Celebrating Our Graduates!

by Sue Ann Kendall

Photos by Sue Ann Kendall and Debbi Harris

Wednesday night was very festive for the El Camino Real Texas Master Naturalist chapter. We celebrated the five new graduates from our training program with a delicious meal and a lovely presentation at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Cameron, where we also have our monthly meetings. We are grateful to Fr. Jeff and his staff for being such gracious hosts.

Father Jeff and our graduates.

Our food was catered by Hot Corners, the company that is located in the beautiful Venue at Railfan that recently opened in town. Barbara Dominguez does a wonderful job, and we were glad to see our vegetarian attendees had many options. Next time we’ll remember to ask for a gluten-free main course!

The appetizers included one of Barbara’s famous charcuterie boards, along with wine and some pretty darned good non-alcoholic wine beverage that was fun to try!

MMM, charcuterie

Desserts were provided by Alan Rudd, who was also our assistant trainer this year. It was hard to choose which one to try, so many people tasted more than one.

The fellowship and conversation were fantastic, and everyone had a good time at the meal, and an even better time during the awards.

First, Dorothy Mayer read her famous poem she wrote when she was graduating, which always brings a laugh.

Dorothy shares the story of her poem.

Then came the highlight of the evening. Patricia Coombs, Brenda Ferris, Ellen Luckey, Michelle Pierce, and Neil Wettstein were each presented with their graduation certificates, and two others received their first dragonfly pins for their initial certification as well. Great job, everyone!

Following the student awards, Alan Rudd presented Kathy Lester, our lead trainer for the past three classes, with a beautiful painting of a sunrise or sunset (you get to pick) with kind words on the back of it from past students. Kathy was surprised and delighted by her gift, which is obvious in the photos!

Kudos to the team who put together the party and decorated the room so nicely. It takes a lot of work to organize all our activities, and we appreciate our dedicated members very much. Now, let’s get going on the City Nature Challenge!

Here are a couple of funny out-takes from the party. We did have fun.

More Fun at Mother Neff State Park

Carolyn Henderson sent along some more photos from our field trip to Mother Neff State Park on April 15. Some are of the scenery and others are of our scenic group members! We thought you’d enjoy them, so we’re passing them along.

Field Trip Fun at Mother Neff State Park

By Sue Ann Kendall

Saturday was an absolutely glorious day for a field trip and guided walk through Mother Neff State Park. It’s the closest state park to Milam County, so it wasn’t a bad drive at all for the carpoolers and separate drivers. Plus, we got to see lots and lots of wildflowers along the way!

Part of our group

We were very impressed with the new park headquarters that was built after the original one was flooded badly (some of the park is still inaccessible). There are very impressive native plantings all around it.

Native plant landscape

Once we were all gathered and checked in, the group motored over to the trail head and enjoyed a walk through wooded areas, led by a knowledgeable park intern who’s majoring in leisure or something like that.

Into the woods

The hike took us to a cave, a cool picnic table in the middle of nowhere built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a large cave that was used for years by indigenous residents, and a CCC tower that would give great views if the trees hadn’t grown up to block most of it. There was a lot of going up and down involved, so the hike was better for folks with good legs.

Two of our members were not very good participants in the hike, however. Linda Jo Conn and I were too enthralled by all the interesting plants and insects we saw that we could share on iNaturalist. This park is part of the Texas Master Naturalist GTWT Adopt-a-Loop trail project, so we wanted to add observations to that. Also, well, we are just that way. As Linda Jo states, we proceed at the pace of botany.

We found some very interesting plants and were impressed by the variety we saw. I wish we’d been there when the yellow passionflower was blooming. But I was impressed that I remembered what the leaves looked like and found it. We had a blast!

Everyone was pretty tired after we got back, but since I was driving, I forced my passengers to wait while we parked in the trail head for the walk through the meadow that my husband and I had walked last December.

I wanted to see things that weren’t woodland plants, like Lindheimer paintbrush

We didn’t want to make them sit forever, so Linda Jo and I didn’t walk on the actual trail. We got all distracted by a sunny area surrounded by Ashe junipers. It looked like dismal scrub. But NO! It was filled with interesting and rare plants!

