Blog of the El Camino Real Chapter, Texas Master Naturalists, Milam County, Texas
Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall
The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!
On the afternoon of Sunday, May 8, our little dog found a turtle in our yard near the house.
He barked and barked, getting my attention really fast. I was sure it must be a snake, but it was a female Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) a long name for a turtle…who comes up with these names?
She was really far from the pond at the rear of our property. Maybe she was laying eggs, who knows?
I promptly canceled my task of mowing the area. Now I’ll have to hope she didn’t bury her eggs somewhere where the tractor will roll over them. I will never be able to look for them in the pasture. But yes (you know me) I did look.
Normally I see these turtles on the turtle dock we made on our small pond. However, these guys are crossing the roads right now, looking for a date.
If you decide to assist that journey, put them on the side of the road that they are pointed at. Make sure to wash your hands as soon as possible after handling any reptile. Happy trails…
On Maya 4, I was so happy to discover two monarch caterpillars feeding on the milkweed a group of our Master Naturalists planted on our properties last year. This species of milkweed is Asclepias asperula, common name Antelope Horns or Spider Milkweed.
Of the twenty-four plants I received from a grant Cathy Johnson procured for us, only these few survived. Gophers tunneled under all the others and they did not regrow.
But… look what found them! There are two monarch caterpillars munching away on them.
There were also two species of bees, a wasp, a variegated fritillary, and a hairstreak butterfly. Everyone wanted in on the action.
Interesting was the fact that the Monarchs were eating the stems not the leaves? I do not know why that was. Something to learn about.
The main thing to take away is that while it may seem like a minor event…two more monarchs made it into our world.
My husband Oscar and I went to the Gault Archaeological site and helped clear huge trees and branches that had fallen during a recent tornado. Got to meet some fellow Master Naturalists from other groups. It was an honor and a pleasure to meet Dr. Mike Collins, who bought the land/site and donated it to the Archaeological Conservancy to be able to preserve it.
There was also a film crew who are in the process of making a documentary about the site. It was exciting learning about the history, and I’m still very surprised that this place has been there for so long and I only heard about it when Dr. Clark Wernecke taught an archaeological class about it. It was fun meeting him as well; he’s a very cool guy.
Olive Talley is doing an awesome job on this documentary trying to get the word out about this hugely important site that literally changes everything scientists thought they knew about when people were living here locally. This site suggests 20,000 years ago!! That’s much earlier than 13,500 previously thought for the Clovis culture.
Here is a link to be able to follow the documentary.
On May 2, I went out to the pollinator garden to work, and all I saw was black Pipe-vine caterpillars on the march to find more pipe-vine plants. They ate all the ones I have in my garden right down to the ground and are even eating the stems right now. It’s a feast going on….
I almost stepped on a bunch of them.
I got my camera, took a few shots and then carefully walked out of the garden.
They will go out to the pasture and find their native vine until they are big enough to make a chrysalis and then become a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly.
In several weeks, my plants will completely grow back and the process begins again. Last year I had four complete cycles.
The caterpillars can be black or dark red.
That is amazing.
PS: Out near where Donna lives, Suna saw at least a dozen of the adults enjoying Indian blanket flowers. Sadly, she was unable to stop the vehicle fast enough for a photo, but it was a beautiful sight.