Summer Jewel

by Catherine Johnson

The Milam Wildscape Project is stunning this summer.  The Reks have kept the sprinklers going.  We are starting to pot extra natives for Nature Days in the fall.  Donna Lewis will be painting signs to identify plants.  All Master Naturalists are welcome to visit-  open and close the gate upon entering and leaving.  Get hours for watering, straightening up-Nature Improvement in Public  places, plus drive time.   There is shade and a bathroom.  Take home cut flowers- Cindy’s  zinnias  are spectacular!   P

Mike McCormick Explains Purple Martins

by Carolyn Henderson

Mike McCormick, considered the largest houser of Purple Martins in the area, shared his wealth of knowledge with the El Camino Real chapter of Texas Master Naturalist on Saturday, June 18. McCormick lives south of Buckholts in Milam County with thousands of Purple Martins and a few family members. He has been housing the birds for more than 40 years and has grown the number of seasonal residents steadily every year.

Purple martin house with adults waiting for fledglings to fly

There are approximately 65 Purple Martin houses at his place – all made by him. He’s also helped many others get started with some extra houses. 

Up close of the three fledglings that haven’t decided to fly, yet.

ECRTMN visited at the optimum time. All the babies are starting to fledge. Members learned how to house them and keep them coming back. McCormick also clarified some untrue facts about the migrating birds. For example, a 6-foot-tall martin house works as well as a 12-foot-tall house.

Martins in flight

Thanks also go to Donna Lewis, organizer of the event, and Ms. McCormick, sister to Mike, who fed us and kept the cattle herded.

Who Needs Water?

by Donna Lewis

Well, we all know that every living thing needs water.

We are really experiencing a very hot and dry time right now.

This is when you can help the wildlife. Birdseed and other things we put out so we can watch and help our wildlife is a good thing, but water is the number one thing they need to survive.

I have 10 birdbaths out and I put out the sprinkler every evening around 5:00 pm.

The birds are waiting for me. I move the sprinkler about three times, so I don’t waste any water. I use it for my plants as I give the birds their cool and happy time in the refreshing raindrops the sprinklers provide. I am sure I would see them smiling if they could. Yesterday I slowly approached my garden about 10 minutes after I turned the first round of water on. They scatter if they see me and that’s OK, it keeps them safe.

This is what I saw through my fence around the garden.

  • 25 Cardinals
  • 1 Mockingbird
  • 4 young Titmice
  • 5 Bluebirds
  • 6 Chickadees
  • 2 unknowns
  • 1 Red-bellied woodpecker.   

What a photo that would have been.  I also have lots of bees getting water from the birdbaths.

So, remember to put out lots of water features and keep them full.

The birds like a perch when bathing, so a fence or trellis is good, but is also a good hiding place for cats. Most are there for the water, but the kitties are there for the birds…. 

Just a thought.

Remember who you are gardening for…

What’s Blooming at the Wildscape? Everything!

by Carolyn Henderson

The El Camino Real Chapter Wildscape at the Bird and Bee Farm is awash in blooming plants. I went to water early Saturday morning and was quite surprised by the incredible growth since the last time I was there to prep for the award Gene and Cindy Rek received from the Texas Environmental Quality Commission. 

Happy verbena

It looks like everything has recovered from the freezes this year and last. Come and see for yourself and water some plants or pull a weed while you’re there.

Summer in the Wildscape

by Catherine Johnson

Now is a good time to visit the Wildscape garden at Bird and Bee Farm. Many native plants and grasses are in bloom. The mason bee houses are filled, and bobwhite quail were spotted on the grounds for the first time (see below). 

Events will be held later in the year, including Nature Days in October.  Saturday mornings
are a nice time to visit and share Master Naturalist info with others or do much needed watering.                                          

Butterflies enjoy the zinnias

Hours will be for Community Outreach- indirect, or  Nature Improvement in Public Areas.