East Texas Naturalist Blog

Information and photographs mainly about nature in east Texas. Our authors have widely diverse backgrounds and write on a variety of topics.

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Rainy Winter Day But the Birds Didn't Care

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The weatherman was wrong again. It was supposed to be over 70 degrees and lots of sunshine for at least most of the day. Well, the sun was out for a bit but then the clouds blew in. We didn't get anywhere near 70 degrees. Luckily the birds didn't care.  

Kristi Thomas and I, accompanied by fellow naturalist, Mickie Moore, and nine other who were mostly members of the Tyler Audubon Group, hit Lake O' the Pines on a pontoon boat. While these birding trips are always geared towards finding as many species of birds as we can, some of us were more interested in the Bald Eagle's nest and what was going on there. Of course, all the other birding was always fun and this was an exceptional day. Not only did we see over 30 species, it seemed that many didn't mind posing for us. 

Here are some of the photographs that I took today. 

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Don't Worry About All Those Masses of Green Plants on Lake O' the Pines! The Hippos Will Eat Them!


Within the past couple of weeks, Lake O' the Pines has been inundated with clumps of floating plants.  Some of these clumps are more like floating islands, up to twenty feet across.  Most are smaller a foot or two up to three of four feet across but there are so many of them.  It is astounding.  Some old time residents said they had never seen anything like it here before.

So what are all these clumps of plants and where did they come from?  

It turns out that they are water hyacinths, Eichornia crassipes, and are an invasive species native to tropical and sub-tropical South America.  These plants are one of the worse invaders in many countries through out the world.  They were widely introduced in North America, New Zealand, Africa, Asia and Australia.  In many areas they caused serious damage.

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Hey, Eagles! How Can I Take Your Picture if You Keep Flying Off the Nest?


Yesterday, Saturday the 5th of December, I went on a field trip with fellow Texas Master Naturalist, Kristi Thomas.  Kristi also publishes her photographs on this website as well as writing a blog here.  She is an outstanding photographer and a great contributor to this website. 

She had also invited members of NETFO (Northeast Texas Field Orinthologists - http://members.tripod.com/netfo_tx/) for an event at Lake O' the Pines.  Part of the trip included a boat ride to observe water birds and visit a nesting location for Bald Eagles.  

Seeing the eagles and their nest was a treat and we have had some minor discussion about the eagle's nest in our talk forum - http://easttexasnaturalists.com/forum/bird-sightings/45-bald-eagles-nest-on-lake-o-the-pines.html.  One of the things we talked about was the location of the nest.

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Bald Eagle Population Seems to Soar at Lake O' the Pines

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I'm going to qualify the statement that titles this entry by saying that I've not yet had an opportunity to participate in an eagle count at Lake O' the Pines, although I've watched them here for several years.  I always have an eye peeled and my camera ready when we go on the lake, and while there are so many interesting life forms to see, there is no doubt that the bald eagle is one of the most impressive.  I believe our fascination may be two-pronged; not only is the eagle our national emblem, but this bird has only been off the endangered species list since 2007!

We've seen an abundance of young birds this year; they are more difficult to identify because they do not sport the white (bald) head, but their brown feathers are marbled with white.  At a closer look, though, there is no mistaking the distinctive hooked beak, large head, and a way of soaring with broad wings out flat just like a board!  We've watched them enough to notice a playful and energetic quality among the younger birds, and it is fascinating to see!

I've taken so many photos this year that I felt it necessary to do some research.  According to eBird, the terms "juvenile" and "immature" are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference.  A juvenile is a very young bird that is still wearing the set of feathers it fledged with.  As soon as it goes through its first molt, it's considered an immature until it reaches breeding maturity, which is at about four to five years of age.  

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Michael Mathews
I am so glad you have joined us here. I look forward to more articles and, of course, your beautiful photographs.
Monday, 02 November 2015 19:11
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Turtles, Lizards and Snakes - Oh My!

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After making the comment back in October that I haven't seen many reptiles, I have made an effort to spend a little more time this Spring watching to see if my initial feeling was correct.  Well, I have definitely seen more reptiles but still not in the numbers of my childhood.  Not by a long shot.

A walk in the woods (across the street from my RV) has produced Anolis specimen but in small numbers.  I can usually spot 5 or 6 in a half and hour walk.  I used to be able to see dozens in that time period.  I have seen a fair number in town (Gilmer) around houses.  

My walks have also produced a few Five Lined Skinks, Plestiodon fasciatus, but I am still surprised that I am not seeing any Sceloporus in what I know is excellent habitat.

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