The Little Eyes of Texas

Hiding in plain sight
the little eyes of Texas
suddenly, I see!

When I first moved to San Antonio, I did not realize that I was surrounded by the little eyes of Texas. I actually thought I was alone, until the day that I almost stepped on a black tarantula sitting quietly by my back door. Rather unnerving! I don’t know how long the spider was there, but it was probably wondering how anyone could completely fail to notice something as large as a tarantula.
Thanks to the surprise visit from this spider, I realized that I needed to start paying more attention to the Texas environment around me. Wake up!

With eyes wide open
I can look around and see
a camouflaged lizard in a tree,
silently watching over me.

Now I notice when an anole lizard climbs up a sharp yucca leaf to greet me, and I take the time to stop and say hello.

And look!
Deep within a sago palm,
sheltered by sharp-pointed fronds
a  lovely moth rests quietly
safe from flying predators
searching for a tasty treat. Moth_2When I come across a caterpillar that looks like a porcupine with quills, I am wise and aware enough to keep my distance.  I wish I could say that I know what kind of butterfly or moth the caterpillar in my photo might become; but truth be known, I have no clue!
The leaf-footed bugs that visit our yard when the white yucca flowers bloom, are so prolific that they actually command attention (they look like stink bugs with leaves on their back legs). They don’t play loud music, but the leaf-footed bugs love to suck the juice out of the yucca blooms and party for days with their friends. Doesn’t matter if I repeatedly shake them off of the flowers and tell them to go away, they simply come back. Rather pesky, they are! Since the flowers don’t last that long anyway, I found it easier just to leave them alone–because they leave as soon as the flowers fade. But for those who have citrus trees and other fruit bearing plants that are being damaged, some sort of pest control is usually used.

I must sayI am very happy to see that the praying mantis hangs out in Texas too (I used to see them all the time in Virginia). This amazing insect is fascinating to watch. An image of stamina and precision–a praying mantis can hold the same motionless pose for long periods of time, waiting patiently for an unsuspecting meal to come wandering by. And then, watch out! The mantis is extremely accurate and quick. Praying Mantis
Praying Mantis upside downThe more that I learned about the natural environment of Texas, the more I wanted to know. So last year, when I heard there was a Master Naturalist program (Alamo Area Chapter) here in San Antonio, I signed up for the fall semester (Class #43). The program was everything that I hoped it would be, and it was fun to spend time every week with a group of people whose interests were similar to mine.  The training covered a wide range of topics, which included discussions about native trees, plants, animals, birds, insects, reptiles, fish, geology, water, weather, etc.  To top it all off,  there were various field trips guided by people who knew the San Antonio area. Since I am not from Texas, the field trips opened up a whole new world of places and things that I did not even know existed here!

And so…
Thanks to the little eyes of Texas (especially the black tarantula), I now have the honor of walking through and working with nature as a Texas Master Naturalist–with my eyes wide open.
Mitchell Lake_birdwatching
Snowy Egret

Attached below is a short video created by George and Marcos Ozuna. George Ozuna is a member of the Native Plant Society of Texas and a Texas Master Naturalist, and his son Marcos is an educator. Their work and love of nature is greatly appreciated.

About Mary Strong-Spaid

You can find me any time wandering around in my own mind gathering thoughts.
This entry was posted in Birding, Nature, Photo Essay, photography, Texas Master Naturalist, wildlife and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to The Little Eyes of Texas

  1. Timothy Price says:

    Lots of great photos. There are almost always critters around it you just take time to look.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you!
      There are all sorts of amazing things all around, if we just take the time to look.
      When it comes to bugs, I am told that there are actually a lot more of them than humans.
      Some have wondered what it would be like if all of the bugs suddenly joined together in an attempt to take over the world.
      Ha! Anyone who has accidentally stepped on a mound of fire ants knows that life can get quite painful, very quickly.
      I guess the same type of creative imaginings inspired Alfred Hitchock’s horror story “The Birds.”

