Monday, June 30, 2008

Collared lizards

I had the opportunity to help gather a number of Collared lizards in Missouri for a relocation project with MDC. I had not seen these beautiful creatures in the wild until the project. Seven of us, including my mother and myself, ran about a rocky area in search of the critters.
We flipped rocks- my mother found a copperhead, another found a ringneck- I got the wasps' nest.
It was not until the sun was able to overcome a passing storm- around 10 am- that we saw a lizard. Head herpetologist for MDC, Jeff Briggler, spotted a large, colorful male in the distance. The greens and blues from the lizard were intense- he was also much larger than I imagined a Collared lizard becoming.

They approached the lizard in hoped of chasing it from it's hole and catching it by hand. Jeff was armed with a fishing-rod nuse just in case. Jeff didn't have a chance; the collard' disappeared before they got close. He spotted two others close-by in no time. I sat above the original males' hideout while they tried at the others. Briggler tied a nuse from fly-line to my fishing rod. I was to approach a lizard slowly, slip the lasso around it's neck and pull as if I was setting a hook on a fish. The large male peeked out- I saw only one glaring eyeball staring at me from the crevasse;
He came out after a while. Other volunteers and project participants disappeared over a hill, leaving only myself and two others to wrangle the six identified lizards on our rocks.
I slipped the nuse around the Collareds' head and neck- 'was surprised he allowed me to do so-didn't even flinch!
I 'set the hook'- he was caught! !! !, but only for a few seconds. the rope sipped over his face and the poor lizard zipped across the rocks. He found another good hole and hid. I tried several more times. Other participants brought in Lizards. they were held in pillowcases and stashed in the shade.
I gave up on my lizard and got my first lizard. An average-sized female. Another. I got new bags and found a new spot. Two females perched upon a rock. I approached the lizards and extended my fishin' rod. They were more skiddish than the others.
A huge green guy was on the rocks to the right of me. I put my stuff down and took some photos. He took off- I tried to follow, but he was just too damn fast !
I couldnt even see where he'd gone. I nused a small female on my seach for the big guy.. Then he caught my eye again. He split to the left the second I stopped. This time, however, he picked the wrong rock. I peeked under the rock- which was far to large for me to lift.
Stuck my hand infront of him to block his likely exit path. My hand did not fit under the rock as far as I'd planned- my stretched fingers could only brush his nose. He chomped on my finger; I jerked back unconsciously.

I stuck my hand back under the rock- when he came at me this time, I pushed the tip of my finger toward him and his mouth was stuck. He tried to bite me, but he couldnt open his mouth far enough to dislodge from me. I pulled him out slowly- he was clamped to my finger.. got him out and into a bag after a photo. I got a good row of teethmarks on my finger to prove it !
We caught 19 and released two females to create a more desirable male/female ratio. Jeff took a tissue sample to keep track of DNA in our new population.
It was awesome! The collared lizards are truly fascinating!... they are gorgeous.. and probably the fastest land-critter in MO! Ohhh... and we got to see a few take off two-legged!

