27 May 2009

weekend adventures

Whew. It's Wednesday morning and I finally made it back into Waco last night. Very wonderful/exciting/tiring weekend behind us... the Houston reception was delicious. Highlights involved meeting my new nephew, Oliver, seeing my grandmother (Oma) while she's in town from Germany, and catching up with oodles of long-lost friends and relatives. Of course, Matt had a slightly more challenging task, since he had to meet his new sister-in-law, his new nephew, all of my mother's relatives and generally stay afloat among friendly people who have known me since I was a diaper-wetter myself.

I shall slack on the gory details as well as photos (again) and instead direct everyone to a lovely video snippet of my mother singing to Oliver in Dutch. And for those who are less video-inclined, Oliver's weekend photo album is quite exciting as well.

Much to do! Oh, and jobs to seek, while I'm at it...

17 May 2009

Once a Year

Heidi and I had a wonderful time at the reception held in Abilene. Great friends and food; an outpouring of love, generosity, and support.

I, in my ever-expanding wisdom, did not bring my camera to capture some of the evening's moments. Heidi however did, and may post a few in the near future.

Anyhow, the following day (today) we came upon the following butterfly in the Abilene front yard of Heidi's landlord:

Abbie has done an amazing job with this garden, by the way...

Soapberry Hairstreak (Phaeostrymon alcestis)

This insect is a "one-brood" butterfly. [In some cases a particular butterfly species passes from egg,larva,pupa and adult stages in a matter of weeks, and the cycle is repeated many times a year; thus many "generations" or "broods" a year. There are, however, some species that hae only one brood per year, and these often have a short flight season. In the North there are some that have even fewer than one per yr.]

So you kind of get one shot at spotting these guys, generally from May to June, per season.

The Soapberry Hairstreak gets its common name due to its affinity for the Western Soapberry tree (Sapindus drummondii), the larval hostplant. The adult butterfly is seldom found away from the soapberry tree. Due to this, it is a highly localized species. It ranges where, ofcourse, soapberry trees range, generally the central & western two-thirds of Texas, parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and extreme northern portions of the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora.

This is only the second time I have observed this species, and I believe a first for Heidi. This bug was seriously cooperative and we took advantage with our cameras.

Thank all of you in the Abilene/Taylor County area for your support, encouragement, and friendship.
We certainly look forward to seeing those who are planning to attend the reception in Houston during the upcoming weekend.

adios, Abilene

In spite of a drizzly Saturday, the evening cleared up a bit and we were able to serve chips outside before the chill pushed us inside for the reception. Luckily I spent most of the downpour in a defensive driving course (for the first time ever, there were two of us just in it for the insurance discount!) and Matt didn't get washed off the roads on his way over.

The evening was a very light-hearted atmosphere of dear friends who have kept me sane (enough) while living, working, volunteering, churching and schooling in Abilene. Several folks still had not met Matt, a few more hadn't quite figured out that I was moving and in general, but for the most part everyone was very understanding that we *got* married and didn't need fluffy/sparkly/poofy madness.

Our triad of hostesses, Shellie, Abbie and Francine, did wonders with the guidelines that I gave them - the menu was to contain no bird, if there were ANY flowers, roots needed to be attached (and dirt, if applicable), and plates/silverware couldn't be disposable. Indeed, the fajita spread of beef, peppers, onions and mushrooms rocked beyond all expectations and the "cake" options were vanilla ice cream in a bucket for the bride - groom's cake ice cream in a bucket for the groom! The marigolds even had roots. Amazing =)

(bucket picture to be added here)

Next post will be back to bug pictures, I promise ;-)

09 May 2009

Pieces of Home

... or atleast what is as "home" as any other location. I have moved around alot in my career pursuits.
Currenty, my job requires me to travel all over the central swath (geographically, that is) of Texas. From as far north as Palo Pinto County to the my southernmost property in southern Edwards County., about 45 minutes south of Rocksprings.

