Wet Weather Spring, Robber Fly, and Nest Box Blues

Tammy Brown

Wet-weather Spring


Wet-weather spring at Little Piney, Bastrop TX
Wet-weather spring
Wet-weather spring at Little Piney, Lost Pines, Bastrop TX
Spring source above water


Dragonfly Pond was a gift of the Memorial Day weekend rains in Central Texas.  This lovely pond is usually more of a shallow bog, maybe a foot deep at the deepest point.  Water seeps out of its sandy bottom with the usual light rains we have.

When we first saw a reddish sandy circle at the edge of the pond it was a mystery.  Was it a flooded gopher mound, a fish nest, something buried and covered in sand?  The consensus was fish nest, except for a lone dissenter, Ken, who thought about the mound for a couple of weeks and then suggested it was a wet-weather spring.  A spring would explain the filling of the pond with clear, clean water, and the fact that it is only about a foot shallower than it was 24 days ago.

We had a few friends out to Little Piney this weekend for dinner (rescheduled from Memorial Day), and one of them was Dr. Bob B., geologist and professor, who supported the spring hypothesis.  He couldn’t be certain, but he pointed out that a spring could explain the large mound of sand which would have been pushed up by the force of water.

I like the  idea of a spring in our pond at Little Piney.  If we decide someday to seal the bottom and make Dragonfly Pond a permanent rather than seasonal feature the spring would be a special asset.

Now, the pond draws deer, rabbits, and birds to its side to drink the clean water, and it draws me.  The still, emerald surface reflecting sky and trees is immediately calming.  I wouldn’t want to risk changing the character of the pond by disturbing it, so odds are it will remain a wet weather wonder.


Robber Fly

Bumblebee lookalike--the Robber fly
Bumblebee lookalike–the Robber fly

This little guy caught my eye at the edge of the path.  He stopped long enough for me to snap two photos and buzzed away.  I thought there was something strange about his eyes but finally decided he was a bumblebee.  After posting on the Texas Bumblebees Facebook page, a knowledgeable bee enthusiast corrected me.  This bee imposter is called a robber fly. Wikipedia says:  “The Asilidae are the robber fly family, also called assassin flies. They are powerfully built, bristly flies with a short, stout proboscis enclosing the sharp, sucking hypopharynx.[1][2] The name “robber flies” reflects their notoriously aggressive predatory habits; they feed mainly or exclusively on other insects and as a rule they wait in ambush and catch their prey in flight.”

This is not a nice bug:  “The fly attacks its prey by stabbing it with its short, strong proboscis injecting the victim with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which very rapidly paralyze the victim and soon digest the insides; the fly then sucks the liquefied material through the proboscis.”


I thought it looked like  a fuzzy monkey but now I don’t think it’s so cute.  Notice the “mustache” and the large round eyes.  That’s how to tell a robber fly from a bumblebee.


Nest Box Blues

Blue birds and nest box at Little Piney, Bastrop TX
Blue bird couple house shopping
Newly hatched Eastern Bluebirds
Baby Eastern Bluebird

I have a hard time accepting the predatory part of the life cycle at Little Piney (unless it involves eating mosquitoes).  I’m sorry to say another kind of robber has been at work in two of our nest boxes.  I’ve just ordered 7 predator baffles (sort of swinging stove pipes that prevent raccoons and snakes from climbing up) to prevent future problems.  This involves removing the bird houses put in place by the previous owners, installing the baffles, and replacing the houses on the poles.  How many trips to Loew’s will this project take?  I’m guessing more than several!  We will probably move three houses that are close to bushes, trees, and water and therefore snakes and coons.  These little ones are so vulnerable.  I hope we can protect them better with these improvements.




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