Sunday, July 20, 2008

First 3 weeks of July are hot and dry in 2008

So far this month it has been very dry with temperatures often above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I avoid the heat by being outside only in early morning and in the evening when it is cooler. Critters that live outside have to find ways to deal with the heat, and plants just have to "tough it out". Some of the pictures are about what the lack of rain and high temperatures are doing to plants, creeks and lakes on the ranch.

For me the summer months, when I'm not outside with a group of campers, tends to be my time for doing computer work (such as writing this blog) and other inside jobs. J. David and the staff do a lot of work outside in spite of the heat, and believe me, I worry about them.

Lois Sturm works for us as a secretary, assistant, and does lots of "special assignments". Colleen Gardner, who is the Preserve's Executive Director gets Lois' help when her schedule gets tight. Lois moved here from Pennsylvania, has now purchased a house in Johnson City, and is becoming a Texan.

Aiden Fulton celebrated his second birthday on July 4th. I gave him a frog backpack which he put on and wore for the rest of his visit at the ranch house.

The Fulton's went to Yellowstone National Park for their summer vacation. Steven holding Aiden and standing next to Amanda, are seen here in front of a beautiful waterfall that flows over black lava. They had a wonderful time.

When visiting J. David's son Doug, his grandson Casey came in holding this beautiful bird and asked me what kind it is. It's a Painted Bunting, and it was the first time I'd gotten to see one up close. The poor bird had flown into the window and knocked himself silly. After a few minutes, he revived, and flew away shortly after this picture was taken. The male has the bright blue head, red chest and tummy, green wings with a golden cast in certain light and red on his rump. The female of this species has green on her back and wings, and yellow-green beneath. The males of all of the North American species of buntings are colorful, and the females and juveniles are much less showy.

A robust and hairy jumping spider ran across the newspaper I was reading. My camera was close at hand so I got this photo of it. I looked it up in my "Spiders and Scorpions of Texas" Field Guide by John Jackman, and identified it as a Bold Jumper (Phidippus audax). They have 8 eyes, but you can see only 4 of them in this picture. It also is large (this one was a little over 1/2 inch or about 9 mm.),very fast moving and alert. I find jumping spiders fascinating, and love taking pictures of them. The detail of their eyes, hairy body and legs, and especially those iridescent chelicerae (the front jaws, each side consisting of a stout base with a fang at the tip) make it a fearsome looking beast.

A Western Ironweed (Veronia Lindheimeri) was blooming high in a canyon where we have a spring. I'm sure Ironweed is found in many places on the ranch, but if I have a camera and see it, I take a photo of it.

When I first came to the ranch, David had the limestone trough (upper left portion of photo) to release spring water into the Catfish Tank. In the past 14 years evaporation of water high in lime content has created the new stone in front of it. As the water evaporates, the minerals are left behind that form the new rock, known as travertine.

This circular form was created of limestone blocks that are laid without mortar, and when the water is flowing underground it fills up with clear water. When we have water again, I'll be sure to have a picture of it in this blog.

In the midst of this drought, I didn't expect to see any showy wild flowers. On the west side of the ranch there were scattered bunches of Bluebell Gentians (Eustoma grandiflorum), which are among the most beautiful flowers I know of. It was an unexpected thrill to see them blooming on July 5th.

I usually take pictures of the Chiroptorium from the front, but I like this one that shows the road going up the hill.

This bat emergence was thick and if you click on it to get a large image, you can see some of the bats in the distance. Most of the time the bats fly out in a single column but the night I took this picture they divided over our heads and flew off in 2 directions.

This picture taken on July 2nd shows how much the lake has gone down this spring. Now, almost 3 weeks later, it is down another step. Last summer the water stayed at a fairly constant level which was 3 to 4 steps deeper than it is now.

Megan, Willow, Morgan and Grey joined a large group of Math Camp students to see a bat emergence. .

This weekend the Honors Math Camp visited for a weekend of relaxation combined with a work project here at Selah. The 6 weeks long camp is directed by the math department at Texas State. " The Texas Mathworks Honors Summer Math Camp is an intensive summer program for outstanding high school students who are excited about doing mathematics -- the goal of the program is to develop our talented youth by providing challenging courses in a unique learning environment." Dr. Max Warshauer started the camp in 1991 and this is their 16th year to visit Selah.

J. David talks to the students about history of the ranch, as well as environmental and conservation issues. He tells them how he became interested in ranching, and how he turned a cedar choked ranch into a beautiful place.

Dr. Max Washauer presented us with a plaque which states that in appreciation of being able to visit the ranch, they declared July 19, 2008 was a "Nature Awareness Day."

I decided to walk from the Chiroptorium to the Center (one mile) and as I did I noticed that many plants are showing drought stress. This photograph of a Rough-leaf Dogwood (Cornus drummondii) shows the response typical of it, which is curled drooping leaves.


Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) trees that grow along the creek that is now dry show drought stress by their color change from green to red-brown. Normally they don't turn brown until November, just before they lose their leaves for the winter.

This little plant, Parallena (Dyssosia pehtachaeta), is doing well along the edge of the road where it has little competition. It is drought and heat tolerant.

The little yellow flowers of Parallena are pretty, and the leaves, when rubbed between your fingers smell sweet.

Even though there has not been much rain, the clouds are still beautiful. This was a pretty sunset with clouds reflecting deep pink from the west.

If you have to be outside when it is very hot, be sure to drink lots of water, and rest in the shade to cool down. I love Texas except when it is over 100 degrees.

All photographs are by Margaret Bamberger (except the Fultons in Yellowstone, which was taken by Steven's brother).

1 comment:

jane said...

hi Margaret, This is a serious quesion, although it may seem frivolous. I live in Cape Town, South Africa,and I'm working on some educational stories for kids about the outdoors. I have an interesting photo of oryx poop that I took in one of our wilderness areas, and it looks like the animal pooped through a strainer! It's not little balls of dung like most buck dung, but a rectangular-ish blob of smaller blobs joined together, and I'd like to be able to explain this to the kids. I have tried contacting a veterinary pathologist and still await her reply. Any ideas? Thanks, Jane Goodfellow