Summertime

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to hike in the greenbelt behind the house.  A nice dry, hot July day – it was great.

Greenbelt - July 2015

Greenbelt – Southwest Austin – July 2015              You can almost smell the cedar and the heat.

Wildflowers - July 2015

Wildflowers (and Johnson Grass) – Green Belt – Southwest Austin – July 2015

Pink Flowers - July 2015

Pink Flowers – Green Belt – Southwest Austin – July 2015

And I got two fantastic purslanes from the Natural Gardner.

Purslane - July 2015

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) – July 2015

Ramblin’ Man

So I should have been in Abilene this weekend, but decided to stay home to attend to other things, but took time out to wander around the green belt yesterday. We’ve had reasonable rain these past couple of months, so things didn’t look too terribly dire. More dead cedar and other scrub, and fading wild flowers, but not too bad.

I noticed this a couple of years ago, but it seems to be thriving – a prickly pear cactus (Cactaceae Opuntia) growing in a live oak tree.  It just boggles the mind, really.

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Cactus in a Live Oak Tree

Most of the wildflowers that are left are yellow, with the occasional purple Mexican petunia or wild verbena, but this one got my attention – certainly a standout.  The flowers look a little like penta…perhaps carried from some back yard by birds.

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Pink Wild Flowers

I’m not an anatomist, but I’m assuming this is the remnants of a deer leg.  I wonder if the coyotes got lucky.  Interesting how it got into the tree like that – a little “Blair Witch Project”-y.  But you tend to see stuff like that back there on the trails – stacked rocks, etc.

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Deer Leg Bone in Tree

The rest are just interesting flowers/rocks/dry water ways I captured – enjoy!

GB-Pink Flowers Jul 14

Barton Creek Green Belt – Pink Flowers

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Barton Creek Green Belt – Waning Wild Flowers

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Barton Creek Green Belt – Yellow Flower

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Barton Creek Green Belt – Turks Caps in the Wild

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Barton Creek Green Belt – Holey Rock

GB-Gully Jul 14

Barton Creek Green Belt – Dry Water Way

 

Wanderlust

So last week, I went hiking in the Barton Creek Greenbelt behind the house.  I still forget how lucky I am that I can just step out my back gate and be on the trail.  A bit like Bilbo Baggins.

It was one of those “Chamber of Commerce” weather days – amazing for mid-August – low 90s, a light wind from the north and no humidity at all.  You could smell the heat  – cedar.  There’s a great map you can get from the Save Our Springs Alliance Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail Map and Recreation Guide.

So this is what it looks like just a bit further down from the house.

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About 2 miles along the trail, you come to this great vista.  I think the houses are in Lost Creek, but I’m not quite sure.  (I’m horrible with directions.)

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Another picture from the same area – mostly scrub cedar here.

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This is one of my favorite places on this hike.  The stream that made this must have been pretty substantial at one time.  I saw two deer back in the woods, but of course I wasn’t ‘camera ready.’

creek bed

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This tree is about 5 miles in.  I really like the way this is shaped.

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An interesting barbed-wire fence.

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And then back home again – 10-mile roundtrip in about 2 hours, so not bad for an old man.  (At least Starflight didn’t have to come get me.)

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Birds…and one lizard

SI ExifI don’t think I’ve written about the birds in the garden yet.  I’m pretty lucky to live on the edge of the Barton Creek Greenbelt which is a nice mix of trees (a gigantic live oak; cedars; Houston Yaupon hollies; a Texas persimmon; etc.) and meadow land.  The ecology provides abundant nesting opportunities as well as great feeding.  To encourage them to visit the garden I have seven various types of feeders (two tube feeders; a thistle feeder; a suet feeder, a humming bird feeder; a corn-cob feeder; and an English titmouse feeder) and four water features.  (I get all my seed (Supreme and No-Mess) from Wild Birds Unlimited – they’re great.  And if you use their ‘seed bank,’ you can buy in bulk and just stroll into the store and pick up a bag without having to worry about storing it. ) I used to have a Purple Martin house, but I never had any luck with it.  I’ll publish an inventory of birds I’ve seen, but this is a general overview of the standard visitors.

SI ExifI actually have a murder of crows living behind the house.  I heard them at dawn a couple days ago and got a picture of one today.  I like them much better than grackles.

Like every back yard in Texas, I’ve got cardinals.  I like this time of year – midsummer – because you can see different generations.  The newly fledged ones waiting for their crests to come on look like British punks with the spiked hair.  The juvenile males are really interesting because they often look like they have blue heads!SI Exif

Perhaps my favorite birds are the blue jays.  From their colours to their screeching to their thrust-and-parry feeding methods, there’s nothing subtle about blue jays at all.  One of the best descriptions I’ve ever read of them is from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

“…and the blue jay, that noisy coxcomb, in his gay light blue coat and white underclothes, screaming and chattering, nodding and bobbing and bowing, and pretending to be on good terms with every songster of the grove.”

wet blue jay

A blurry wet blue jay and my still-blooming clematis

This morning I saw a woodpecker.  These are pretty infrequent visitors, but I love them.  It’s amazing to watch them feed upside down from the suet feeder.

The black and yellow finches are fun to watch.  They’ll swarm around the feeders and the shallow ‘bird-bath’ fountain.  They’re definitely not intimidated by any of the larger birds.

While I really enjoy their calls, I’m not overly fond of the white-wing doves.  They’re a bit like flying pigs that gang up on the other birds and drain the feeders pretty dang quick.  They also have a tendency to fly into the side of the house; not an attractive sight.

This summer, I have whippoorwills living in the grove behind the house.  I love their calls but don’t ever expect to see any.

SI ExifWho doesn’t like humming birds?  But I never realized how territorial they can be.  The most I’ve ever seen is four, but there always seems to be a bully that’s keeping the others from the feeder.  That one sure seems to spend a lot of time and energy guarding that feeder.

humming bird1

Other birds I’ve seen in the past:  a red-tailed hawk sitting on the fence; a painted bunting; mocking birds; grackles (filth, filthy birds); screech owls (again, no success with an owl house); tit mouse; chickadees; and Carolina wrens (such a loud call for such a little bird).  My neighbor said he once saw a wild turkey in the back yard.  I’m really sorry I missed that.  Probably the most unusual though, was a road runner.  It was during the extreme heat wave in 2011.  This road runner hopped over the fence from the desiccated green belt; drank from one of the small bird baths; hopped/flew to the neighbors giant live oak; and then climbed the thing to the telephone wires behind.  It was amazing!

And here’s the promised lizard…

SI Exif

SI Exif