Archive for the ‘Nature in the City’ Category
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Before I went to the Azalea Trail in Lufkin I dropped by the Angelina College Forest Fitness Trail to scope it out. Located at the back of the college near the athletic buildings I found the parking lot empty save for a few cars towards the back of the lot. Looked like I would be alone for the hike, which I expected anyway.
Part of this trail reminded me a bit of Turkey Creek Sanctuary a park in Florida near where Chris and I lived our first two years in Florida. I would go running there often and we hid our first geocache there. Ok, maybe it was the ambiance instead, the habitats are definitely different!
I appreciate when trail systems post the names of some of the plants along the trail. Of course I end up finding signs that are out of place or the plant that it was labeling has died or been blown down. This is Viburnum rufidulum, rusty blackhaw.
Of course a walk in the southern woods is not complete with a little poison ivy!
Ostrya virginiana, American hophornbeam
I think this is a white oak, Quercus alba, but I’m not positive. Anyone?
Back near one of the creeks I found a patch of may apples, Podophyllum peltatum.
The only thing really blooming and providing color was Gelsemium sempervirens, Carolina jessamine. This is vine lights up the forest in the spring around east Texas and I’ve noticed quite a bit of it growing around my neighborhood.
Oh, well, I guess the dogwoods were blooming too. They really should bloom year round!
Virginia creeper ‘creeping’ along a downed log provided an interesting dynamic along the way.
There are two creeks along the back end of the trail system. This one is Hurricane Creek, the same creek that I walked along at the Azalea Trail. Not nearly as trashy in this location but you can spot the road in the background.
I decided that I really need a cherrybark oak, Quercus pagoda, in my yard. The foliage is dynamic and different compared to what we have in the yard at the moment.
From consulting my butterfly book I think this is probably the Little Wood-Satyr, Megisto cymela. There’s a very similar species/subspecies and it seems that even separating the two is contended, but with the Viola’s Little Wood-Satyr the lower eye spot on the upper wing is slightly larger than on the Little Wood-Satyr. Either way, a very pretty species that was bouncing around on the floor of the trail.
Poncirus trifoliata, trifoliate orange. I didn’t realize it was an invasive/exotic. I have seen some gardeners trading it and using it in their gardens.
Overall it was a lovely walk that I hope the locals actually use. The path was fairly clear on the main loop, the little loop at the far back was a little less clear with some brush hanging over the trail, but I think it was a great natural area to explore if in the area and you only have a short time to stretch your legs.
Over part of Easter weekend I was in Lufkin, Texas to spend some time with Chris as he was doing a field job nearby. It was nice, taking advantage of a hotel room and having time to explore the area. I really wanted to go do a few hikes in Angelina National Forest nearby but was too chicken to go out there by myself. I probably could have driven a few forest roads and seen a lot of things anyway but instead I decided to see what was in the heart of Lufkin itself. After I found a couple of plant nurseries I decided to go explore two different parks in the city. One of them was the linear Azalea Trail.
This is definitely an urban/suburban type of trail, made for walking or light exercising. I parked on the north side of the Lufkin Mall and walked over to where the sign is above. I had planned to do the entire trail up to the northern terminus but turned around maybe three-quarters of a mile in.
There were a couple of other folks out for the day, mostly walking. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of interesting things along the trail including this small sassafras.
The path follows Hurricane Creek, which is filled with litter due to its proximity to the urban environment, but I think that helped in providing some interesting habitat for what wildlife I did see.
This squirrel was the only mammal I saw along the path and it wasn’t too nice in posing for me, dashing around the vegetation if I moved just a little.
I tried to find a clean section of the creek to take a photo of, you know garbage doesn’t exactly make for a pretty picture.
This caterpillar caught my eye causing me to stop, sit on the ground and try to get a good shot of it as it walked along the debris.
And then I saw a whole bunch more a little while later climbing up and down a pine tree. I was planning on looking them up but last weekend I was going through the latest issue of Organic Gardening and there they were displayed in a segment in the back. Eastern tent caterpillars. So, kind of a pest and not necessarily a much loved species, but they were entertaining for me.
One plant blooming profusely in our area of Texas right now is the lyre leaf sage, Salvia lyrata. It is really beautiful along the roadsides and even in my yard. I’ve been trying to mow around any of the clumps.
There were several cardinals bouncing around the tree canopies and this male posed well for a few minutes for me.
Flowering dogwoods were providing a beautiful show in the woods around the area. This one was close enough and low enough for me to get a nice shot of.