And pretty plants, like cobaea beard tongue

I was particularly excited to find a star milk vine. What beautiful, tiny flowers it has. The one Linda Jo was most excited about was a golden-eyed phlox, which is endemic to Texas. The other chapter members said they could hear us whooping when we found yet another interesting plant in the “bare” area.

We ended the expedition with a nice lunch on Lake Belton. We’re very lucky to have such a fun group to do our activities with and the perfect day to do it.

PS: Sorry for the lack of Latin names for plants. I had to hurry to finish this. Then a squirrel blew out our electricity and my Internet router.

Congratulations to the 2023 Training Class!

by Carolyn Henderson

The El Camino Real chapter training class of 2023 completed its final class for the year Thursday night. There was great joy by all attending. Training Director Kathy Lester and Training Assistant Alan Rudd may have been the most gleeful. TPWD Biologist Bobby Allcorn finished the training with lots of information on Texas native mammals. 

The class of five is off to a good start. They all have all 40 hours of training (some have a few extra) and are already reporting volunteer and AT hours. Patricia Coombs will not only graduate from the class, but she will also be fully certified as a Master Naturalist. 

We will have a celebration for them on April 26 at the All Saints Episcopal Church at 6 p.m. The dinner will be catered by Barbara Dominguez, owner of Hot Corner Catering and The Venue on Main. She will provide vegetarian dishes to complement the main course. You may BYOB. Students and members who organized the class this year will be treated by the chapter. All others, including guests, will pay for their meals. Guests are welcome. We will need a head count at the regular meeting April 13.

Please come celebrate the class who survived several major weather events that seemed to always occur on Thursday nights, and give a pat on the back to Kathy Lester, Alan Rudd, Michelle Lopez, Ann Collins, and Marian Buegler for their service to keep the class on track every week. I might add that several members attended regularly for support and several of them also helped host. 

Pictured in the photo: Front row – Patricia Coombs, Ellen Luckey, Michelle Pierce, Brenda Ferris

     Back row – Alan Rudd, Bobby Allcorn, Neil Wettstein, Kathy Lester

Having a Wild Time at All Things Wild

by Carolyn Henderson

Eight members and a few friends of the El Camino Real chapter of Texas Master Naturalist toured the All Things Wild Rehabilitation Center near Georgetown, Texas, Saturday morning, April 1. The tour was led by Roger Rucker, Vice President and Director of Education for All Things Wild. It is an amazing degree of service the organization performs for injured and orphaned wild animals and birds in the area. The trip there was an awe-inspiring show of wildflowers. 

We brought donations

They take in injured animals and rehabilitate them with the intention of releasing them back to their natural habitat. Occasionally, the injury prohibits the animal from being able to survive in the wild. In those cases, the animal or bird becomes a permanent resident of the facility.

Volunteers and staff also care for and raise orphaned baby animals and birds to adulthood. Once they are of an age to support themselves in the wild, the team releases them as close to where they were found as possible. 

The resident wingless pelican

All Things Wild is currently housing many squirrels, several opossums, large turtles, some raptors, many baby rabbits – both cottontails and jack rabbits, a nearly featherless vulture, an owl in ambassador training, a Blue Jay, a skunk, and a very large, wing-less white Pelican. They range from newborns to recovering adults. 

If an animal or bird cannot be released to the wild, they are made ambassadors for the education programs the staff and volunteers perform. They are trained to be people-friendly then taken to schools or other locations to be used in education programs around the area.

Checking out a building

Up until a few years ago, volunteers worked from their homes fostering the animals. With donations from supporters, they have built a large building to house the ill, perform surgery, and manage the organization. They have outside habitats for those getting closer to being released. Just recently, they received some buildings to add to their range. They are building an office and an education room that will seat up to 60 students. 


They operate on donations. They can use money or items they are frequently in need of at the place. If you’d like to know more, check out the web site at Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education – All Things Wild Rehabilitation

There was a lot to see!