Events Prairies: March & April

Sundew, Deer Park Prairie by D. Verser, 2/29/2012

Spring has sprung in Houston and it’s time to go out in nature. In greater Houston, that means many events on the prairie are here and upcoming. See summary below and scroll down for details:

  • Tonight (3/8/18): Benigno & Newman of Harris County Flood Control talk on “A Tale of Two Prairies” at Sierra Club meeting
  • Check out all upcoming Urban Prairie events:
  • Saturday, March 17: Bellaire Garden Club plant sale at Nature Discovery Center (7112 Newcastle, Bellaire) has an assortment of native prairie plants. Click here for more information.

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Tonight from Sierra Club email:

March 8, 2018 – A Tale of Two Prairies

At [Houston Sierra Club’s] March 8, 2018 meeting, we will have a presentation of “A Tale of Two Prairies”, the green version of the Charles Dickens classic. (“It was the best of prairies… etc.”) This is a program for prairie lovers and habitat restoration fans. [The] guest speakers will be Stephen Benigno and Andrew Newman of the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD), who will update us on their prairie restoration projects.
The event is free and open to the public at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 1805 West Alabama, Houston. Main program starts 7:30 PM. Doors open 7:00 PM.

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March & Upcoming UP (Urban Prairie) Team Events

As always, keep checking the UP Team calendar (tinyurl.com/UPTeamCal). Events emails are only sent out once per month, but the calendar is kept updated as information comes in. Click on the event and then the “more details” to show all details, including meeting place and parking specifics. Each event has at least one contact person.
If you are planning to attend an event , please RSVP to the contact person shown on the calendar so that person could let you know of any changes.   
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March, 2018

For more information, go to tinyurl.com/UPTeamCal
  • Saturday, March 3 (1st Saturdays): Hermann Park, http://tinyurl.com/UPTeamCalBayou Savannah Workday (near 6520 Almeda)
  • Monday, March 5 (1st Mondays): Nature Discovery Center. NO WORKDAY.
  • New!  Wednesday, March 7 (weekly on Wednesdays): HANC/MPC Greenhouse Volunteer Workday for the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center (HANC) and  Memorial Park Conservancy (MPC) joint project to grow prairie plants for savannah restorations at HANC. Project Leader Allen Brymer is also there Thursday and Monday mornings. Anyone who wants to volunteer on these days need to first contact Allen at abrymer@katyprairie.org . 9am – noon
  • Thursday, March 8 (2nd & 4th Thursdays): Native (and mostly prairie) plant propagation at City of Houston Greenhouse in Memorial Park, 9:00am – noon
  • Saturday, March 10 (2nd Saturdays): Hermann Park, Whistlestop Prairie Workday (near entrance to Japanese Garden), 9:00am – noon
  • Wednesday, March 14 (2nd Wednesdays): Deer Park Prairie Workday, 9:00a – noon. Last month’s workdays were cancelled, so help is needed to clean up and cut back the demonstration garden. Free Plants:  Extra plants that we pull out are free to take home. Lots of frogfruit and swamp sunflower among others.
  • Wednesday, March 14 (weekly on Wednesdays): HANC/MPC Greenhouse Volunteer Workday, 9am – noon.
  • NEW! Friday, March 16 (3rd Fridays): 9am – noon. Memorial Park Conservancy, Conservation Crew, Kayak/Canoe Access (Woodway, immediately west of 610), invasive control and working on a recently planted restoration project. 9 am – noon. Contact volunteer@memorialparkconservancy.org for more information, since location differs each month.
  • Wednesday, March 21 (weekly on Wednesdays): HANC/MPC Greenhouse Volunteer Workday, 9am – noon.
  • Thursday, March 22 (2nd & 4th Thursdays): Native (and mostly prairie) plant propagation at City of Houston Greenhouse at Memorial Park, 9:00am – noon
  • Saturday, March 24 (4th Saturdays): Deer Park Prairie Workday. 9:00am -noon. Come and see the early spring wildflowers!  Especially NEEDED: Exxon Mobile employees, retirees, and/or immediately family members to form a team and earn a $500 donation from Exxon Mobile. The effort is led by retiree Allen Potvin and his wife Hazel, board member of Houston Chapter, Native Prairies Association of Texas. For more information or to RSVP: HNPAT@TexasPrairie.org
  • Saturday, March 24 (4th Saturdays): Hermann Park, Bayou Savannah Workday (near 6520 Almeda), 9:00am -noon
  • Wednesday, March 28 (weekly on Wednesdays): HANC/MPC Greenhouse Volunteer Workday, 9am – noon.

