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.

Volunteer Opportunity at S. M. Tracy Herbarium

by Linda Jo Conn

Dale Kruse, curator at the herbarium at Texas A&M University at College Station, is in need of several volunteers on a regular basis to help with the new National Science Foundation digitization project. 

The S. M. Tracy Herbarium has thousands of vouchers that are to be included in the National Science Foundation digitization project.  At last count, there are over 360,000 vouchers in the S. M. Tracy Herbarium stored under strict environmental criteria.


voucher herbarium specimen is a pressed plant sample deposited for future reference. It supports research work and may be examined to verify the identity of the specific plant used in a study.

voucher specimen must be deposited in a recognized herbarium committed to long-term maintenance.

File:Neuchâtel Herbarium - Allium sphaerocephalon - NEU000100621.jpg
A typical herbarium voucher looks like this. (It is a dead flattened plant glued on a piece of special paper.)

The National Science Foundation digitization project involves the digital scanning of the vouchers in several selected herbariums in the United States including the S. M. Tracy Herbarium so that the uploaded images may be shared globally with all botanists and taxonomists. 

This volunteer effort at the S. M. Tracy Herbarium, located off of East University Drive in College Station, will involve several tasks, including:

  • Gluing dried, pressed specimens and their descriptive labels to special herbarium paper to create vouchers.
  • Re-gluing and / or re-enforcement of existing vouchers.
  • Computer activities such as data entry and digitization,
  • and other tasks as may be requested by Dale.
Result of the program will be digital images of the vouchers that look similar to this. 

The digital vouchers will then be uploaded into the National Science Foundation digitization project under the scope of the prestigious BRIT Herbarium in Fort Worth.

From there, the ultimate data entry will be accomplished using many volunteers including the existing Texas Master Naturalist volunteer effort project approved for the El Camino Real chapter under the Volunteer Management System (VMS) classification “Citizen Science Transcribing-Selections for BRIT”. 

To reach this final stage, tasks must be completed at the S. M. Tracy Herbarium.  If you are interested in volunteering on a regular basis at the herbarium, contact:

Dale Kruse
Curator:  S. M. Tracy Herbarium, Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology
Lecturer: Department of Range, Wildlife, and Fisheries Management
Herbarium: 979.845.4328


January Chapter Meeting: Dragonflies

Our first chapter meeting presentation for 2020 was really interesting to many of us. I think at least I thought I knew a lot about dragonflies, but it turned out that I did not! Thanks to Cindy Travis’s presentation, I ended up wanting to learn more.

My royalty-free image company labeled this a dragonfly, but it’s a damselfly.

The first thing we learned was how to tell a dragonfly from a damselfly (they are both Odonata). The damselflies are usually much thinner and hold their wings upright, while dragonflies hold their wings out. Their eyes are oriented differently, too.

Yes! a dragonfly!

Cindy also shared the lifecycle of these interesting insects, and showed a film about their mating practices. Wow, it’s amazing they breed at all; it’s pretty complicated.

The nymphs are very interesting, too. They eat pretty much anything and go through many changes while they live underwater. They moult a LOT.

Damselflies getting ready to breed. They make a “heart” shape.

Finally, Cindy told us about a project we can participate in to track the presence of five types of dragonflies around Texas. It’s a part of the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership, and you can read more about it under Migration Monitoring Project.

Other Chapter News

Don Travis presents the certificate of appreciation to Phyllis Shuffield.

We thanked Phyllis Shuffield for her service as Chapter President for the past two years. She received a lovely certificate and a gift certificate as well (for all that hummingbird food!).

I have my warbler!

We also presented many of our members with their 2019 re-certification or initial certification pins. Those golden-cheeked warblers will be gracing many people’s lanyards and shirts now.

Let’s start getting hours for this year by attending some of the 2020 training class presentations!

Jackie Fields and Patrick Still enjoy the potluck food at our new meeting facility in Cameron.

More Resources

Want to learn more about Odonata? Here are some great links.

