GOLD Barbara Lamar NAME: Barbara Lamar
LOCATION: Lockhart & McMahan, Caldwell County, Texas, USA
AWARD DATE: March 18, 2007

Barbara's introduction to her list and her area:

In classifying the following creatures, I used my memory, not a field guide, so the creatures are grouped according to how they’re stored in my memory, mainly by location in which I’ve observed them. If I didn’t already know a scientific name, I looked it up on the Internet. Some of the scientific names may not be correct. Some critters, such as the javelina, seem to be called by two different names. I’m close to 100% sure that the collared pecari and the javelina are one and the same animal.

Lockhart is a small city with around 11,000 residents. Rain that falls in Lockhart flows into Plum Creek, which flows into the San Marcos River just south of Luling, Texas. Plum Creek's water shows elevated nutrient levels and bacteria concentrations. I would guess that it must also carry high levels of pesticide residues during the spring and fall, from agricultural spraying. Milo, cotton, and cattle are the main commercial crops grown in Caldwell County.

My land near McMahan is on the Carrizo Sandstone Ridge, locally known as the sand hills. The ridge, which is said to have been a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico during the Eocene epoch, is now 150 to 200 miles inland and runs approximately parallel to the present-day coast line. The soil in the sand hills is coarse sand over red clay, with a pH somewhere between 5.5 and 6. There are very few nutrients in the soil, but a dense growth of post oak, blackjack oak, hickory, farkleberry, American beauty berry, and yaupon holly has boot-strapped itself into existence. Several years back, an oil company mistakenly clear cut a swatch through my land (they got confused about where they were). It's been interesting to watch the order in which the plants have come back, beginning with small legume pioneer plants such as sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica), then larger legumes such as Illinois Bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis) then hard-scrabble plants such as yaupon holly that can send out runners to explore while keeping the main root system intact.

A couple of miles downhill, you find the heavy alkaline clay of the blackland prairie, and the flora is dramatically different from up in the hills. The shift from one "bioregion" to the other begins around halfway down the hill, where you begin to see sandy loam instead of pure sand, and the pH goes from acidic to neutral. The first big difference is the mesquite trees, which will grow to around halfway up the hill but no farther. Pecan trees and live oak grow in the low lands. The grasses in the sand hills are mainly little bluestem and sand love grass (Eragrostis trichodes). In the lowlands there is now mostly introduced bermuda grass and Johnson grass. These won't grow in the sand hills without loads of fertilizer. The difference in fauna is not so radical, although there are some birds and lizards who seem to keep to one region or the other. The javelinas and feral pigs stay in the hills, but I think this is for safety rather than food preference. The dense growth of yaupon holly provides plenty of hiding places, and since the sand hills were considered trash land, they've never been "settled" by humans. Edible plants/seeds in the sand hills include American beauty berry (birds, javelinas and pigs like them -- not good human food), dew berry, oak, hickory, paw paw, and farkle berry. The paw paw in the sand hills is a closely related, but different, species from the one generally used for human food. It's what you might call a dwarf species, reaching only around 6 feet high at maturity, and ripens a bit earlier than standard paw paw cultivars. For a long time, I've wanted to experiment with crossing the sand hill paw paw with "regular" paw paw varieties (sorry, I don't have my book at hand to look up the botanical names), but I've never found time to do that.



The following mammals live in the city:

1.Homo sapiens (humans)
2.Canis familiarus (domestic dogs)
3.Felis domesticus (domestic cat)
4.Didelphis virginiana (opossum)
5.Mephitis mephitis (striped skunk)
6.Procyon lotor (common raccoon)
7. Dasypus novemcinctus (armadillo) - one will ocassionally stray into town but the poor things usually end up being run over by cars. Armadillos, who live in holes in the ground when they're babies, were driven almost to extinction in our area by introduced fire ants. A few of the armadillos were able to overcome this problem -- I never have figured out for sure whether they adopted new nest-building techniques or whether the genetic potential was there for some to be resistant to ant venom. It's now common to see armadillos grubbing around in fire ant mounds, chowing down on the ant larvae, so my guess is that there were a few who were resistant to ant venom, and their descendants have now replaced the original armadillo population.
8. Ratus norveticus (Norwegian rat)
9. Mus musculus (house mouse)
10. Sciurus Carolinensis (gray squirrel)
11. Tadarida brasiliensis (Mexican free tailed bat)

The following mammals mainly keep to rural areas:

