Monday, April 23, 2012

High Island, TX

Last weekend, I joined Jacob and the UT Bird class on their trip to High Island, TX.  High Island is just East of Galvanism, TX on the shore.  High Island is a great place to bird because there is a large variety of resident birds, and it is the first pit stop for many spring migrants after the long fight across the Gulf of Mexico from the Yucatan Peninsula.  I saw over 100 different bird species this weekend.  Some of the highlights were Rosette Spoonbill, Purple Gallinule, Dunlin, Plovers, Scarlet Tanager, several Thrushes, Bobolink, and a Blackpoll Warbler.  I didn't get to see as many warblers as I would have liked.  The weather was too windy for much success in that department.    

This is my fourth spring trip to High Island and it is always fun with new birds, dolphins, alligators, and more birds.  We say in a cabin that overlooks a beautiful marsh.  On Saturday, the water was low and there were thousands of shorebirds.  I have never seen so many birds.  I have been studying the shorebirds because many of them look similar.  It paid off as I worked to identify all the species.  Shorebirds have such long bills, and are always running poking the mud as they look for worms, shrimp, and other bits of food.  I could watch their antics for hours.  

What a great trip!
Would you like to share a memory from a trip?

Jacob using the scope for a better look!

Saturday, April 21st mud flats with multiple species
UT Class at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
Lesser Yellowlegs at Anahuac NWR

Pectoral Sandpiper at Anahuac NWR

Orchard Oriole sipping nectar from Anahuac NWR

Dunlin, Sanderling, and Gull on the Beach


Brown Pelicans and Gull

Scarlet Tanager in Mulberry Tree

Monday, April 16, 2012

Minerals Quiz

Minerals Quiz

I am amazed by the minerals that grow in the earth. There are many colors and forms. We had a minerals training on Saturday at the Nature Center. If you went to the training or have studied minerals this is a review. Good Luck!
  1. What is the difference between a mineral and a rock?

  2. A mineral is pretty and a rock is ugly.
    A mineral is valuable and a rock is not.
    A mineral has a definite chemical composition, a rock is a mixture.

  3. Which is not a property of a mineral?

  4. Hardness- Scratch test
    Resonance- The tone a mineral produces
    Color- Crystal color

  5. What is the luster (how light reflects-shininess) of Pyrite (Fool's Gold)?

  6. Glassy

  7. Which of the three choices is the hardest mineral

  8. Quartz

  9. Streak is the

  10. color left after scratching the mineral on a unglazed tile.
    sparks made by hitting a rock with metal.
    way the mineral feels when you rub it with your finger.
Thanks for taking the quiz!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Garden buzz

Our rainy spring season makes me look like a really good gardener.  While I enjoy spending time in the garden, I'm not sure how much credit I can take for its lushness.  One of my favorite things about the garden is seeing all the bugs and critters that are out there (not including leaf-footed bugs or squash bugs- they are the worst pest to my tomato plants, and they drive me crazy!)  

This weekend I discovered a butterfly caterpillar on some potted violas, and then I discovered the same caterpillars on a weed that grows next to the house.  The caterpillars will turn into Variegated Fritillaries.  I have not been able to identify the weedy plant.  It has a tiny purple bell shaped bloom with a tongue for a petal.  It made me feel good that butterfly larvae are using plants in my yard for food.  I had no idea that violas are a host plants.  I picked them because they are pretty.   

Yesterday a Carpenter Bee spent at least 20 minutes checking every knot, and crack in the boards of the porch.  I tried to get a photo of it visiting some flowers, but it just wouldn't sit still.

One other and slightly disturbing thing I am seeing are Zombie caterpillars.  These are caterpillars with a virus.  The virus makes the caterpillar crawl to the top of a plant, and kills the caterpillar then the exoskeleton 'melts!'  The dissolved exoskeleton allows the virus get out of the dead caterpillar, and it's up high so the virus can drip down to infect more caterpillars.  The virus isn't really a problem, and is used as a biological control on some pests.  But it is kind of creepy to see the dieing caterpillars and I hope it doesn't infect my butterfly larva.  Here's a link to a Cornell's entomology web page with more bug virus info.

A tiny beetle eating pollen while
pollinating a sunflower.
Weedy plant flower in focus.
Do you know the name of this plant?
Variegated Fritillary Caterpillar
on Weedy plant

Melting caterpillar

Melting Caterpillar
Unphotogenic carpenter bee

Garden view
(front to back) Lettuce, dill, tomatoe plants, and 6ft peas 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Characteristics of an Artist

I've been thinking about what makes a good artist, and I've come up with three things that a person needs.  An artist needs to be creative, have skills, and be focused enough to complete a project.  I imagine a triangle with over lapping circles at each point.  The optimal range is where all three circles over lap.  There are a few blessed people who are born with creativeness, skills, and focus.  For the rest of us, there is hope because we can become creative, learn skills, and ask for help to keep focused.

Improving creativity sounds impossible, but I believe it can happen.  The most important factors are time and releasing pressure.  Set aside time to doodle, let your imagination run, be a kid, or just think.  It's kind of hard to do because it seems like you aren't doing anything, but giving your mind a break can make a difference.  Not only is playing time important for being creative, but it's also a healthy.  A quote that I cut out and glued to my sketch book goes like this, "Don't tell someone 'Be Creative'  tell them 'Do something only you would come up with-that none of your friends or family would think of'."  You have things that I could never do, you have thoughts I will never think.

We can learn new skills, and there are many ways of making art.  Sometimes I am amazed and intimidated by the skills that others have, but I need keep working trying new things.  Most people aren't born with their skills; they learn and practice to become who they are.  Take an art class, make time to practice, don't be afraid to try a new material.  If you try a paint brush and that doesn't work, try using clay, or yarn, or paper. 

Focus comes from inside and outside.  Jacob helps me focus, and encourages me to keep going.  He knows I enjoy painting and helps me remember to take time to finish up projects.  Creating a calendar of goals can also be an effective way of developing follow through so we create a finished product.  Having friends ask about projects helps too.  If anyone needs a Follow Through Buddy, let me know!

I don't think these are all the characteristics, but I do think these are important.  I would like your thoughts and stories.

Am I missing an important element?  What's the hardest characteristic for you?  Have you taken an art class?