Monday, October 26, 2009

Mesquite Treatment Monitoring in Lesser Prarie Chicken Habitat

Mesquite has invaded large areas of warm semi-arid grassland, possibly due to a combination of land use and climate change. Fenceline contrasts usually indicate selective growth is due to land use; in the case below the field on the right is grazed while that on the left is a Conservation Reserve former farm field.
From Milnesand, NM
The mesquite has been sprayed with a selective herbicide in order to increase forage access for cows. Our goal was to monitor the vegetation changes associated with mesquite die-off. I also observed that mesquite and other shrubs clearly stabalize more eolian transport than do grasses.

Yvonne: "looks like pretty good kill to me. I don't know what he's complaining about. You never get 100% -- not in nature"
Rancher: "never seen it this green this time of year before"


lark buntings dance from mesquite to mesquite
trilling as they fly: pipsqeek joy
horsecrippler cactus
we dug and boxed for home

From Milnesand, NM
two Great Blue Herons flap-float overhead
bringing/bearing profound stillness
tarantulas still crossing road
honk/gurgle of sandhill cranes float out
of clear blue sky

From Milnesand, NM

Damn scorpions - one just crawled under fridge
pocket gopher diggings everywhere!
Panicum obtusum, virgatum
spider webs shimmer parachute? balloon?
Look! a tiny spider clutching the tiptop of a tiny Buchloe grass
it flies away, and for a moment; Pure Magic

From Milnesand, NM
12:30 2 groups of 3 and 4 cranes, circling overhead
another group of 2 joins them
we hear them long after they are lost in sky
their presence gives it dimension, then dimensionless

From Milnesand, NM

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tucson Field Notes

italisize scientific names

snow and hills in Arizona winter:
warming sun, purple hands in the snow & shade

Madrean oak to pinon mixed conifers
how many species of oak? and species we don't even know
sample in pockets

pinus edulis
apache pine englemanii
mexican pinyon pinus cembroides

chihuaha pine? pinus leiophylla
doug fir
white pine pinus strobiformis

alligator juniper

steep steep slopes still with soil on them
in some places, thick oak duff
overlays silt and rocks over bigger rocks and boulders and bedrock
exposed in channels and on pinacles

raccoon faced white elipses
blue colored breast
darker blue on dorsum than back
same blue makes crest color protude through white head
arrow shapped fat end over eyes
(sagital crest on forefront of head )
eye circle bigger than eyes is white
raccoon faced?

insect casings exoskeletons left behind after metamorphisis
thalictrum and gallium near trickling pools
stinging nettle near Sylvester Spring
round sedges (scirpus), rorripa
exclosure around the seeping proliferation: out of the reach of
raging floods, stable ecosystems contrast with high-disturbance
sylvester had stinging nettle and white pine
(pinus strobiformis)
 kent spring, at the apex or azimuth, a frozen stalagmite
and  bog with the foot-thick grape vine
springs boxed and improved "fish and game"

white breasted nuthatch

pinus leiophylla chihuaha
arbutus arizonica (ericaceae... heather the grown up form of ) like arbutus
symphoricarpous oreophilus mountain or roundleaf rotundifolius

ericaceous shrubs in the artic tundra

rhus trilobata on west facing dry hillslopes
Hoffmansegia glandular pea vine there, to

littleleaf sumac
rhus microphylla fruits small, red-hairy, {ital}

bear grass nolina microcarpa
banana yucca, Yucca baccata

parry's and shott agave (mescal and amole)

red pink ball things
green horn beetle 2mm-4mm
horn downcurved

galls we saw today
lemons in the trees: hollow dry bug galls
perforated ball of Sycamore seeds
red tiny balls
caccoon with a hole
pinecone skeleton twigs twisted together to make backbone and ribs
intricate engineering
concave sycamore with hollows
juniper stumps convex, many-trunked
grassy hills under
aligator juniper blue "bloke" oak

grape vines common near springs
swaying 30-40 feet overhead
crawling over oaks
some are a thick as 8 inch 
complex webbing

abundance and habit

no cottonwood in wash
close, steep sides
bedrock confined
maiden pools? dried up

arizona rosewood  vauquelinia californica
southwestern coralbean erythrina flabelliformis growing around summit, blue "bloak" oak,
black phoebe
ventana canyon over stream

dodonaea viscosa called uopbush
hopbush covered burn sites and common at a certain elevation

romero pools
coursetia microphylla along rough rock trail
towering saguaro
past them to the first shady clefts
oak and fern,
then onward to flowing water over bedrock

dodea cover the site of a 2003 fire now with 10 foot luxuriant growth, hop bushes swaying in the golden light

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Magical North Central Texas that Used To Be

North Central Texas is composed of three major ecosystems, the Cross Timbers, Black Prairie, and Fort Worth Prarie. Less than 150 years ago, sparkling streams were abundant with trout, perch, and catfish...and alligators! Indeed, Kendall (1845) found alligators along the San Gabriel in the southern Blackland Prairie as "too plentiful for any useful purposes." Black bear were also common, along with mountain lion. Brooke (1848) reports gray wolves as far east as McLennan County, ocelot in bottoms of Brazos River near Waco in McLennan County. The last jaguar record was a large male killed in Mills County (Lampasas Cut Plain) in 1903.

Other vanished creaturs out of this Noah's Ark world include river otter, ringtail (a cat-like creature), badger, javalina (collared peccary), bison, pronghorn antelope, turkeys, and prarie chickens. Many of these animals still persist in zoos or mountains out west, but some cannot be found anywhere on the planet. For example, both the ivorybilled woodpecker and the carolina parakeet, once found near modern day Dallas/Ft. Worth, are extinct.

Estimates of the destruction of the Blackland Prairie ecosystem range from 98% (Hatch et al 1990) to 99% (Riskind and Collins 1975) to more than 99.9% (Burleson 1993). Some of the last remnants can still be seen at the Nature Conservancy's Clymer Meadow Preserve. Slightly more Fort Worth Prarie and Cross Timbers survive. Dyksterhuis (1946) studied relics of the Fort Worth Prairie, and, surprisingly, Cross Timbers are still one of the largest relatively unaltered forest vegetation types in the eastern United States (Stahle &Hehr 1984), but there are more in Oklahoma, for example, Pontotoc Ridge Preserve. Examples of old-growth Cross Timbers forests in North Texas are found in Comanche County (Leon River), Tarrant County (Fort Worth Nature Center), and Throckmorton County (Nichols Ranch).

Prairie remnants are threatened by eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia) because of a lack of natural fire. Results include reduction in broad-leaved plants and increased abundance of grasses. (Diamond & Meins 1993). Over much of the slope-lands, as muich as three feet of soil have been eroded, exposing barren rock where once was prairie soil (Hayward &Yelderman 1991). So, although remnants remain, they are often degraded by various human activities such as heavy grazing or selective cutting and their authenticity is rarely noticed or protected.....I wonder how many people realize what used to be?

Much of this text, and the image, are from Shinner's and Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas, published by Botanical Research Institute of Texas.

More great info about Texas Native Plants, from the Plant Resources Center at UT - Austin.