are already being harvested, green beans are still going strong, and I’m not far from some greens being large enough to start harvesting. And! It’s miraculous! I have two tomatoes on my fall tomato plants! I don’t plan on getting any huge harvest but if I can get a few off the plants before it freezes I’ll be happy. And yes, officially done with fall tomatoes on Texas after this.

Loving:
+Camping and hiking season.
+iNaturalist
+Thinking about this 800g Challenge
+Lifting weights
+Finally figuring out what I was getting wrong in doing a pistol squat. Now that I can actually get into the squat, the challenge is getting enough strength to push myself back up out of it. Pistol Squat for those wondering what I’m talking about.
+Autumn!

Reading:
I have not been in a reading mood lately, mostly because I have two rather tedious, nearly college level dissertation type books that I’m reading. One is about the evolution of the environmental movement and the other is about gardening. The gardening one did not come off as something that tedious when I requested it from NetGalley but it is extremely philosophical with historical references and lots of citations throughout. I have to re-read paragraphs frequently. The environmental book is actually interesting and isn’t terribly difficult to follow, I’ve just not been in a mood for non-fiction.

I should probably find a fiction book to read.

Making:
Not much right now other than taking lots of photos while camping. I started a small painting in the studio but haven’t been back over in two weeks to work on it. Need to get back into that once or twice a week studio routine again. It’s been a weird month. And then I got sick last week so I wasn’t feeling up to anything.

Watching & Listening:
+Grey’s Anatomy: It was kind of weird, the season started with two or three episodes and then had a gap week already. So far so good.
+The Big Bang Theory: I’m thinking that with the marriage of Amy and Sheldon, this show has finally reached its apex. I believe this is the last season and I’m actually kind of glad.
+Better Call Saul: The show ended earlier this month but what an ending! “S’all good man!” I’m thinking once this series ends it will be time for a Breaking Bad binge.
+This is Us: Loving this show and how they are working in a lot of the flashbacks! Still happy with this one.
+Doctor Who: So, after Matt Smith left as the 11th Doctor I stopped watching. I wasn’t super interested in the 12th Doctor but when I found out the 13th Doctor was going to be a woman I was on board for watching again. And three episodes in, I am not disappointed yet! And probably an unpopular opinion, the 9th Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, is my favorite doctor!

Netflix:
Same Kind Of Different As Me: Based on a true story set in Fort Worth, Greg Kinnear and Renee Zellweger play a married couple whose marriage is on the rocks when they started volunteering with a homeless mission. I really enjoyed the quiet little movie and think it is worth the watch if you are flipping through Netflix!

Private Life: trailer here. It’s a comedy/drama about an early-middle aged couple in NYC attempting to have a child of their own after a lot of trouble. I thought it was pretty good but the ending was a bit sour.

Because I was sick last week I spent the week blazing through some early 2000s romcoms at lunch and in the evenings: The Lake House, Nights in Rodanthe, Princess Diaries II, and Two Weeks Notice. It was nice to revisit a few of them. I got a laugh out of a photo of 21 year old Prince William on Princess Diaries—he had a lot more hair! Of course he was minus a wife and three kids, too! Also, warning for Two Weeks Notice: first *45 is mentioned because Hugh Grant’s character is a developer and of course they run in similar circles—and then he shows up on screen for 30-45 seconds. It’s pretty jarring and his lines are incredibly on point with what we know him as today. I wish they would edit that out.

Brene Brown on Armchair Expert Podcast: OMG the first like five minutes of this are one giant tribute to Texas, from Brene to Dax. I do enjoy this podcast, though I haven’t listened to every episode. It’s long form and I think interesting conversations from a varying group of people.

What about you? What’s up in your life?

Fungus, Flora, & Fauna | Martin Dies Jr. State Park


I have a new obsession: iNaturalist. I signed up the spring of 2016 when I had my iPhone 4 but didn’t stick to using it because I didn’t enjoy trying to update sightings via the phone. I deleted the app and then kind of forgot about it until I had a conversation with someone who uses it. So, I took a new look at it but this time used the desktop interface online instead. And I’m in love! Mostly I’m trying to (slowly) backlog some photos and I’m not getting very far but I’m trying. The good thing is you can import from Flickr which is perfect because just about any photo I’ve taken since 2005 is on there.

So, with that, I’ve been trying to add in sightings to the site when I can which is where a couple of identifications below have come into play. I’m pretty good about tracking down plants or butterflies but if we start getting into fungus or other insects it gets trickier. Eventually I may share some things I’ve identified that were old photos from Florida. Mostly I’m also enjoying identifying things for other people, at least the easier stuff that I know. It kind of feels good to go in and cleanup a species that hasn’t been attended to in quite a while!

Anyway, moving on, most of this stuff I identified on my own but a few things I popped into iNaturalist and I’ll point those out when I get to them. The fungus—we have a book but good gravy, fungi can be variable in their various stages and unless you start looking at spore prints and other such stuff it can get tricky.

