Wildscape in Winter

I had a need to buy chickens last weekend, so I took the female members of my family over to Bird and Bee Farm to get them. The chickens I got were great, and you can read about them here. But my real point was to share how much has been going on at the Wildscape project over there. Much of the work is led by our own Catherine Johnson.

The entrance shows all their certifications. The chicken house is in the rear.

I was impressed that there was so much in bloom in the middle of January, and equally impressed by how charming the design of the project is. There are so many sweet surprises lurking among the recycled material being used to create planters, edging and decorations.

Many of our members are strong believers of practicing what they preach and recycling or re-using materials as much as possible, and a tour of the wildscape provides a lot of good ideas. All sorts of kitchen and farming implements have found their way into the beds.

Of course, there were kitties to provide natural pest control. Rodents love bird food, and kitties love rodents!

Lots of flowers!

I also enjoyed watching the natural insect pest control in action as the guinea fowl and Rio Grande turkeys roamed the area.

Rio Grande turkey wants in the wildscape. Nope, it’s not for you.

It made me happy that Cindy Rek, one of the owners of the farm, used my guinea fowl photo to sell some of the guinea flock online! It’s great to be able to give back to folks who give so much to the community, our plants, and our animal friends.

Guineas and turkeys

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.