12. Capra hircus (goat)
13. Taxidea taxus (American badger)
14. Sus scrofa (domestic pig)
15. Odocoileus virginianus (white tailed deer)
16. Bos taurus (Texas Longhorn)
17 Canis latrans (coyote) [theys guys sometimes come into the city but mostly keep to rural areas]
18 Pecari tajacu aka Tayassu tajacu (javelina or collared pecari)
19 Felis concolor (puma or mountain lion)
20. vilagus floridanus (cottontail rabbit)
21. Lepus californicus (jack rabbit)
22. Mustela putorius (domestic ferret)
23. Vaccaria hispanica (cattle)
24. Eqquus caballus (horse)
25. Urocyon cineroeargenteus (gray fox)
26. Taxidea taxus (American badger)
27. Sus scrofa (domestic pig)
28. Odocoileus virginianus (white tailed deer)
29. Ovis aries (sheep)
30. Chaetodipus hispidus (Hispid pocket mouse)
31. Peromyscus attwateri (Texas mouse)
32. Baiomys taylori (pigmy mouse)
33. Rattus rattus (rat) [this one actually lives mainly in the city, but I didn’t want to renumber everything in order to put it above with the city dwellers]
34. Myocastor coypus (nutria)
35. Bassariscus astutus (ringtail raccoon)
36. Sus scrofa (feral pig) - I've gotten into arguments about this, because no one believe it, but I promise I've seen feral pigs traveling with packs of javelinas.
37. Bison bison (bison) - these guys live only as captives these days, not in the wild
38. Scalopus aquaticus (Eastern mole)
39. Cavia porcellus (guinea pig) [lives in city as pet]


40. Passerina ciris (painted bunting)
41. Meleagris gallopavo (wild and domestic turkey)
42. Gallus domesticus (domestic chicken)
43. Columbia livia (pigeon)
44. Guinea Numida meleagris. (guinea fowl)
45. Anas platyrhyncha (duck)
46. Bubulcus ibis (cattle egret)
47. Ardea herodias (great blue heron)
48. Cathartes aura (turkey vulture)
49. Dendrocygna autumnalis (black bellied whistling duck)
50. Cairina moschata (muskovy duck)
51. Aix sponsa (wood duck) - I think that's what these are called. They lay their eggs in trees. When the ducklings hatch, the parents kick them out of the nest. They're such tiny, light-weight little things, they just sort of float down like dandelion fluff. Once all the babies are on the ground, the parents lead them to water.
52. Anas platyrhynchos (mallard duck)
53. Caracara plancus (crested caracara) aka Mexican eagle. One of my favorite birds.
54. Zenaida macroura (mourning dove)
55. Columbina passerine (common ground dove)
56. Geococcyx californianus (great road runner) - these guys live in the sand hills. I can't remember ever seeing one in the low lands.
57. Bubo virginianus (great horned owl)
58. Caprimulgus carolinensis (chuck wills widow)
59. Caprimulgus vociferous (whip poor will)
60. Chaetura pelagica (chimney swift)
61. Archilochus colubris (ruby throated hummingbird)
62. Melanerpes erythrocephalus (redheaded woodpecker)
63. Cyanocitta cristata (bluejay)
64. Progne subis (purple martin)
65. Troglodytes aedon (house wren)
66. Mimus polyglottos (northern mockingbird) They live in the lowlands. I've never seen one up the hill.
67. Cardinalis cardinalis (northern cardinal)
68. Sturnella magna (eastern meadowlark) [this bird is not common here, but I HAVE heard it here a couple of times – I included it here, because it was my favorite bird when I was a child]
69. Quiscalus quiscula (common grackle)
70. Passer domesticus (house sparrow)
71. Aratinga holochlora (green parakeet)
72. Branta Canadensis (Canada goose)
73. Buteo magnirostris (roadside hawk)
74. Tyto alba (barn owl)
75. Chordeiles minor (common night hawk)
76. Corvus corax (common raven)


77. Cyrtodactylus scaber (bent toe gecko) These are delightful little creatures who are able to adhere to vertical surfaces by van der Waals interactions between their foot pads and the surface.
78. Urosaurus ornatus (tree lizard)
79. Phrynosoma cornutum (Texas horned lizard) I haven't seen one of these in a long time. They used to be quite common around here.
80. Anolis carolinensis seminolus (southern green anole, aka American chameleon)
81. Elaphe emoryi (great plains rat snake)
82. Heterodon platirhinos (eastern hognose snake)
83. Pituophis catenifer (gopher snake)
84. Micrurus tener (Texas coral snake)
85. Crotalus atrox (western diamondback rattle snake)
86. Agkistrodon contortrix (copperhead snake)
87. Agkistrodon piscivorus (cottonmouth water moccasin)
88. Crotalus viridis (prairie rattlesnake)


