Tag Archives: Ducks

In the field with Ant Lions


After Ant Lions and the alleyway, a beautiful violet blossom of rosemary is seen before the cold winter blast tomorrow.

Yesterday, November 23, 2010, late in the afternoon, I wanted to walk into the pastures, grove and corrals and first observe, then photograph, then write a post.  Frankly, I never got farther than the alleyway between barn and stables.  Since my intent was to observe sentient creatures especially — invertebrate as well as vertebrate — there emerged enough activity that I did not even venture past the barn or first corral.

Between the house and barn is a distance of 300 feet.  The house is about fifteen to twenty feet higher than the barn, providing a panoramic view of our countryside — Sims Valley, Upper Salt Cove, Twin Mountains, Salt Creek and Barton Creek.  From house to barn, I see yellow butterflies feed on small white flowers.  Acorns from the Live Oak trees continue to fall on the ground, making a crackling sound, and on the slope down from the house the acorns are like marbles under my boots so that I step gingerly lest I slip and fall.  Small birds flit about the underbrush and yucca.  I walk into the barn alleyway and sit down on a step-up crate that I have to climb on — like a small ladder — to mount horses.

Sitting on the step-up in the alleyway, I hear a solitary crow, then see the crow fly west to east, towards our duck pond.  The crow persistently calls, but no reply comes from other birds and it flies towards Morgan Mill, avoiding the duck pond treeline and mesquite on the other side.  Ducks quack, but I decide against walking to the pond to photograph the noisy assembly.  A turkey vulture circles in the sky over Salt Creek.  Our two horses, Star and Lilly, are nowhere to be seen as they had sauntered into the Grove, perhaps down into the creek bed.

A stern cold front is to pass through central west Texas tomorrow, putting the temperatures into the 50s F. for daytime, 20s F. for the night.  As I sit on the red-colored step-up, the temperature reads 80 F., the sun quite warm, the cold front a day away, the sky clear.  I look down at the ground in the alleyway and see small funnel traps, drilled by Ant Lions that throw dirt up frantically and then wait for ants and insects to kill and eat.  Of the ten or so dirt traps, three of those traps are being fussily arranged by bugs.  The sun beams down on their efforts and I bend down more closely to see if I could discern the sentient.  I could not, but the dirt continues to fly up over the one-inch funnel, prima facie evidence of invertebrate activity.  How fragile, how strong at the same time, life is.

As I lean over to see the funneling Ant Lions, I place my hand over a stable railing to balance myself.  The air is still, the sky clear to the south and east.  Then, quite discreetly a gentle zephyr comes through the alleyway from the north.  I face south and the cool air moves over my neck and hand grasping the rail.  The air is definitely cool and I look up into the sky and the clouds move across, northwest to southeast.  I know the cold front is a least a day away, but this is a prelude, an advance-scout for the weather change.  The clouds persist in clustering, the Ant Lions stop their funneling, the temperature falls a few degrees and I stand up, whistling for the horses to come to supper: long-high whistle followed by three short-low-toned whistles, a pitch change of about an octave.  Two minutes later, Star and Lilly emerge from the creek bottom and walk home to me, their grain and alfalfa.

I feed Star and Lilly.  I walk back up the hill to the house and pace the three terraces, looking for a possible photographic shot of an errant Monarch or striped lizard.  I find a small blossom of rosemary to photograph and by 5:00 p.m. I go inside the house to write of Ant Lions and alleyways.  I mince rosemary for our dinner.



After the second sentence in the second paragraph, I shift to present tense.  I had written this piece using past tense, but decided to change the tenses.  I like it better than past tense in this post.

The camera was in the pickup and when I saw the Ant Lions — Doodlebugs — I started to fetch it and photograph.  The wind — zephyr (I don’t get to use the word often) — came up about that time and I knew if I went to the pickup, I would lose my place in the alleyway and, besides, I could not capture on Kodachrome the wind passing over my flesh.  So, I stayed put and let things transpire.


Filed under Life in Balance

Cottonwood yellow sound

Cottonwood in the Grove

Populus deltoides var. occidentalis or Texas Cottonwood. Yesterday as I drove up the road to the ranch house, I saw in the Grove a brilliant yellow foliage from a solitary cottonwood along the creek.  As it was late, I vowed to take photos of it the next day — today.  I think it a young cottonwood, twenty-years old at the most, but I am not the authority.  It is a healthy tree and its roots are embedded firmly into the bank of Salt Creek.  I am concerned about the tree, however, as it is rooted within the confines of the creek and the creek flows quite rapidly after a thunderstorm.  The pull of the current may bring it down this next year, yet, it has withstood the flow of water these many years, so it may endure for years to come.

