November 10, 2019

Galveston Island: It's For the Birds!

Last month, I went on a birding trip to Galveston Island State Park.

I took a week off and headed down there on a Tuesday---Monday was Columbus Day and I knew the park would be super crowded on a holiday weekend. When I started out, it was raining in Longview because a cold front was coming through. As I drove south, I got ahead of the front and the weather was sunny and in the 90s. I walked along the free public beach to collect seashells and photograph birds until it was time to check in to the hotel.

Late that evening, the cold front arrived in Galveston. The next morning was overcast, raining, and 20 degrees cooler. I wasn't going to let the rain keep me from watching the birds. I drove to the state park and did some birding by car. The park was empty except for a young couple fishing and an elderly couple also birding by car. The birds were used to tourists, so I could put my car in park next to a bird, roll down the window, and get good close-ups. Later there was a temporary reprieve from the rain, so I walked down a trail.

One thing I was determined to do on this trip was to catch at least one saltwater fish, so I gave it a try the next day. There was a problem: I did not understand that 70 degrees in Galveston is not the same as 70 degrees in Texas. The wind blowing off the ocean made it feel much colder. I saw the locals wrapped up in coats, scarves, and hats, and wish I had brought warmer clothes. All I had brought were t-shirts and thin pants. I had a rain jacket with me so I had at least some warmth and protection from the drizzling rain.

Putting on my rubber boots, I was determined to catch a fish in the park's salt marsh. I was shivering. I told myself I would catch just ONE fish and go back to the warm car. I got that one fish, the gulf toadfish, and went back to my heated car.

My last stop before I went home was East End Lagoon Nature Preserve. It's a small park, a saltwater marsh area dotted with palm trees and prickly pear cactus.

Despite the fact that it was chilly and rainy, I had a lot of fun and didn't want to go back home. I saw a lot of birds that are new to me, like the Roseate Spoonbill and Ruddy Turnstone. I saw a lot of coastal plants and identified them with the help of iNaturalist's Galveston County checklist.

I want to go back again in a couple of years. The state park's beach was closed due to renovations and won't open again until then. I was to see more birds and catch way more fish.

Posted on November 10, 2019 03:27 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 4 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment

September 23, 2019

Longview's Master Trail Plan

Longview plans to build a giant ADA accessible trail system that goes all over the city. Last month, a new mile of trail opened, connecting Akin Park to the Cargill Long Park trailhead.

I decided to iNat this trail section over a period of three days, making 150+ observations, or about 50 per day. Whew! I focused mainly on plants, since they are easiest to photograph---plants can't run away. I found some plants that I haven't found in Longview, and unfortunately, most of them were invasives. On the third day, I looked for pollinators and found some wonderful new bugs.

While 150+ observations is a lot, I'm sure the number would be way higher if I swept the grass for bugs, did some mothing, or searched for lichens.

My next iNat adventure is another new trail system, Blackhawk Creek in Whitehouse, TX.

Posted on September 23, 2019 02:00 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 15, 2019

Galveston Island!

I haven't done much iNatting lately, and that's because it's been way too hot. Last week it got up to 106! I've spend time indoors making IDs instead.

However, a month from now, I'm going on a vacation to Galveston Island to make as many observations as possible! Birds, seashells, you name it! I'm going to spend a whole day at one of the fishing piers to get those saltwater fish observations. I've never tried saltwater fishing before, so it will be a learning experience.

Posted on September 15, 2019 02:12 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 1 comments | Leave a comment

July 26, 2019

How many fish species are in this urban creek?

Think of your local urban creek. How many fish species do you think it has? If you're like most people, you're probably thinking, "not many." I know I did. When I first inspired by the ExtremePhillyFishing Youtube channel to lifelist fish species, I selected a local (Longview, TX) creek to explore, Grace Creek. I took one look at it and thought, there are probably just mosquitofish and a couple of sunfish species.

I've been surprised at how many fish are in this little creek. I've mostly been getting game fish species so far, but I've been working on the microspecies lately. Only a small fraction of fish species are game fish; most fish are microspecies, or tiny fish.

Earlier this week I tried fishing with a Tanago hook, a tiny Japanese hook designed for catching microfish. I caught one species that I managed to photograph, the Blackstripe Topminnow. After a lot of work, I caught a Blacktail Shiner. I didn't know the darn things can jump really high and far for their size. I put the fish in the photo tank and before I could close the lid, it jumped out of the container, over the bank, and into the creek. I stared at the empty tank, wondering if I really just saw that. I didn't catch the fish again.

I came back the next day, intending to wade the creek with a minnow net, hoping it would yield more species than the Tanago hook. I swept through the vegetation along the creek bank and was excited about what I caught---my first darter, the Slough Darter. I saw a school of tiny silver fish and incorrectly assumed that they were baby Blacktail Shiners because some of them had some black near their tails. I managed to catch one of them in my net. Aha! This species wouldn't escape me this time! It turned out that this was another species of shiner. I don't know what it is and need to go back and catch more for better pictures.

My list of Grace Creek species so far:

Spotted Bass
Largemouth Bass
Longear Sunfish
Green Sunfish
Black Bullhead
Yellow Bullhead
Channel Catfish
Longnose Gar
Western Mosquitofish
Slough Darter
Blackstripe Topminnow
Unknown shiner species

Seen, but not photographed:

Spotted Gar
Bowfin; this one was caught, but escaped while I was reeling it in
Blacktail Shiner
Unknown panfish species---possibly the Flier

As I search for the microfish, I expect that list to get way longer. According to the Fishes of Texas website, Gregg County has 70+ species, mainly micros.

