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Life in a Wet Year [Jul. 6th, 2015|10:05 pm]
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[Current Mood |awake]

It's not wet now--things are drying up rapidly--but the frequent soaking (and sometimes flooding) rains have really made a difference to our summer after five years of stark drought.  The creek is running.   Fish fry are back--tiny almost glass-transparent minnows a half inch to an inch and a half long are swimming happily in the shallows.  Dragonflies I haven't seen for years (the American Rubyspot damselfly, the Great Pondhawk) are back down at the creekside.  Scat reveals that the fox and coyote are eating meat and bones again, not just cactus fruit, berries, and someone's dogfood.  We lost a lot of mature and very young trees, but some of our prairie transplants (root divisions from grasses saved from construction sites)  hung on and are taking advantage of the moisture.


That green clump right in the middle of the picture is big bluestem, Andropogon gerardii, one of the four dominant tallgrasses of the southern tallgrass prairie (switchgrass, Indiangrass, and Eastern gama are the others) and that clump was only about six inches across when planted.  It's started putting up its flowering stalks (not flowering yet; the stalks go up first.)  This is the one I worried most about, and...it survived and now it's spreading.

Robber flies aren't the prettiest of insects, but they're large and they're interesting.  They usually look "bearded", like this one.  Somewhere I have a shot of a robber fly that caught a smallish dragonfly.  I think I have a shot somewhere of a large dragonfly with a robber fly, but I don't remember for certain.


This fellow landed on a tall stalk of grass right beside me...so I took its picture.

Prettier are the odonates, and here's a lovely one:
Great Pondhawk Erythemis vesiculosa

Again, this one cooperated by landing within a few feet of me and holding still.  Below are some whirligig beetles.
They may not look impressive, but they form rafts (about half the raft is shown here) on the surface of slowly moving water and whirl around madly within it.  They're very shiny, so the "white dots" I saw at first turned out to be just reflection.  A couple of them on the left have dived to the bottom (only a few inches deep here.)   This is the first photograph I've gotten of the whirligig beetles, so it's a new record for us.

I may add more pictures later as I get them cropped & resized.  (July 7: as per request, some flowers shown below)

Dayflowers                   Lady Bird's Centaury-5-30-15
 Dayflowers                                                                                        Lady Bird's Centaury  (photo from June, many still blooming)

Hesperaloe-coreopsis-FoxPav                                             Stiff-stem prairie flax 5-30-15
Hesperaloe & Coreopsis near Fox Pavilion                                   Stiff-stem Prairie Flax (photo from May, a few still blooming)


[User Picture]From: gifted
2015-07-07 03:16 am (UTC)
Interesting, thanks for sharing; I'm glad your big bluestem is thriving. :D
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[User Picture]From: pameladean
2015-07-07 04:02 am (UTC)
Hooray for your big bluestem!

We generally have to go to the St. Croix River (boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the upper reaches are protected to varying degrees) to see American rubyspots. They are very fancy indeed.

One of the things I like about whirligig beetles is that if you see a shadow below them in shallow water, it's not their shadow, but rather the shadow of the surface tension.

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[User Picture]From: saare_snowqueen
2015-07-07 06:39 am (UTC)
The return of life after drought makes the heart sing. So happy for you and for Texas. Now if only California......
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-07-07 04:36 pm (UTC)
I know...it's so sad about California. Because of the way weather works, we and California never seem to have good rain years at the same time.
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From: (Anonymous)
2015-07-08 01:01 am (UTC)


I don't do anything that makes it easy for me to be anonymous, but I'm equally sad that California and Texas can't seem to coordinate our droughts (and that's not me being sarcastic -- it's me being very genuine about the fact that the North-Pacific Gyre and the North Atlantic Gyre, as influenced by the climatic conditions in the Gulf of Mexico don't ever seem to bring "peaceful, happy conditions" to one and all).

I DO have one bit of good news... We've had several days of "July gloom" now -- which So Cal "just doesn't do...".

We've got brown grass as dry as dust, reservoirs perilously empty, endangered fish stock being "rescued" to live and breed elsewhere, and we've not had a raindrop for eons, but at least we're not scorching under a typical July sun....

So thank you for the flower pics. Every time I see a flower, I feel like the sun is finally shining on my particular patch of paradise.
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[User Picture]From: seekerval
2015-07-07 01:02 pm (UTC)
Always a pleasure to watch Nature prosper. Weather has been much gentler this spring and summer in several areas. Our June this year was the best weather-wise since the misty memories of my childhood. (And we know how "reliable" those memories can be...)
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From: sheff_dogs
2015-07-07 06:28 pm (UTC)
And the rains have made a difference because of the work you have done so the water hasn't all run straight off, it's impressive.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-07-08 12:58 am (UTC)
Definitely the check-dams and gabions have helped, as has grazing relief. I need to repair some dams now, in fact...lot of picking up rocks and moving them where they're needed. Unfortunately, that interferes with the paying work, words on the page.
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[User Picture]From: jon_d_r
2015-07-08 02:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the updates on your spread. Love the big bluestem!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-07-08 05:18 pm (UTC)
Big bluestem was my dream when we started. That's why we were collecting native grass specimens ahead of construction and nurturing them in the "grass garden". As well as collecting seed of other species. Started put out root divisions of switchgrass, Eastern gama, little bluestem, big bluestem, when we got the 80 acres. The place had some Indiangrass and little blue; we've collected and spread seed from these local, very well-established small stands and the stands have spread some. Switchgrass has been the most successful overall, and before the 5 year drought we had a line of it that we'd planted stabilizing the east bank of the creek where that wasn't in the woods--that and eastern gama. Those finally gave up in the third year of no water at all in the creek, soil dry down to dry rock. But big bluestem...

There was an old old man here when we moved here, who had driven cattle across the prairie west of here, moving them from river to river often at night, from the San Gabriel to the Lampasas. He told me once about a moonlight night when he was riding along and the long flowering heads of the big bluestem were as high as his waist as he sat on the horse. It was like riding in the ocean, he said; the cattle could be invisible in the grass, though a herd left a trampled track. The air so clear and the moon so bright he could see the "break" of land heading down to the river, see the rolling, rippling shape of the land with the grass over it.

There were patches of big bluestem along roadsides when we first moved here--a little here, a little there--and patches in some open fields--fields being bought and scraped bare to have malls and shopping centers and strip-office centers and residential developments built on them. Big blue was the hardest to find already, and seemed to prefer places it was hard to get to, for a root division. Never took all of it from any one place--hoped it would somehow survive in situ. But one spade-size root division...yeah. All within 20 miles of here. The first year our clumps planted out on the land here and there survived and then flowered...I knew we had something special. The land wants to be healthy again. Is healthier now, but the land has that vitality coming back. The droughts and climate change may get it in the end, but it's not the compacted, baked out, overgrazed, pitiful, defeated patch it was in 2000.
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