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Ranger Notes

The Soundtracks of Our Lives

December 2020

Hiking along the Island Trail with a family of three, we focus on using our sense of sight, touch, smell, and hearing to look for wildlife. When we reach the south side of the trail, the breeze from the lake ceases and the forest darkens as the sun begins to set. We stop and listen.

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The Will to Survive

November 2020

Closeup of rough tree bark with many little holesAs I drive through the park I am drawn to the strangeness of our trees. If one were to look closely at our trees, lessons in strength, resilience, and the ability to change are taught.

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The Instinct to Migrate

October 2020

Bat box on a tall poleThe cooler weather brings back memories from when I was a child. I used to "build camp" and pretend to migrate around the backyard as the weather changed. As an adult, I watch migrating animals with a hint of envy and imagine life with no boundaries or passports.

Migratory animals, such as Mexican free-tailed bats, will leave their summer roosts with the arrival of cold weather and head south. 

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Mayfly Madness

September 2020

MayflyThe natural world is full of seasonal changes. At Martin Dies, Jr. State Park, every day and every season offers new experiences. Many campers and locals are familiar with one of those: mayfly season.

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A Truthful Talk About Snakes

July 2020

Snake in grass beside brick houseIt’s warm outside, squirrels are racing, and cicadas are buzzing: all signs that we’re entering the doldrums of summer and snake encounters.

I’ve been thinking about snakes and our relationships to them more than what’s normal for this park ranger.

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Never Truly Isolated

June 2020

small wasp on flowerDuring this time of isolation and disconnect, I am reminded of our primal connection to something greater, our life-giving earth. Everything in the natural world means something to another living being.

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Forgetting the Past

January 2020

Concrete tubeYears ago, I came across a couple vertical concrete culverts in the thicket of the woods at the park. There was a long metal pipe inside them, but they were not connected to any known water lines. Why were they there, what were they? I asked fellow employees, but they had no idea. They were a mystery.

Read more Forgetting the Past . . . 

The New Challenge Facing Bald Eagles

December 2019

bald eagle on a nest high in a treeOur park offers guided hikes and canoe trips to view a pair of nesting bald eagles, because it’s amazing to see these majestic raptors living in the wild when they came so close to extinction.

Humans were the initial cause of their decline by using the pesticide DDT and not knowing the full effects that it had on our environment. It was also humans that helped them to recover and rebound.

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Butterflies Have Lots to Teach

November 2019

tattered butterfly hanging from a branchButterflies are great mascots for conservation. They face challenges in habitat destruction and pesticides, and are misunderstood. Many people think that caterpillars are pests, but they’re not. Caterpillars are a chink in the chain of a butterfly (or moth’s) life cycle.

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Potter Wasps

October 2019

Potter wasp crawling on a flowerHave you ever found a tiny clay pot stuck to your window screen or on the side of a building? What artist creates such a unique clay jug?

Potter wasps are the creators of these small pieces of art. These wasps are not your typical wasp.

Read more about Potter Wasps . . . 

Underwater Treasures

August 2019

inside of mussel shellWhen B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir was drained this summer, most animals were able to retreat into the creeks and river channels, but not all. Sprawled across the dry lake bed were dead freshwater mussels. Their slow mobility led to their demise, but it gave us and biologists a chance to study them up close. Freshwater mussels often go unseen, but they are underwater treasures.

Read more Underwater Treasures . . .