Dragonflies in Texas – some excellent photos

Introduction to Dragonfly and Damselfly Watching by By Mark Klym and Mike Quinn, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (PDF)

Migratory Dragonfly Project – they even have a phone app!

Odonata of Texas – the 238 dragonfly and damselfly species that have been observed in Texas on iNaturalist

Log Cabin Garden in Lexington Update

We’ve received a report from Sharon Sweet, sharing the work she and her husband Wesley have been doing on the beautiful butterfly garden they have been building and maintaining in Lexington. It’s at the log cabin area near the Lexington Senior Center. (See their initial post from April 2019 for more.)

How to Find the Garden

Maybe you’d like to check out the gardens in person! Sheri sends these directions:

The Lexington Log Cabin Garden is located on 4th Street, 1/2 block west of Rockdale Street (Loop 123).  It is directly north across 4th Street from the town square.  There is a large sign titling the Log Cabins in front of the garden.  I’m hoping to get this sign moved elsewhere so the garden is more visible.

The Lexington Senior Center Garden is located across from  the south-west corner of the town square on Main Street.  It is right around the corner of the Lexington Senior Citizens Center.

This gallery of photos will take you through their work over 2019. Be sure to click on the photos to see them full size. It’s really beautiful.

Chapter Meeting Holiday Fun

by Sue Ann Kendall

Once a year we set aside the seriousness of being citizen scientists and just get together to appreciate each other. The December Chapter Meeting does include some business, such as voting on the slate of officers for the next year and discussing our upcoming class, but most of the night is for food and fun: the Christmas Party!

The beautiful tree at the Dworaczyk home.

As in past years, the Dworaczyk family hosted our party in their beautiful home. Sandra has so many beautiful decorations that it’s like a winter wonderland in there! She even has enough Christmas dishes for all attendees to eat off a beautiful plate with beautiful flatware, too.

The Master Naturalists outdid themselves with the food this year, and no one went away hungry. Anyone avoiding sweets was in big trouble, too! I hardly had any room after eating all the brisket and side dishes.

And the Fun!

After dinner and the chapter meeting, where the slate of officers was unanimously approved, the white elephant (or Yankee swap, or whatever) gift exchange began. As always, Don Travis made sure the rules were scrupulously followed to ensure maximum hilarity.

The red barn gets stolen…for the first time.

A lot of stealing went on, since there were a couple of very popular gifts (a barn bird feeder was very popular). Two poor participants had multiple gifts stolen from them. I hope they ended up with something they liked!

So many cute gifts!

I got a boot-shaped wine carrier/vase holder made by Cindy Travis, so I was okay with losing the bluebird house and mosaic church bird house. Some people got what they wanted by colluding with their spouses, though, which makes me want to bring a spouse next time!

The final gift was this fashionable turkey-leg hat, here modeled by Don Travis. As you can see, it went over well!

It’s amazing how hard the group works on coming up with wonderful gifts that their fellow Master Naturalists will treasure. We all are so thoughtful and really know what will appeal to our colleagues.

Sending warm holiday wishes to all of you reading this. I look forward to being part of the Board next year and to many interesting activities and learning experiences!

All Things Wild Holiday Festival

by Catherine Johnson

Last weekend, three members of our Texas Master Naturalist chapter traveled to Williamson County to attend the holiday fundraiser hosted by All Things Wild Rehabilitation organization.

Beautiful new facilities for rehabilitating animals.

We saw beautiful wildlife gifts and sampled baked goods. 

A great horned owl with a broken wing.

Since our last visit, many outdoor shelters have been built, including a huge raptor complex.  A zoologist provided owl programs and tours to view raptors. It was fascinating!

A shelter with one of its residents happily perched.

It’s easy to help out at this valuable organization, which helps so many injured and otherwise needy wild animals. From their website you can sign up for newsletters, get hours of operation, and see lists of needed supplies.  They also provide useful information about what to do if you find a wild animal that may be in need.

Watching a raptor demonstration.

Consider volunteering with All Things Wild. Master Naturalists can earn volunteer hours under the opportunity – Natural Resource Conservation.

Who’s looking at whom?