Onward to interesting things we saw at Martin Dies Jr. State Park almost a month ago now!

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Euonymus americanus, Strawberry bush
This was growing outside of their nature center. I’d love to come across a wild one some day.

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Lobelia cardinalis

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Magnolia seed pods

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Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia

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Nephila clavipes, golden orb weaver

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Passiflora incarnata

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Strophostyles umbellata, pink fuzzybean

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Jack Spaniard Paper Wasp, Polistes annularis – iNaturalist help

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Harvestmen (man? woman? lol)

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Tribe Ammophilini wasp – iNaturalist help

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Nephila clavipes, golden orb weaver

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Passiflora lutea fruits

Fungi:
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Clathrus columnatus, column stinkhorn–I actually know this one since it is common in our yard.

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Common Fiber Vase, Thelephora terrestris – iNaturalist help kinda. I posted it and no one identified it but I was flipping through photos that needed to be identified (or secondarily verified) and saw someone else had posted it. A little digging and that was it! Woot!

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I’m making my way through Lake Livingston State Park photos and maybe can get that posted soon. We have another camping trip coming up and then a break until Thanksgiving so that should give me some time to get trips wrapped up. I realized I have some photos from Brazos Bend State Park from last year that I need to share still so I may do those soon. I did some identifying on some butterfly photos I had from there because I was uploading them to iNaturalist and realized I didn’t share that stuff yet. So, soon!

First Camping Trip of the Season | Martin Dies Jr. State Park


Previous posts for this park:
+Campsite Scenes
+The Slough and Forest Trails | Martin Dies State Park
+The Wildlife and Island Trails | Martin Dies State Park

The first campout for the season didn’t start off quite on the right foot. Rain was predicted for at least Sunday but we ended up having a little of it on Saturday while we were setting up camp. We drove over early on Saturday morning and were making it a long weekend with Monday off. The last time we were at the park we had stayed at campsite 218 across from Gum Slough. I remember liking that little circle because there was no thru-traffic and I wanted Forest to be able to ride his tricycle without a lot of traffic. Not that the park was very busy anyway–the predicted rain meant a lot of people canceled their plans. The last time we were here the place was packed, including the walk-in water only sites!

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When we checked in Chris opted for site 216 since it was on the water and he could fish, however when we arrived at the site there was a piece of paper at the sign saying the site was closed. There was no obvious reason why but we thought maybe the electric didn’t work or something. I called the office and asked them what it was about but they didn’t know and suggested we just move sites. So we moved to 217.

I’m a firm believer in park offices having a good idea of what sites do what during certain weather events. I think the last time we were at Huntsville State Park they had photos of their campsites so you could see what they looked like as you selected them. This might be a moot point soon because Texas Parks and Wildlife is supposed to be switching to a system where you can reserve the campsite you want when you make the reservation. I never understood why they hadn’t upgraded to this long ago—that was what Florida State Parks had.

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Saturday we set up camp, ate lunch, and then went over to the nature center to do a fish print craft. I was honestly surprised how many people came considering the weather but it was a full-house inside. We all made fish prints and had a bit of fun and then went to Jasper to pick up a couple of things we had forgotten and Chris wanted some candy and fishing gear. We walked around Walmart for a bit and then headed back to camp. We tried to take a hike down the Slough Trail but quickly the mosquitoes began attacking. Retreating, we headed back for the campsite and planned to try the trail later when we had better mosquito spray, which was at camp.

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Mostly we lazed around the campsite on Saturday. It rained just a bit but wasn’t too bad that day. Forest and I walked over to the playground and lollygagged on our way back to camp.

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Overnight, the rain moved in. We slept in for a bit and got up not long before the bottom fell out. I had managed to get coffee made and was about to start making breakfast when we all had to huddle under the canopy over the picnic table. Chris looked at the radar and it wasn’t going to stop anytime soon so we piled into the truck and drove back to Jasper to find a late breakfast on Sunday. We ended up a diner/restaurant in a low-rate hotel but they provided a greasy good breakfast and that’s all that mattered.

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It hadn’t rained that heavily in Jasper from what we could tell and it was somewhat clear back at camp so we opted to re-try our hike from the previous day. It was mosquito filled 2.2 miles on the Slough Trail with hardly any stopping to take photos. I was bummed when we found a ground hornet nest and I couldn’t stop to watch because the mosquitoes would have carried us away. Forest managed to walk the entire time, though not without a lot of begging to be carried.

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We took the long way back to camp and looked at the lake on the way back with some dubious looking clouds on the far southwest. Sure enough by the time we got back to camp we had noticed severe ponding happening at the site with a corner of our tent sitting in the water. Before we had left I had moved a lot of our stuff to a central area of the tent because our fly had been leaking. Chris had planned on spraying it with sealant at some point that weekend but it had stayed wet so much that we didn’t get the chance. Before we had left for breakfast the drips started.

