Bobcats, Lynx rufus are normally elusive and nocturnal, but our game cameras are picking up more instances of their presence here. Even in the day time. This beautiful cat was walking toward a 40 gallon water tank we have in “the back 40”, where we have a turkey feeder near-by. There is a water barrel continuously supplying water; therefore, it has become a regular to this spot. We are glad to be in the cat’s territory, representing a healthy, balanced environment; they are a vital part of our ecology.
Bobcats primarily eat rabbits, woodrats, mice, squirrels, voles, gophers, birds and reptiles. Occasionally, they will take young deer, although most likely they take advantage of carrion. Like most cats, they hunt by stealth and are not capable of extended chases. Their leaping pounce from cover can be up to 10 feet.
Bobcats are territorial, with the female having a home base, excluding other females. The male’s territorial range may include the ranges of several females. In Texas, studies indicate some 48 cats per 62 miles. There is a “carry capacity”, of a particular area usually determined by food and water availability. And since kittens can sometimes be killed by adult males, a natural balance can be achieved. The bobcats also will/can adjust their home ranges to compensate for varying factors. Like coyotes, they are consummate adapters and survivors.
Did you know: running at full speed, bobcats can have a bobbing motion similar to a rabbit; they can live up to 13 years; their natural mortality fluctuates with the seasons; kittens purr when pleased and play like your normal house cat; typical litters are 2-4 kittens; kitten dispersal can be from 9 months to 2 years, depending on how skilled at hunting they are; they can not expect to eat well, or mate until territory established; over time, they are loyal to their established territory, marked by scat and scrapes; they spend most of their lives alone; their natural predators are humans, domestic dogs, coyotes, foxes, owls, eagles, hawks.
There is so much more to know and appreciate about this remarkable predator.
Can you still see the Milky Way at night? It is a beautiful sight; not something to be taken for granted in our artificially lit world. You look outside and see a dark night; but just a few years ago, Oakridge was an undeveloped 4400 acres, a darker place than it is now. We have in our power, as a community, to work to keep light pollution down within our boundaries and contribute to our overall environment.
I’ve just finished a new book from Paul Bogard titled The End of Night, Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light. He covers all aspects of the increasing artificial light, often poetically. But he raises major concerns about the effects, not only to humans, but to all our wildlife in “five primary areas: orientation, predation, competition, reproduction and circadian rhythms.”
The (John) Bortle Scale of ranking dark skies ranges from 9 to 1. Texans probably need to drive to Big Bend National Park to get close to a dark enough night to rate a 1, or 2. A Class 1 is described as “a sky so dark that ‘the Milky Way casts obvious diffuse shadows on the ground“. http://www.stellar-skies.com/#!thenightskies/c44
It is a more complicated subject than you might think at first glance; an important subject I think. Maybe as members of the community of Oakridge, we should educate ourselves to the global effort to work with the issue. And do what we can. http://www.darksky.org/
A quote from Wendall Berry: “To go in the dark with a light is to know the light. To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.”
We have this beautiful old Farkleberry tree which is about 15′ tall, that as drought tolerant as they are reported to be, I think has finally succumbed to our prolonged dry conditions. The picture here is during “better times”. I sincerely hope it recovers.
The native Farkleberry, Sparkleberry Vaccinium arboretum, is another really great addition to our environment. It offers something neat for every season. An understory, deciduous plant, this perennial is mostly found as a large shrub, but as you can see, under the right conditions can grow upwards to 25′ with a spread to match.
In the spring it has white flowers that resemble little bells, that ripen to dark blue berries in the fall, along with beautiful red fall foliage. In the winter, the twisted exfoliating bark is striking colors of red and gray.
It attracts pollinators, Bobwhite Quail, American Robins and small mammals.
I encourage you to move quickly past the ewwww factor, to consider the beneficial Dung beetle, aka scarab beetle or tumblebug. You will find two species here. The dark colored beetle you’ll see is Onthophagus gazelle, introduced to Texas in the 1970s and now well established. The metallic one, “Rainbow scarab” is Phanaeus vindex and is related to the scarabs of ancient Egypt. They measure some 1/2″ to 1″ in length.
These guys are kind of fun to watch, as they work their magic on dog droppings, cattle – whatever.
Quoting a foremost Texas expert, ecologist Dr. Pat Richardson: “They slurp it, haul it, roll it, fight about it, and bury it…They don’t bite or spit or sting. They simple live, eat, sleep and dream dung.” However, there is a good deal to learn about the importance of dung beetles. Researchers have discovered that dung beetles “will bury a ton of wet manure per acre per day and remove 90 percent of the surface material… A horse pad can disappear underground in 24 hours, leaving only a soft fluffy layer of undigested plant material.” She always speaks with enthusiasm about the dung beetle.
