Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Pile of Feathers

As I drove past our park today I noticed a large, scattered pile of bird feathers. I recognized I was looking at the aftermath of a recent raptor kill. Several years ago upon turning down our driveway we saw a Cooper's hawk with a fresh kill and watched while it plucked and then flew away with the bird it had dispatched.

I drove home and got my camera so I could document my discovery. There are several birds that came to mind when I saw the gray feathers tipped in white. My first thought was mockingbird. However, upon looking up mockingbird feathers, the white and black boundary on the feathers seems too straight for a mockingbird. My next thought was dove. We have three types of dove commonly in our area, mourning dove, Eurasian collared dove and white-winged dove. After looking up feather images of
all three, I feel confident that the bird feathers are from a white-winged dove.

As for the raptor, there are four hawks that I have seen in Dalworthington Gardens who prey on birds. The largest, the red-tailed hawk, is known for catching rodents and other small mammals more than birds so I think this one is not the most likely hunter. The other three hawks are red-shouldered hawk, sharp-shinned hawk and Cooper's hawk. I have seen a dove explode out of a hedge row with a small hawk on its tail. They were moving so fast and I am not quick to ID the smaller hawks so I do not know which of the three that was but I am guessing one of them was responsible for the pile of feathers I spied today. The Audubon distribution maps put sharp-shinned hawks further north for breeding season and birds seem to be a smaller part of a red-shouldered hawk's diet than the other two, so I am going to guess the hunter was a Cooper's hawk like I saw in my driveway several years ago.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Design This - Exhibit Related Jewelry

For a few years now I have provided the Arlington Museum of Art with some small batch, true wholesale products when I can produce something in the way of jewelry, accessories, note cards or home decor that compliments one of their major exhibits. Their current exhibit, Cut! Costume and the Cinema showcases five centuries of period costumes designed for movies. While the timeline of the costumes is long, the costumes that inspired my designs based on materials I had on hand were the Victorian dresses.


I have a small charm of a lady in a dress resembling those of the Victorian era. I made some earrings and necklaces out of these. I also had some larger fan charms that I used to craft an artistic interpretation of the dresses of this period and turned them into earrings and necklaces too. Just before the show opened, I was at a trade show and found just a few larger pirate themed charms that went wonderfully with the Pirates of the Caribbean costume that Johnny Depp wore. I made necklaces out of these.

The exhibit at the Arlington Museum of Art runs through August 12, 2018. If you are a movie buff, a seamstress or costume designer, you will especially enjoy this exhibit. Tip: Don't wait until the last weekend to view this exhibit. That weekend usually is pretty crowded.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Grape Harvest Interrupted When a Nest is Found

A couple of nights ago I was helping a friend pick some of my muscadine grapes when all of a sudden I realized that what I thought was a tangle of vines and branches was actually a bird's nest and it was occupied by an intact egg. I had been clipping grape clusters below the tangle but stopped as soon as I discovered the nest. I did not want to through off the balance of the nest by lightening the vines by removing grapes. They were also offering important cloaking for the nest. I did get a couple of pictures before moving my ladder to another section of the wild grape vines to continue harvesting.

Even if I was not all that interested in protecting what I hope is a viable egg in the bird nest, I would have had to leave it be until the egg hatched and baby bird fledged or until enough time had passed to be able to
determine that the nest was abandoned and the egg was not viable. With the exception of a few officially designated pest bird species, all bird nests and eggs are protected by federal law in the form of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In addition some states, counties and communities have additional protections on the books.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has some good information about what to do if you encounter what you think might be abandoned wildlife. Numbers seven and ten in this link have some additional good suggestions regarding discovered nests.

I am not well versed in egg identification.
If by chance these pictures give you a hint as to what type of bird laid this egg, please let me know in comments. Clicking on the images will bring up larger versions.

Update 7/11/18: It's a cardinal nest! I snapped this picture last night. I went to get the mail last night, looked up and saw the female's tail feathers showing so I got my camera and took some photos from the driveway. I did not want to drag out a ladder and scare mama off. I did not notice I had more than tail feathers in the shot until looking at them on my monitor.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Where There's a Will, There's a Way

I have a piece of property whose back line fence seems to have evolved over the years. It appeared to have a wire farm fence with t-posts at one time and when the house was built a chain link fence was put in just inside the farm fence that was never taken out. Over time three large trees and some much smaller ones made it difficult to remove the fencing so that I could extend my TREX fence around the rest of my backyard. I have been wanting to do this for about a year and it is finally about to happen due to a house being built behind mine. The neighbor to be is nice, we both agreed that replacing the two old fences with TREX made sense.

Since the soon to be neighbors are hiring and overseeing many contractors they offered to coordinate the removal of the trees. Two out of the three big trees proved not to be a problem for the tree company that was hired. The third one was a large double trunked tree that proved to be most difficult, it had a couple of nasty surprises waiting for the stump grinder. It appeared that a t-post from the farm fence was growing through one of the trunks of the tree. The tree company ground down the stump from the neighbor's side as close as they could get to the stump. In addition a cemented in post for the chain link fence was partially surrounded by the tree. The tree company workers had to stop so as not to damage their equipment.

