Tuesday, December 28, 2010


There are approximately 20 birds, mostly sparrows, in this picture. I know they're there, because I saw them as I clicked the shutter button. They blend in pretty well.

Happy hunting!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Dear Squirrels and Raccoons,

I'm sorry. I accused you falsely. But you have to admit: the circumstantial evidence was plentiful.

Squirrel, do you remember the day I looked out the window and found you curled up inside the "squirrel-proof" bird feeder, merrily chewing away at the goodies within? And aren't you the critters that march like furry tanks across the seeds spread on the deck railing, leaving a trail of shattered and  empty shells in your wake?

And raccoons: really, can you blame me for being a little suspicious, when "search and destroy" seems to be your motto? Remember the suet feeder? You took it. Not the suet, oh no! You took the WHOLE FEEDER from its chain on the porch. We did find it, you know, months later, in the crawl space under the house.  Its little door was pried open, and the suet was long gone. I don't even want to think about the hummingbird feeder. It wasn't enough that you had to open it and drink it dry: you pulled off the little yellow flower-shaped wasp-guards, too. We never did track down the last two.

Because of this history we have, little mammals, you can understand why I thought of you when the peanut feeder went empty so fast. Less than 4 hours to completely run out of unshelled peanuts? There's NO WAY mere birds could do that.

Except... Shouldn't there have been empty shells on the ground under the feeder? You two tend to dine in, rather than resort to carry-out. And, now that I think of it, the emptying was done during the day, which doesn't sound like Mr. Raccoon.

Who, then? It was clearly time for clandestine surveillance.


I see that I underestimated the persistence and tenacity of our brash titmice. When a bird swoops in and removes a nut roughly every 60 seconds, the feeder goes empty quite fast, actually.

So, raccoons and squirrels, I offer my sincere apologies for accusing you unjustly.
Even though you had it coming.


Thursday, November 25, 2010


Afternoon car-rider duty at school is pretty simple: hang out with the kids at the back of the school while they get picked up and taken home. There's rarely any drama beyond the occasional phone call by a "forgotten" child. "I was supposed to pick you up? I thought your dad was going to pick you up! I'll be right there!"

Therefore, it was quite surprising when we heard the screams, and saw the group of kids leap from the ground and scurry about ten feet away from where they'd been sitting in the grass.  "Problem?"  a teacher asked.


And indeed there was. A snake had slithered over, probably hoping to help with homework, but had been soundly rebuffed. He was beautiful, and very calm, although none of these qualities seemed to endear him to the kids. "Are you gonna kill it?"  "Um, no, but I think I'll take it home so no one else decides to do just that."

The agreeable snake stayed in one spot while I dashed into the building and got a big cardboard box from the storage room. Then we tackled the problem of how to get him into the box.  "We could pick him up..." No one was volunteering.  Almost as a joke, I asked "What if we just put the box on the ground and nudged him. Think he'd just crawl in?"  I got a solid round of "Yeah, right" looks, but when I put the box down and nudged the snake with my foot, he slithered right inside.   All of the yeah-righters were wide-eyed with awe. I was pretty amazed: how often does wildlife do what you want?

No fighting, no hissing. What a good snake!

The box was rather shorter than its meter-long occupant.

Shy snake doesn't want to come out after relocation.

The snake came home with me, and was released into the backyard on the edge of the woods. He was reluctant to leave the box but he did finally slide out into the grass, then into the leafy floor of the woods, where he vanished.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Anybirdy Out There?

It's relatively quiet in the Not-So-Big Woods. The hummingbirds have moved south. We spotted the last one, frantically drinking from the feeder, on October 2. Our year-round residents, the tufted titmice, chickadees, and cardinals, are taking much less food from us than usual. I guess they're filling up on the autumn buffet available in the woods, because their visits to our cafe are of the "grab and go" variety, rather than a "stay a while and fill up" encounter.

The house finches are gone, taking their chirpy quarrels with them. I think we have two populations that visit. One stays with us during the warm season, raising their little ones here, then they disappear when the days get short. Another group must breed further north, and they arrive more-or-less synchronized with the annual goldfinch brigade.

