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.

Hot Weather

by Donna Lewis

I think everyone can agree it’s hot!  It’s looking like this is the new norm and will get hotter in the years to come.

We humans can go inside and enjoy a nice glass of iced tea or whatever.

But what about everything that lives outside?  Yes, they were born outside, but not in this kind of weather. So, can we help them a little without taming them?

I think so.

I just put up some heat shields on my Purple Martin Gourds. I could feel the difference it made on my face as I installed them.  Just a little help.

Cooler birds

I make sure that the many water stations I have for the birds are filled several times a day. The bees are also drinking from them. Water is so important for everything right now.

So do just a little for the wildlife we love.

Happy Trails!

More Visiting Turtles

by Donna Lewis

Hello all,

On the afternoon of Sunday, May 8, our little dog found a turtle in our yard near the house.

He barked and barked, getting my attention really fast. I was sure it must be a snake, but it was a female Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) a long name for a turtle…who comes up with these names?

She was really far from the pond at the rear of our property.   Maybe she was laying eggs, who knows?

I promptly canceled my task of mowing the area. Now I’ll have to hope she didn’t bury her eggs somewhere where the tractor will roll over them. I will never be able to look for them in the pasture.  But yes (you know me) I did look.

Normally I see these turtles on the turtle dock we made on our small pond. However, these guys are crossing the roads right now, looking for a date.

If you decide to assist that journey, put them on the side of the road that they are pointed at. Make sure to wash your hands as soon as possible after handling any reptile. Happy trails…

Monarch Caterpillars in the House!

by Donna Lewis

On Maya 4, I was so happy to discover two monarch caterpillars feeding on the milkweed a group of our Master Naturalists planted on our properties last year. This species of milkweed is Asclepias asperula, common name Antelope Horns or Spider Milkweed.

Of the twenty-four plants I received from a grant Cathy Johnson procured for us, only these few survived. Gophers tunneled under all the others and they did not regrow.

But… look what found them!  There are two monarch caterpillars munching away on them.

There were also two species of bees, a wasp, a variegated fritillary, and a hairstreak butterfly.    Everyone wanted in on the action.

Interesting was the fact that the Monarchs were eating the stems not the leaves? I do not know why that was. Something to learn about.

The main thing to take away is that while it may seem like a minor event…two more monarchs made it into our world.

So yes, we can make a difference!

Who are you gardening for?

Volunteering at the Gault Site

by Michelle Lopez

by Michelle Lopez

My husband Oscar and I went to the Gault Archaeological site and helped clear huge trees and branches that had fallen during a recent tornado. Got to meet some fellow Master Naturalists from other groups. It was an honor and a pleasure to meet Dr. Mike Collins, who bought the land/site and donated it to the Archaeological Conservancy to be able to preserve it.

The entry. We are always up for more field trips here!

There was also a film crew who are in the process of making a documentary about the site. It was exciting learning about the history, and I’m still very surprised that this place has been there for so long and I only heard about it when Dr. Clark Wernecke taught an archaeological class about it. It was fun meeting him as well; he’s a very cool guy.

About the film

Olive Talley is doing an awesome job on this documentary trying to get the word out about this hugely important site that literally changes everything scientists thought they knew about when people were living here locally. This site suggests 20,000 years ago!! That’s much earlier than 13,500 previously thought for the Clovis culture. 

Clark W. explaining about the site.

Here is a link to be able to follow the documentary. 

https://gaultfilm.com/

Enjoy some photos from our day!

The Great Caterpillar Run

by Donna Lewis

On May 2, I went out to the pollinator garden to work, and all I saw was black Pipe-vine caterpillars on the march to find more pipe-vine plants. They ate all the ones I have in my garden right down to the ground and are even eating the stems right now.  It’s a feast going on….

The vines, before

I almost stepped on a bunch of them.

Off it goes!

I got my camera, took a few shots and then carefully walked out of the garden.

The vines, after

They will go out to the pasture and find their native vine until they are big enough to make a chrysalis  and then become a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly.

Nothing left but future butterflies.

In several weeks, my plants will completely grow back and the process begins again. Last year I had four complete cycles.

The caterpillars can be black or dark red.

That is amazing.

PS: Out near where Donna lives, Suna saw at least a dozen of the adults enjoying Indian blanket flowers. Sadly, she was unable to stop the vehicle fast enough for a photo, but it was a beautiful sight.