Category Archives: Hill Country Happenings

Hill Country Happenings

More Pictures of Writin’ Spiders

On September 13, Donna from “[Rubber Ducky Nursery, Donnas Reborns]” left a comment on my post of August 8, 2008, “[The Writin’ Spider]”. Checking out her site, I’ll admit that I’m not much into dolls, but what this lady does remaking dolls is unbelievable and I heartily recommend that you check this website out!

Yesterday I was out mowing the yard around the old, rock house and found two webs in progress from two writin’ spiders. In 2008 I came across one web and spider, but didn’t notice any last year, but it looks like the 2008 hatch was successful!

The first one that I ran across was in the yard and it was just building its nest under the branches of a cottonwood tree.

The second, under an eve and behind a hanging ladder, was busily adding to its web and I “shot” these two good                                                pictures of its endeavors.

Remember, don’t kill these big spiders because they are one of a gardens and a yards good guys, specializing in undesirable insects!

More On Melanistic Deer

On August 4, 2009 I posted a story, “[What Is A Melanistic Deer]” with pictures of a melanistic doe that my Son, Randy, “shot” while on his afternoon run. Randy, is a Baptist Pastor in San Marcos, Texas and just sent me these two pictures of a nice, melanistic, buck.

Melanistic deer are so named because their bodies produce far too much of the hair, skin and retina pigment known as melanin. They are very rare, but for reasons not well understood by zoologists, the eastern edge of Texas’ Edwards Plateau and the adjacent areas of the Blackland Prairie region are the epicenter of the world’s population of melanistic, white-tailed deer.

In reviewing all of the scientific literature, Dr. John T. Baccus and John C. Posey of Texas State University in San Marcos, who are the world’s authorities on melanistic deer having observed them in the flesh, have been unable to find any record of “dark” deer being documented anywhere prior to 1929. None of the research done to date suggests that melanistic bucks have inferior antlers. The velvet on their racks tends to be brownish, but the Texas State researchers say that they have seen one melanistic buck with gray velvet. Randy, who lives not three miles as the crow flies from Texas State, should send his pictures to these men also.

There are now more melanistic deer alive in Central Texas than in every other part of the planet combined. Melanism is actually fairly common in all or parts of eight counties in Texas; Hays, Travis, Comal, Williamson, Blanco, Guadalupe, Burnet and Caldwell.

Mills County, located on the northeast edge of the Edwards Plateau, where we just spotted a melanistic deer pictured above, is just one county removed from Burnet and Williamson County.

Morning Walk, September 30, 2010

For the past 9 days, the nights have been so bright here that there hasn’t been any “action” on my morning walks. No wildlife pictures, no nothing and because of the cool temps, not even a good sweat. On Tuesday, a gray fox ran across the road in front of me but was in the brush before I could get the camera up.

Yesterday morning, before I reached my turn around point I noticed a big doe and her two yearlings grazing alongside of a fence row, closer inspection showed one of the yearlings to be my “supposed”, melanistic deer. Once I stopped for a “shot”, up went their ears and finally they melted into the cover.

Reaching my turn around point and heading back toward my house, I noticed several deer running, tails up, from a swale towards some thick cover. Not looking towards me, there must have been another threat that had their undivided attention. They kept piling out, until there were at least 10 strung out, running across the field, not looking my way. Taking several “shots”, if I had been thinking, I would have put my camera on video and captured the entire scene.
Something, I don’t know what, scared the deer, but I kept on walking until finishing the 1.5 mile jaunt. Because of the cool weather, I barely broke a sweat!

Morning Walk, August 28, 2010

Last Thursday morning I was up before the sun, got all of my stuff on and took off for my morning walk. Walking outside, wow, where am I? The temp was 72 and yesterday’s high was around 109, only a 37, degree difference! A cool front in late August, of all things! Only in Texas!

No deer in the feed lot beside my house, the same feed lot that in 2008, in my post “[The Haystack Buck]”, I shot a nice buck. In the half-light, about half way into my walk, noticing movement on the right, whirling, this blurry “shot” of a deer was the results.

Walking on, in all of the likely haunts, there were no deer, no varmints, no nuthin’ but my neighbor’s llama, the same one that was so interested two days ago, just turned his back and started grazing.

Dropping off my camera in the old, ranch house and walking over to our new one, out in the cut, hay field, there was about a dozen deer grazing. They were not paying any attention to me and without the camera, no “shots”. But, at least, even with the cool temps, I worked up a sweat and got in some good exercise.

Morning Walk, August 26, 2010

Starting off my walk on this past Tuesday morning there were a few wisps of fog hanging in the trees. Right away, not two hundred yards down the road from my house, there was a deer.

Taking the “shot” with barely enough light and the deer then running off, I continued on down the road.

Coming to a slight curve, I saw a skunk just going into the grass along side of the road. By the time I walked up to it, it had moved under my fence, almost into the thick stuff. Trying for a “shot” before really shooting at it, I took this picture. The quarry was a striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis, the areas leading carrier of rabies.