Right now, it's like the calm few moments before a giant gust of wind brings a downpour. I know my winter friends are coming, and hungry.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Season's change

I think the deciding factor in whether someone is an "autumn person" or a "spring person" depends on how much they despise the previous season. Summer here is a horrifying succession of sultry nights and blazing white-hot days. I am an "autumn person." Awesome Husband hails from Chicago and Wisconsin.  Winter is tough in the great Northern Lands. Thus, he is a "spring person." Or he was, anyway. I think 10 Dallas summers may be bringing him around to my point of view.

Dallas autumn drifts in quietly, shy and unassuming. One morning you notice that the dawn air doesn't feel like a poorly wrung-out sponge. That first hit of fall air isn't exactly crisp, but at least it isn't soggy. Don't let that fool you: high temperatures will still dance in the 90s for a while, but at least there's a break when the sun goes down.

You can't really count on the foliage to cue you in to the presence of a new season. Traffic on the big highways can be pretty horrifying, but the slow-downs aren't caused by hordes of tourists with cameras, agape over the brilliant colors, because there aren't any. Most of our trees don't exactly burst into blazes of color. They generally turn a sickly yellowish, then brownish, then some of the leaves drift to the ground, while others hang around looking anemic until a big rain, when they plop soggily into squishy piles. We're at the "green fading to blotchy yellow" phase right now.

The spiders know. Silken bundles of spider eggs are showing up all over. This past summer was overflowing with Argiopes. They were everywhere: in the garden, suspended from the back steps, hanging from the awning of the goat shed, lounging in the fig tree, jostling for position all up and down the fence row. I named the goat-shed spiders Jennifer and Bailey. Jennifer vanished early on, but left behind a neatly sewn bag of eggs. Bailey saw that as a challenge, and managed to produce THREE egg sacs before I discovered her tattered, empty web one morning.

All of that egg-making and web-spinning takes its toll. Usually, I just find the webs as I found Jennifer's, and then Bailey's: torn apart, with the resident queen missing in action. I've always assumed that something wrenched them from their lair, and maybe that's often true. But I've seen firsthand this year that sometimes, they just die.

Argiope, dead and fallen to the ground below her web

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Delayed Gratification

I just wanted a picture of a garter snake. I had a beautiful snake present itself to me once, its yellow and orange stripes practically glowing on a glossy dark background. I even had a camera in my hand, but the neighbor's dog scared it away just before I got the shot.

Awesome Husband was so charmed by my "artist's rendition" at the end of that post, he re-created it in neon, and hung it in the garage for my birthday. Every time I drive in, the neon snake lights up to greet me.

Still, I mourned the lost photograph.

I got my chance a few days ago, while refilling the goats' water bowls. As I bent over one of them, I saw a tiny cricket frog that seemed to have one leg stuck beneath the bowl. "Poor thing," I thought, and lifted the bowl to let it hop away, but it didn't move. Something long and very thin was stuck to its leg, keeping it from moving.

My brain needed a moment to process what I was seeing. A very small snake was coiled under the water bowl. The snake, not the dish, was keeping the frog from hopping away. When I removed his hiding place, he slithered over against the shed wall, frantically trying to escape and swallow his meal simultaneously. I think the snake is a Western Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus proximus), a very slender member of the Garter Snake clan.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


It's been a while since I've been here. Two things kept me away for a bit.

#1 was the summer heat. August was a blast furnace, an oven turned up to "broil." It was a succession of days when the thermometer soared, and dragged the dew point along with it. Even darkness brought little relief: the ground had absorbed so much heat that it sent it back at you long after the sun went down. The thought of going outside, even for a few minutes, lost a lot of its luster. Today's high was only 92 F. I thought I might have to put on a sweater.

Reason #2 was that my mind was elsewhere. The family has grown a bit--we've added 28 new legs. Five Nigerian Dwarf goats and 2 livestock guardian dogs have joined us, and the learning curve has been steep.

This is Gus. He's almost four years old, and trained as a guardian dog. Part Great Pyrenees, part Anatolian Shepherd, he's enormous. He's got a ferocious deep bark, big slobbery jowls, and liquidy brown eyes. In spite of his guarding experience, he's remarkably easy-going, letting us probe around his footpads when he developed a limp.

Annie is Gus's companion dog. She's a mix of the same two breeds, but she shows her Anatolian side, while Gus looks much more like a Great Pyrenees. She's not quite a year old, so she's still a "puppy." Annie is the reason we learned to string electric wire along the top of the fences. She's an escape artist who can climb a gate in about 3 seconds. When we brought them home, she had to learn that the goats aren't chase toys. She still needs the occasional reminder.

