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Andrew D. Hughes Blog

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Nature

Spring is Here!

Long time no post. My health took quite a dip over the past couple of weeks, and spring “break” means longer work hours. I had a couple of collapse episodes, but at least I got to know our carpet better (I need to vacuum!).

We made a quick run to Joppa Preserve over the weekend, which was refreshing. Not too much going on just yet, but we did find this beautiful Graham’s Crayfish snake.

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And a feisty one at that.

Then there was this cool jumping spider chowing down on his greens like a good little boy.

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Look at those fangs! I believe this species is Phidippus audax, in which case this is the first time I’ve seen blue fangs in this species (They’re usually bright green!)

What’s your favorite thing about spring? Hope you’re finding time to enjoy it.

Goat Island Preserve–Dallas, TX

We took advantage of an unexpectedly warm February weekend by camping out at Goat Island Preserve in southeast Dallas County. This is an area I’ve explored a couple of times before and always find it a rewarding spot for nature.

Nighttime brings the preserve to life. We heard the sounds of coyotes, feral hogs, a raccoon, a duo of courting Great Horned Owls, and a handful of obnoxious roosters calling from nearby farms.

During the night, a warm front blew in, stirring up heavy winds that rattled the tent. In the moments before dawn, we were startled awake by an illegal hunter shooting off several rounds just yards away from our tent. He quietly disappeared as the sky lightened up.

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There are two main trails at the preserve– a higher levee road (where we camped), and a low road that floods seasonally but that runs south along the Trinity River for several miles and ends up at Belt Line Road.

We followed the low road at dawn–taking in the towering silhouettes of pecan trees, and appreciating the fact that this lower option was much more dry than it often becomes.

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Animal-wise, the woods were quiet after dawn. I did spot what appeared to be a black morph of a fox as it shot across the path, but it predictably vanished. The usual dawn chorus of birds sang from the forest– good numbers of kinglets, wrens, and sparrows working the trail edges, with occasional outbursts from feisty woodpeckers or the trilling of a gray treefrog.

The trail affords pleasant views of the Trinity.

Three miles down river, we reached the old lock and dam that was long abandoned here.

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Construction began around 1910. Apparently someone’s  pipe dream was to make Dallas a major port city, which necessitated damming the Trinity to make it accessible to barges. The US Corps of Engineers established several similar structures on the river but World War I interrupted the project. Eventually technology surpasses the best laid plans of mice and men, and improvements in rail capacity eliminated the need for this project to continue. The concrete foundation now stands forever abandoned.

I’ve heard that the water roars here when the levels are higher. I’m looking forward to coming back soon.

Rivers hold some of the most interesting stories. Have you explored long stretches of waterway? Let me know what you’re seeing out there!

Lemmon Lake- Dallas, TX

Lemmon Lake, tucked deep within the Joppa Preserve in southwest Dallas,  is a constantly fluctuating landscape. It fills and dries frequently based on cycles of rain and drought. When we visited last August, the lake was quickly drying but still maintained some large, shallow pools:

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Lemmon Lake, August 2016

Today provided a different scene, as most of the water had dried completely, providing for opportunities to locate some cool finds.

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Lemmon Lake, February 2017

My main target today was the bones of alligator gar, some fierce-looking fish that are common in this area but not always easy to find.

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On our way in, I spotted some type of mistletoe clumped high in the tree canopy. Thankfully my wife was there to sneak in a moment! 😉

Mistletoe is spread by perching birds that deposit its seeds either through their droppings or by wiping their bills on these host trees while they feed.

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Croix,the Italian greyhound, was not so enamored, and hurried us off to the lake bed, where he eagerly sniffed for treasure…

…And sure enough, he was the first to find our target species!

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This alligator gar did not survive the drought season, but made for a cool find.

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Look at those rows of teeth!

Another interesting discovery was the several large crayfish sprinkled around in the dirt. The metroplex also hosts many  terrestrial crayfish, which construct fascinating homes. I’ll have to show them to you soon.

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On the way out, we stumbled across a large and beautiful ribbon snake sunning in the path. A beautiful day for Dallas wildlife!

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 Also seen:

 Clouded Sulphur Butterfly

Jadera Beetle

Full Bird List:

Wood Duck, Mallard, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Anerican Pipit, Cedar Waxwing, Common Yellowthroat, Pine Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Harris’s Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Common Grackle, Great-tailed Grackle, House Finch

Ever explored a dried lake bed? Let me know what you’re seeing out there!

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