Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Meaningful Walk in the Woods

It was warm by the time we got out to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve on Saturday morning but we were covered from head to toe, prepared for a hike and search of invasive species. This was my first trip with Gloria and Theresa, they've been covering the cities property a little at a time every other week or so this spring. Searching for, removing and documenting invasive species is one of many volunteer opportunities offered up through the CAMN program. When you finish the classwork portion of the training you still have 40 volunteer hours plus 8 advanced education classes to finish in a year before graduating. I brought along my girlfriend Sabrina as well...she's a chemistry teacher with a background in biology and Oriental Medicine, she fit in great!
The Oaks were covered with galls which glowed in the early morning light.
We met at a parking lot in North Austin, then carpooled to the location which is not open to the public and we had to sign waivers to be out on the land. It's still Golden Cheeked Warbler mating season so only a few people are allowed on the property at a time.
Here's one of the first little miracles we saw...some small critter had carefully folded up the edges on this leaf to create a nesting place...I let go of the branch very carefully so as not to disturb.

Lovely little Acacias covered the forest floor, my favorite was the Sensitive Plant which I'd read about but never seen.

This little golden blossom was blooming all over the hillside, but we couldn't find it in any of our field guides.

It's hard to see the tunnel spider because she blends in with the bark of the tree.

Theresa investigating a plant.
Most of the hike was spent flipping through guidebooks trying to learn our natives...while watching out for invasives. We don't actually remove them, unless they're small. What we do is record the GPS point and report it to the city for documentation and then they do the removing.

One of dozens of Lion Ant traps...we never saw the little critters.

Poison Ivy was chest high in some places and was everywhere!

Love the 3 pairs of spinule on this fellow.

Check out this natural work of art!
We saw one Golden Cheeked Warbler and managed to get ourselves pretty lost, even though we had a compass and GPS...the terrain was challenging and the woods were, as always full of wonder. The company was spectacular and it was all together a fun and healthy way to spend a Saturday morning. We clocked 3 1/2 hours and covered quite a bit of land and thankfully only found one 5ft x 5ft Nandina in full bloom. If you have Nandina or "Heavenly Bamboo" in your yard, as many of us do and...you like it...simply cut off the blossoms and berries each season and enjoy. Just be prepared to prune a lot! Happy Gardening!


Bob said...

Wow,it looks like you had a good time. I love the caterpiller pictures. I think the mystery yellow bloom plant may be Croton. If it is, it is a valuable seed food sourse for lots of different birds.

Seeing the picture of the ant lion funnel was cool, and reminded me of something. When we were building our house here I noticed there were no ant lions and no toads. I had plenty around the building in Leander that I rented for my welding shop. I caught, and brought here, plenty of both so I would have them here. I just thought it was that important. You can catch the ant lions with a spoon by carefully scooping them out of the ground.

ConsciousGardener said...

Thanks Bob! I'll check that out, and be sure to bring a spoon on the next hike!

NellJean said...

It's been almost 60 years, but I remember how we coaxed out ant lions: take a very slender twig and stir carefully in the sand, intoning seriously, "Doodlebug, doodlebug, come out of your hole," until he rolls up and out.

They moved into my greenhouse which has a partial dirt floor the first year it was up.

east-side-patch said...

Really cool how the caterpillar resembles (in form) the following "natural piece of art" shot!

Melissa said...

Loving this blog! I didn't know nandina was so invasive. Looks like I can put my new pruning sheers to good use! Also, that plant you call Sensitive plant is also known as mimosa and is so terribly invasive in my little urban lot in Euless, tx. Terrible stuff.

ConsciousGardener said...

I did'nt know the sensitive plant could get out of control...Thanks!

catmint said...

Another wonderful post!!!!!!! What a great thing to do - be in nature with like minded people, doing useful stuff and learning so much. The GPS makes doing this work much easier. I laughed when you said you got lost - when I go bushwalking with my friend Paula we always allow extra time to get lost, even with the help of a compass and GPS! Bamboo is a pest even in a suburban garden - like mint, it is advisable to keep it in a container. I am not familiar with lion ants but they sound pretty scary. cheers, catmint

ConsciousGardener said...

Catmint, "Lets Get Lost" is one of my all time favorite songs, by Chet Baker...and yes...I get lost a lot! In fact, it's my preferred
ways to travel! No plans.

The Curious Holts said...

OH, I loved that little leaf nest that someone made. So cozy! Seemed like a little cradle to me.

What WAS that piece of art? A leaf? So fantastic...nature. And art, of course.

catmint said...

yes, I agree, I call it The Random Factor and I believe it enriches all aspects of life. Btw, have you checked your blotanical plot lately? You have messages.

ConsciousGardener said...

C.H. it's a deformed yucca leaf, interesting huh?

C.M. I didn't know I had a Blotanical Plot...I filled out the form but didn't really know what all the site entailed beyond a list...I've have to take the time to investigate! Thank you!!!

Meredith said...

Excellent photos. I love your blog -- I just started gardening this past fall and am working hard to remove invasives from my northwest Austin yard (and educating my neighbors). You really observed a lot on your hike!

Pomona Belvedere said...

Great work mapping the invasives, and great fun looking at your photos. I enjoyed the ant lion funnel and stories, the leaf-nest...pretty much everything! And what a great program.
(And yes, blotanical also serves as a kind of social garden-networking site; I'm certainly not up on all it provides, but you might enjoy the map/search part as much as I do.)

Bill D. said...

Inspiring post and great pictures as always! Your plant with the yellow blooms is Queen's-delight, Stillingia sylvatica.

Bruce Tate said...

I can't believe the metal shop is closing. We looked for a horseshoe bench there a year or two ago, and we always stopped to browse through the place.

Aanee @ Flower Delivery Dublin said...

I love your photos.
Coming form Ireland, The images of the wildlife and flowers are great.

Thanks for sharing,
Aanee xxx
Aanee @ Flower Delivery