Truman lake

My father and I spent a night at the lake. We camped at the State park- our favorite campsite has been converted to an electrical one (with most of the park)- Its occupied, with neighboring ones, by RVs, Christmas lights, satellite dishes and pink flamingos.
Several of the remaining basic campsites are closed to flooding- We camped on a tiny spot at the top of turkey ridge.
the lake was about 20ft high- the parking lots and boat ramps are flooded, but a high water ramp and ferry run by the marina allowed us to put our little boat in the water. It sounded a bit funny, but with a new tank of gas and a few hours on the water- it worked.
I put my tiny kayak in the water- My parents gave it to me last week as a graduation gift and it was the first time Ive had it in the water. A tiny 9' sit-on-top. I paddled across to the island marina(used to be on land), around it, over the parking lots and back to the docks. Fished a bit- two small bass. We went out to the dam and set a few jug lines.
The sun set and I took some photos of the flooded parking lot- had some awesome clouds. Had us a fire- I followed an armadillo and some spiders- one very large one, perched on a tree ate a roach. I shown my flashlight on 'em and tried to take a macro- it was okay
Sunday I woke to some growling or screaming in our camp. I recognised the horrific sound as a racoon's fight. Peeked out of my tent; saw nothing. The horizon was just beginning to show evidence of a sunrise, and the fingernail moon was high and bright.
I woke again and my tent seemed like a light box.
my father and I drove down to the marina. Five doe, two fawns and a young buck later- we were on the water. The three lines we'd left on the boat had no fish- the bait was still alive. Soon we drove towards the dam. The sky was blue and the sun saw no clouds, but there was a powerful wind that ripped across the lake.
Our 14-footer was no match for the white-caps on the lake. We bounced from wave to wave- water splashed into the boat. We made it, surprisingly, to the jug lines that we'd set. No fish.
We crawled across the waves back to the marina and continued around the Park's peninsula. The flooded lake has swallowed parking lots, beaches, dumpsters, woodlands and even the bases of a few buildings.

I took my kayak around the cove for a few more hours- three lines in the entire time and still no fish. My father had one tug at him, but the line was snagged in fight.

We visited the parks glade and the dam before we split for home.
I hiked onto the glade alone and found a handful of unusual blooms. I recognised the catchfly and leadplant in the woods, but found some new ones, too. A large bean-lookin plant with pink/yellow snapdragon type flowers, a purple "scullcap" that resembles a germander and wild bergamont (horsemint) .
I flipped some rocks and followed the googles of scorpions that I stirred until they posed for photographs. One was comfy on top of a rock for one exposure- two others were more obedient for the Canon A620 point-n-shoot. Click on the photos for close-ups of their pleasant little faces!
After my photo shoot with the arachnids, I headed back. I found some spiderwort going to seed and the unripe fruits of a large prickly-pear cactus.
Surprised I found no blkwidows or tarantulas- this glade is a great spot for both.
At the dam we spotted a pair of my favorite creatures in the world ! Two male scissor-tail flycatchers flicked and flitted about each other in the sky. A family through hunks of bread down to the mob of carp and catfish in the water. A few long gar patrolled the edge of the crowd . A huge koi fish fed with the carp and the smaller, darker catfish swam underneath them all-

Kinda cool!

Friday, June 27, 2008


DESOTO, KS Kansas' sand beaches
Fossils- a nice rib, a chunk of glossy coal and a jar of crystals.
One of the smallest toadlets Ive ever found! They were everywhere and you'd have to work to avoid stepping on them!
Another duck to add to my collection- You can count on finding decoys like these when you spend as much time out as I do.
An alien circle- or that of a small clam. I would like to know why they draw the lines like this'n...Some can be many feet in length.

firewood surprise

I was in the back splitting firewood and discovered many of the logs' residents. Bess beetles, bark beetles, a coupla nests of termites and one of ants, some spiders and two of my more exciting finds: horntails and a tiny crab thing.
The horntails are large wasp-like creatures (sawflies) that burrow into dead trees to lay their eggs. They look mean- at about two inches- especially when theyre in the air. Their patterns are similar to the better-known CicadaKiller Wasp. When I split a large elm, I found several blue tunnels in the centre- and a translucent pupa or alien. Pupa live in their little tunnels for about two years to develope before emerging in the adult stage. I soon found others and more developed ones on the new surface of the halved tree. They were covered in the blue- it was a powder. I took the critters out of their cavities and set them at the base of another log- it the shade. They began to dry their wings- like a moth would. I think a few may have been a bit pre-mature, but outh of the eight that I set at the base of the log, only one remained at sunset!
On the same log were several tiny crabs- so I thought. They looked like a mite/scorpion. There were two larger brown ones- 2-3mm in length- and a smaller red one. I collected one in a vial. Its harder than it looks- collecting a living, moving creature the size of a pin's head!
I took some photos and spent some time reading about mites and scorpions and other arachnids. After a bit of time I found that my micro-pet was an arachnid known as a pseudoscorpion or "book scorpion." They are commonly found in birds nest; they prey on lice and other tiny things. Still dont know a whole lot about them- though, I can say that they are as hard to photograph as they are to catch!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