Then, unlimbering my .22 pistol, with a 1-1/4” barrel, I tried to “guesstimate” an aiming point. Three shots later it ran off, no skunk, so I continued on my walk.

The three shots put every wild thing in the area to seeking suitable cover, but I walked up on one of my neighbor’s llama, Lama glama, with its ears perked. He uses this South American camelid to protect his sheep and goats since they are fearless and great guards against the many predators around here.

Tuesday’s walk had a little bit of everything, some hasty “shots, some poor shooting, some excitement, my right knee didn’t hurt and I worked up a good sweat. What a way to start the day!

Morning Walk, August 20, 2010

Having really been in a white-out, fogged in situation before, see my September 17, 2009 post, [White Out], yesterday morning as I stepped out for my third try at a morning walk, there were wisps of fog hanging off the ground in the trees.

Thinking nothing about the fog, that in the middle of August is unusual around this part of central, Texas, I walked on. As I reached the old windmill on Crumley’s property and looked out over his field, there wasn’t much seeing since the fog was heavy and everything was fogged in!

Finishing my fog bound walk, of course, I didn’t see any deer or get any “shots”, but there was one real positive thing that happened – my right knee felt fine and didn’t hurt. Playing softball, with my Unloader Brace on, I can hit and run, but walking irritates the bone-on- bone situation, but today my knee felt fine!

This spring and summer having tried two other times to start my morning walks and both ending with a sore knee, this was a great step (no pun intended) forward and I even worked up a real good sweat!

A Great Step Forward

Our young barn swallows have started flying! Three of them ventured out from the nest, flew around a little, then landed in one of our mesquite trees, but two of the little birds hadn’t yet taken the chance.

Sunday afternoon all of them were flying around, but as I posted two days ago, they won’t start catching insects for a few more days. In the picture shot on Sunday afternoon, the little ones are lined up waiting for Mom and Dad to get back with the evenings chow.

Then they moved around a little bit, pushing one of the little fellows to the back.


Monday afternoon there were three still on the nest.


Then there were two.


And Monday night, only one, probably the one that got pushed to the back, remained on the nest. The other four have learned how to hunt for their food, leaving the “runt” by itself.

Now, this morning, there were none. Even the “runt” has cleared the nest!

Out Of Room

On June 2, June 24 and July 5, 2007 I posted a three part, saga, “[Home Improvement]” about two young barn swallows, (Hirundo rustica), building their nest, rearing their young and then flying off to their wintering grounds in South and Central America. Again we have witnessed this same occurrence, but on a much grander scale.

Each evening when we are at home, we, Layla and I, feed out cat, Bo, and dog, Spike out on our back porch. Heavy rain or cold weather will drives both of us inside, but our pets will try to eat outside even in the worst circumstances. This spring and summer we’ve had additional guests joining us, our nesting pair of barn swallows. As soon as we go outside each night both of the birds “attack’ Bo and spike for one or two swoops, then they retire to their nest knowing that at meal time our pets are no threat to them.

But now, their attacks have become real because there are five, yes five, young barn swallows as pictured, in and out of the nest. Their first try this spring netted us two more birds, but this round of breeding resulted in five off springs. Max eggs they will lay are seven, but these young birds, almost ready to fly, have outgrown their nest.

Yes, Mom and Dad still feed them and will for two or more days after they begin flying. The young birds have to learn how to catch and eat the many flying insects we have around here.

Sitting out on the porch Thursday evening, the male, barn swallow was sitting in the top of a nearby mesquite tree making sure the pets didn’t stray too close to the little ones.

Pot Of Gold

Here in central Texas for the past few days we’ve had some unusual weather. It has been very, very windy, fifteen to twenty-five from the southeast and there have been thunder storms all around us. Rain wise, we’ve had showers and almost an inch, but the heavy stuff has missed us, same for this past Monday afternoon. The heavy rains had moved south of us in a line from Burnet toward Killeen.

Monday evening, around 7:30, I’d been in the old house reading my e-mails and when I walked outside and looked up, there were two rainbows that seemed to be right over my ranch. What a pretty sight. the clouds breaking, the colors. and just think, there were two of them

The rainbows were so big and so close, that I couldn’t take a picture of both of them in         their entirety, but from where I was standing it looked like the pot of gold was pretty close to                                                    Evant, Texas

Late Spring Arrivals

Our spring arrivals are here in central Texas; our bluebonnets, our hummingbirds, followed by our barn swallows that are busy finishing a new nest on our back porch, plenty of red wasps and yellow jackets, and the newest – fire wheels, sundance or Indian blankets, or binomially, Gaillardia punchella.

For some reason, these beautiful flowers came up this year. In the past, we hadn’t seen them in these numbers. It is a hardy, drought tolerant, annual, native to the central United States, it is easily established from seed and forms dense colonies of brilliant red flowers with yellow rims. Here’s a dense colony, with a few sunflowers mixed in, in my yard.

This flower thrives in heat and full sun in well drained, soils. Its sure getting that in my front yard!

It is almost un-Texan to say it, but fire wheels are nearly as pretty as bluebonnets.