I turned around once I reached a massive wisteria vine. Did you know the flowers are edible? Despite wisteria being a very invasive growing vine, and I’m guessing this is probably the Chinese wisteria not the native Wisteria frutescens, but it is still a very beautiful flowering vine.
And that was my walk, a little bit of nature in the city coming from Lufkin, Texas. I’ll have another small adventure from the city to a slightly wilder place to showcase soon.
Last weekend I was coming down with a bit of nature deficit and needed to get outside a bit. Weeks and weekends have been going by in a blur lately and with Chris in the field we haven’t been camping much. It has made me realize how much I miss being outside.
I had an errand to run over in The Woodlands so I decided to drop by the George Mitchell Nature Preserve. The Preserve is located smack-dab in the middle of suburbia and if you aren’t careful you will drive right past the sign for the turn into the parking area. I did and had to turn around. The sign is small and almost inconspicuous, going with the theme of The Woodlands. If you aren’t familiar with the city it is an upscale area that had done a good job of utilizing nature and keeping their woodlands, but it is really difficult to tell what is in a shopping center until it is too late. Their signage blends in and is very small.
I don’t do a lot of hiking by myself so I was feeling a little timid walking around by myself at first. But I enjoyed being able to take my time, walk slowly and see what I could find. It is still early in the year for many things to be blooming but I was surprised to find a few things out there.
The preserve is a mix of bay, some pines, live oak, and mixed hardwoods with a lot of yaupon and American holly thrown in. The trails are wide open and clear, at least the hiking trails. I did detour and take a bike trail on the way back, which was narrower and not as well maintained. We’d just had a heavy rain the day before so the initial trail entrance was heavily flooded and muddy, but the rest of the path was not in bad condition.
Carolina jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens. I took this for an exotic at first but upon closer inspection I realized the plants looked familiar and then wracked my brain trying to come up with the name. I’d remembered seeing it in the Big Thicket last spring/summer but it had not been in bloom. I’m glad to have seen it blooming, it is a beautiful flower!
The paths are marked well.
The recent rains have created some mushroom growth in the park. This variety was common along the paths. I consulted my mushroom guidebook and my best guess is this is Laccaria laccata. Apparently its growth forms are highly variable, which is why my initial thoughts did not lean towards this being it, but upon closer inspection on Google I believe I’m right. But, I’m willing to be corrected if another fungus expert is out there!
I didn’t waste time switching to the 65mm lens to see what I could ‘see’ with it. Loving what I found!
I then found a hairy plant that beckoned for a close up and then was stunned to see what the sand crystals looked like through the lens.
The main loop led to a short side trail to Bedias Lake so I detoured off to see the water for a few minutes. Water was rushing in from the stream to the west, runoff from the rains I’m sure.
A large leafed clover—not sure on the species, no flower.
Same clover viewed as a tree.
After leaving Bedias Lake I detoured off into the bike trail that wound itself up the middle of the loop. I had been following the very loopy trail and decided to cut through a clearing knowing that the other side of the trail was close. I’m glad I did because I stumbled across several cacti. My best guess is this is some kind of Opuntia, perhaps humifusa. But, I’m not sure. I’m not very good with my cacti and need to get a field book for them.
I did try to look this fungus up but gave up almost immediately because I did not have enough information to make a qualified decision. But, they are very pretty. Another sighting on the bushwhack I took.
And finally, almost through with the bike trail I stumbled across this violet blooming.
I’m sure I will be back to this preserve in the future, finishing up the whole loop and seeing it when more plants are blooming. This is a great preserve to have in a neighborhood like The Woodlands. If you are in the area, stop in and check it out!
I wanted to get out for a walk a few weekends ago and the closest natural area that I knew of was Cross Timbers Park in the same park as Adventure World. For those in the North Richland Hills/Northeast Tarrant County this area you might be familiar to you. I’ve been to a few times in the past while geocaching and I think my brother might have done/helped an Eagle Scout project there. If you need a nature fix, this is a great place with some trails that let you experience it.
It was much too hot for wildlife, so we didn’t see anything, not even a snake! And the avoid venturing into thickets part…isn’t that the best part of exploring?
The beautyberries have about had it with the lack of water; they are shriveling up and getting crispy!
I found a little bug on the prickly pear…
I was thinking it might be an assassin bug of some sort but I’m not sure. I’m not very good with bugs!
I love seed heads, and the yellow fruits are Solanum elaegnifolium I believe.
