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. Because of the pandemic, we are meeting via Zoom. Contact us for more information on attending meetings and our future plans.

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.

More Flowers from Donna

by Donna Lewis

Here is the next set of wildflowers and other things I saw on July 28, 2021. I will break the blog posts up to include a few each time. Look for more tomorrow!

There are so many amazing plants outside right now.

1. Cowpen Daisy.  This bad boy gets going and likes to spread everywhere. It does not need rain nor help in any way.
2. Coral Honeysuckle. This is the hummers’ favorite plant at our place. So easy to grow, and I have lots of babies to share.
 3. Zinnia. An old-time favorite that every species of butterfly likes, really worth having in your garden.
4. Fire Wheel, native plant that grows in the pastures.
5. Xemia. Sweet little yellow flower, looks great in the garden.
6. Sedum. The flowers attract lots of butterflies.

I bet all of you have these flowers either in the pasture or in your garden. If not, then plant some for the pollinators, and you will enjoy the beauty of butterflies, hummers, and many more beautiful little creatures. 

Things at Donna’s House

To follow up on the post about things Suna has been finding on her property recently, here are a few things Donna Lewis has been seeing!

by Donna Lewis

Just look around there are amazing things outside.

The first photo is a Cypress Vine. It only blooms when it is really hot!  Perfect for us. The hummers love it.  It looks great mixed with other vines.


#2 Photo is a Garden Phlox, an old species that is hard to find now.  A Tiger Swallowtail is getting some nectar from it.


#3 is our Passion Vine that we all love. It’s soo easy to grow and is the host plant for the Gulf Coast Fritillary butterfly.


#4 Turk’s Cap:  The hummers love this plant also. It likes a little shade and appears late in summer.  Very easy to grow. 


#5 Fennel Herb:  The host plant for the Black Swallowtail butterfly. Its roots are edible for humans.  The extreme freeze didn’t phase this guy.


#6 Creeping Cucumber Vine:  This is the first time I have seen this plant on our property. The freeze and early rains have brought in some interesting plants to our pastures.


I’ll send a few more blogs showing things I’ve found here.

So Many Moths, So Little Time

by Linda Jo Conn

Last week I turned on my porch light every night at “dark thirty” to attract moths I could photograph and submit to the National Moth Week 2021 project on iNaturalist.org.  This year was a bit cooler and more moist than most of the past years, and also a bit brighter because of the full moon.  Although I thought I did pretty well with my very basic mothing equipment and a “point-shoot-and-hope” camera, I was amazed by the quality and quantity of observations my Texas Master Naturalist / iNaturalist friends across the state of Texas submitted.  

Anacampsis fullonella, a Twirler Moth

You can visit my moth week observations at https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&project_id=103786&user_id=26296&verifiable=any.

Snowy Urola Moth, Urola nivalis

If you are inclined to add an identification, comment, or correction, please feel free to do so.  

Ragweed Borer Moth, Epiblema strnuana

One thing I have learned… There are so many, many moths and I will never have enough time to master the ID of even a small fraction. 

Detracted Owlet, Lesmone detrahens

Sightings at the Hermits’ Rest Ranch

by Sue Ann Kendall

Becoming a Master Naturalist has truly changed my life for the better. One thing that’s enriched my life is using iNaturalist. I’ve learned so much about the world around me, in particular right where I live. Our property is north of Cameron and has woods, pastures, a creek, springs, and an arroyo. That means there’s lots to see! I thought I’d share some of the summer life from this year.

First off, I’ve learned to look down and look for anything on a leaf that doesn’t look like a leaf. However, this beetle wasn’t hard to spot. It’s teeny tiny, but was so shiny it caught my eye. I think I now have a favorite beetle, and have plenty here for it to eat!

A beautiful jewel

The Mottled Tortoise Beetle is a member of the Leaf Beetle family. It is found on morning glory flowers, leaves, and vines as well as milkweed plants. Their spiny, flat larvae look more like little dark centipedes and they eat these plants while they grow and develop into rounder, shiny adults. Though they may punch holes into the leaves of the plants, they rarely cause enough harm to damage or kill the plant unless it is young or a seedling. They are not considered an agricultural pest or threat.

https://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.php?identification=Mottled-Tortoise-Beetle

This week, I’m supposed to have been looking for moths, for this year’s National Moth Week collection. However, I’ve only located two. One is bright and cheery, plus it was on my car, which made it easy to see, while the other is one of those common brown ones that will soon be legion if the chickens don’t eat more of the armyworm moth caterpillars. I spotted it, because it was something that didn’t look like a leaf, but was on one of our tomatoes (which got damaged thanks to herbicide drift from the cotton across the road, grr.)

I’m always on the lookout for things that are blooming, because one of my goals when I retire is to compare when I have uploaded flowers over different years to see if they change. That’s why I keep recording observations on the ranch, even though it doesn’t count for Master Naturalist hours unless it’s part of an approved project (so, the beetle doesn’t count, but the moths do). I’m just curious about my local ecosystem and don’t need awards to motivate me at this point!

Most of the flowers I’ve been finding are in the pink to purple family, except those snake apples. I just learned they can also be called globeberries. Huh.

Of course, there are lots and lots of insects, particularly the differential grasshoppers who are dominating every moment of my outdoor life. Chickens like them a lot, though. The spiders have been interesting this year, though, and I’ve seen some new ones. I’ll also share the deep black beetle and one of the snakes that has been eating the eggs my hens produce. They seem to have gotten smarter and stopped hanging around in the hen house, which makes them easier to find and dispose of.

So, what’s thriving over where you live? Have you seen any of these species? We love it when you share your experiences on our blog! Contact me at ecrmnpresident at gmail.

El Camino Real Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists Holds Event for Girl Scouts

by Carolyn Henderson, with additional photos from Linda Jo Conn

Young girls with boundless curiosity swarmed the Birds and Bees Wildscape Saturday, July 17, to perform public service in honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Girl Scouts of the USA. The El Camino Real chapter of Texas Master Naturalists hosted the event.

Girl Scout finds a monarch butterfly caterpillar

Approximately 40 scouts and their leaders and parents attended the event.  It started with talks given by Catherine Johnson, Donna Lewis and Alan Rudd. An additional 15 ECRMN members helped the girls.

Donna Lewis spoke to them about planting milkweed to help promote the continuation of monarch butterflies. Alan Rudd spoke about the control of mosquitos with a totally natural method.  Many adults were particularly interested in controlling mosquitos.  The scouts then put that information into practice by planting milkweed in several sections of the wildscape.

Scouts plant milkweed

The girls and members were also excited to watch the release of many Bob-white quail into the pasture at the Bird and Bee Farm. The pasture is in the process of being returned to its natural state, and the quail were released to try to repopulate the area with a native bird that once was abundant in the area. They are rarely found east of I-35 now.     

A scout shows off the goodies she’s taking home.

The girls also found stray eggs laid by other birds on the farm [guinea fowl], and monarch caterpillars that were already on the Milkweed plants that were to be planted Saturday. It was an informative and entertaining day for everyone and the scouts left with bags full of goodies and some native Texas plants to grow at home.

Two scouts explore and come back with some treasures – a large egg and some feathers.

So much went on! Enjoy more photos, as well as some taken by Linda Jo Conn. What a fun day! Click a photo to see it enlarged.