Tuna in the LBJ Grasslands

Life on the frontier was challenging for early settlers and indigenous people alike. The prickly pear helped them survive with a year-round supply of young nopales, the pads of the state plant of Texas. The fruit of the cactus, tuna, ripens in mid-summer and shows off a blast of pink to red color in the sometimes harsh landscape. During tuna harvest, the prickly pear provided the most important food in the region.

The seeds are removed leaving a tasty, sweet, juicy goo loaded with vitamin C. The nopales and tuna both brandish spines and needles making harvest difficult. Remember what Baloo says, “…don’t pick the prickly pear by the paw, when you pick a pear, try to use the claw.”

A pond along FS 900A was teeming with dragonflies feeding on insects. I managed to photograph a Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) before the mosquitos ran me off.

There were hawks and kites flying high in the sky over the Dry Plateau around mile two of the Red Trail. The sharp eyesight of the birds were keeping them just out of my camera’s reach until I noticed three hawks sitting at the top of a dead tree. Two were camera shy, but one stayed long enough for this shot, keeping a close eye on my movements. As far as I can tell right now, this is a Broad-winged Hawk. Identification is difficult at this angle.

A Scudder’s Bush Katydid showing off its antenna atop a Coreopsis.


Male Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)

During the heat of Summer I need a good reason to venture out into the LBJ Grasslands with my camera. Dragonflies and damselflies flying above the small bodies of water attracting mates and eating insects present an appealing subject. The shot of a dragonfly in flight is a goal that has eluded me, but I have captured a number of these colorful insects hanging out on the shore of ponds and water collection areas.

Female Red Saddlebags (Tramea onusta)

You ever wonder how a yellow jacket gets a drink? Hanging from a stick with its stinger pointed at the rest of the world.


Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher Nest

Returning home down 730 after our burger lunch at the Greenwood Grocery, Suzy spotted a nest of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers atop the Cemetery sign at CR 2750. I was not equipped with the proper camera at the time and was pretty full and lazy, so I chose to return to the spot after work to see if I could get some good shots. It turned out to be a great show.

Parked across the street in the shade, I crawled up on the top of the truck to get a better angle of the top of the sign. I found four baby birds poking their heads above the sign looking for a tasty meal of insects to be delivered by a parent. Just on the other side of the fence, I caught sight of the pair chasing away a squirrel that had ventured too close to the nest. It was then that I noticed that the parents were perching just a little way from the nest chirping to their hatchlings, to lure them out into the world.

Moments later, one of the young birds dropped from the bottom of the sign, flapping with all its might, getting lift just two feet from the ground, and flew to a tree on the fence line where a parent was perched. You can just make him out in the middle of the photo. I soon lost sight of him.

There is always a parent who does not have the stomach for hard love and gives in to the kids’ demands. That seemed to be the case here. The pushover flew in with a bug, that I hope was a grasshopper, to feed the kids.

Flying to the tree that provided haven for the first fledgling, the parent proceeded to pitch a hissy fit at the three remaining hatchlings – I guess it was time for hard love.

A cool dragonfly I photographed beside a little pond along the Blue Trail close toTADRA that I have not been able to identify. Does any body have a name for it? Thanks to Forrest Mitchell of Texas A&M AgrilLife Research the dragonfly has been identified as recently emerged Band-winged Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax umbrata) male. AgriLife’s Digital Dragonflies is one of my go-to sites for dragonfly ID.