JErry SMith

Jerry Smith Park- about a week+half ago. I stepped outside of my house and saw the clouds. The radar had not shown much, but the oddly-dimmed light in the window caught my attention and called me from the computer. a cloud broke the sun's rays and laid a strip of dark across the sky.
I decided to take advantage of the beautiful sky and departed for the one wildland that is open enough to accommodate.

The park host met me at the gate and demanded I turn around and leave. I did not bring up the fact that the park did not close until sunset (it was only about 5:30); I simply requested his permission to park on the road and walk through the park. he shook his head in disapproval, but his support was not anything I wanted. He granted me permission and I split up the dry gravel road with my camera. I immediately became distracted by some milkweeds and echinachias on the entrance road.
The large host locked the gate and drove past me in retreat to his house near the pond. He was on his phone- gave me a wave and a confusing look that could be perceived as anything but friendly. I dont mean to speak badly about the man- he is usually a very nice person; I simply did not like the fact that he would not let me enter the park a good 3.5 hours before it should have closed.

I caught the corridor of the power lines over to the prairies. It rained hard.. I hid my camera with my hat and had to empty my shoes every few minutes. the rain hit hard and for not only a few minutes like I had come to expect from similar storms. No lightning and no thunder. It hailed for a second- and nothing to be concerned about.

I got to the top of the hill and the sun emerged. It continued to pour. The phenomenon presented a photo opp. and I took a few shots in between drying the camera off and changing settings. I did not get anything worth showing off. I traversed the prairie- which has not yet become too thick with bluestem or rose. The clouds cut low enough to put me in a thin, dramatic layer of space between the ground the the opaque ceiling. At this point the rain had stopped-though everything was still swimming in the water that'd fallen from the sky- and the sun peeked just below the dark clouds.
THIS ONE WAS ODD- LOOKED LIKE A MILKWEED TO ME, BUT WAS COMPLETELY WHITE... ALBINO? ANY IDEAS???? There was no wind- the sound of distant traffic was equal to that of the park. The birds and bugs and the grasses and flowers that I brushed through. Found some cool bugs and spiders and lots of them!

Cant wait to get back with my macro!

SE kansas

Pics taken exactly one week ago near elk lake in SE kansas. The lake has swollen with the cresting rivers and dispite a roaring output from the dam, The area still flooded. streets, crops, and even buildings were submerged.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

SiouxCity river clean-up

Iowa- western iowa, that is- is a giant mud puddle filled with dead crops, wasted fields and scary god signs. DO NOT EXIT ON EXIT 95 HWY 29N!!!!! the lake is acually one of a million corn/crop fields flooded through the state.

Sioux city- located near he tri-state border of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, was excited to host their first river clean up this year. An enormous list of organizations, businesses and cities came together for the June 7th event. The Missouri River relief- our small crew of staff and volunteers from KC + Columbia-
During the day on Friday our crew took four boats out to scout and entertain the media. There is a billboard and multiple newspaper publications covering the upcoming clean-up and a great post on the local news that evening. just before sunset we met with some important coordinators and volunteers over a meal. Vicki shouted her few last, inspirational words to the group before folks began to wander off. I took some shots of the river Friday night. There is an Argosy to the right and a cool, modern bridge to the left. It has a blue light that creates an alien glow on the bottom of the bridge, but is surprisingly not over-lit.
Alex sits in his tire throne at the Iowa ramp headquarters.

