Thursday, January 8, 2009


In this busy holiday season I've gotten behind in my promise (to myself) to publish a new post each week. The last post was published on December 18. (Whoops! - Over 2 weeks late now).

Anyway, I've taken thousands of pictures, and I decided that I would make this post a series of images, all taken in 2008.

Colleen Gardner, our Executive Director, works and tends the bee hives, and also teaches students about them. Bees are adapted to flowers, and flowers are designed to be used by bees. They provide landing pads and sometime have ultraviolet colors which the bees can see that show the bee exactly where it needs to go to get to nectar.

One of the teaching tools that Colleen uses is a portable case for a frame from a hive. This student is taking advantage of the opportunity to take a really close look. It is fascinating to see such an intimate view of a bee's life in a hive.

In the early spring on windy days we get some wonderful cloud formations.
One of the first Texas early spring wildflowers I learned was this one-- Henbit. It is common, but so small that you can miss it if you don't look closely.
Agarita bushes bloom very early, and sometimes you smell their sweet purfume before you notice the blooms, which are very small.

I can't resist taking pictures of beautiful sunset skies.
When the bats arrive in March, we try to see the first emergences from the Chiroptorium. Aiden is with me and Lois, waiting and hoping to see bats.

Now that we can put the small Texas Snowbells in the greenhouse, we sometimes see a tiny plant sporting a beautiful bloom. Most plants don't bloom until they are several years old and 12 to 18 inches tall.

In the winter and early spring months birds flock to our feeders, especially finches, including 2 kinds of goldfinches, the American Goldflinch and the Lesser Goldfinch. One of my favorite finches to watch is the Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus). They are gregarious and there are lots of interactions between them on the feeders. The seed they like is thistle, which is a small seed, and the feeder in this photo is a thistle sock, which has a weave which is tight enough to keep the seed from spilling out, and open enough that a finch can reach in and pick out seeds.

Steven and son, Aiden sit on the rail of the front porch of the Center, on sunny day in January. I'm told that Aiden looks just like his dad did when he was Aiden's age.

Late in January there was an Arts Encounter at the Benini Sculpture Ranch. Inside their large gallery there is room for lots of guests. Interesting artists and other people are invited to give a talk about their work. I have heard fascinating talks, seen slide shows, and met many interesting people at these events which are held every 2 months. This was taken on January 26th of 2008.

One of the speakers on Jan. 26, 2008 was Dr. Jose Lopez. As an oncologist his specialty is cancer and treating cancer. He has been my cancer doctor since September of 2004. I can thank Dr. Lopez for the 4 years and 4 months I have enjoyed since then! His subject that day was "The history of cancer". Cancer has been recognized by physicians for a long time. However, in recent history treatments were discovered that reduced cancer growth and in some cases wiped the growths out.

Sculpture, "Eternal Flame" is by Rick Cunningham (1/26/08).
Out on the ranch are sculptures, some in metal, and some of wood, plastic or stone. You can view the website for the Sculpture ranch from this link.

The very large sculpture above is by Dr. Marshall Cunningham, and is titled "The Constant Battle". The rusty red surface fits well into the Hill Country setting. The warrior with a sword in one hand and a writhing serpent in the other represents the battles people face with their illnesses and physical problems. For some, the battle is short and it is either won or lost. For others, the battle continues for years, decades or a lifetime.

Inside the gallery are paintings and sculptures, by Benini and other artists. The circular painting above is by Benini, who creates images like this one that are flat, but look 3-dimensional. For more information about his art see his site.

On this day, when my son and two grandsons, Eli (redhead) and Gabriel visited the ranch there was still water in the creek. Now there is less water and much of it is dry.

When I worked at the Austin Nature Center, we talked with the kids about reading animal signs, which include tracks and scat. Eli had looked at racoon scat (which had lots of seeds in it), and coyote scat (distinct because it has fur in it). In this photo, Eli is goofing around and making fun of his grandma Margaret, by dramatically asking, "And who do you think made this scat?" For those who may not recognize it, it is cow poop!

During the summer of 2007 J David and I traveled to Canada, Montana, Wyoming and Utah. While in Montana we met a wonderful singer and songwriter Steve Nelson. If you have watched Winnie the Pooh on TV then you have heard the song he wrote for the theme. He also wrote "Songbird" which Barbara Streisand recorded in the 1978 album, "SONGBIRD", which was a huge hit for her. In January of '08 Steve came to Texas to visit. Many happy hours were spent in front of our fireplace listening to him play and sing his songs.

On a very cold day in early January Sallie Delahoussaye and Chris Johnson came out with 2 Screech Owls to release. This Eastern Screech Owl was anxious to be free and let us know that he didn't appreciate being held.

Ryan Kingsbury, a bright young man who loves birds and nature was an intern here for many months. He left to go to St. George Island in Alaska. There the Earthwatch Institute did a fur seal study. Ryan wrote a blog and there are wonderful pictures and interesting information about the study and his time there.

In January each year we have a celebration honoring our wonderful volunteers. Volunteers help with programs, do physical work, plant snowbells with J. David, and work at the Bamberger Nature Adventure Camp (see post for this blog on June 29th and July 2nd in 2008). Above is Colleen with Chance and Josh Ruder, who have been either campers or Junior councilors at the camp since it was started in June of 2004. They received the TCEQ Environmental Excellence Award for Youth this past year.

Ann Cook gets a hug from "Big Steve". She is one of the volunteers that helps with students. We sometimes have large classes, and it would be difficult to manage them and teach them without our volunteers.

Marsha May who is a wonderful birder has been organizing our bird census days (3 a year) for many years. With volunteer birders help we now have a long list of birds seen on the ranch (over 200) and have added many new ones to our list.

Lynda DeGroot is a member of the Central Texas Trail Tamers and she has brought groups of strong willing volunteer workers to the ranch for years to help us with projects. They have put in new trails, installed steps on steep trails, and have recently been helping J.David with his project to maximize the retention of water on our hilltops so that our aquifers are recharged and our springs keep flowing.