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Congratulations on becoming a Texas Master Naturalist! I’m also intrigued by surrounding flora and fauna–since I’m not native to my area. Two of our strangest insects are–mole crickets, and “souped-up” versions of stink bugs, with extended back legs and air foils.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you!
      I do have a photo of what you are talking about, I think. They look like they have “leaves” on their back legs. I think they are “Leaf-footed” bugs.
      In the summer, they suck the juice out of the blooms of the white yucca plant in my yard. I leave them alone, because the yucca flowers don’t last that long anyway, but I guess they can ruin citrus fruit because they show up in large numbers. I wish I had put the photo of them in my story. Now I don’t know if I can add it in. WordPress has done something to the edit function–made new changes? So when I edit, some of the font changes size and photos blow up. Sigh.

      Liked by 2 people

    • OK! I was able to go back into the WordPress “Classic Editor” and add in some text and a photo of two leaf-footed bugs that were hanging out on the yucca. I also added a link to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension website with information about this particular bug. Apparently, some people do refer to it a stink bug, because the leaf-footed bug has the same stink. 🙂 I guess it is the leafy-look (or air-foils as you say) on the back legs that differentiates them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. katelon says:

    Wonderful photos! How great that you found that class!

    What led you to Texas?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you!
      We came here because I like warmer weather, and I was always asking to retire in Hawaii.
      My husband said, “Well, it’s warm in Texas and it’s not as expensive.”
      Plus my daughter and her family live close by.


      • katelon says:

        Hope you continue to enjoy it. I grew up in AZ but don’t like the heat anymore so Texas would be hard for me. I hear San Antonio is pretty though


        • It’s OK here.
          I admit that I was missing the Autumn colors of Virginia though….until I went on a field trip (in late October) to the Medina River Natural Area with the Master Naturalists. It was only about 40 minutes from my house, and I didn’t even know it was there. There is a long section by the river called a “Riparian” forest. There were tall trees with multi-colored leaves everywhere, and the smell of wet leaves melting into earth–it looked and felt just like Virginia! As we walked along, butterflies played in the flowers as leaves fell gently to the ground. The sun that was filtered through the leaves of the trees was warm, not hot. It was so beautiful.


  4. blhphotoblog says:

    Lovely images! Not too keen on the spider though 😬

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Barb says:

    Love your pictures and your story, wondering about the tarantula, are they bald in in one area or just white in that area? Congratulations on becoming a Texas Master Naturalist.

    Liked by 2 people

    • There are a lot of different kinds of tarantulas, so I don’t know the answer to your question.
      I do know that they molt and shed their skins, similar to snakes.
      So, who knows, maybe the tarantula came to my back door looking for a safe place to molt.


  6. What a lovely piece! And the photographs are beautiful! I didn’t even know they had Master Naturalist Classes. We have so many interesting bugs here in North Carolina, and being a blueberry farmer, I see so many of them as I work in my bb bushes. My favorites are also the praying mantis. I had one last year command the hummingbird feeder and the poor hummers couldn’t eat while it was stationed there. The natural world is so wondrous. Thank you for sharing this!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Wow Mary, rather you have those little eyes of Texas lol on your back door than I.. I have no fear of spiders and come across many while gardening some huge ones too, but not that large..
    Wonderful photos and well spotted some of those interesting little creatures..
    and loved your narration 🙂
    Keep watchful! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. montucky says:

    Good for you for completing the Master Naturalist program! That’s a great accomplishment!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Amy says:

    Some amazing captures. Love these close-up images.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Mags says:

    I love all these photos. There are all kinds of things in nature that some never see. You have captured some of them very well Mary. I really enjoyed this post. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

  11. camparigirl says:

    When I moved to the canyon, I didn’t realize I would have to contend with rattlesnakes, tarantulas, coyotes and mountain lions! I have come to love them all!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Love all the pictures except the tarantula. Yikes!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The frog is gorgeous. That spider … well as beautiful as he is I wouldn’t like to meet him thanks 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was walking barefoot in and out of the backdoor, and I didn’t notice the spider sitting right there. If I would have met the spider by accidentally stepping on it, that would have scared me half to death. Luckily, I saw it before that happened!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. krcc says:

    yowzers, those insects are huge! 😨


  15. AmandaVNiekerk says:

    Lovely pics. The praying mantis is beautiful. Like a work of art!


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