Sunday, June 1, 2014

A hot morning at Marion-Sansom

Chafer beetle burrowing into a basket flower
(sorry about pic & vid quality- all taken by iPhone in this post)

I've decided Marion-Sansom is my favorite local park. It's not for everyone- when I visited this Sunday morning there was plenty of (relatively benign) illegal activity. Marijuana smoke crept around the trees, and a group of drunk fishermen took pot shots at a water snake with an airgun. However, there were also packs of mountain bikers, two women trail running, and a large family out for a Sunday hike. Mom was trying to get the kids jazzed about all the butterflies.

Lovely shelf-falls below the dam

Marion-Sansom is a little more wild and wooly than its across-the-reservoir neighbor, the Fort Worth Nature Preserve (another park I adore), but it has a similar cross-section of the "Grand Prairie/Cross Timbers" flora.  Fort Worth Nature Preserve also has bison, prairie dogs, and well-marked and maintained trails.  Marion-Sansom has 11 miles of single track solely maintained by a mountain biking club.  I was actually greeted by a member of the club.  He said people kept vandalizing the trail map posted in the parking area, so instead he gave me directions to the major waterfall below the dam. There's something about people who are intensely into their hobby- they tend to be eager to share their work. Outdoor enthusiasts of all colors have a special corner of my heart. Another note: Marion-Sansom is free to the public, while Fort Worth Nature Preserve finances its amenities with a $5 admission fee.

My terrifying hound, smiling.
So why do I like Marion-Sansom? Well, for one, the drunk fishermen had terrible aim and were afraid of my dog. More importantly, it is a genetic reserve of local plant diversity in my backyard.

I have never seen so many basket flowers!  The limestone bluffs above Lake Worth (a product of the dammed-up West Trinity River) were covered in them, and also diamond flowers and yucca. The rocky slopes were also spotted with horsemint and the tail-end of the blanket flower blooms. There were more flowers than grass.  I also saw my first wild-growing prairie clover since moving to Texas. I found it amongst another decorative native- Texas grama (Bouteloua rigidiseta).
Purple prairie clover and Texas grama

This park seems like it should be a bee paradise, and there was plenty of invertebrate life buzzing around. Dragonflies, butterflies, chafer beetles, honeybees, and bumblebee mimic flies and moths were happily flittering through the open hillside. Despite the evidence of bumblebee-mimics, there were still no bumblebees. Even the purple prairie clover, which should be a bee-magnet, was bare of native bees. Where are they hiding?

The only natives I saw were frantic male carpenter bees patrolling their turf for females. If you've got a mean streak, you can get their desperate little hopes up by throwing bee-sized objects in their direction. They'll chase down your pebble, ascertain its gender, and then return to their perch (presumably disappointed). So, other than a few girl-crazy carpenter bees, I didn't see much in the way of native bee fauna. Too bad. I'll keep looking, and I'll certainly return.

More images of the invertebrate life in Marion-Sansom after the jump.

They do kind of look like woven baskets...

Unknown assassin (?) bug?

Bumblebee-mimic fly. Close, but not quite. 
Grainy photo of our old friend, the bee assassin

No comments:

Post a Comment