Upcoming in April

For more information & RSVP contact, go to tinyurl.com/UPTeamCal
  • Monday, April 2 (1st Mondays): Nature Discovery Center. Monday Morning Gardening, 9:30 am noon.
  • Wednesday, April 4 (weekly on Wednesdays): HANC/MPC Greenhouse Volunteer Workday, 9am – noon.
  • Saturday, April 7 (1st Saturdays): Hermann Park, Bayou Savannah Workday (near 6520 Almeda)
  • Wednesday, April 11 (2nd Wednesdays): Deer Park Prairie Workday, 9:00am – noon
  • Wednesday, April 11 (weekly on Wednesdays): HANC/MPC Greenhouse Volunteer Workday, 9am – noon.
  • Thursday, April 12 (2nd & 4th Thursdays): Native (and mostly prairie) plant propagation at City of Houston Greenhouse in Memorial Park, 9:00am – noon
  • Saturday, April 14 (2nd Saturdays): Hermann Park, Whistlestop Prairie Workday (near entrance to Japanese Garden), 9:00am – noon
  • Wednesday, April 18 (weekly on Wednesdays): HANC/MPC Greenhouse Volunteer Workday, 9am – noon.
  • Friday, April 20 (3rd Fridays): Memorial Park Conservancy, Conservation Crew, Kayak/Canoe Access (Woodway, immediately west of 610), invasive control and working on a recently planted restoration project. 9am – noon.Contact volunteer@memorialparkconservancy.org for more information, since location differs each month.
  • Wednesday, April 25 (weekly on Wednesdays): HANC/MPC Greenhouse Volunteer Workday, 9am – noon
  • Thursday, April 26 (4th Thursdays): Native (and mostly prairie) plant propagation at City of Houston Greenhouse at Memorial Park, 9:00am – noon
  • Saturday, April 28 (4th Saturdays): Deer Park Prairie Workday, 9:00am -noon.**Also Deer Park Prairie Spring Prairie Day & City Nature Challenge!** Program specifics upcoming at Houstonprairie.org or email HNPAT@TexasPrairie.org for more information. Join HNPAT’s Spring Prairie Day and take lots of photos to post on iNATURALIST, since this is during the City Nature Challenge. Come and see the early spring wildflowers! Organized events of the City Nature Challenge can be found at houstonprairie.org/CNCactivities/
  • Saturday, April 28 (4th Saturdays): Hermann Park, Bayou Savannah Workday (near 6520 Almeda), 9:00am -noon
General workday attire/needs: long pants and closed toe shoes. Optional: hat, sunscreen, long-sleeved shirt, insect repellent, water. If you have them bring some garden tools like garden gloves, trowel and/or shovel.

Want to volunteer in your own home? Join the Great Grow Out Program. Katy Prairie Conservancy is seeking volunteers to grow (in the comfort of their own home) plants from wild collected seeds that we will send you. Then return the seedlings to KPC for restoration projects! Don’t forget to keep a few for your garden!

Instructions in the form of a Grower’s Handbook or in the form of videos are at www.katyprairie.org/ggo. For more information, view the webpage or contact Lshen@katyprairie.org

If you want to get this monthly email and are not an UP (Urban Prairie) Team member, please join our team of volunteers interested in helping at urban pocket prairies and/or to communicate about prairies. See UP Team information and a flyer at this link. Click the button below to get monthly emails on Urban Prairies activities that need your help!

 

See you all on the prairie!

 

A New Season

We have had huge amounts of rainfall in Deer Park over the last several months.  Everything is green and blooming, bugs are happy and it is time to get the cameras out and back in use.  The Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Preserve is the perfect place to break out the camera gear.  While I do use some high dollar equipment, it is not necessary to come away with memorable photos.

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Damselfly in Dew

Photography is all about the light.  It can be early morning or it can be late evening, but that choice will have more to do with a successful photo than the gear you use.  The quality of light at those times is exceptional, almost golden as it sweeps across the prairie.  All you have to do is place yourself there at the right time and frame up that beautiful scene.  You can shoot wide or you can choose to shoot up close, allowing that light to fall on your subject and bring it to life.  It is the easiest way to share that beauty with your friends and family.

What do you see?

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This photo represents the first thing I saw when I first set my eyes upon the Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Preserve.  I am not talking about these particular flowers and grasses, but what my mind registered at first glance.  In any three foot by three foot area, I saw multiple flowers, insects and grasses.  I was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and abundance of it all.

I still feel that way every time I step out onto the prairie.  I want to see what different subjects I can find to photograph on each trip out there.  Not only do I challenge myself to create a thing of beauty to view on a computer or in a print, but I accept the responsibility to also try and identify each subject I photograph.

So, what do you see in this photograph?  Click on the photo to see a larger version.  Send me an email to doug_h@sbcglobal.net if you know the identity of any plant, flower or grass in this photo.

Prairie Dew

My favorite time to shoot macro is at sunrise, closely followed by those occasions where dew is present.  I can shoot with just one of them, but prefer having both at the same time.  I have been very fortunate over the last several weeks to have both.  Dew adds another whole dimension to a photograph of small subjects, including flowers.

This photo is a 9 shot image stack, all shot at the same setting, but at different focus points.  I was actually leaving the Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Preserve last Saturday, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw this flower glistening in the sunlight.  Upon closer inspection I realized I wanted to capture it, and in turn I’m sharing it with you.

