North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.
Salt Creek Field Hike
Yesterday, Wendy, my daughter, and Olivia, my granddaughter, and I hiked through the grove on a short field trip. I gave Olivia her first lesson in using the field compass: the arrow points north, where is north? Show me. She had been given a military field compass, basic structure.
Field discoveries and observations: mussel shell, dead wild turkey with feathers scattered, several Swallowtail butterflies and skeletal remains of small animals. Rocks of various colors collected for Olivia’s “rock bag.” Identification of poison ivy and sumac — to be avoided, of course.
The horses, Hija, Star and Fanny followed us closely until we got deep in the grove and then they galloped through the grove’s tall grasses. They were curious of the little one, Olivia. I gave instructions to walk deliberately and straight while the horses lingered with us, so as to let them clearly know where we were. (Lilly was in the Broke Tree corral with her hay.)
Down in the grove we identified recently-imprinted deer tracks, but saw no deer. I pointed out the sharper edge of the deer track indicated the direction the deer was walking.
Taking the F-150 to the Far Field
After the hike into Salt Creek bed and grove, the temperature climbed to the upper 80s F. and we came back to the barn and drove the F-150 to the far field, beyond the creek where I have nurtured native grasses for several years, including a recent spring planting of native grass and flower seeds. The grasses were high and from a recent rain of 2.00 inches quite plush with green and erectness. It was much too hot to amble across the grove into the pasture and return by foot.
Last week I had shredded a six-foot path in the grove and in the Pecan Tree Pasture for safety’s sake and mobility. The Dooleys had told me that several copperheads and rattlesnakes had been found on their place. The copperheads, Kelly Dooley said, had been attracted by the recent addition of a small pond with koi fish about their house. They may deconstruct the small pond. I have only seen grayish coachwhips on our place.
As we turned the F-150 onto the southern, shredded pathway, running east-west on the far southern side of the Pecan Tree Pasture, we looked down the path and at the far end and there was a fawn, about two-tenths of a mile away. The fawn browsed leisurely along the path while, I presume, its mother lay in the tall native grasses. It was quite small with large ears.
It was my first sighting of deer for several months. We corroborated, as best we could, that it was deer and we turned the F-150 on the path I had shredded under the pecan tree. Wendy wants to have a picnic lunch under the pecan tree on Saturday. I was still raving about the deer as we turned onto the highway to come back to the house.
Since settling here in 2003, the deer count has diminished drastically from a weekly count of 15 to zero. Deer used to migrate from the Blue and Hall places to the east of us through our house pastures and into the grove and southern Pecan Tree Pasture. The Halls cleared brush from their small acreage and eliminated cover for deer.
The distance for the sighting of the deer was two-tenths of a mile. Wendy sighted the deer. We had no binoculars so I could not bring the image closer. My only reservations on a fully-positive identification were that I did not see the mother deer and there seemed to be a white stripe on the muzzle of the fawn, but that could have been an illusion from the angle of the sun (we were looking eastward).
I intend to let the grasses grow high near the edge of the highway to give a privacy hedge to shredded pathways. As of now, the deer along the pathway can be observed from the highway. Given the present disposition of blood sportsmen in our state, a sighting of one deer will result in leasing several deer blinds on contiguous land. I have observed hunters placing apples on fence posts to attract deer onto land they have leased — not the ethic of most hunters I know.
I have some photos pertinent to field activity, but they were not taken yesterday on the field trip.
Yucca Blossoms in June (Photo by B. Matthews, 2010)
Olivia Needham with Star, Hija and Fanny (Photo by B. Matthews, June 2010)
Texas Groundsel (Photo by B. Matthews, May 2010)