Saturday, February 13, 2010

Notebook Jottings 4

"I spent a day by the river,
It was quiet and the wind stood still.
I spent some time with nature,
To remind me of all that's real...."

Creed - Faceless Man

An oblog cotton-like swadle lays on the forest floor containing the pupae of the forest tent caterpillar. I have found masses of these particular caterpillars on the sides of trees in the Big Thicket. Due to their voracious appetites they can literally strip an entire tree of its foliage.

There is though a particular fly that helps keep these pests in check. The friendly fly (Sarcophaga aldrichi). During the spring this fly goes in search of tent caterpillar cocoons such as this. Once one is located it plunks a live maggot on it which then eats it way into the interior. It then feeds on the tent caterpillar pupae inside and then exits to the ground where it pupates and later develops into an adult fly.

While walking the trail that borders our property I came across a glass jar that was partially buried in the moist soil. Like a small greenhouse it has allowed lichen to take up residence inside giving the jar’s interior a carpeted appearance. A perfect place for a toad to hole up in.

The empty hull of a hickory nut left by a red squirrel. Like a buzz saw they chew a groove around the entire nut causing it to come apart exposing the meat within. Another red squirrel sign- a pine cone midden- a cone shredded like paper to get at the seeds hidden beneath each cone scale.

Barbed wire makes a perfect "trap" for capturing hairs from wildlife such as deer, bear, hogs, foxes, etc. Anything rubbing against the steel thorns leaves behind a piece of itself. Barbed wire is currently used by scientists to capture hair for DNA analysis and population studies.

At the trailhead of the Pitcher Plant Trail in the Turkey Creek portion of the Big Thicket I walked up to the kiosk to sign in on the visitor register. When I do this I also read what observations are posted by others that have visited. Looking down the sheet the words "black bears" gets my immediate attention. These bears have been working their way back (they were previously hunted out in the 1940's) into east Texas from Lousiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. As a matter of fact back in 2002 there was a verified track found in Lumberton, TX, which is not far from here. Having these animals back in our area would be very exciting. My excitement though turned to disappointment when I read what else was seen by the observer: "2 teradactalys (sic) and loch ness monster".

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