Friday, December 16, 2016

Wildlife Management

one of my driveways in the summer
I moved out of the big city to the country life in 2002. I live in a part of the Sam Houston National Forest grandfathered in. Just by luck, I didn't realize this when myself and the guy I moved out with here were looking.

Since then I have had a growing appreciation for the flora and fauna of the local ecosystem and in particular my own 4.12 acres within it. I love the interactions of the different wild creatures and as well how they harmonize together with the plant life.

I have identified pretty much all the trees and there are many kinds here. The wide diversity is inherent in where I am located in the world but also the different places just in my land. I have a goodly elevation change from around 40 feet and at the lowest point is a natural gully where the water flows from further up to a creek that is about 1200 feet down from me, when it rains.

Here is a topographic map which includes my land. To briefly state it, the closer lines are together the more steep the decline. As you can see on mine, "me" is on a bit of flat land surrounded by declines down to the creek as you can see is partially noted as "eek". The light blue line delineates the gully where only occasional rains see its use. If you follow the curves up from the creek you can easily see the flow of the land. My little spot there is 530 feet long and 340 feet wide.

The soil is sandy and has quite a bit of iron ore under that at the highest points in my land and as it all gets washed down it mixes with very fertile soil. The fertile soil is derived from the plants and the trees natural evolution of life...dead leaves, dead trees, various parts of trees such as acorns and other seeds and flowers. This fertilizer is top grade stuff.

down one of my driveways in the fall
The largest part of my land I keep "untouched" and as natural as it can be. I "manage" other parts in such ways to help other trees grow or to cut vines that are choking some trees and for paths and such. It is a light touch and I like to think of it as helping "nature" a little bit, but of course realistically I am tending those spaces for a more civilized usage.

owl looking at me looking at him
I have been posting this in a social place on the net just as I move along in life and the seasons spark my interest to mention such things in public, as opposed to just enjoying it personally in private. So I decided to go ahead and blog about it in this space, and to share in my wonder of the natural world.

These photos are a mix of my own and ones from the net.

I will be adding to it all over time so feel free to bookmark this page as you will and check back occasionally. Hi Mr. Owl.




I have tons of these trees. I like them and their coloring mixed with other fall colors on Oaks and such has it's own kind of beauty.

view from just outside my home
ironwood in winter
Interestingly some of my neighbors find Ironwoods ugly in the fall and chop them down. Their choice of course but I see them as part and parcel of my ecosystem providing color for the senses and food for various wildlife. They do grow plentifully and I have no problem chopping them down when I want a space to use.



I love the Junipers on my land.

The whole interesting idea of them appeals to me. From the misnamed Cedar locals give it, to the use of it in making Gin and to the shape as it grows, Junipers are wonderful trees.

It's funny though when I talk to an old country person who will insist they are cedars, well, it's ok and understandable to a degree...the bark is similar and so are the needles. But I like accuracy. Still and all, nowadays when mentioning them around here I call them cedar junipers and sometimes Texas cedar...it's of no real matter in simple discussions.

small juniper
I have noticed just this year that I am finding more of them around my land. They are like several other trees as they grow more fully when at the edges of open areas, such as beside a path or driveway, and there is where I am seeing them.

I love the idea of seeing these all over my land eventually, so I want to nurture them, give them space to grow (which they do quickly) and enjoy them.

I have a helper who lives in the neighborhood who comes by one time a month, for two hours or so, to do most of the "taming" I need done. It is not really much, but it is a nice thing to have it done. He has cut down two I had spotted, I forgot to tell him, my fault really.

So for one more I found the other day, I have cut about a 4 inch section off the top of a cheap plastic planter...you know, those that are used in landscaping nurseries...and I will tap it in around the little baby juniper. Awwwwww



I am so excited as today I finally identified that I have mulberry trees! I had been watching for Texas redbuds which I mention below and that I finally found one blooming. But it appears that some I thought might be redbuds are actually mulberry.

This is very exciting as I have fond memories of a mulberry tree in the backyard of the house I spent all my pre-teen years in. We would eat them as soon as they were ready, and sometimes before.

I had read that they are in the area but of course mine, as is the case with several other trees, were stunted under the large oaks and sweetgum trees. My own clearing had exposed them. So now I have two more trees to watch out for and prune and clear around them. I am unsure when I will have berries but when they flower (which is usually around this time...late March to April) the berries will come next.

I don't think this will happen this year but maybe with some good growth clearing it will happen next year. My land just became even more special to me.



Now my Nandinas I really do like a lot. As you will see on that link they are also called heavenly bamboo, which is what I like to call them...I just like the name really, it's pretty, and who doesn't want their own little pieces of heaven growing around -a -bouts??

Even though not indigenous, you couldn't tell that by mine, they have naturalized quite well.

one of my heavenly bamboo
I would like to point out that birds do like them but only after other food sources have been deplenished, such as my yaupons with all their, obviously to birds, value.

I have them growing around but sparsely overall, I really don't see any invasiveness in my area. I am trying to get little areas cleared around the ones I find to let them breath more freely, it all takes time.