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So, ponding at the campsite and then the bottom fell out from those dark clouds. We all sat in the truck for awhile during the heaviest part of the rain and Chris got out when it let up a little to attempt to move the tent out of the water, which was much worse by this point. We were not going to be sleeping in water overnight.

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This is Sunday afternoon—with the rain the park was really cleared out by now so we had the best pickings of where we would like to camp. I had wanted to try to stay in the circle but Chris didn’t like the fire rings (standing water) and so we decided to throw everything in the truck and went over to site 211, which was high and dry. In fact, it didn’t even look like it had rained on it, that’s how high and dry it was. And it had a lot of space to move and play—I would definitely choose this site again.

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The rain moved on and Forest and I made another loop back to the playground. Forest played dinosaur and chased dragonflies and I wandered the pond edge taking photos and Chris fished. Sunday afternoon turned out to be a great day later on—it was Chris’ birthday, too!

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On Monday morning we went for one last mosquito filled hike on the Wildlife Trail on the north side of the park. Protected by DEET, we were able to pause a little more to take photos.

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I will say, I love having the campground to ourselves. I think next year I want to have more Monday return days instead of taking Fridays off to camp. Yes, you might lose out on a good campsite by going on a Saturday but you get all of that quiet starting Sunday at noon.

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I’ll have a separate post soon with fungi, flora, and fauna from the park!

Return of the Monarchs


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It was another camping weekend. This time we drove an hour and fifteen minutes east-northeast to Lake Livingston State Park for a single overnight camping trip. Being so close to the house permits this kind of camping trip, getting up early Saturday morning and spending the weekend at the state park. Saturday was glorious, still warm but fall blooms were amped up—swamp sunflowers and goldenrods were beacons of brightness along the roadways. Fall foliage was nowhere near peak but the golden yellows of the flora made everything better.

I had been reading that the main monarch migration was in southern Oklahoma late last week, making a beeline for the DFW/North Texas area ahead of the anticipated cold front that we are now experiencing. Maybe we would start seeing monarchs very soon at the house? I’d been teased with sightings everywhere else but my house!

Saturday night proved to be a bit rough for Forest. Both he and I had battled some kind of upper respiratory issue the week before and we’d gone through some up and down cycles over the last week feeling better and then a bit off and around again. During the day Saturday he sounded a bit congested but he was a happy four year old playing so I didn’t think too much on it. Overnight he woke up multiple times hacking and crying, complaining that he couldn’t breathe. Eventually he hacked up some snot that was clogging his throat and we all fell back to sleep to the rumbles of a line of thunderstorms on the north side of the lake. The rumbles and flashes of lightening went on for hours, teasing us with the potential for nasty weather but thankfully never providing it.

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Due to the rough night and how bad Forest sounded, we packed up quickly the next morning instead of lingering at camp and going for another hike. I’m sure hiking amongst all of the flowering ragweed the previous day did not help anyone out. And so, we were back home by 10:30 am Sunday morning, unloading, doing chores, and attempting to still enjoy the warm and wonderful fall day between bouts of laziness on the couch.

Because I knew the monarchs were making their way south I had done a milkweed check for eggs when we got home and Forest and I had even spent about thirty minutes on the front porch because he had begged to go outside. I limited it so he wouldn’t get too worked up with his congestion–it’s hard to say no when we both wanted to be outside! I looked for monarchs and saw no evidence of them. We went inside and I put on a movie for Forest which I started watching but quickly ended up dozing on the couch. Chris was doing various things outside and he startled me when he announced from the front door that a monarch was outside!

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Chris has bought tags from Monarch Watch months ago and they arrived sometime last month. And then Chris bought a butterfly net so we could catch and tag the adults coming through. I dashed outside to check it out and it appeared to be a healthy male but we did not catch him. I went back inside to continue my dozing and a little while later Chris announced there was another one. This one turned out to be an older female, ragged from travel. And she ended up laying eggs on the milkweed! Chris caught her, we tagged her, and let her go. I don’t know if she will make it to Mexico, likely not, but we can hope. If anything, her progeny will continue on.

I had to move the pipevine swallowtails that pupated on the side of the caterpillar tent (and are now in diapause) so I could bleach the tent out. I’d been lazy about doing this, not knowing if the monarchs would come back to the garden this year or not. And why move the pipevines if I didn’t have to? So they are moved, glued carefully to a stick, and I just need to bleach the tent out and go and pick the leaves with the eggs. After it warms up starting tomorrow I suspect there will be more monarchs arriving. The photos I saw from the peak migration in DFW were spectacular! Since the wave typically follows the I-35 corridor we won’t likely see that kind of wave here in SE Texas but will instead get the folks coming in from other regions.

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