Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Water and wildlife

Some of you might be aware that Memorial day here in Central Texas was a tad wet, to put it mildly.

In fact it was no joking matter when 8 inches of rain fell on Blanco Texas in a few hours and shortly thereafter, at the downriver town of Wimberly, the Blanco River crested at an estimated 43feet. That's estimated because just after the river hit 40' the flood gauge washed away. Flood stage is 13' and a few hours before it crested the river was running somewhere in the 6' range. Uninsured homes in the 500 year flood plain are a total loss. Homes closer to the river just don't exist anymore and as I write this, over two weeks later, several of the missing are still missing despite the efforts of hundreds of volunteers, several search organizations and a few government agencies.

We got 5.65" of rain that day here are our place. But because we are up high the only real flooding we had to contend with was at the several low-water crossings on the roads in and out of here, but we did have plenty of water flowing!

In fact our pond was running over the spillway for the first time since April of 2009 when we got 12" of rain in one day and 16" for the month. (That year also marked the beginning of a drought that had our pond dried completely up for much of 2011 and into 2012.

Here I am, with my knee-high snake boots on, standing in about 12" of water in the spillway. In April 2009 I was able to easily stand here in my hiking boots which only give me about 6" of protection.

This is taken at the head end of the pond looking upstream and is usually a dry ravine. (We're on one of the highest areas in the county so usually don't get a lot of running water here, instead we're where the water starts from.)

Normally we have two ways to get to the other side of the pond, which basically divides the front and rear sections of our acreage. We can cross on the dam or come here to the head end of the pond and walk across, maybe having to step over a little trickle. Right now the water in front of me is about 8' deep.

This May we saw a total of 15.6" of rain (The long term average for the month is 4.82") and year to date we have had 35.49" (Our long-term annual average is 40.31.) As you might imagine, the ground is saturated and now most the rainfall stays up on top as it runs down towards our pond a hundred yards or so off to the right.

This Ozark Trails 10 man tent has been up the entire month and not a drop of that rain or runoff ended up inside where we had rugs on the floor, tables on the rugs and a bunch of stuff stacked everywhere as it was being sorted out for delivery to various places. Much of the rain was accompanied by thunderstorms that were not always docile, in fact Central Texas had more tornadoes this May than the past decade of Mays combined, yet if you're familiar with this tent you might notice that none of the 6 guy lines have been deployed, (The tent was sitting in the driveway so there just wasn't room to put out the guy lines and still drive around the tent.) yet this sub $200 tent we picked up at Walmart came through with zero damage.

So what is the point of this entry??  Well it all started when I was minding my own business and stumbled across this:

Mud daubers, especially these Black and Yellow Daubers (I guess when it came time to name these guys it was late in the day, everyone just wanted to go home, and imagination had run out back there  around lunch-time.) are common around here, but the wet spring has all creatures out in abundance, including the daubers.

This trio hung around under-foot like this for well over an hour. Sometimes a marauding dauber would fly down at full speed and crash into them, knocking the stack over on it's side, but they never let go and always righted themselves. I'm not an entomologist so I can only imagine that these three are up to something I've only ever been able to fantasize about.

Now daubers are persistent little buggers, (Get it? Buggers?!) and when it comes to location for their nests, seem to prefer my stuff over whatever nature has provided. There's usually a drawer here in my lathe cart, but when I went to open it that big nest up in the top left was blocking the way.

Repeated jerking of the drawer eventually knocked the bottom of that nest off and freed the drawer, although it was full of nest bits,

Including the paralyzed spiders the daubers leave behind for the little ones to feed on once they hatch.

For some reason, even though there are gaps when the 10'x12' barn doors are closed, the daubers don't like to use them. When I close the doors in the evening the daubers trapped inside stay inside and when I open them in the morning I'm reminded of that scene in Apocalypse Now where the helicopters are attacking the beach. Swarms of the daubers are hovering just outside and for a moment there is mayhem as the ones inside wanting out collide with the ones outside wanting in, and daubers are not shy creatures so several will bounce right off me in the process.

I leave them plenty of easily accessible spots to build their nests, but do you think that's good enough for them??  No way.

This drawer in my router station fits pretty tightly, but I have to share the holes in my bit organizers with the daubers anyway.

Sometimes their choice of nest location is baffling.

This little tool organizer is for my modeling tools and it sits out in the open on my workbench,

Yet the other day I went to grab one of the tiny files there in the middle of this photo, files I had used just the day before, and found them all bound together at the exposed ends with a dauber nest. (Didn't think to take a picture before I got rid of it.)

So anyway -  while that trio of daubers was cavorting around on the floor, I took my lath cart apart and cleaned the nests out of it. The debris filled about 3" of a five gallon bucket but I threw it out before remembering to take a photo. . . But here is the cart, all cleaned up and ready for the next squadron of daubers. Wait! I think I just saw one fly in there!!!

Anyway, where was I before I was so rudely interrupted??

Oh yeah, building a mobile craft and hobby station. . . More on that in the future.