Panoramic view from the ranch house. The cottonwood is the bright yellow tree to the right of the scene.

The water current is not the only factor that affects the tree, but also the wind.  Today, southern wind gusts peak at 35-40 miles per hour and the cottonwood swayed in the wind.  Its leaves have been falling and blowing off for most of the day.  The wind blows strongly.  Rain is falling this afternoon as I write this post.  The major squall lines formed north and east of me, near Fort Worth and the Red River Valley.  I have had good rains in the summer, so the vegetation remains green, turning brown.  The rains must have nourished the cottonwood most favorably, as well as the creek bed, because its foliage was dense and now with colors turning, it is the most spectacular flash of color in the Grove.  Wind and rain have good and bad effect upon the tree.

There are male and female cottonwood trees.  This tree appears to be male.  I have not seen cotton spores float off of it, thus identifying a female.  Here are the leaves on the bottom of the creek bed.  One feature of the cottonwood that I find soothing is the sound of the leaves rustling.  When the tree is green and fresh in the Spring, the sound is like a babbling brook, solid and deep.  In the Fall, the sound of the leaves is a higher pitch, shallower, lighter-sounding, a fragile clacking like extremely delicate china.  If this is a male tree — I think it is — somewhere in the vicinity is a female, a fecund being that issued seeds, bringing this tree to our place.  I will look for it, up the Salt Creek, to the higher Salt Creek Cove, two-hundred feet higher to the west.

Cottonwood leaves in the bed of Salt Creek

Today, the sound seemed like a frenzy with the wind blowing so very hard from the south.  The leaves, brittle and dry, began to fall in greater numbers and I was glad I hurried down after lunch to photograph the tree before all its leaves had fallen.  I had hoped that I might capture a leaf in flight, but I did not.  A monarch butterfly floated amongst the trees and I wondered if it could make Mexico by the freeze.

On the Blue place, the neighbors east of us, two cottonwoods grow along their pond next to our stock tank.  There may be a female there.  I hear them as well as see them.  The area in north Erath county is dry.  The appearance of these cottonwoods is uncommon and I revere their existence in clay and sand and moderate moisture.  I sit on the porch and see the one cottonwood in the distance.  I look to my left, to the east, towards Blue’s place and see and hear the trees.  Ducks quack on both our ponds.  When I drove to the Grove, I took the long way there, avoiding the pond road, lest I scare the ducks to the sky as I traveled to cottonwood yellow sound.


Filed under Ducks, Flying Hat Ranch

Gray Sky With Duck

Ducks Flying Over Flying Hat, January 7, 2010

After feeding the horses, I go farther into the pasture south of the arena to check on corn I have scattered on the ground for deer in the grove and dry creek bed.

Half of the corn I dispersed last night has been consumed and deer hooves have stabbed the ground in delight or hunger.  Leaving the deer prints behind, I turn north on the pasture road and drive past the stock pond next to the Blue farm, the family east of us.

I frighten nine ducks that take to the air from the pond, shaming me that I had disturbed their morning feed.  I open the door of the pickup and snap a shot of their flight upwards, then circling back to the pond.  A momentary interruption at their table I was.  Tomorrow I will walk to the deer-stabbing feed ground in the grove.  Better for me.  Better for the ducks.



11/18/2010.  I am going to set up a duck blind.  I have cedar posts and brush that will allow me to stand behind and photograph.  I hope to identify the ducks that come to the pond by the end of the Winter season.  That is my intention.  Not a promise to anyone, but it is my intent.

11/15/2010.  Two days ago as I drove to the Grove to photograph our solitary cottonwood, I scared at least fifteen ducks from the pond.  I had forgotten about them in my mission to write about the cottonwood.

7/30/2010.  A pair of heron fly often to the pond.  They give one call when they leave the pond — just one call.

3/19/2010.  Ducks were on the pond this morning.  A blue heron flies to the pond late in the afternoon.


Filed under Cedar, Deer, Ducks, Flying Hat Ranch, Juniper