This area consists of mostly higher elevation ranchland and minimaly of people. The woody vegetation association is generally mixed oak-Ashe Juniper- Papershell Pinon.
Yes, with Ashe Juniper residing in this area the endangered songbird, Golden-cheeked Warbler, does nest here.

One may not immediately bring to mind the range for Dendroica crysoparia, as reaching this far south. Alas, they do, and biologists monitor some of these most southerly of the species' breeding populations.

The endangered species Vireo atricapilla or Black-capped Vireo for which I am tasked to locate, record positions of, and monitor behavior of also use this area of the state as breeding grounds.
These guys specifically use structure characterized by low-growing woody cover for nesting substrate. One of the biggest sins in the state regarding land use has been the generations of overgrazing practices. This, being a major cause of this specialized habitat's destruction. But, as big an issue if not bigger is the desire of Homo sapien sapien to suppress fire. Wild range fires are naturally occuring events, and would keep the land open and the resulting plant succession would be lower-growth canopies. Anyhow, we are learning as managers and stewards of the land that the laws of nature evolved to its balance for very necessary reasons.

Nobody wants to see the surface of Mars anywhere but on the surface of Mars. Not conservationist, not biologists of varied type, not landowners. I have come to see this unity exist in "groups" that some would YELL LOUDLY in your ear 'are polar opposites, unable to ever get along or find common ground.'

We should yell less as a society, I think.
Perhaps just press MUTE at glowing screens more often.
Alright, I got off track in what was to be a short post about a couple of reminders of "home" from my past.
Even in a job that may sound interesting to some, there are numerous moments that make this "work" and "job" at the level far beyond recreational enjoyment. Work is just flat out work sometimes. During these times we get gentle reminders to enjoy one's self. Enjoy the moment, the place. Enjoy this life.
If you've been looking down all day, look up. Or in my experience yesterday looking up, I looked down.
In blinding sun and 95+ degree heat:
I flushed the first 2 (Cyrtonyx montezumae) Montezuma Quail since since my Masters project in the Davis Mountains of far West Texas. Southern Edwards County and parts of Val Verde County have relict populations of this very cryptic bird.
The Strawberry Pitaya (Mammilaria heyderi) have bloomed. This takes me back to my years spent in the Chihuahuan Desert of the trans-Pecos region of Texas.

Also the first flight this season of one of my favorite members of the butterfly subfamily (Satyrinae); taking me back to days spent with The Nature Conservancy at Fort Hood.

Megisto rubricata
Red Satyr

I have found, in my life, that ultimately home is not comprised of where you are. Rather, Home is "who you are" and "with whom."

I recognized Home well before 27 March 2009.
Here is a picture...
I look forward to meeting those of you who will be attending the upcoming receptions in Abilene and Houston.
In regards to those who won't be in attendance, I look forward to our meeting further down the path.

06 May 2009

A "Proper" Entry

It occurred to me that unless I updated this blog, the previous post is the first thing that many first-time visitors will see here. I'd hate for any non-biology types to be immediately confronted with images of Exposed Bird Dropping Moths right next to the smiling newlyweds. Invitations for the Houston reception are being e-mailed like crazy (saving trees and keeping paper replies from going to the wrong address). So to save some trouble, here are the links for the Introduction to Matt and Introduction to Heidi posts.

If your browser dislikes our link colors, here's the raw address for each:

To ease your transition into the rest of the blog, here are some typical "Matt and Heidi things" to ponder: we are both avid fans of the Great Outdoors, and as such, we tend to chase birds, butterflies, bugs, reptiles, amphibians, etc. While it may be considered "good, clean fun," it is often good, dirty/muddy fun. But again, the best things in life don't come easy - sometimes you need to flip rocks to find it!

Loitering at the park in Utopia & at the cabin in Concan - photos courtesy of Candy McNamee

I hope that perusing this site will give visitors something of a background on who Matt and I are, how we perceive nature, and our delight in sharing it with others... even if the critters aren't particularly pretty all the time. On that note, I found another awesomely cooperative dropping moth in Somervell Co today ;-)

Thanks for stopping in!