Submitted by Mary Merrell:
WARNING – SNAKES AHEAD!
3 weeks ago, my husband killed a 5′ rattle snake with 14 rattles in our yard on CR 466. Fortunately, none of my dogs were bit. On Saturday, 4/25, a rattle snake bit my dog Zara around 5 p.m. (same time frame as other siting, so not sure if this is a common time for them to come out – does anyone know if this is common?). We rushed Zara to Heart of Texas Vet Emergency Clinic in Round Rock. She was given a dose of Anti-venin, an IV drip, pain medication etc. 24 hours later she was able to come home, and she is doing well. The vet said they are seeing an abnormal number of snake bites not only in the country but in subdivision yards. The rattle snake bite is very painful for you or your pet, and the treatment is very expensive. Please be careful when in your yard or walking through grass fields. We have lived on CR 466 since 1996, and since that time only saw 2 rattle snakes until 6 months ago when my husband was bit by one on our 2nd story deck, then the snake from 3 weeks ago, and now the one from Saturday.
No, it’s not Chinese New Year. I have been hearing that there are a lot of rattlesnakes in the area this year. The following was submitted by Todd Hammond:
There have been quite a few [rattlesnakes] this year. I have killed six at my place out on FM 1466. The largest was five feet long, which I killed in April 2015. I have attached its photo. It had 12-13 rattles. I have also killed three of them between 3-4 feet long. My barn cats have killed three babies 12-18 inches long.
We’ve been out here for almost eight years now. In the first 6 years, we saw only one rattlesnake. But now in the last six months, there have been a half dozen of them.
Here in Coupland, the eastern sky is pretty dark. No major towns are close. It makes for some great skywatching!
From Sky & Telescope:
A challenge observation: as dawn brightens on Wednesday morning the 22nd, binoculars or a telescope may already show Mercury below the thin crescent Moon very low in the east, as shown here. Look about a half hour before sunrise. Mercury is not only low but faint: a tiny crescent only magnitude 2.1. If you succeed, this may be the thinnest you ever see Mercury as a crescent: about 10% sunlit.
This afternoon, the dog was barking at something behind our house. I investigated. From a distance, it looked like an eagle on the hay rolls. Then I saw two more. I later realized that they were fighting over some carrion in our back pasture. I got out the binoculars and I thought it was an eagle but not one I had ever seen before.
Turns out it was a Crested Caracara, which is actually a falcon but is sometimes referred to as a Mexican eagle.
I was able to get the picture below (while wishing I had a decent camera with a telephoto lens). After that, I walked over to see what it was eating, fearing they might have swooped down on our cat. It turned out to be a cat but not ours. It was a stray that was mauled by a local dog (that’s another story). I had buried it to keep a promise to a neighbor. I thought I had buried it deep enough to be safe from scavengers but obviously not. I don’t think it rose from the grave by itself but there was nothing but a hole where it had been. I’m curious as to what creature dug it up but I don’t think it was the eagle.
Up close, they don’t have quite the majestic look of the bald eagle or the golden eagle. I was able to get very close before it flew away. It looked exactly like the birds in this story: Caracara, Mexican Eagles in Texas
I encourage readers to share stories and pictures of interesting birds and other animals they spot in the Coupland area!
As we go about our daily routines, it’s always good to take a moment to marvel at the wonders of nature. I hope you saw this beauty late on Wednesday afternoon but just in case you didn’t, this image is of an isolated cumulonimbus cloud that developed to the southeast of Coupland.
Since there is so much more rainfall to the east of this area, we are occasionally treated to some amazing light shows from distant thunderstorms, especially this time of year. About two weeks ago, we we saw a wonderful dance of lightning in and around the clouds of a storm near Houston. I would estimate that it was at least 50,000 feet high. Thunderstorms in the tropics have been measured as high at 75,000 feet. That’s over 14 miles straight up.
Airliners fly around 30,000 – 40,000 feet, depending upon various factors, so there’s no going over even moderately-sized storms. For all our accomplishments, we are puny indeed when we come face to face with things like thunderstorms, which Mother Nature builds up and knocks down with regularity . . . like a pre-schooler with a pile of stacking blocks.
Of course, pictures can’t possibly live up to the splendor of the real thing so don’t forget to look up whenever you go outside because if you don’t, you’re missing out on some amazing sights.
This is from Tony Flanders at SkyandTelescope.com: “A remarkable series of events takes place low in the west-northwest shortly after sunset from late May to late June. It features the tightest three-planet grouping visible without binoculars until 2026 and an excellent apparition of Mercury.”
What does that have to do with Coupland you say? Well, it just so happens that Coupland is a great place to stargaze . . . or in this case, planetgaze, which, by the way, is my primary moniker on the Internet: planetgazer. Watching the planets is a wonderful pastime because you can do it without any special equipment and it’s a lot of fun to point them out to people. Most people pay little to no attention to the constantly changing skies, especially the night sky. I have made it a point my whole life to share my passion for sky watching with my family, my friends, and anyone else who will listen.
A great place to watch this particular night sky show is in front of the aptly-named Hilltop Storage on Powell Street. The skies may not be clear, or they could be hazy, and the lights from Austin, Pflugerville, and Round Rock don’t help. You might be interested to hear about the work of the International Dark Sky Association. Excessive light pollution can be avoided and even reversed!
Regardless, the skies are fairly dark above Coupland, especially toward the east. Perhaps there are a few folks in Coupland who have nice telescopes and wouldn’t mind sharing them a few times a year for some star parties. The Universe is truly an awesome place and Coupland is a great place to experience it!
Click here for the whole story. As Mr. Spock would say, “Fascinating.”
Stewart Dale Spencer