Rabbit tobacco, Pseudognaphalium, and some pretty red berries of an unknown plant.
I think this is a Bradford pear after some internet looking and a guess from Chris. Which is disappointing because I actually hate these trees; I’m just not used to seeing them with fruit. They are one of the most over used landscape plants in north Texas, about as used as crotons in Florida. *blech*
Wild, suburban north Texas?
The light in this photo, a blackjack oak, reminds me of Fall a bit. I’ve noticed the light is starting to slowly change. I can’t wait for late September!
Eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana berries.
Pokeweed berries, Phytolacca americana, adding some color to the desolate brown.
The rainbow tree! Or what I’m calling the Paintball Tree!
Monarda and sunflowers round out the blooms seen there and the monarda looks a little sketchy to begin with.
Finally the mesquite beans…
another tiny smidge of color.
If you live in this area, it’s a great place to take a walk and get away for a bit without going further outside the city to hike.
I’ve been digging around to find natural areas in the DFW Metroplex in order to explore some of these areas a bit more. Several months ago I’d bookmarked Spring Creek Forest Preserve in north Garland as an option to see. Finally on Tuesday we made our way out there. Turns out it is very close to my in-laws house and close to a Freebirds, so it was perfect!
There are two entrances on each side of Holford Rd, a two lane country road that you would have seen in this area even 5 years ago, but now most of them are spreading out to four lane and being colonized with shopping plazas. This was a wonderful respite from all of that!
Senecio ampullaceus, I think. This was the predominate flower blooming in the area.
More grape hyacinth on their way out. The bottom blooms are going to seed.
We did find a lot of trout lilies here, though they were already past their peak.
It seemed that there was a better rate of flowering and pollination here than at Tandy Hills.
A lingering flower.
I’m thinking this is a viburnum but am not sure.
The creek running through is really beautiful and the water is clear, but it is sad to see the shoreline littered with mostly plastic bags. They are up high and down low and really ruin the shots. You can see a blue one in this photo if you look hard enough.
Lithospermum incisum, fringed puccoon.
More evidence of previous homesteads, garlic or onion of some sort growing wild.
Lingering red bud seed pods from last season.
I will definitely be exploring here more as the seasons change.
I found out about the Bob Jones Nature Center in Southlake, TX from my friend Amanda. It’s among the many nature areas that line Grapevine Lake.
On Monday evening I felt the need to take some photos and get out in nature some so Chris and I drove up to the preserve. It was deserted except for what appeared to be a staff or volunteer car next to the education building. We set off down the trails to the east and behind the education building not sure where we would end up. I initially didn’t take too many photos when I remembered that I could do a Nature in the City post. By this time we’d actually ended up on the outer boundaries of the preserve and into some of the Walnut Grove trails.
Here’s a bit of what we saw:
We found lots of old jars and debris from old homesteads. I am kinda curious why some of these haven’t been cleaned up yet. Still, they provided interesting photography subjects.
Another remnant of old homesteads, maybe broccoli?
Chris needed to kick around to see if there were any snakes hiding. No snakes!
The trails were decently marked, though you could easily end up on an animal trail that has been taken by humans enough to have eroded into a real trail.
Estigmene acrea hanging on in the wind.
There weren’t too many blooms but we did see a lot of blackberry vines.
I’ll have to go back when we get some spring rains and see what else is poking around. Chris did scare off an owl, probably a barred owl.
On our last break we took a visit to the Trinity River Audubon south of Dallas. Not much was going on in the way of wildlife, but it was still a beautiful place to visit. I had no idea the place even existed until a few months ago. It was cold and windy the day we were there so the wildlife was probably hiding as well. I am sure migratory birds enjoy a nice stopover here.
Now some photos:
The education center. It hosts an area for school groups to eat lunch, nice restrooms, and great exhibits, including a hands on build your own river exhibit. Pretty cool!
Near the Trinity.
The mighty Trinity!
Gone to seed….goldenrod past its bloom.
A little Toxicodendron radicans in fall colors. That would be poison ivy!
My mountain man.
Chris and his dad. A bit bummed the focus didn’t get to Chris’ face; it was a last second photo I took.
Hope to go back in the spring and see what is blooming!
Ah, Tandy Hills, a wooded oasis in the middle of the Meadowbrook neighborhood and the not-so-nice area of the east Ft. Worth Lancaster area. I am still in wonder of how I never knew this place existed until last March and I grew up driving right by the place just about every other Sunday when we went to visit my grandmother for Sunday lunch. If you haven’t been here I highly recommend it. There are lots of trails to walk about, the area is very hilly and there is even a playground for kids. We did see what appeared to be a homeless persons camp so you might want to take at least one other person with you or some dogs. Chris went back by himself so it isn’t unsafe or anything, but just be aware of your surroundings.
