Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Bad

One of those new terms we have been introduced to.

In the last blog, I said the drumming from the chickens doesn't come from the air sac...well, yes, it does!!!  The cackling comes from the mouth.

Also, I know the New York strip is not meet, but meat.  Nobody brought that to my attention, it was after we read it again when we realized those glaring mistakes.  Should have proofread a little better.  We apologize.

Until next time...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Catching Up

Saturday we went out in the field to help biology count "the chickens."  We were given a popular area, Lotus Pond, as one of our areas.  We left at 6:00 am and got back about 8:30 am as the activity dies down.  We had six cocks and three hens.  The hens are not interested...YET!!!  This is the first time out to do this with many more times to come.  The only bad part is waking at 5:15 am.

This fellow was right by the road as we left.  He just stayed there for me to get several poses.  He was not displaying though, but he had just ruffled, showing the air sac.  We were also supposed to get the leg band colors if possible.  Can you see them?

We can't get too close as you don't want to bother them.  These have been the best shots so far.  The drumming does not come from the air sac but from their mouths.  The sounds are produced by their lungs, which vibrate specialized membranes of the syrinx under control of a complex set of muscles.  The sound waves then travel through the trachea and glottis to the pharynx.  Much too technical.

Fire extinguishers are checked monthly and that has become our job.  There are 52 of them scattered about.  We shake them, check the gauge to make sure they are charged, then date and initial that they have been checked.

We drove in to town to buy lumber in order to repair an interpretive sign that John wanted put up.  Then it was installed roadside off the tour route by the recent prescribed burn (earlier blog).  All the wood was rotten and replaced.

Look at how pretty and green it became in just a few days!!!

One of our days, we drove over to Brenham (Bluebell Country) to dispose of accumulated recyclables.

The van was full.  Notice the Bluebell container...I wonder who put that in there!?!  The paper from all the files we have been working on goes to Sealy at the newspaper building along with aluminum cans.  Sealy is another trip later.

We finished the second plowing (crosswise) of one of the three food it is ready for the planer to level it out for planting. It has rained so much lately that we have to wait to plow the other two plots.  We have to be finished to plant by late March, but it will get done in time.

We have also been taking DOI tests for certificates for operating vehicles and equipment.

The grass garden is now finished and ready for the festival in April. The grasses are already greening up.  We put down landscape cloth, dug out yaupon (UGH), planted more grass, raked mulch, etc.

Notice it forms a C.

We have had two buffalo burger lunches during work.  There used to be buffaloes on the refuge, but when the last one started jumping fences and letting the cattle out, the rancher butchered it and gave the meat to the refuge. 

I contributed potato salad and a peanut butter log that I prepared.  Everything was delicious!!!

Darrell brought over a large piece of concrete to make us a patio, and a large propane tank to keep us in propane.  They are doing everything they can to make life grand...and they are doing a good job of it.

Rebecca's been busy with the bug collection.  We have gone out with her a few times for biology purposes.

Here she is with two of the interns, Alex and Chris.

Friday morning, Sealy had their library sale.  All these books for six bucks.  We don't have a seems we are the last to get anything technical.  We just did purchase a second cell phone!!!

We leave behind the ones  we've read when we move to our next refuge.  Our oldest son gets the Stephen King book.

My favorite cut of meet is the New York Strip and that is what we had for lunch today...and it did not disappoint!!!  Vegetarians we are not.

The Box Turtle is my favorite turtle.

The plastron is flat which is one way of telling it is a female, and it is hinged to enclose the turtle completely, saving it from predators.  I looked it over then let it go.

Wallace has been shelling pecans from our sons yard since before Thanksgiving.  I have made all kinds of goodies from them.  He got a new toy which makes the shelling a lot easier.

Hopefully, this has caught us up on our doings. 

Until next time...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Plowing to Mowing

This day I mowed, while Wallace and the others tore down another acclimation pen.

Mowing involves yet another function on the tractor which I learned to operate.  It's the yellow switch shown on the panel from our last blog.  That switch is what sets the mower blades into action!!!  With the mower attached, you can make turns in any direction.

Mower is down.

There were two new added instructions...throttle up to the top of the green area on the tachometer while mowing

and do not get out of the seat when the mower is running!!!  Sorry for the lousy photo.

This pair of coyotes followed after the tractor.

At one point, when the last few remaining strips were left, cottontails sprinted out in several directions.  Sadly to say, one was consumed by those coyotes.

These 3 hawks came in and one of them snatched something.  It immediately covered it with its was not going to share.  I think they are Ferruginous Hawks, but could be red tails.  However, I have never seen this color in red tails before.  Help me out there you hawk experts.

The field before...up to the door of the tractor

and after.

John Magera, assistant refuge manager, was very complimentary about my mowing.  I was checked on several times throughout the day.

Mower off...wings are up...back to the shop to clean it up!!!

Until next time...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Plowing, Day Three

Come inside my tractor so I can show you all the levers we use while plowing the fields here at the refuge.

The throttle is on the left (bottom).  The next one up is in park where it should always be when stopped.  It's the lever that takes you either forward or backwards (up or down), and controls your speed 1, 2, 3, or 4.  The next lever has A, B, C, or D which changes gears.  It also has N (neutral).  We were told in the beginning to always run in C 3.  The smaller black lever is what controls the plow and tires.  The three knobs in the upper right are for the a/c.  There is also the four wheel drive switch.

With a radio I never listen to.

Now we are ready, let's go!!!  I forgot to mention, when you are plowing, you always make your turns to the left!!!

Our third field is our biggest and wettest...80 acres!!!

We had already plowed part of it when Darrell said, "John has decided to have the rest of it plowed, but you have to be careful of these two wet spots."  Things are going well when Wallace gets stuck!!!  Darrell comes to the rescue.  We play close attention to how it's done and it is a good thing because he manages to get stuck again!!!  This time, I pull him backing up I might add!!!

It wasn't too much longer when this incident happens.  We both started plowing again, then he pulls up beside me and I do a double take...he has no plow!!!  Doesn't even know it!!!  The hitch on the tractor broke (he was warned this might happen).  Darrell comes to the rescue again. With his welding expertise, he had us going again.

Here is the abandoned plow.

I did mention I like straight rows didn't I?  Well, I had a nice square going on and what does Wallace do...he plows a diagonal strip right through the middle of it!!!  Darrell says he doesn't care how it looks, just plow it and that is just what HE does.  

There are many raptors flying around and landing that keeps us entertained.  They can catch all the mice and rats they want, but leave the cottontails alone!!!

Taken from my moving tractor with dusty windows.  A White-tailed Hawk and a Crested Caracara.

And Sandhill Cranes waiting to land.

Plow is are is done!!!

Until next time...    

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pyros on the Prairie

For those of us who are familiar with management techniques on wildlife refuges, we all know how fire plays an important role in rejuvenation of the land.  

Balcones Canyonland National Wildlife Refuge fire crew paid us a visit this past week and we got to see how they operate.

These are the two lead fire fighters as we joined in on their briefing.

This is where it all started as we watched from a safe distance.

Then this turned into 


as the flames went higher and higher.

This is another area.


and after.  You can see the solar panel to the left that is in both photos.  

Next was in our front yard.  This is where we take the sunset pictures from. The area may look familiar to you.

The fire didn't last long, but it put on quite a show while it did.  This was at days end with some of the weary firefighters.

It is amazing how quickly it has greened up.  Just a few days!!!

This is our first wildflower sighting.  Phlox.  Pretty soon we will be seeing wildflowers all over this prairie, and of course, you can see them too right here.

Until next time...