And speaking of yaupons, and who isn't? I asks ya, ya you!, I have quite a few of them also. Which is really nice as it gives me a very deep down soulful feeling in late fall/early winter...when I can look out, and then step out, to watch hundreds of birds flying back and forth to strip the trees clean of berries.

FANTASTIC!

Just last week I got to watch them most of the early day, all sorts of birds (which I will also include here as I go a long) going back and forth, to and fro, chirping in concert, the most magnificent concert, filling their bellies with the berries.

view from my front door yaupon
I really do like yaupons. They are hardy and I have never noticed any pest problems on them. They grow in and out and around my forest with eye pleasing leaves and eye catching berries.

I have been studying the butterfly life cycle lately. Of the many things I am learning one is that yaupons are host plants for them, mainly the Henry's Elfin. All sorts of information can be found here. I think I see eggs on the twigs but not definitely sure yet as they might be the start of the berries. I will post once I can determine this for sure.



These Red-shouldered hawks live all around me. I see them daily flying in lazy circles above the trees. I have seen them with snakes having just caught one flying home to share the bounty. It is also possible they are Red-tailed hawks. They are very similar and I have no binoculars to try and identify more exacting.


I hear their calls all the time.



I have a few Sassafras trees also. Fascinating trees in so many ways. Their roots have been used for the flavoring of root beer (but it was found to be carcinogenic and was outlawed) and their leaves are used for filé. Being part cajun I have filé in my pantry and have often enjoyed it in a good gumbo as well as other cajun foods.

Sassafras are also easy to identify by their "mitten" shaped leaves, not all of them but certainly enough to know for a fact you have found one. Need a toothbrush? The twigs have been used for that by Native Americans.

They also can propagate by their root tubers (want some tea, be careful). So if you have one, or want to dig up some you see around your area, dig down to the tubers and chop off some chunks. I did that with what is now 2 trees. I plan to dig out and plant a couple more this next spring.

Originally I had mis-identified some trees that I think are Texas redbud, as they have some leaves "kinda" similar to the 3 lobed of Sassafras. But this current fall it became clear the difference in coloring of the leaves. So I have much less sassafras than I thought, and if the others are Texas redbuds I have a ton of them growing along the tree lines in semi open spaces. I will watch this in the spring. If they are redbuds then some have pest issues. I have not yet seen any trees blooming as the redbud would but I am hopeful that with time I will get to enjoy that.

(update) It turns out that I do have redbuds, and if my further identification of similar others is true, I have quite a few. The key to this was just the other day (6 March 2017), when I have seen redbuds throughout the neighborhood bursting with subtle reds, I found a tree with two single blooms. Wonderful!

These also have the heart shaped leaves which are starting to grown now also...little small green hearts all over the trees. So, the final proper identification is that the lower trunk has slightly mottled white spots on a kinda greenish maybe greyish bark with it smoothing out in the growth areas.

I'm so happy, so very happy now that I know I have them, they just need to be identified and space opened around them to get more sun. More work over time but with positive results soon enough. Enjoy a couple of closeups photos I took with my old crappy camera.

The main problem is that I just can't get much done with my landscaping as I would want to, and I can only afford to pay my helper very little each month. I have patience though and I see nice results over the years.



Ah, Magnolia grandiflora...a southern woman's necessity. Nothing says Southern charm more than the Magnolia, and nothing compares to the wonderful scent of the flower.

Doing this new blog makes me acutely aware that I must find an inexpensive and simple to use digital camera. I will add one to my amazon wish list next :-)

view of magnolia next to front door deck
I have around a dozen magnolias in different phases of growth that I know about on my land. Undoubtedly there are more...I will find them as the land gets increasingly tamed over time, I suppose, but since I prefer natural land and when I find them I will probably just clear around them enough to give them some more sun to grow.

One of my finest is just outside my front door and a large limb has grown close to my deck so that I can reach out and pick a few blooms for my home. I wash them and set them in a small bowl with some water. The scent fills my home so nicely.




Armadillos I love them! I once spotted a family of 6 or so in one place digging for grubs. I walked over to them and they did nothing at all, then I placed one of my feet (shoes on of course! I am not courageous!) lightly on top of one and he just went on eating, didn't seem to notice me at all.

I found the whole experience very interesting, and fun.

Of course Armadillos are famous too, they are the Texas State official small mammal...wow, you would think they might be more active being so important now would'ya. Hmmm.



The mimosa! reading this you would think if you don't have them, you might consider yourself lucky...maybe so in your neck of the woods, but I like them lots.

Albizia julibrissin, or mimosa, grows all over my land. But it seems for me that as soon as it gets some traction it freezes back and I never get to the pretty flower stage in the amounts I see around my neighborhood.

I keep hoping I will and over the last couple of years I am trying to open up the spaces around ones I see trying to grow up. I know they just need to get to a certain maturity and they will do fine from there.

Maybe I should sing Buddhist chants over them...you think?



I have several very large Oak trees on my land. I am sure one of them is here and there are several other varieties.

winter oak and holly
Many of my Oaks are deciduous and contribute to the great amount of leaves falling right now, especially when winds flow across the land. Not only that, but they recently finished dropping tons of acorns.

As a result I always have more Oaks growing.

