Lessons From The Coastal Prairie

Insects are everywhere in natural prairies.

It takes another buddy to make sure no ticks get a free ride home on clothing, and permethrin spray (on your clothes, not your body) is a great repellent for them. On the flip side, disappearing habitats mean that insects are beginning to have a hard time. As the insects go, so do we.

Hundreds of tiny peeps netted in here!
Prairie 201 Course — Lawther Prairie

One live tick in the ‘tick jar,’
plucked off by a classmate.
(Not from my permethrin-coated clothes!)

The best prairie walks are early in the morning or right at dusk.

Become a crepuscular being, and you’ll see crepuscular beings! Plus, the beautiful sunrises and sunsets are just good for the soul.

Morning Sun Peek
Brazos Bend State Park

Everything bites, some gotta eat (blood).

When outdoors on the Texas Coastal Prairies, always be prepared for the bite-y guys, and for mosquitoes, DEET is the only thing that works. Snakes — who want nothing to do with us, but are what everyone seems to be fearful of — are not what we necessarily stress about. Every living thing is an important part of a healthy ecosystem. Yes, even mosquitoes.

Mosquito Warning Sign

This sign is not kidding.
Quintana Beach

Loss of apex predators can really disrupt an ecosystem.

Cougar used to roam the prairies, keeping deer and rabbit populations from exploding, but ranchers made sure these beautiful, solitary creatures couldn’t eek a living anywhere near Houston (where the people and cows are). Today, it’s the bobcat and coyote that are threatened, and so urban deer and squirrels and raccoon have become the new ‘wildlife.’

Stuffed (thankfully) big cat, with my head for comparison.
Long Point Ranch

There are no trees native to the Texas Coastal Prairie.

A century and a half ago, Texas boasted nine million acres of native coastal prairie grasses; less than 1% of that remains today. Still, stands of trees squatting what used to be open spaces are now coming down — not to restore the native prairie, but to fund an exploding human development. We may never learn.

Water oak ‘marked’ as a loser to more houses.
Sienna Plantation Development

Our perception is what needs adjusting.

Unkempt native (to the Texas Coastal Prairie) wildflowers and grasses are not only beautiful for the landscape, they mitigate flooding, retain soil moisture during drought, diversify insects and pollinators, and give other wildlife much needed habitat. HOA’s need to arrive at a more sustainable way of planning future neighborhoods. It starts with changing how we view ourselves: within nature, not absent from it.

Pocket Prairie Inspiration

Pocket Prairie Inspiration
Sabine Woods Park

First Fawn of 2019

Hidden Among The ‘Weeds’
White-tailed Deer Fawn
(This one didn’t make it through the summer.)

Pearl Crescent, Gulf Frittilary

Gulf Fritillary and Pearl Crescent
Getting a Drink

A pocket computer can be really handy sometimes!

Not just for email and checking in with the kids anymore, iNaturalist has become my way to learn about all the local flora and fauna… and there is a lot of it here! Just use the smartphone (photos, ID, geo-tagging) paired with a community of experts who can weigh in on what you saw. It never felt so good to be wrong sometimes … and with botany and insects, I can be wrong a lot.

NEW! Texas Master Naturalist — Coastal Prairie Chapter
Forever … Student of the Prairie!

Being over blogging is how I move forward.

As a student of nature, just being outside is the best way to increase skill and knowledge, which I will be doing for it seems a very, very long time. Sure, the volunteering part is done, as is the advanced training requirement, but spreading the word with students, and adults and generally just being passionate about the coastal prairie is where my time is best served.

That means regular weekly blogging (for the meantime) will be taking the back-burner once again. Perhaps one day, I will learn how to better juggle WordPress and prairie time, but until then, I choose the prairie.

If you’re in the Houston area, come find me at
Seabourne Nature Fest tomorrow, Nov 2.
It’s our signature project!

14 thoughts on “Lessons From The Coastal Prairie

  1. Enjoyed this tremendously, Shannon — especially that affirmation that the Permethrin I regularly dose my clothing with is doing some good re: the ticks.

    I thought about you yesterday, out at the San Bernard refuge. It was wild kingdom out there, for sure: I saw a very young alligator walking down the middle of the road, several deer, a mama feral hog and her baby, and the biggest darn snake I ever have seen, snoozing on a log alongside the Bobcat Trail boardwalk. That thing was 4′-5′ long, grayish, and had a circumference to match my wrist measurement. But just as you say — the only critters that gave me any grief were the mosquitoes.

    You’re exactly right: the more time we spend outdoors, the more we’ll see, and the more we see, the more we’ll learn. One of these days we’ll hook up to share some seeing.

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    1. Ooo, I’m really late to this comment. Forgive me, Linda. There’s a water snake that matches your description: the diamondback. I saw my first one recently and boy, was he big! And beautiful.

      We are fortunate here along the UTGC for the generally mild weather and number of sunny days for outings. Now that the heat of summer has passed (and bite-y mosquitoes waned), I can be outside for hours daily. Which is why I missed your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think my blog juggle is simply because I use my phone to take the pictures, and don’t get too hung up on adding too many words.
    And no, ” We” will never learn. If our species through a mass extinction, I hope the generations there after will remember the lessons indefinitely so as to not repeat them.

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    1. You’re right: photos and fewer words are a great strategy. As for what we’re doing to the only home we’ve ever known, our history serves as a warning. We need to take off our blinders, wean ourselves from the social media chaos, and start thinking more critically as face-to-face members of our (local) communities.

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      1. It’s interesting, isn’t it? The global crisis is so overwhelming and yet so simple if it is broken down into one community at a time.
        I was thinking of this with the highway signs trying to encourage safe driving by shooting for no fatalities in Texas in a single day. How much more impactful would those signs be in driving behavior change if it was more localized?
        “Zero traffic fatalities in Kingwood in 17 days. Don’t ruin the streak! Drive safely.”

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      2. Oh my gosh, YES. Global has been good in many ways, but we are evolved to be be more effective at the local level, where we can interact face-to-face with our community members, and so our chosen representatives can better represent US — because they KNOW each of us.

        Can you imagine? A neighborhood where people actually know each other? That no longer exists where I live. :/

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      3. Awww, that’s hard. We are learning our neighbors and love this neighborhood for that reason. Sadly, we won’t stay forever but will take our lessons here to our next locale.

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    1. Oh no. But If I were president, I would begin with changing GDP as our economic prosperity indicator to something else entirely. Buying, building, over-using, does not serve the community well in the long term. Of course, there’s no profit to be made in taking better care of things, putting the skids on — to plan ahead to future generations.

      Yes, ticks have their place. They spread blood-borne disease (viruses, bacteria) which act as a population check on other species. We are also part of nature’s food chain, though we like to think we are removed from it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is WHY you should be Pres, Shannon. Our GDP-based economy got it all wrong, so we need to re-orient human societies, and quit putting ourselves in the center of the universe, as that approach has obviously brought us to the brink!
        Thanks for the reminder of why ticks exist (though that does not endear them any more).

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