I really want to catch a Pirate Perch, simply because it's called a Pirate Perch. ;p

The spot I last fished at has the perfect habitat for the Blacktail Redhorse---deep, slow moving water with a sandy bottom. I've seen one at the nearby Lake Gladewater, but I've never caught one. This is another one I really want to catch. Wish me luck!

Posted on July 26, 2019 04:54 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 2 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment

July 04, 2019

Neches River NWR is Fully Open!

The Neches River National Wildlife Refuge is finally fully open!

The refuge is located outside of Jacksonville, TX on Hwy 79. The entrance is directly across from the Neches River public boat ramp.

I went last Sunday and the week before to check it out. I found some prairie species that are new to me, including an endangered species. While taking a break, scanning the water of Dead Water Lake beside the office, I saw a mama wood duck with her flock of ducklings. I could hear lots of other wood ducks out of site. A huge spotted gar was basking near the water's surface, but it swam away as soon as I changed my camera lens. Darn. That would have been a new fish for me! Speaking of fish, fishing isn't allowed right now, but the park manager is working on a fishing program.

I didn't get to walk much because of the heat. I'm going to back later in a week or two. I encourage anyone in the area to visit this park and document, document, document! Since the park is new, getting a baseline of what's there is important.

Posted on July 04, 2019 02:54 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 2 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 12, 2019

Little Rock Trip Update

I had originally planned to spend a week in Little Rock, but now I'll only be there on Saturday, May 18th, to do the Rattlesnake Ridge Bioblitz because I just had to buy a new car.

Earlier this week my 15-year-old car started making strange noises. I drove it to a mechanic and it died in the parking lot. The mechanic's verdict: it would cost $3,000 to fix a $500 car. It was completely dead. I knew it was at the end of its life and was nervous about driving it to Little Rock, so I'm glad it died here instead of all the way over there. I'm excited about my new car because it means I can drive around and do nature things without worrying about getting stranded.

Posted on April 12, 2019 02:41 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 2 comments | Leave a comment

April 06, 2019

Key to Leptoglossus sp.

Putting this here as a note to myself and anyone interested.

Key to Leptoglossus species:

I went through the illustrated section and circled all the ones BugGuide listed as occurring in Texas to make it easy.

Posted on April 06, 2019 22:39 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 1 comments | Leave a comment

March 31, 2019

A Big Fish Story!

Last week I went to Millwood State Park in Arkansas, hoping to get my first Arkansas fish. The lake was packed with fishermen taking advantage of the warm weekend. Unfortunately, I didn't catch anything. Several fisherman asked me if I caught anything as they walked past, and they said they didn't get anything, either. I suppose the fish didn't want to bite.

Earlier this week I bought a "travel rod" that folds down small enough to fit in a backpack. I wanted it to take on my hikes with me. This morning I stuffed it in my pack to try it out, and I loaded my purple mountain bike onto my bike rack. I bought the bike last December just for peddling around the parks and doing iNaturalist while biking. It makes it easier and quicker to go long distances.

I drove to Mineola Nature Preserve this morning and tried a couple of ponds, but no luck. I pedaled on to the slough, which was a distance of a mile. At first I didn't catch anything but sticks. I cast the line out and it seemed to get stuck on another stick. Grumbling, I reeled in the "stick" which suddenly began moving, fast! It was a fish, and a big one! I fought the fish for a while, now and then bringing it close enough to see its silhouette. I guess ed that it was a grass carp until it got close enough to make out the details. It was a huge bowfin! I had almost landed the fish and it escaped. This was because my hook was too small. I had baited a very tiny hook with a piece of nightcrawler to catch little fish. The weight of the bowfin had bent the hook almost straight, and it slipped out of its mouth.

I put on a crankbait shaped like a black beetle and after three or four casts, I had the fish again! It fought really hard and even broke my rod! I had to finish landing it by pulling on the line with my hands. I took a photo of the bowfin with a ruler to document size (18 inches) and released it as quickly as I could.

I was so excited to get this fish because I have been wanting to catch one of these living fossils, which have been around since the Jurassic period. It was worth breaking the rod, which was only $10 anyway. ;p

If you catch a bowfin, remember not to stick your fingers in its mouth; they have sharp teeth like a piranha!

If you go to Mineola Nature Preserve, remember that the park is catch and release ONLY! This park is huge and there are miles of trails and lots of creeks and ponds to explore.

Posted on March 31, 2019 02:35 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 1 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment

March 27, 2019

April Bioblitz Plans!

April is here and there will be two bioblitzes I'm participating in---Oklahoma Spring Bioblitz and the City Nature Challenge Team DFW!

Here are some tentative plans that I'm excited about:

First weekend of April: Red Slough in Oklahoma, focusing on odonates since this park is a giant marsh.

Second weekend of April: Beaver's Bend State Park in Oklahoma.

Third weekend: Hochatown State Park in Oklahoma

Fourth weekend: Cedar Ridge Preserve in DFW

Posted on March 27, 2019 00:24 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 3 comments | Leave a comment

March 21, 2019

Oklahoma Spring Bioblitz!

I got an email yesterday announcing the Oklahoma spring bioblitz!

Anything wild documented during the month of April counts! There will be prizes and challenges, although what exactly they are haven't been announced yet. I challenge anyone who lives in Oklahoma or near its border to join in!

Posted on March 21, 2019 01:32 by cosmiccat cosmiccat | 0 comments | Leave a comment