Storks Visit Milam County

by Sue Ann Kendall

This morning there’s thunder everywhere, which means more welcome rain is on the way, so I went out early to feed the chickens. I’m glad I did, because when I looked into the pond (tank in Texan) behind the house, I saw something in addition to the usual great egret (Ardea alba) and great blue heron (Ardea Herodias): wood storks!


They used to visit for a while periodically, back when the pond had a large dead tree they liked to hang out in, but lately they just drop by and move on. I’m so glad I got to catch them before they left. They are such gorgeous birds, with white bodies, black (actually dark gray) heads and black wing tips that make them easy to spot when they are flying.

There’s a wing.

You know they are big when you compare them to the resident great blue heron, who is HUGE thanks to all those catfish and minnows it ate while the ponds were drying up.

Comparison shot.

Wood storks (Mycteria americana) are the only American stork, and they move around with the seasons. They used to be known as wood ibises because their bills look like those of ibises. Interestingly, they must have shallow water to feed in because they feed by touch. You can see that in many of the photos. That’s why they breed when water levels are falling (in South America). They are predominantly subtropical birds, which is why they hang around here only when it’s warmer. They are listed as a threatened species in the Western hemisphere, because of predation (bad ole crested caracaras) and believe it or not, ecotourism disturbing their nesting colonies. (Source: Wikipedia via iNaturalist)

I’m extra happy to have gotten some videos. The one of them flying away is so lovely. I hope they visit again soon!

Quick one, but good image of wings.
Goodbye, friends! Come back some day!

PS: Yes, we had a good amount of rain yesterday, and it’s raining again now. Happy news for all the plants around here!

The Guardian

by Donna Lewis

Hummingbirds do not like to share their nectar flowers or the feeders they claim for their own. Right now, I have about four to five Ruby throated hummers hanging around.   They are most likely heading back south of the border. The plant they like the most in my garden is the coral honeysuckle.

But when it comes to the feeder, one little guy will not let anyone else have a sip. He sits on top of the L bracket that holds the feeder on our front porch.  He sits there all day until dusk. I’m sure he spends more calories protecting the feeder than he would if he would just share. Somebody’s mother needs to have a talk with him.

I tried to get a good photo, but I am shooting through the glass window, so it’s not the best photo.

The butterflies in my garden also protect their flowers from the hummers. They try to run the hummers off.  And they do a pretty good job of it.

What happened to, “We are family, I got all my sisters with me?”

So funny. Who are we gardening for?

What a Difference Some Rain Makes

by Donna Lewis

I thought most of my pollinator garden was done for.  I could not afford to continue watering every day just to keep the plants alive.  And yes, most of the plants are Texas natives.  Still, the 100-plus degree temperatures were too much stress for the plants to bear.  

I also put out sprinklers every evening around 6:00 pm for the tons of birds that came to cool off.  It was so nice to see them bathing and just having a happy get together with their friends. But a very high electric bill was putting a dent in our budget. The plant watering would have to be limited, but the birds would still get their sprinkler party in the evening.

The watering caused our electricity to go up because the pump on our well is electric. I wish I had an old windmill to do the job, but they need maintenance also. In my younger days I could have climbed up on an old wooden windmill. If I were to fall off now, it would be bad. While I used to bounce, now I break.

Anyway, after about three inches of much needed rain last week, so much stuff popped up again that I thought was gone.  YAY!  Now for a few days all I have to do is clean and fill the bird baths. 

We still need to keep thinking about and observing what plants did make it through the extreme weather, because this heat with no water may become the norm. What and how we garden must change.   Just keep looking and learning.

Hooray for milkweed!

And remember, who are you gardening for?

Pondering Plant Names and Old Adages

by Carolyn Henderson

Turkey Tangle Frogfruit – why was that name given to the little bitty flower that grows close to the ground and seems to be able to survive anything? Some fellow users in the El Camino Real chapter of Texas Master Naturalist tell me that it used to be just “Frogfruit” until it was recently changed. No one I know seems to know why that occurred either.

I often wonder how words originate. For example, I’d like to know who designated that tall naturally occurring thing with a lot of fluffy greenery on the top half a “tree.” I’m not asking why there are trees (I’m sure many scientists could tell me), I wonder who chose that combination of letters to identify it to other people.  I should point out that I have degrees in journalism and English, two subject which perpetuate a lot of word pondering.

I also have been curious about the adage about Texas Purple Sage “predicting” rain. It came to mind today because mine suddenly bloomed. I have frequently heard that Texas Sage blooms two weeks before it rains. Many people I know believe that to be a fact. My Texas Sage can cover itself in beautiful purple flowers very quickly and, often, many times a year. However, it always seemed to me, that mine blooms after it rains. It turns out that neither is exactly correct, but it’s not called the “Barometer Bush” for nothing.

The shrub is believed to be sensitive to barometric changes in the atmosphere. When humidity and pressure change to indicate rain favorability, the bush blooms – at least according to current study.

I went to the Google search site and typed in “Texas Purple Sage predicts rain.” I found that many people had pondered this adage, and some had researched it. Below are partial quotes from two articles I read on the topic.

Research was obviously needed, so I dug in. All the book and online references agreed nobody knows the answer for sure. I learned that while Texas sage does tend to bloom a day or two before rain, it can also bloom within days after a rain or just when conditions are optimal for rain to occur, even though rain may not happen. This curious response to weather probably is mostly due to the plant’s sensitivity and ability to detect humidity as well as change in barometric pressure.

So, what can you depend on? Only that Texas sage blooms sometime around a rain event — maybe. If you have a full-sun location that drains well, plant some and enjoy them. They are very pretty plants.

By Howard Garrett | Special Contributor, The Dallas Morning News

The detail behind the matter, however, is that while Texas sage tends to blossom a couple days before precipitation occurs, it really blooms when the conditions are optimal for rain. Actual rainfall may not occur, but the plant is sensitive to changes in barometric pressure and humidity, and therefore it blossoms.

By Spring Sault, Nature section, Hill Country News

Maybe it is predicting rain after all. Like all weather forecasts, it’s rarely spot-on accurate. What the Texas Purple Sage does do is bloom despite little rainfall and high temperatures, and it attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds in mass sometimes. (I hope you can see the video here to actually see that.) My Texas Sage took a hit from the Freeze of 2021 which required severe pruning. It is really growing now and blooming. I hope the bees smell it and show up.

Texas Purple Sage Action!