89. Bufo speciosus (Texas toad)
90. Bufo valliceps (Gulf Coast toad)
91. Syrrhophus cystignathoides campi (Rio Grande chirping frog)
92. Gastrophryne olivacea (great plains narrow mouth toad)
93. Rana catesbeiana (bull frog)
94. Rana sphenocephala (southern leopard frog)



95. Carya illinoensis (pecan tree)
96. Quercus stellata (post oak)
97. Quercus marilandica (blackjack oak)
98. Vaccinium arboretum (farkleberry)
99. Ilex vomitoria (yaupon holly)
100. Callicarpa americana (American beauty berry)



Aside from humans, in which I’m intensely interested, I can’t pick 5 most interesting organisms, because I find them all equally interesting. However, I can pick several of my favorite fellow creatures. I’m very fond of caracaras, beause they’re beatiful when they soar, and they perform the useful function of cleaning up carrion. I love roadrunners, because they’re so curious and funny the way they run and make sounds like a puppy crying. Although I have often felt rage toward javelinas (when they tear up my corn patch, for example, or cut open one of my dogs with their tusks), I find them quite interesting to watch. I haven’t seen any lately, since I moved into the city, but when I lived in the woods they’d often come nosing around; they showed no fear of me at all and would think nothing of coming right into my cabin (I had to put up a fence to keep them out). Opussums are entertaining, curious little animals, who are easy to tame.

I got to 100 before I even reached arthropods and I have to stop, because I have to go to work, but I have to mention some of the arthropods here, because they’re among my favorite critters: garden spiders (Argiope aurantia) because they’re so graceful. I call them Lady Spiders, because they remind me of a Spanish lady in a yellow gown with black gloves. Although I hate being stung by scorpions (the kind I see around here are Centruroides vittatus) , I enjoy watching them. I’ve seen females hanging out with loads of babies riding on their backs. I’ve felt a special fondness for coyotes ever since I freed one from a fence. It was a barbed wire fence with hog wire fastened along the bottom and the coyote had caught one of her hing paws in between the hogwire and a strand of barbed wire. When I first approached her, she was terrified and struggled, trying to free herself. I spoke softly to her and told her I was going to help her. I swear, she understood what I was saying (not the words, but the intent), and she remained completely still while I freed her paw, even tho it must have been painful. After her paw was freed, she shot off toward the trees; but she stopped about 40 feet away from me and looked back. I got the impression she was thanking me or (I know this seems far fetched, but …) inviting me to go with her. I like Sphinx moths for the intriguing pattern on their wings and all butterflies and bees for the joy they give me in the garden, both from their beauty and from pollinating the flowers of fruit trees and other plants. Domestic dogs I like for their companionship and protection. Domestic cats for their beauty and affection. Domestic chickens for their eggs and meat and for the hours of entertainment I’ve had from watching them as they go about their business. Soil organisms are also favorites of mine (earth worms, bacteria, etc.) since they keep the soil fertile and alive. While I can’t say I’m fond of copperhead snakes, I do feel a sort of gratitude toward them, for never having been bitten, despite the numerous times I’ve almost stepped on one of them.


I didn’t think I’d have any trouble at all listing 100 organisms, but I figured they’d mostly be plants. I’m a gardener, so I know hundreds of plants. What surprised me was the number of non-plant organisms with whom I interact. There’s a story to go with every species on the list , and I keep remembering more that I didn’t put on the list, such as leaf-cutting ants (Atta texana), who are some of the most fascinating creatures I’ve ever encountered. My close study of them was motivated by a desire to destroy them, or at least to persuade them to leave my garden; but even tho I was motivated by … well, to be blunt, hate … I grew to respect them and even feel a certain fondness toward them, long as they’re not in my garden. This organism (I think one must consider the whole colony as one organism) could defoliate an entire pear tree overnight, and there seemed to be no end to their drive to expand their territory. I’ve seen cities of them (sad to say, on my land) with 20 mounds, interconnected with tunnels. Under each mound was a network of tunnels extending 6 feet or more downward. There are several different specialized versions (all, far as I know, the same species, tho they look quite different from one another) – there were Scouts, who’d roam around looking for good pickings; ones I called Managers (scholarly articles refer to these as soldier ants, but I find the structure of these ant colonies to be far more similar to that of a business corporation than to a military unit), whose role seemed to be to keep the common workers in line; workers who climbed into trees and shrubs and separated the leaves from the branches; workers who cut the fallen leaves into pieces and carried the pieces back to headquarters; workers who lay out the bits of leaves along the underground tunnels and innoculated them with fungus and tended the fungus as it grew (these same ones may have also harvested the fungus and carried it to other workers and to the queen); and a queen. I never saw a queen, but I’ve seen photos of one. The queen is huge, up to an inch long, and fat.