I really like seeing the carpets of leaves throughout my land and especially on the driveways, which are natural, and paths. I would never rake, and not due to being lazy, or other reasons.

But the Oaks that stand out for me, and among the other many evergreens, I enjoy during the winter when so many others are just sticks of wood.



Ok, I just might as well stipulate right now that I love all my trees since I keep saying it for each one. Holly is definitely another I love.

large holly in the center
The thing is about them, other than being an evergreen, is when the flowers drop they appear on the ground in profusion and it makes those areas quite pretty when I am walking my land.

Before the seeds turn red they are green for quite some time, also nice to look at.

Before the flowers drop the honeybees love their nectar and when walking in the area of one there is this wonderful low volume buzzing sound that always reminds me of another part of the music of the forest.

I have several very large ones and tons of small ones vying for space.



Pines should probably have been listed first, after all, I am in the Piney woods area of Southeast Texas. But that's ok.

a pine on my land looking up up up!
I have two kinds, the loblolly pine and the longleaf pine. These southern yellow pines are abundant in our area and continuously logged in the Sam Houston National Forest...I hear the big saw trucks noise several times over a year. I know this sound as I actually "timbered-out" around a 120 of my own pines several years ago. I got $4600 for that but a messed up area where they took them. They only took from around 2 acres of a pine stand I had, which had been very beautiful with pines decades old.

3 baby pines
I still dislike I had to do that, but hard times require hard answers, as the old saying goes. I still can't get into that area as it has become overgrown with brambles but I have the neighborhood helper slashing a machete path slowly but surely into the area.

The trucks were massive things and what it could do was wrap the tree with one part to keep it stable and then saw it just above the ground, then they could just carry it over to where they would lay it down in the pile to be later moved onto the truck to haul away to the lumberyard.

Interesting experience.

But I have a lot more left and more are growing as well as many in what I can see of that area coming along.



to the right lower side of the large oak
is the willow, this one growing sideways
I have quite a few willow oaks also. The canker infestations noted in that article are on some of mine. I won't be doing any managed care on them so they are here to stay. I like them as they grow in odd ways due to my having much larger Oaks standing over them and giving way to partial shade.

In late fall/early winter as it is now, it still mostly has green leaves but a 2nd freeze will likely finally get them to turn color and drop.

These are another of my take 'em or leave 'em trees like the Ironwoods. I have many and if in the way chopped down they go.



early winter mexican plum
I love my mexican plum trees. I am watching for them better lately as there is one right in front of my front deck (next to the aforementioned magnolia).

I am pretty sure I have many more and just need to clear around others a bit so they can shine, and flower.

Mexican plum tree plums are edible but to me very tart, way to tart for me to enjoy. The flowers are some of the very first to bloom in the spring. The best identification I found was by the thorny branches.

update: I found another well flowering mexican plum at the front of my property. And very cool I found I have a fringe tree which is kinda sickly looking, next to that plum tree. I need to clear the area out so both can do better.



I consider Sweetgum trees rather a pest. They grow easily and I have many of them. It is interesting the medicinal uses though. I do like their fall leaf colors and in my area they are the most beautiful colors at that time of year.



As the article points out, wrens can be all over the place and their songs fill the air...especially during a nice morning in my case.

Some once built a nest in a hanging planter I had that was next to a brace for the awning of a 5th wheel trailer I had. One time I was looking out at them and saw a chicken snake winding itself up to them, I scared him off.

Later I watched as the babies were big enough to drop down to the ground and their parents chided them along to the woods. I enjoyed that.



Here is a great site showing several birds I have seen on my land. This page is about birds further east than I, so some I don't really see.

I do see Cardinals regularly. You already knew the males have the striking colors right? They do, yes, in order to better court the females.

I have the Pileated Woodpeckers also, and the Red Bellied Woodpecker also. I think it is the Red Bellied that is much larger than the Pileated, but it could be the reverse. I am very much the amateur birdwatcher. I like them and don't really think of them as pests, but a neighbor once told me she shoots them on her land (yes, we can shoot guns out here in my parts).

I have a hummingbird feeder that will go up again soon as spring more progresses. I see a few but I need to add some plants around that they like also to attract more. Another feeder would be nice also.

My feeder has suction cups to attach to my window where I can watch them all day.

I have seen roadrunners in the area also.

I see Bluejays all the time. As with the Cardinal, I love the variety of shades of blue on them.

During late February to early March I get Fireflys. That wikipedia site has a very nicely done recording or many in a field, they are just that and more in person. Magical creatures I think of them.



It is the 26th of March 2017 and butterflies are all over the place. I have all of the trees and plants they use throughout their life cycle so I see all the stages.

The description of this mourning cloak says it uses mulberry trees. I do have many of those recently identified and there are some rolled up leaves which I suspect if I opened up would show a chrysalis maybe. Mulberry are also silkworm hosts but I need to research all that much better.

I need to pay more attention and do more research to properly identify butterflies but here are some very good articles about them.

Here is an extensive list from the perspective of Dallas Texas which of course some will be in southeast Texas where I live also.

There is a lot of information at this link also, And here is more from a Texas perspective.

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