I do not know how the drought is affecting them, but I do know, they are another reason to totally avoid insecticides, to let natural biodiversity handle the job. The healthier the soil is, the better.
Pussyfoot, Stinking Prairie-clover Dalea obovata can be found in the Lambert’s front acreage, and around, along Oakridge Road. And probably elsewhere because this plant is endemic to Texas and particularly loves the sandy soil and scattered oaks of the ranch. This perennial herb is a member of the pea family. At the ranch it typically flowers in the spring with whitish flowers, going to seed in late summer. Elsewhere, flowering has been recorded from April until October. Plants can reach 1′ to 2′ tall. They are particularly beneficial to bees.
Thank you Glenda for the great picture.
I found an additional picture that allows permission to post, of a larger plant, just for comparison of size:
Now regardless of time of year, you will perhaps be able to see its potential and recognize it a little easier.
For a very long time, I have been totally fascinated with bats. We have had some great experiences with bat watching; even gone into an undeveloped Texas cave for guano and stayed to experience the emergence with no one around, standing there, waving our hands above our heads as they flew toward us, missing us every time. It is awe inspiring.
Our experiences have been with Mexican Free-tailed bats Tadarida brasiliensis, the most common Texas bat. Probably the species you watch from your porch on summer evenings. They are here from about February and most begin to leave for Mexico now, in August.
The 20 million or so Mexican Free-tailed bats of Bracken Cave, the world’s largest known colony, eats a quarter of a million pounds or more of insects nightly, covering thousands of square miles. These amazing creatures emerge each evening, climbing to more than 10,000 feet, and can catch tail winds that can drive them to speeds of over 60 miles per hour to distant feeding grounds. It almost can’t be stated enough how bats are by far the most important controllers of night flying insects, even mosquitos.
To my surprise, I have learned that joining the Mexican Free-tailed bat in our skies are 8 additional species: Big Brown bat Eptesicus fuscus, Silver-haired bat Lasionycteris noctivagans, Eastern Red bat Lasiurus borealis, Hoary bat Lasiurus cinereus, Northern yellow bat Lasiurus intermedius, Seminole bat Lasiurus seminolus, Evening bat Nycticeius humeralis and Tri-colored bat Perimyotis subflavus.
Did you know: Bats are highly intelligent and even trainable? World-wide, there are over 1000 extremely diverse species? Millions of bats are dying from White-nose Syndrome? Some species hibernate rather than migrate? Some species are vital pollinators? Some feed on fruit or nectar? Not all species roost in caves? There are no blind bats? They do not become entangled in people’s hair? They pose less of a threat to human health than do household pets?
Bat Conservation International was founded in Austin in 1982 by Dr. Merlin Tuttle. Do check out this excellent site for all things related to bats http://batcon.org/
Living out in the country may, indeed, expose us more often to snakes than living in the city would. I have decided to do some much delayed research on these valuable members of the Oakridge Ranch environment. I hope I haven’t missed one, but did you know that there are 21 Colorado County snakes species? Only four on this list is poisonous.
That four includes the Copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix, Cottonmouth Agkistrodon piscivorus, Timber Rattlesnake Crotalus horridus and Texas Coralsnake Micrurus tener. Being familiar with their habitat and life cycle should go a long way toward shielding you. Reiterating that being aware and being educated about these beneficial creatures as they make a living on the ranch, perhaps allows a little more co-existence. We must take precautions around our homes. No question. But, the environmental impact of the old adage: “the only good snake is a dead snake”, can be very detrimental and I submit is overdoing it.
The citizen scientists among us might want to check out: http://www.herpsoftexas.org/view/snakes and look for Eastern Racer, Red-Bellied Mudsnake, Plains Hog-Nosed, Eastern Hog-Nosed, Prairie Kingsnake, Common Kingsnake, Coachwhip, Plain-Bellied Watersnake, Southern Watersnake, Diamond-Backed Watersnake, Rough Greensnake, Eastern Ratsnake, DeKay’s Brownsnake, Checkered Gartersnake, Western Ribbonsnake, Rough Earthsnake, and Plains Threadsnake – – all common names from this website, with scientific names shown there, along with pictures, descriptions of habitat, etc.
If you find a fascinating snake you are unsure of, take a picture and send it in. (use the zoom lens, right?)