This time we went in off of where the address for the park is located instead of the back street we went in on previously. Lots of fall grasses to wade through.
Not too far in we spotted an antelope horn milkweed, Asclepias asperula. I had never seen this variety before and it is very cool!
An unidentified bug was crawling around inside, no monarchs to be seen.
Do you know how hard ants are to photograph? Practically impossible! But, I lucked out with this one shot out of probably 8. It isn’t perfect, but I think it is pretty awesome to look at.
Down the hill a bit…
Sweet, a green lynx spider, Peucetia viridans chilling on a sunflower!
I had my reverse lens mount on for this shot and when I zoomed all the way out I liked how it created the border around it, similar to what many people do in Photoshop these days. Plus, the sunstars…awesome!
I’m not sure what this is, I can’t find it in my wildflower book.
Closeup of the previous photo. Loving the green and purple combination.
I enjoy that there are hills in this park and that it isn’t completely flat.
More seed heads. I think they are sometimes more beautiful than the flower, or at least more intricate.
You can see little bits of fall peeking through in the background.
One of the more level areas of the park.
I love that there are so many varieties and species of sunflowers and that fall seems to be a big blooming time for them. There is an eruption of yellow on the sides of the road and in all the parks.
I think this is from a lily of some sort, but not sure what kind or what blooms in the preserve.
Don’t forget to look up sometimes, you never know what you might see.
I highly recommend going to this preserve! You would never think that something like this existed in the middle of Ft. Worth, but this place has several species of ground orchids, trout lilies and many other rare, native plants. Go exploring!
Katie’s Woods Park
After visiting the Trophy Club Park we drove around Lake Grapevine and saw a sign for Katie’s Woods. We decided to take a peek.
Snakes??? Sweet! Too bad we didn’t see any.
I spotted this flower to take a shot when I noticed the little friend underneath the petal there on the right.
I moved the flower ’round and ’round to get some shots of what I believe to be Misumenops celer.
I loved this little purple flower, thinking it was a violet, but the rest of the plant is distinctively non-violet. Any ideas?
We took the trails alongside the lake. Several fishermen were hoping to catch a bite.
More unidentified yellow asters, but providing a lovely setting on the rocks near the water.
If you are in the area it’s worth a stop to peek in and take a short walk. The park itself isn’t that large, but it makes for a quick nature escape
Trophy Club Park at Lake Grapevine
Sunday morning we went for a hike and picture adventure at Trophy Club Park. There is a fee and all of that information is in the link above. We had a nice hike, though we had to share the trails with off road vehicles.
We chose to start off in the far parking lot, C, and walk along the lake.
We stopped to take a look at some bugs. I narrowed this one down to the leaf footed bug family, Family Coreidae.
Some bug eyes….
Another one munching on a flower.
The light was gorgeous coming from the east through the grasses that are blooming right now.
Prickly Poppy, Argemone albiflora.
Inside the prickly poppy; loving those colors!
I wish I’d gotten a photo of the plant this one came from so I could id it. I think the method of delivery for seed pods are pretty darn awesome.
A gulf fritillary, Agraulis vanillae, posing.
Seed heads are pretty gorgeous when you stop to look. Not just brown and dead, but holding the beginnings of another plant.
Buffalo bur, Solanum rostratum.
Unknown seed pod but thought it was pretty different.
Various animal tracks, some raccoons thrown in there.
Another unid plant, but very pretty.
I passed this scene and went back because it mesmerized me for a bit. I believe it is a Smilax of some sort in fruit.
Dirt biking! I’m not fond of ORV’s in general, they are incredibly destructive, but I suppose if you at least have one place for them to go then you don’t sacrifice other places.
Relaxing by an little inlet.
Argirope aurantia, a female. The females are much larger than the males. We’re used to seeing related species in Florida. Mostly harmless despite their size.
Frog fruit, Phyla nodiflora, a tiny ground plant but looks so different up close.
Have you looked close at a piece of grass before? Did you realize they can be so colorful and varying?
After we left we found a flock of Canadian geese chilling in the neighborhood.
I know we didn’t see a lot of the park but it was really nice. I’d love to do some kayaking from there, too. If I had a kayak; we sold ours!