Saturday was an early morn. We dropped some bags, gloves and a tent off at the Nebraska side and the rest of our truck of at the Iowa ramp. The plan was to take volunteers and equipment out from Iowa and drop trash at the NE ramp. It worked well!
I road out with racin' dave- with intentions of being a mate. We took a boat of folks to the wort of the sites- a thick, rusted old dump. Alex Jansen road along- It will be his 14th clean-up with his father.
This local volunteer busted his *back* digging scrap metal out of a decades-old dump site.
Alex jumped out and Dave requested I stay on shore. We joined the group of clueless volunteers on the dump. I gave a short bout of instructions and suggestions- we piled our life jackets and began piling the scrap metal nearer to the water. Alex helped instruct several volunteers and the group soon recognized him as a knowledgeable, experienced guide.(I think alex is about ten yrs old- he cant get enough of the river!) THANKS ALEX!
A Nebraska boat dropped off a handful of volunteers who followed our lead. They were dropped off without any tools on the opposite side of the dump. Alex and I gophered between the groups. We answered questions, provided tools, dug some trash and I wasted some time with photos.

A young volunteer shows off her found treasure- a duck decoy. She was so excited!... think we've discovered a future river rat!

Racin' arrived and two military-dressed young men loaded his boat. HE dropped some water bottles with our group and took off quickly with a very heavy boat.
Not only was the boat very heavy, the water and gas tanks, mattresses, washers and car parts were loaded far too heavy on the bow. The front of the boat road only a few inches from the surface of the river.
He came again and I through on a jacket. Alex accompanied me to the boat and we jumped aboard as it hit shore. Volunteers began to load the boat heavy with scrap and Dave told me to start moving the weight to the back. I took a few moments to re-organize the heaviest objects to the back of the boat and Alex helped load trash to the front. We had a system and stuck to it. By the end of the load, alex and I road on top of the heap of rusted iron back to the Iowa ramp. A rec boat wizzed far in front of the boat; but with the bow as close to the surface as it was, water from the weak wake flowed onto the steel plate. It streamed below me in the boat before it was diverted to exit holes on either side and was poured back into the river. I glance behind me to discover the biggest smile Ive ever found. It ran from ear to ear on Alex's face and his eyes seemed to focus on nothing-

Dave dropped us off in Iowa. He was going to cross the river and offload in NE. Dont know why he wanted me off the boat.
Alex and I ate lunch and caught a ride to the Nebraska ramp with vik. I took some photos and helped unload. Bill F, alex's father John J. and several crew members swarmed every boat and pile in a Turbo-speed loading of the giant skid-loader thing. The loader dumped it's scoop into one of two dumpsters- for scrap metal or trash. Volunteers made separate piles for dead tires and drums. A small pile sat out of the way for trash and such we needed to save for collections, yard or yard decor (maybe both).
I caught a boat and collected trash from the shore with three others. Most of the trash had been bagged and piled by the clean-up volunteers, some had been collected by fisherman and some was still scattered on shore waiting for volunteers who did not participate. We hauled a boatload back- alex was swimming near the ramp.

Offloaded and headed out for a second load.

Alex continued to swim.

We picked up an estimated 5-7tons scrap metal and 2-3 tons trash. Thats the last I hear... check the website for accurate numbers and more stories!

Congrats Sioux City on a successful first clean-up!

My two fav's for the trip \-
(Above)Lightning over the bridge on sat night. It poured, and I feared for my unprotected camera-but the rain went in seconds and look at what I got! Its a two second exposure and was the only bolt I saw over the bridge. All the other lightning was to the far right of this scene. Got lucky!
(below) Bill's sweaty back as he works on loading the pile of scrap into the scoop of a loader. abstract. I like it.