Since the tree company only cut out the section of chain link fencing they needed to get out of the way for access, my husband and I disassembled the rest, except for the fence posts, now that the trees were out of the way. At this time we did not attempt to do anything with the remaining portion of the tree and t-post since nothing seemed to want to budge.

The company who will be installing the new TREX fence gave it a try next. They had a bobcat that assisted in easily plucking the cemented in fence posts, that had not been cut off, out of the ground. Unfortunately the one at the remains of the double trunked tree did not have any fence post sticking up. The bobcat was no match for the stump and inclusions, so the fence company left after smoothing the grade where the fence would go, except for where the double trunked tree remains were.

The new neighbors did not have any luck finding a contractor who would remove the stump with the concrete and t-post seemingly embedded in it so almost a week ago, my husband and I decided to see what we could do ourselves. We loaded up our small chain saw, shovels, axes, pry bars and an assortment of other tools. Since we have not had any rain for so long, the first order of business was to wet down the ground to help with digging. I did some hand work removing soil around the t-post and eventually was able to ascertain that it was actually in a pocket of dirt with tree on all sides. My husband worked on removing portions of the stump with a small electric chainsaw. I used some hand tools and a shovel as appropriate to clear away newly exposed dirt. While doing this is actually when we discovered that in addition to trying to remove the t-post, we also had the remains of the base of a fence post to remove too.

I won't go into much more blow by blow descriptions of each step in the removal process. Suffice it to say that it took most of the day but in the end we were victorious. Now the tree company will be able to come back out and properly finish grinding the remaining tree stump that we did not need to take out to get to the t-post and concrete post base. (The first photo was taken after we had removed a portion of the trunk and cleared some dirt. The second photo was taken just after we got t-post out. The concrete came out before that.) We were wiped by the end of the day but pleased that our hard work had paid off. After the concrete was out, we took a break while soaking the ground again and visited our local snow cone stand.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Name That Job!

What do all of these critters have in common with regards to an important function they perform? If you know or have an educated guess, please answer in comments below. (Hint: The senate passed resolution 580 in 2006 creating the first National ______________ Week in June of 2007.)








Friday, June 15, 2018

Milkweed on the Move

The milkweed pods on the green milkweed, Asclepias virids, in my pasture are splitting open to allow the seeds inside a chance to catch a puff of wind and ride to a new location in hopes of establishing a new plant. This past weekend I watched as the silky puffball of threads attached to each seed were pushed this way and that by the wind. Occasionally one would let loose and a seed would begin its journey from the mother plant to a bit of earth to nestle into.

Another common name for this green milkweed is green antelopehorn. The problem with common names becomes clear when you try to figure out what type of milkweed a given plant is. There are several with common names of green milkweed or antelope horns. What they all have in common is that Monarch butterflies search them out as the host plant for their progeny. When Monarch larvae eat milkweed they
sequester toxic cardenolides in their bodies. This makes monarch larvae and the adult butterflies they turn into taste bitter and develop a level of toxicity for potential predators. Monarchs' bright orange coloration is thought to warn off predators from eating them and taking on the ill effects of this toxicity. It is thought that other species of butterflies mimic this coloration to trick predators into thinking they are toxic too.

However, there is a delicate balance that must be met in order to survive growing up on such a toxic diet. The toxins are produced by the plant as a defense and the Monarch larvae must avoid the sticky latex sap containing the toxins that is exuded when a milkweed plant is chomped on as well as not ingesting too much cardenolide. I came across a very interesting article describing this delicate balance that you might want to read too.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Two Photographic Art Prints Selected for Exhibit

Last year I told you about a new botanical art group formed in North Texas that I joined. They have formalized the name of the group to the Botanical Art Collective of North Central Texas and are about to open their first juried 2D art exhibit at BRIT. Members could submit up to four pieces for consideration to be included in the exhibit. Two of mine were accepted, a Mother's Day rose and a close up of a branch covered in a variety of lichens.

The opening reception will be held this coming Thursday, June 14, 2018 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Unfortunately, I have a City budget meeting that begins at 6 pm that night so I will have to view the exhibit at another time and miss getting to talk with everyone at the reception. If you are also unable to attend the reception, the exhibit will hang from June 14 - August 9 and BRIT is open to the public Tuesday - Friday 10 am - 4 pm and the first Saturday of
the month from 9 am - noon.

Having seen some of the other member's works, I am expecting this to be a fabulous exhibit. The name of the exhibit is Botanical Art - Flowers, Fruit and Fungi. This exhibit is a celebration of the world of botany and will feature depictions of flowers, fruits, seeds, vegetables, fungi, and grasses executed in a variety of mediums by local artists. Come view the exhibit and explore the joyful intersection of two distinct yet closely related disciplines - botanical art and science.

Update: My bluebonnet print was selected to hang out with the other bluebonnets in the welcome center for the duration of the show.

I have now had the opportunity to view the exhibit. As I expected, the artwork is fabulous and most of them are for sale if you find one that wants to go home with you. A portion of the proceeds helps support BRIT. The artwork must remain at BRIT until the end of the show.