Our two smallest goats are known as "The Twins," even though they aren't, actually. They are half-sisters, and you rarely find one without the other nearby. They're younger and smaller than the other goats, and currently lowest in status, but they're starting to give back what the others dish out. On the left is Lunazul. The other is Fairy Dust. They're our blue-eyed beauties. They were bottle-fed as kids, so they're the most people-friendly.

 Black-and-white Zenyatta goes by "Zen." The nickname implies a state of mind that she doesn't really possess. Her bleat is high-pitched and very different from the others. When the goats first arrived, she was the loudest and most insistent about her displeasure. She cried over and over, finally calming some when I forcibly hugged her. She was the first to request affection.

Pearl is a beautiful rich brown color. She loves to be brushed. Over and over and over. "More brushing, please. I think you may have missed a spot. Perhaps you should start over, just to be sure."
This is Nora, Queen of Standoff-ishness, and the largest and most dominant goat in the herd. She does not fear us, she simply doesn't seem to like us much. When we walk toward her, she meanders away, just out of reach. If I'm very quick, I can get to her with a brush, and she'll allow me to pet her while the brushing is happening. I can get in a few quick pats while she's eating grain, but that's all so far. I'm nothing if not persistent, though. She'll love me eventually.

So, now you know where I've been. Now that the weather has turned positively chilly, I'll be outside more. I'm already drafting the next entry, which has a backstory.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Some arachnids wander through the garden, searching for prey. These are not web-weavers, although they often depend on a silken dragline. They hunt and pounce with catlike precision, earning themselves the name of Lynx.

Green lynx spiders (Peucetia viridans) are common in this area, although not commonly seen. Their jewel-toned coloration is formidable camouflage, allowing them to hide in plain sight, patiently waiting...waiting...

This one perches on a rose leaf. Unlike most of the invertebrate world I try to photograph, she stayed still, posing in the patchy sunlight filtering through the walnut tree. Green lynxes tend to stay in the same area for a while. An hour later, I went back outside to find that she was still there, still watching.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Peripheral vision caught me again, calling my attention to the side, when I'd been intent on moving down the sidewalk. This time, a tiny movement inside a a ceramic bowl that was left outside during a rain slowed my steps. The bowl contained about half an inch of water, a large wolf spider, and a pile of squirm.

Interesting: I've never seen a pile of squirm before.

I tipped the bowl over onto a rock in the garden, thinking the spider might still be alive since the water wasn't especially deep. In fact, I wondered why she hadn't just crawled out--it wasn't like the depth was over her head. The spider didn't move. The pile of squirm separated itself into two smaller squirmy piles, and writhed around on the rock for a while, before crawling into a crack in the damp earth.

In the video, the spider is well-camouflaged and hard to see, but she's on the left side of the screen, about midway down.

At the time, I was completely mystified. How did two strange-looking worms happen to end up in the same bowl as an enormous arachnid? I wish I'd paid more attention to the spider, because now I know the connection between everybody in the bowl. The squirmy things are a couple of horsetail worms. These members of the roundworm family parasitize insects, spiders, and similar organisms. Apparently, having these little guys inside you makes you thirsty, so you hang around water a lot. When the worms are ready, they emerge, killing their host, and swim away in the pool of water nearby. There, they lay their eggs on vegetation in the water so the cycle can start all over.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


There are a lot of well-known architects and engineers in the animal world: beavers, paper wasps, termites,  and naked mole rats come to mind. Just within my garden, a variety of critters create shelter using plant leaves. Any stroll will reveal leaves folded or rolled and sealed with silk. I opened up a leafy taco-shell, causing a spider to rush out in arachnid rage, shouting the spidery equivalent of "Get off my lawn!"

This caught my eye on a recent dog-walk. I've never seen a shelter shaped like this one. I don't think I could create it with my ten fingers and big brain.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Return of Sleepy Wren

Last night's wren visit apparently wasn't a one-off. Five minutes ago, I glanced up when a juvenile cardinal popped inside the globe feeder to get a bite. A few seconds later, a Carolina wren landed on the deck railing, and stood there, not eating or scratching around. Instead, she stared up in the direction of the occupied feeder. Or maybe it's a he: I get so impatient with those darned non-sexually-dimorphic birds!