Friday, June 6, 2008


I visited rocky point the other evening during the short stay I had in KC. Lots of blooms: Its a little late for the spiderwort, but there are still a few flowers left. onion and coreopsis are goin' strong and others like the one below (looks like a pea to me- bush-like), some purple-lookin milkweed and a handful of others. On this one, there is some kind of truebug- looks like an assassin bug to me. A katydid on a spiderwort- perfect camoflage! Colours are cool in this one, too ! (below) wild onion is all over the glades!

realy not sure what this one is- there are only two plants on the bend of the second glade; they stand about 12 inches off the ground and had tose narrow leaves like a mountain mint all the way down the stem.. Any ideas?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

ARKANSAS -again.

Needed a good roadtrip- something that can always be had in the Natural State. My mother and I left from KC last tuesday for Hercules glades. We were able to find the Glade top trail for sunset and became lost in the dark before we stumbled upon hwy 95 with an empty tank. I ran onto a glade opening for sunset - enough time for the one glade and about fifty photos of flowers, clouds. Some kind of coreopsis, I think; and some Indian Paintbrush below. Some cool pensteamons, including the giant cabeae (large purple) and common digitalis (beardtoungue), spiderwort, verbena, vervain, sensetive briar, and a cool succulent with giant, pink arms for flowers.
Sunset over hercules wilderness. There is lots of very recent storm damage in the area- looks like it may not be the last of the season! We drove by two mother/baby bison in the woods and my mother had a frightening (though harmless) encounter with a wild boar!
We spent the night in Mnt Home, ARK., and drove down to mount ida the next morning. It became cloudy in the early morning and by the time we reached Harrison, a nasty fog had begun to develop. From Harrison to Russelville, along the steep ozark hwy 7, we we in a fog that limited visibility to as little as 30ft. It made things interesting!

The fog muffled sounds and created a surprise out of every car we encountered. We stopped at a picnic area for photos.

In dardanelle, we stopped to take a look at the Arkansas river. Here, it is about the size of the MO in Kansas City, and even more busy. One tug pushed three full barges and another carried a heavy load of sand. PORT Dardanelle sits across the river from the park we visited and was always docking boats. The shore is moch sandier than here and the gravel bars were of a finer stone.
The river is flooded. Below was a bass on the shore of the river.
In mount ida, the sun began to show. We hiked in a national forest area off of hwy 27 south of the town to an abandon quarry. I searched the ground and found many small points. The Ouachitas are vast pine forests with a few glade-type openings; the birds were awsome! I have never seen so many diffent songbirds.
I climbed to the top of the quarry and found an undiscovered quartz vein. I brushed it off and began to excavate. The larger points were loose in the vein and everything was packed tight- I removed each piece individually like a puzzel as to not hurt the crystals. Some of the broken points near the start of the vein were razor sharp and sliced my hands. I went through a pocket knif- digging into the rock. By the end of it all, we carried down about a quarter of a five-gal bucket and another 30lbs on our backs. I stopped to take photos of the flowers along the trail.

A Venus' looking glass flower(above) peeks out of a mess of ferns near Mt Ida, and some kind of cool milkweed is blooming all over the state- I think they may be four-leaved milkweed?

A katydid of some sort perches on the flower of a tickseed coreopsis.

Once cleaned, our crytsals revealed all kinds of beautiful and magical facets, rainbows, phantoms and ghosts. though most of the points were under 1inch, we had several dozen that broke the two inch mark and two beauties that exceeded three inches in length. The majority are very clear. Some have a rust-coloured crust.
We got clusters and sharp points like this one (left), that showed little imperfections.This crystal is about two inches in length and sits on a cool base of smaller points.
Ive kept a dozen larger points and a handful of small ones and piled the rest at the edge of my garden next to March's crystals.

Cant wait to get back here! If anyone is interested, Ive got maps and books to the area we explored- Its quite the adventure!
On the way back to Mt ida we found a roadrunner roadrunning across the road.- I guess thats what they do. Weve seen the bird in that same spot every visit.

