Helping Our Bird Friends in Winter

by Donna Lewis

Don’t be fooled by our nice weather…  just around the corner could be lurking a cold winter blast.  Hopefully not a blast from the past (I am talking about the 10 days of freezing temperatures we had. So, there are some pretty simple things you can do to help our feathered friends right now.  Better to do these things while it’s nice for us to go outside.

We built and installed a platform under our front porch for the Phoebe’s to build their Spring nest on.  This is to hopefully keep them from putting 10,000 pounds of mud everywhere on our porch trying to build their own platform for their nest.  Boy is that messy. I have never done this before, so we will see if they use it.

Many species of birds like open platforms. Here are a few: Chickadees, Wrens, Phoebes, and Nuthatches. Ducks and other large raptors also use large platforms that are higher up.

Also new is a Bluebird feeder. This is an attempt to keep the dried mealworms from blowing off the platform dishes onto the ground and getting them wet and icky in winter weather. It’s hard for any insect-eating bird to find food in the winter.  

I have also stuffed the Bluebird nest boxes with dry pine needles for extra protection from the weather. I have shown here the area behind my house where I feed the Bluebirds and put out eggshells for the Purple Martins. The cow panels make perfect perches for the birds. Perches are very important if you want to draw any birds to you.

Bluebird house

I have placed these feeders away from the regular feeders so we don’t have conflict between the birds, and I can see it easily from inside the house.

These are my regular feeders. The open hopper is a favorite of most all my regulars, Cardinals, Chickadees, Titmice, and just about every bird.

So, you can do a few things that will assist our wild friends. Do what you can.

Talking Trash and Texas History

Linda Jo Conn

The suggested “Let’s Get Outside!” ECRTMN chapter activity for the first week in January was to pick up litter at a roadside park or other public area.  Granted, it is not that exciting a task but with the Covid numbers still a concern, it was an activity that could be performed in solitude at any convenient time.    

Today was my day to “get outside”.  It was cool and overcast but fortunately, there was not an icy wind gusting from the north.  

After attending the hybrid ECR chapter board meeting in Cameron, I drove down FM 2095 to Gause and turned east on Hwy 79 toward the Brazos River and the Milam and Robertson County line. Just before the river, there is a pullover with a couple of granite monuments and a row of large crepe myrtle trees.  

One of the monuments commemorates the former site of the town of Nashville surveyed in the fall of 1835 as the capital of Sterling C. Robertson’s colony and named for Nashville, Tennessee, where Robertson and many of his colonists had formerly lived.  The location also commemorates the first Texas home of George C. Childress, the chairman of the committee who drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence.    

The monuments

The other monument was erected by the Texas Society of DAR in 1991 to commemorate the DAR Centennial Park.  According to the inscription: “In 1936 the Sarah McCalla Chapter DAR of Cameron created a park (about ¾ mile upriver) at the site of old Nashville to commemorate the Texas State Centennial.  The red rock DAR monument to the left was in that park which is now inaccessible.”  The red rock monument referred to was vandalized and is no longer on the site.  The inscription continues: “Sterling C. Robertson who is buried in the old Nashville Cemetery was moved to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin in 1935.” The monument commemorates the Centennial of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution 1890-1990.

I do not travel this highway very often, but when I do, I usually stop to check the site out.  Usually, there has been plenty of litter in the area, but today, there was not an inordinate amount so my workload was light. I found nothing exciting or valuable; just the usual beer bottles, aluminum cans, cigarette butts, and some miscellaneous paper items.  My haul was a Walmart bag stuffed full and a few large pieces of metal. I am intrigued by the mention of the Nashville cemetery and the former park.  I plan to do some research and will return to visit the cemetery in the spring.  

The haul of trash.

The area behind the monuments is now covered with rosettes of Texas Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and it will certainly be worth the trip. 

Bluebonnets!

The Wildscape at the End of 2021

by Catherine Johnson

A good day was spent at the Wildscape at the Bird and Bee Farm between Rockdale and Milano, on the last day of 2021.

There are many cats!

In March, the Wildscape will be three years old, and no one knew what it would become.  It has been a place of happy times, learning, sharing, and surprises.

There were also some losses, including the favorite Garden cat Macaroni. 

Farewell, friend.

Much is planned for the new year. Already, another big building has been built for expanding the Rio Grande Turkeys. 

These are chickens, not turkeys, of course.

This last day of the year was spent with friends and relatives, including Master Naturalist Alan and son Adam building a great garden shed.   

Working on the shed.

Enjoy what is holding on.

Still blooming just before the first hard freeze hit.

The Queen Butterfly in December

by Donna Lewis

This week I had so many butterflies everywhere here on our property in Central Texas. Sulphurs, Gulf Fritillary, a Swallowtail, Queens, and numerous tiny little butterflies too quick for me to get a good look at.

Queen in happier times when the flowers are blooming

Of course, we also have had one freeze that took out most of any flowering plants I still had. It has been warm, so the plants have not died down completely. The Coral Honeysuckle is blooming proficiently, and all the butterflies are swarming around it. This is also the Hummingbirds favorite plant in my yard.

The Queen Butterfly was really unexpected. Poor things were flying everywhere in my garden trying to find those special plants that I have for them, mainly the Purple Mist Flower. They really love that plant in particular.  The Mist Flower usually shows up late in the summer when it is dry and very hot. Right now, it is dead as a doornail. Really sad.

Not looking very helpful to butterflies.

I see all these butterflies with nothing to nourish them, and I know the first big freeze is on our doorstep. I wish I could help them.  Many of these little guys should be asleep in a chrysalis for the winter months. But the weather has tricked them into waking up and thinking it’s springtime. 

But this is how we learn about nature.   We observe her and learn lessons. Mother Nature is a great teacher.