Cardinal kept eating. Wren kept staring. Could it be....

I made just enough of a movement to encourage the cardinal to fly out of the cage. Maybe 10 seconds passed, then the wren flew in, fluffed her feathers, and relaxed. She's there now, crouched on the tray at the bottom of the feeder, apparently quite satisfied with her new sleeping quarters.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sweet Dreams

We have a  bird-feeder with a globe-shaped wire enclosure around it, hanging just outside the living-room window. A Carolina wren has popped inside the wire cage, fluffed its feathers, and settled in for the night. I'm on the couch about 8 feet away, typing and watching TV.  I'm honored that she feels so safe, so close to me.

The Roach, The Raccoon, and The Blog Writer

Living out here in the Not-So-Big Woods, I'm used to bees and wasps buzzing around the inside of the windows, and spiders skating in the bathtub. Most of these critters get the upside-down juice-glass & subscription-card routine: scoop them up, and fling them outside.

But not the American cockroaches. These are demon insects, growing to lengths of 1.5 feet inches, and able to scuttle along at 3,000 miles per hour. I don't like them. They're one of the few insects that are immediately squashed when we find them inside. Awesome Husband squishes them with a paper towel; I prefer a fly swat--when I can find one. Right now I'm beating them to a pulp with a half-empty roll of giftwrap.

Last night, I was sitting in the living room. It was very dark outside. Although I could only see a few inches out the windows, I could easily see the Giant Roach crawling on the outside of the glass. It was looking for a way in so it could kill me. I'm sure of it. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a raccoon materialized, smashed the roach against the window, wrenched it off, and ate it. With the monster disposed of, the raccoon rescuer lumbered off. It was like stepping into a Disney cartoon.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

There's No Place Like Hohme

Awesome Husband and I escaped the Texas heat for a week, fleeing to Seattle and surrounding areas.  One of the places we visited was the Hoh Rainforest on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, where about 80 million shades of green assault you as you walk through. Conifers like spruce, hemlock, and fir rule the area, dripping with an array of mosses, while the ground is invisible beneath ferns and oxalis.

Imagine that you're a little spruce seed, getting ready to drop from your parent tree. It's exciting to be sailing toward the ground, knowing that all you need is a fertile patch of ground that gets a little sunlight and some water, and you'll be on your way!

You look down and get a bit of a jolt.

Living here in the rainforest as you do, getting a damp patch of ground won't be a problem. Getting a shot of sunlight, though, will take some clever planning. There's just not much clear ground here. In most forests, fires do the job of opening up the canopy and burning off the undergrowth so that new seedlings can get a start. Being a RAINforest, though, fires aren't common here. As many shivering hikers have discovered, wet wood doesn't like to burn. The thick canopy of the ancient trees only lets patchy light through, and the carpet of ferns block most of that from the soil. What's a young seed to do?

If you're a smart youngster, you aim for a rotting log. Fallen logs can help supply two scarce resources. Rich nutrients are locked up in the decomposing wood, as well as natural fertilizer in the form of decayed leaves and animal scat that accumulates in the cracks. Not only do the downed logs provide nutrition for hungry seedlings, they rest above the layer of oxalis and ferns that block the sun from a new wannabe-tree. (See the tiny little spruce tree there?)

As the new trees grow, they send down long roots that look like sinuous legs draped over the decaying log. Because of the sometimes enormous diameter of those logs (called "nurse logs") the roots may have to be several feet long before they begin to penetrate the actual ground. The scene ends up looking as though a tree-person is straddling the log, with long legs stretching for the dirt.

As time passes, the younger tree becomes firmly anchored around the nurse log, and it's often hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The nurse log continues to decay, a process that may take over a hundred years to complete. When it's gone, it leaves behind a hole in the twisting roots of the younger tree.

The final product is really dramatic when more than one sapling got its start on the same nurse log. When they're mature, you can see several enormous trees in a ridiculously straight line, all with the telltale hole in the buttressing root system. These groupings of trees are called "colonnades." The colonnade system is the primary way that forests in temperate rainforests renew themselves.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Saint Francis and the Dragon

Since a couple of my blogging buddies have been writing about anoles, I suppose it's time to come clean about my own past with the chameleon-like lizard.

