Archive for ‘Nature Notes’

Iridescent Rainbow

Last month this unusual bivalve caught my eye while I was walking on the Mustang Island beach. Since the amber exterior is leathery in texture and not a hard surface, I had to soak it in bleach and let it dry outside for a long, long time to disperse the strong, fishy odor.

As you can (kind of) see in the second photo, the shell’s interior made my effort worthwhile. The Atlantic Pearl Oyster (Pinctada imbricata), as the name implies, can create desirable, nacreous gemstones. Which actually led to some problems for the species. On his third trip in 1498, Christopher Columbus collected some pearls which in turn led to a major pearl harvesting industry off the coast of Venezuela. Their popularity led to a massive depletion of the population.

I may not have found a pearl but I still feel like I discovered a bit of treasure.

 

Not So Long Wings

I came across this colorful pair at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge last month. Despite their Latin binomial, the wings of the Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) are really not that much longer than others. Perhaps a more appropriate name would’ve referenced their frosty blue coloration. Or, here’s your word for the day, their pruinose blue coloration. Good ahead, look it up, I’ll wait…cool word, right?

 

 

 

Feeding Frenzy

I stopped by the Bent Oak Rookery last month to see how things were progressing. It was quite a bit noisier than my first trip since this time the nests were filled with hungry fledglings.

I cringed watching this feeding process as the young Great Blue Herons (GBH) vigorously attacked their parent with sharp pointed beaks in their quest for regurgitated food. I kept thinking that someone was gonna lose an eye.

Years ago my friend Julie was on the receiving end of a beak up her nose while helping to rehab a GBH. So I know they can cause a substantial amount of damage (and not an insignificant amount of pain).

I never wanted to have kids but let me also state for the record, I never want to be the parent of a GBH.

 

Brood Update

I snapped these Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla) photos a month ago at Rockport Beach. Our local beach is actually a man-made peninsula that juts into Aransas Bay, forming a protected area known as Little Bay. Much of the Little Bay side of the peninsula is closed to recreation during breeding season to allow Laughing Gulls, Black Skimmers, terns, egrets, and herons a quiet space to raise their young.

I suppose quiet may be a relative term since the raucous calls of these gulls are loud and pervasive. I caught the earlier part of nesting season back in May. If all goes well for them, in two or three years these young ones will be nesting here also.

Life Span

Note the contrast between these Four-pennant Dragonflies, (Brachymesia gravida). One appears young and healthy while the other looks old and worn. Neither one was willing to share their section of the pond. After dashing out to chase off interlopers they would return to their respective perches. Just another busy day at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge…

Ripe

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Mustang Grapes (Vitis mustangensis), Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Tivoli, Texas July 2019

A couple months back I stumbled across some green Mustang Grapes and it made me so very curious to taste them once they ripened. Well, I finally got my wish a couple weeks back. The plump fruit was juicy and mildly sweet though the skin was quite tart. I employed a technique I learned as a kid when eating Concord grapes off the vines in our yard; I popped the entire globe in my mouth, sucked out the tender flesh, and spit out the skin (so not only were the grapes delicious, they were fun to eat, too).

Fuzzy Friends

I met these two fine young males at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge a couple weeks ago. I’m basing my super-scientific age guesstimate on the fact that they are near the end of their antler growing period and only have small racks.

In case you didn’t know, antler growth is controlled by photoperiod (length of day) and typically starts in March. Testosterone levels begin to rise in August, as the days grow shorter, which signals the end of antler growing (just in time for mating season).

Did you know that antlers are the fastest growing tissue among mammals? In just 120 days they can grow over 200 inches. That incredible spurt requires excellent nutrition which is provided by the vascular tissue (aka velvet). As the antlers harden, the velvet is shed, becoming a highly nutritious snack scavenged by all manner of wildlife.