From mt ida, we went north on 27- toward Jasper and the Buffalo National River, though we ended up hitting Petit Jean SP, about half way to Jasper. I fished for a few minutes- caught two smaller bass before I snapped my pole. Walking back to camp, I found a snake in the water- theyve got a large lake on the property- The snake was completely submerged and looked more like some kind of rat snake than anything else. We had a good campfire and woke in the morning to those same ouchita birds. I fished for an hour- caught 13 largemouth, but none of the crappie I found the first time we visited the park. I watched a giant something surface ofr a second below the small dam. It looked long and slick- maybe 4 feet. I saw no dorsal fin, though I was not paying a whole lot of attention to the details of it- maybe a gar or sturgeon. The creek that the lake feeds is deep and runs directly to the Arkansas river, into the mississippi- couldve been anything! I'll have to go back and catch it.
We hiked down to Cedar falls- It clouded up upon our decent.

cedar falls rapids and a six-spotted tiger beetle.

I took some photos and chased a tiger beetle at the bottom. The falls are gushing- The area has had many nasty storms this week. One such storm, just two days before our arrival, ripped many trees out of the ground and littered the now empty campgrounds. The lake is also flooded. We drove towards Jasper and ate lunch at the Ozark cafe. It was sunny and getting toasty.

After food, we visited Emma's meuseam of junk- an older shop just next door. Emma has lived in Jasper for about 30 years and holds a fine shop. I bought a handful of marbles and upon telling her that we'd come from KC, heard a whole 10 min on why we should buy land in Jasper- Im sure convinced, but I didnt need her to tell me it was a nice place to live. The town has a population of 500, an antique(though still in use) jail, and a beautiful, tiny downtown located just miled from Ozark Nat'l forest and buffalo Nat'l riverway. Its a popular stopover for bikers and paddlers.

Petit Jean and beyond- view from martha Lodge

We missed our exit- hwy 74 W- and ended up in Harrison. We got onto hwy 62 W and went through a handful of cool towns. The most intersting- Alpena- was completely deserted and it's 1930's downtown was ghostly and cradled among the last few residencies of the area. It would be a cool stopover sometime.- for photos anyway.
Once we neared Eureaka springs, we found our selves trapper by two oversized loads carying pre-fabed houses. A last-second manuver landed us on some little Hwy headed north for 86. On 86W we found roaring river SP. It was like 4pm and I bought a fishing tag. The park seemed very busy-especially for the middle of the week.

I tied on a tiny flashback nymph and took a few casts. The fly- a roaring river favorite of mine- is supposed to mimic a smal mayfly in milky water. No fish- I tried a large white glowball- not a single bite-

I overheard the park ranger talking about the fish not biting well.

I tied on one of my own patterns- a small gold/beadheaded thing with a thick collar of muskrat dub and a long copper body. The fly is very heavy to get into the rapids and has worked well in just about every place Ive used it. It kinda looks caddis-y, but more like a mayfly with its' thick thorax part.

I started catching them immediately. Several small trought, and a shiner. Then I caught a keepr. The fish was about 13 inches- little on the small side, but I kept him anyway. en minutes went by on the same rapid and I hooked a larger fish. it stripped me across the small river and jumped many times- several feet in the air.

My mother watched- it took me into a heavy current and I feared loosing the fish. A few muntes later I had the fish in shallow water. I bent to grab it and the line broke. I snatched it up and ended up pushing it onto shore with my feet. I caught it- 18inches. It made the other fish look very small. I lost three others and bagged my kreel at four fish by 6:30. I cleaned them and we drove toward cassville to get cell reception. Back we went- to RR. we got a campsiite for the night,. it was busy and there were few sites left. The park was full of parties- it didnt do justice to the rest of our trip. In the morn, we stopped by Cassville walmart and bought a change of clothes for work. My mother drove me over to independence and continued her trip back to KC. From Carthage top Independence- on 96/160, there is little but fields of golden hay and small farming communities.

Petit's Tiger beetle (and my dirty fingernail)- I think he's smiling. He was so happy and excited about the camera, he accidently bit me- sure it powerful for bein so small.