In the summer of 2006, we'd just gotten a brand-new camera. It was shiny, with knobs and lenses and switches and menus. Despite knowing almost nothing about using it, I grabbed the camera and hauled it out to the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens. Some of my favorite photos ever came from that trip, but this is about a Very Special Set of images that prove just how spectacularly unobservant I can be.

It was July, and hot. A few hours into the field trip, I needed to sit down in the shade for a while, and I stumbled across a little patio. A big tree provided the shade, and a low stone wall worked well as a place to sit. A terra-cotta statue of St. Francis watched over the patio from the flower garden behind the wall. I was surprised to see a brown lizard perched on his shoulder. Sensing a Photographic Moment, I crept over and started snapping away. (I am a member of the "Take A Million Pictures, and One is Bound to Be Good" club)
I was amazed that the anole didn't run away when I moved in close. Certainly, it turned around to look at me, but didn't flee. I changed position a little, and took more pictures, anticipating how nice the two earth tones would look juxtaposed.

At the time, I was concerned about how well the camera could handle the light and shadow contrast with the automatic settings, which is why I kept clicking the shutter button over and over again.

I was in an awkward physical position. St. Francis was far enough back that I needed to lean in, but the wall around the garden was too low to rest my elbows on, and too high to put my knee on it. The concrete on the ground had a layer of slippery gritty dirt that kept me from getting a good grip with my feet. My mind was focused more on staying upright and not dropping the camera than on what was going on in front of me.

By now, you've probably noticed what I failed to see. I continued failing to see the obvious until I got home and loaded the pictures on my computer. It's a habit of mine that I often look at picture rolls from end to beginning, so this was the first one I checked out:

Wait.... No, I was taking pictures of a BROWN lizard. Remember, I wanted to see the two earth tones? I scrolled back to the beginning of the roll, and it was only then that I saw the anole changing colors right in front of me. I completely missed it while it was happening.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Now and then I venture out of the Not-So-Big-Woods. A few days ago, I visited "The Shops at Legacy." According to their website, it's an "urban lifestyle center." This means that it's a small planned shopping/eating neighborhood with a few apartment buildings. Very trendy, happily pretentious, but with a nice movie theatre showing independent films plonked down in the big middle of it. In spite of missing the exit from the Tollway (twice!) I got there too early for my movie, so I strolled around the shopping area.

Just outside the Taco Diner is this fountain. A trio of sparkly young women stood there, looking down into the moat at the base. As I passed by them, I heard snatches of their conversation. "...soaking wet...don't think he can get out...going to drown..."


I doubled back and joined them, glancing down into the fountain. A really miserable grackle was trapped in the narrow space, soaking wet, just holding his head above the water.  "Can you help him?"

I felt terribly sorry for the bird, but amused at the sparkly girls, too. Saving the bird meant that I had to reach down about 6 inches and scoop him out. Very difficult rescue operation, you know.

I lifted him, dripping and pitiful, and installed him under a nearby shrub. The sparkly girls were effusive with thanks and praise. "You're our hero!"

And yet....no one called the newspapers.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I spent the spring collecting hair for bird to line their nests with: my hair, my pets' hair, the unsuspecting neighbor dogs' hair. A whole generation of tiny birds were hatched into soft blankets of local hair. We're starting to see the results. Last week was the first appearance of a couple of young cardinals. They look a lot like the females, but they lack the snappy orange beaks and assertive manners of the adults. They have a more timid look, and aren't nearly as proficient with the sunflower seed buffet. I've seen this one spending quite a long time trying to break open a seed, only to finally figure out that it was an empty shell half to begin with. One of the young males is just starting to get his red chest feathers, but they're coming in very sporadically. He looks like someone was trying to color in his chest with a marker that's just about to run out of ink.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I'm going to start off by saying that I didn't kill the neighbor's dog. He totally deserved it, but I restrained myself. Now you won't have to suffer through uncomfortable suspense.

We live in coyote country. We have no fenced yard. Our Dog is snack-sized. These three facts add up to: we accompany Dog on his walks. The most common trek is down our long long driveway, then up the private road to the gravel road where the mailboxes are, then back to the house. One-way is about 1000 feet. At the very furthest point, while waiting for Dog to do something productive, I noticed a butterfly on a hackberry leaf. Anything is more interesting than watching Dog search for just the right place, so I wandered over.

Wow. She was laying eggs on the underside of the leaf, her delicate ovipositer daintily dropping little dots one after the other, as though she was decorating a fancy wedding cake. I wondered if there was any chance that I could make the dash all the way back home to get a camera.

