April 28, 2001: I have finally found a resource that lists some grasses, forbs (non-grassy plants), and woodies (shrubs and trees) by their common names and that shows pictures to help in identification of these plants. I have added it to the links on my index page. It is difficult to find grass examples on the web that are not almost totally technical and aimed at the professionals and many do not have pictures. I consider this site important to those of us who are interested in identifying native plants on our land. The link is to Nobles Foundation Plant Image Gallery. You may want to add it to your list of favorites.
April 27, 2001: Yesterday as part of our ongoing goal of improving habitat for various species of wildlife, Farris and I attended an all day seminar on bobwhite, or quail, put on by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, part of the Agriculture Program of the Texas A&M University System. Mike Mallet, Extension agent for Lampasas county put together an excellent educational program. There is nothing like learning from the experts. Dr. Dale Rollins, Extension Wildlife specialist and Ken Cearley, Extension Wildlife Associate taught us more about quail in a few hours than we had learned in our combined lifetimes.
Bobwhite populations are declining at an alarming rate across their range, especially during the last fifteen years. Their plight is so critical in many southeastern states that some scientists predict
quail will be extinct in those areas by 2005. Texas still remains a final frontier for wild quail, but the bobwhite populations in our state have declined an average of 4.7% annually since 1981. Scaled quail have also declined over the last ten years and various grassland songbird populations are similarly declining. Bobwhites serve as a indicator of change in other grassland bird populations, so quail-friendly habitat management that improves quail populations will also benefit those groups of declining songbirds.
Texas is taking steps, such as this seminar, to address this
situation, to alert landowners of the problems and some of the solutions. Chief among them is managing land to increase habitat. Another is determining ways to maintain quail populations in highly fragmented landscapes. In addition, increased research, educational programs for landowners, special educational programs for youth and adults will help.
A young high school boy who had attended a coed Quail Brigade camp available to high school youth,
told us about the experience of the group he was in, in which they were given hands-on experience of working with Quail populations and habitat, learning about the species by doing special projects. It is such a good program we are considering sponsoring some girl or boy for one of the camps.
It costs $140 per quail to outfit one with a radio transmitter and an individual quail can be sponsored with a contribution of $250 to
their Adopt-a-Quail program to fund quail research and education programs conducted by Texas A&M University System. The sponsor receives a certificate showing his quail's statistics, such as its name, its transmitter frequency, when it was captured, when it was retrieved, its nest fate,
that is whether it was destroyed or how many chicks were fledged, the fate of the bird,
that is whether it was alive when recaptured and if possible what killed it if
it was dead, and where it was recaptured and how far from the original trap site. The university web site offers information about the Quail
Brigade and much of the information I have summarized here on management, habitat, food, including pictures of key seed-producing plants for
quail and a feature called Know your Grasses. To visit the Texas Natural
Resources web site, click here There is an organization called
Quails Unlimited, similar to the Ducks Unlimited organization that was so instrumental in helping bring back the duck populations. Visit
their web site.
April 24, 2001: Last weekend we attended the seventh annual Quisisana Quacker, or yellow rubber ducky race and picnic given by Richard and Sue Carter. We had ideal weather in terms of temperature but the day was overcast and dark and I left my camera at home and have no pictures. That was a mistake, for guess whose duck streaked down the creek and won the race? Why, the one belonging to Farris, of course! His prize was a hat with an LED window in the front of the crown and a message that scrolls across the screen saying in effect "I won the Seventh Annual Quisisana Quacker and I did not cheat." I question the last part of that statement. A couple of fellows remarked (making sure I could hear) that Farris sure made a lucky shot when the rock he threw knocked the # 11 lead duck (mine) out of the race. On the other hand I question their statement as well, for when the race commences, all moral rectitude seems to vanish.
There were fifty or sixty people there, so we met some interesting individuals and renewed acquaintance with others we had met at previous picnics. I particularly enjoyed meeting and chatting with Diane, Sue's cousin. She is an art therapist and lives in an old Grist Mill on a stream in the mountains of North Carolina. She is currently working on her doctorate in the ministry and is building a creativity/retreat center out of an old log building. When everything is up and running she will be holding workshops in art/spirituality. I can hardly wait and look forward to linking to her web site when it is all ready.
The food at the picnic was delectable as usual, the creek and waterfall were restoring to the soul, and the live music was haunting and lovely. We topped the day off with our traditional hike to Sue and Richard's bluebonnet field. It was spectacular this year with flowers as far as one could see and the sweet aroma is in my memory still.
I made Pico de Gallo this week and the makings were so pretty I had to preserve them artistically:
NATURE NOTE: We have had some wildlife activity around here. Three baby bunny rabbits were down at the front gate, appropriate for the Easter season. One morning this week soon after we got up Farris called me to the window to see a huge wild turkey walking through the yard. Day before yesterday I glanced out the computer room window and saw Phantom, our cat, strolling down the driveway toward the carport and about six paces behind him was another huge wild turkey. They looked funny, like they were in line. I wonder what Phantom would have done if he had looked back and seen that huge bird stalking him. I replenished a nectar feeder one day this week and while I still had my hands on the feeder and the chain a male Black Chinned humming bird zoomed in, landed on a perch not six inches from my hand and proceeded to drink. I froze for a few minutes, enjoying seeing his lavender throat flash as he looked up and around, but he did not fly even as I withdrew from the feeder. I saw an Inca dove in town, but have not seen any at The Lair, although Mike Krueger, our wildlife biologist, tells me he sees them occasionally under the feeder at their place just a few miles down the road.
Mike remarked about how the Inca dove's mournful call reminded him of his childhood in central Texas near San Antonio with still, hot summer days, and two other sounds that take him back, the call of the dickcissel in the cotton and milo fields and the zoom of the common nighthawks or "bullbats" on summer evenings. Isn't that lovely? That reminded me of nights in my room as a young girl listening to the mockingbird sing its heart out during the night hours, the lazy swelling and waning sounds of the cicadas that spelled summer days and no school for me, just hours of enjoying the beauty of nature at Bend Field Farm (see the painting of Bend Field in the Lair Gallery). I heard the wailing of a train whistle deep in the night last night and that reminded me of hearing the mournful sound of the steam engine whistles in the night as a child and wondering about all the exotic places the people on the passenger trains were going. The call of the mourning dove brings back multiple memories. One is sad and yet bittersweet, a memory of a little still-born grand niece being placed in her grave while a whole chorus of mourning doves began to sing in the morning air. It also reminds me of how the mourning dove call always made me restless, as I wrote in a devotional article years ago. To read about that, go to the Creative page and read "Honeysuckle and Mourning Doves."
Last revised: November 26, 2010