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Silky Aster (Symphyotrichum pratense)

The Wide View

We had a pretty good rain on the Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Preserve today, brought about by a cold front coming through town.  I wanted to capture the cloud formation that came through with the front as it passed over the prairie this evening.  I only had my iPhone with me, but the clouds were moving out fast as the sun dropped lower in the sky.  I decided to drive over to shoot it, before losing the opportunity.

The prairie looked great, having soaked up most of the rain.  It was a beautiful scene.  The sunshine was playing over the prairie as the wind caused the grasses to wave softly back and forth.  Click on the photo to see it full size.

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Sunset and Clouds over the Prairie

It’s a Small World

The Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Preserve is quickly becoming one of my favorite locations to photograph nature.  One of the big pluses is the fact that I can be there in about 6 minutes.  The prairie is located close to where I live.  It has so many different subjects I can capture in camera that I actually feel bad when I go longer than a week without shooting there.

I also realize what  a treasure the prairie is for our community of Deer Park.  We get to enjoy this through the hard work of the Houston chapter of the Native Prairie Association of Texas (HNPAT) members, and as a result of the Bayou Land Conservancy who spearheaded funding to purchase the site.

In this post, I highlight some flowers and insects I have seen and photographed over the last several weeks.  Many of these are smaller than 1″ in length or diameter.  Some are smaller, some are larger.  You have to look close to see many of them.  That means I am using macro and close-up lenses to try to fill the frame with my subject.  The best time to shoot is early morning, right at sunrise.  The wind is usually laying low as the sun comes up, and the light is a warm golden color.  As these photos also indicate, you can get them covered in dew to really make them stand out.

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Prairie Gaillardia (Gaillardia aestivalis)

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White Prairie Aster (Symphyotrichum falcatum)

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Long-necked Seed Bug (Myodocha serripes)

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Unidentified Damselfly

Damselfly in Dew on Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Preserve

The Fragile Forktail Damselfly Ischnura posita is one of the smallest damselflies, measuring about 1 inch long.  The only thing that helps to locate them hiding in the grasses, are the big colorful eyes, and the colorful markings on their thorax.  It is difficult to tell from this angle, but Fragile Forktails are identified by having two distinguishing exclamation marks on their thorax.  They are most active spring through early fall.

In order to spot them you have to stop, crouch down low, and slowly scan a small area in front of you.  I can usually only spot one peripherally (from the corners of my eyes) as it slowly hovers back and forth, low to the ground.

Damselflies differ from most dragonflies in size, and by the fact that their wings are usually (not always) folded back onto their body when at rest.  They eat mosquitoes and flies, but will eat most anything they can catch.

At sunrise one morning, I spotted this one hovering as I slowly scanned the grasses in front of me.  Fortunately for me, it landed on a small twig with a great colored background.

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Fragile Forktail Damselfly Ischnura posita

Small Things in a Big Way

The Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Preserve contains 300+ grasses and plants to date that have been identified, and listed in a database.  Many of them are readily seen by scanning your eyes over the prairie.  Many of them are small, and require closer inspection.  The same thing holds true for the subject of this post.

While Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardi) is tall and beautiful, this Yellow Jacket Hoverfly (Milesia virginiensis) at 1/2″ length can barely be seen without a closer look.  Photo taken Sunday September 19, 2014.

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Twilight and Moonrise Over the Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Preserve

In my journal, through the use of photos and words, I hope to convey the raw beauty of the Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Preserve.  This view of the waning crescent moon, coupled with the colors of twilight across the prairie just before sunrise this morning, was spectacular.  While photos and words can help shape that view, there is nothing like standing at this spot, at this time, in person.

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Insects on the Prairie

 

It is easy to see the draw for nature lovers when you first lay eyes on the Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Preserve.  It is a large open 51 acre tract of land, populated with all manner of highly visible grasses and plants.  Many of those have flowers.  The fact that it is nestled in the middle of a very active urban city makes it even more impressive.

I made my first real foray onto the prairie after it had been recently cut.  There was a 7 acre section of prairie left uncut, to provide a glimpse into what the whole will look like as it grows back.  What is not readily evident, are the myriad small critters living within those prairie grasses and plants.  You have to stop and look closely to see many of them, since they are camouflaged quite well.

My first few steps onto the trail cut through the prairie grass garnered me an interesting subject to photograph.  The very first insect I saw was a mantis.  I had not seen one in years, so it was certainly a pleasant surprise to be able to photograph one.  Mantises are comprised of several different types, though they are all very efficient predators of the insect world.

It took me some time to finally get an accurate ID on this one, due to its unusual features.  The front legs were a slimmed down version of what most mantises look like.  The body also more resembled a walking stick, which is herbivorous (they mostly eat plants and leaves).  This one also did not have wings.

This is a Slim Mexican Mantis (Bactromantis mexicana) female.  They are found in Mexico through southern Arizona, and southernmost Texas.  The females are wingless.  I really like the eyes, and this one turned to look right at me as I photographed her.

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