Moving as quickly as my inappropriate shoes would allow, I scampered back, got the camera, changed its lens, abandoned Dog, and headed back down the long long driveway.

A quarter of the way there, I stopped short when a gorgeous garter snake poured out of the grass onto the rocks right in front of me. Glowing yellow stripes on the sides, orange down the center, posing on the gravel. And I had a camera. I NEVER have a camera for things like this.

I'd just focused when the snake startled and vanished back into the grass. What?  Why?  AAAUUUGGHHH!!!   It was the neighbor's dog, gallumphing with glee toward me, hoping for a belly scratch. Thoughts of destruction raged through my mind, but I restrained myself. I still had to get back to the butterfly tree.

Hurrying on, now with a companion dog, I arrived to find that she was still there! Still depositing those tiny pearls on the back of the leaf. I found a great angle, focused, started to press the shutter...And then the Neighbor Dog jumped on my leg, throwing me off-balance so that I nudged the branch with the camera. Frightened, the butterfly flew away before I could get the picture.

Yes, he ruined two fabulous pictures within three minutes, and still, Neighbor Dog lives: a monument to my self-control.

As I trudged back down the long long driveway, a Bess Beetle plonked himself in front of me as though he was offering himself up as a consolation prize. I got a nice picture, although I fully expected that Neighbor Dog was going to run up and eat it at any second. I babysat the beetle all the way across the driveway until it entered the leaf litter on the other side, fending off the curious dog, who then trotted back to his home. His work was done.

I'm still very sad about missing the snake. Here's an artist's representation:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Scientists use all sorts of graphs, drawings, and images when they want to show the relationship between gravity and a black hole. This image, taken from Wikimedia's Commons , is a pretty typical one.

I wonder why scientists don't just use a photograph of a funnel-web spider.
 The funnel-web spinners found around here aren't the legendary spiders of Australia, where everything is venomous, including butterflies, cows, and small children. The Agelenidae family, my local funnel-web builders, are deadly only to insects that are unfortunate enough to step on the shimmering silken platform. The spider lurks inside the tube, waiting for vibrations from a wandering insect to sound the dinner bell. Then she rushes out, snags her blue-plate special, and dashes back inside, chortling all the way.

If you look for an answer to the question "What's inside a black hole," you get....well, you get a lot of results, but none of them seem to suggest that there's a giant Agelenidae in there. But really, how would you know?

Monday, May 31, 2010


Greg Laden is hosting Berry Go Round this time, at his place. Go visit, and read some of the most interesting plant bloggers out there.

If birds are your thing, Coyote Mercury is the place to be. I and the Bird #126 is being hosted (poetically, even) there.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Well, gall-eeee!!

One thing we have plenty of here in the Not-So-Big Woods is leaves, and when you've got leaves, you've got galls.

Awesome Husband refers to galls as "tree warts," and that's what they look like. These leafy protuberances form when an insect, often a wasp or a mite, lays her egg inside a leaf's tissue. The egg, and later, the larva, produce hormones that interact with the plant to form a...well, a sort of wart. The wartiness provides food and shelter for the developing larva. When the larva matures, it chews its way out of its little house, and goes on to make more warts on more trees. Galls are unsightly, but they don't usually hurt the tree.

Since they're generally harmless, we can just enjoy their weirdness.

This gall, attached to an oak leaf, looks like a beetle. Fairly smooth and hard, it's a single, but some leaves are covered in them.

 On the other hand, these elm galls are smaller, softer, and a bit fuzzy. Some of them are pink, making it look like Captain Crunch visited and left some dimunitive Crunch Berries behind. (note to Quaker Oats Legal Dept.: I am not trying to insinuate that your Crunchberries contain larvae).

The pecan leaves are taking the hardest hit, aesthetically speaking. Multiple galls infest each leaf, and they're large ones. They're distorting the leaves, pulling them out of shape.

Different galls on the elm leaves are more cylindrical than most, and also covered in fuzz. They appeared very early in the season, when the leaves were first emerging.

And finally, these tiny little  pointy things, perched on a hackberry leaf, casting shadows like mountains in the setting sun.

Those are just the galls I found in a 15-minute period in a hundred-foot stretch of trees lining the driveway. The variety is breath-taking, and I know there are more waiting in the woods.