Welcome to Our Blog

Hello, friends. This blog is where the El Camino Real Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists shares news, articles, and reflections. You’ll find our posts right under this introduction. We encourage your comments and likes, and of course, shares!

Texas Parks and Wildlife
AgriLife Extension

The Texas Master Naturalist program is sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

Our chapter meets monthly on the second Thursday of the month in Milano, Texas.

Our Mission: To develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the State of Texas.

Wildscape Progress for August

 by Catherine Johnson

The Wildscape project at Bird and Bee Farm between Rockdale and Milano has survived the worst part of the summer and the plants are starting to have their fall flush. 

These plants are reblooming!

Eight small trees have been planted, with more to arrive. Donna Lewis donated Senna trees and we have four New Mexico Privet and Vitex as well. 

Continue reading “Wildscape Progress for August”

August Chapter Meeting: Tim Siegmund

by Sue Ann Kendall

Our August Chapter Meeting speaker was our old friend, Tim Siegmund, from Texas Parks and Wildlife. He spoke on “Prairies, Woodlands, Wildlife, and Managing for Diversity.” He had many wonderful photos that showed how careful management of land can result in habitat for a wide variety of life.

Grazing, burning and drought.

First, he told us what shaped the land before we Europeans showed up and turned our post oak savanna into more of a thicket. For the most part it was maintained by the large grazers (bison, mammoths, prairie dogs, and such) and fires. Some of the fires were natural, but many were also set by Native Americans for many reasons, plus natural ones. Drought also affects the trees, especially wetland species.

In all, the land was lightly used, since the heavy grazers migrated, creating a variety of settings for different birds, insects, and plants depending on how recently they’d been through an area.

He then explained how settlers intensified the use of land. An important factor was that they built fences, so grazing became year round and focused. The cattle/sheep, goats and friends would repeatedly graze the same area, giving no time for deep-rooted perennial grasses to recover. Soon enough, plants like cedars, huisache, and mesquite would fill in the grasslands.

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A Tale of Chimney Swifts

by Ann Collins

Here’s another story from the nature notebooks of Ann Collins It’s from last year.

June 19

Two chimney swifts were circling around the old well at the top of the hill. I saw them often, two together. When disturbed by the mule, one would fly out of the well.

Chimney swifts are good at clinging to walls (photo from Cornell Labs)

June 22

I looked in the well and saw a nest with three white eggs in it. I felt sad, because I was afraid they would hatch then fall out and drown in the nasty water below.

Continue reading “A Tale of Chimney Swifts”

Eastern Screech Owl Encounter

by Ann Collins

Editor’s note: We’ll be sharing a few stories from Ann’s nature observation notebooks over the coming weeks. We hope you enjoy them!

Driving home from a meeting the other night, almost to the house, just about at the chicken house, a small bird fluttered to the ground.

What the heck, I thought, is that?

It landed softly on the road and just sat there looking straight into the car lights. The little bird was a soft grayish-brown and looked fluffy. It was six to eight inches tall, according to my estimate.

Royalty-free image!

By then I had identified him a an Eastern screech owl. I’ve seen them here before and heard them even more often, but I’d never had such a good look.

We sat, mesmerized, looking at each other for a bit. Then he fluttered up and flew into the woods across from the chickens. He didn’t seem to be a strong flyer.

I hope he stays around. I’m not trying to raise purple martins or anything else, so everyone is welcome to hang out here. I don’t know if he is a nest robber or a predator of smaller birds. Whatever. I’ll just let nature take its course and be happy with that!

July Wildscape Project Update

by Catherine Johnson

The Wildscape garden project is doing great, despite the recent heat.  It is nice to be able to irrigate every inch the way we have it set up. We hope you enjoy the photos of some of the flowers in bloom now.  

Coral periwinkle

Butterflies and hummingbirds have found the flowers and are arriving in good numbers. 

Trailing lantana

We’re happy to report that more items have been donated to the garden, including some solar water fountains that will provide a soothing sound and the moving water source many insects and birds enjoy. 

Continue reading “July Wildscape Project Update”