The aquatic environment found in the Honeycut Hollow Creek watershed contains several common fish including sunfish, minnows, and bass, and several macroinvertebrates such as damselflies, skimmers, and striders. Because the ever-flowing Honeycut Hollow Creek spring provides a year-round source of water, the greatest diversity of aquatic life on the ranch is found downstream. In spring 2007, we began an aquatic biodiversity assessment program using indicator values for aquatic organisms to assess the effects of current water conditions.
Since bird counts began in 2003, seventy-three species of birds have been observed on the ranch. A great blue heron (Ardea herodias) rookery with more than twenty nests occupies a large sycamore tree one-quarter mile upstream from the main Honeycut Hollow Creek spring. It serves as a breeding ground between February and April. After the eggs have hatched, the parent birds are seen flying from the rookery to the Pedernales River to fish, returning with their gullets full for the chicks. Once the immature herons have fledged, they can often be spotted fishing along Honeycut Hollow Creek. In addition, the Ranch supports a community of Rio Grande turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and is a breeding ground for the golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia).
On the ranch as elsewhere in central Texas, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) constitute the most abundant mammal species. The next most common mammal found on the ranch is the northern raccoon (Procyan lotor), followed by the coyote (Canis latrans). Smaller, less frequently observed species include the North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum), the common grey fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), ringtails (Bassariscus astutus), and both the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) and hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus leuconotus). With the exception of the deer, all these species are nocturnal and are rarely observed in daylight hours. The ranch maintains four motion-sensor cameras year round that capture nighttime activity at watering sources, feeding stations, and game trails.
Reptiles and Amphibians
A springtime darner (Basiaeschna janate) warming up in the sun on an Ashe juniper branch (Juniperus Ashei).
The most abundant amphibians are the Gulf Coast toad (Bufo valliceps), spotted chorus frog (Pseudacris clarki), Rio Grande leopard frog (Rana berlandieri), Copes grey tree frog (Hyla chrysoscelis), and the Texas toad (Bufo speciosus). The only turtle species found on the ranch is the red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans). The six-lined racerunner (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus), Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus), and an unidentified species of a skink can often be seen on the ranch.
The most notable insect found on the Browning Ranch is the monarch butterfly, the state insect of Texas. This butterfly is best known for its lengthy annual migration from the pinewood forest in central Mexico to southern Canada. Central Texas plays an important role in this migration by providing a diverse community of milkweed, on which the monarch lays her eggs so that her larvae can feed on the leaves after they hatch. By consuming the milkweed, which is poisonous, the monarch develops its defense against predators, a trait no doubt envied by most other butterflies.