All Things Wild Holiday Festival

by Catherine Johnson

Last weekend, three members of our Texas Master Naturalist chapter traveled to Williamson County to attend the holiday fundraiser hosted by All Things Wild Rehabilitation organization.

Beautiful new facilities for rehabilitating animals.

We saw beautiful wildlife gifts and sampled baked goods. 

A great horned owl with a broken wing.

Since our last visit, many outdoor shelters have been built, including a huge raptor complex.  A zoologist provided owl programs and tours to view raptors. It was fascinating!

A shelter with one of its residents happily perched.

It’s easy to help out at this valuable organization, which helps so many injured and otherwise needy wild animals. From their website you can sign up for newsletters, get hours of operation, and see lists of needed supplies.  They also provide useful information about what to do if you find a wild animal that may be in need.

Watching a raptor demonstration.

Consider volunteering with All Things Wild. Master Naturalists can earn volunteer hours under the opportunity – Natural Resource Conservation.

Who’s looking at whom?

All about Bluebirds

Bluebirds chowing down on meal worms. Photo by John Martin, used with permission.

Better late than never, here’s a summary of what we learned at the November Chapter meeting. We’re really grateful to Donna Lewis for stepping up to the plate and delivering an informative talk based on information from the Texas Bluebird Society. Here’s a bit of what she shared:

Donna points out a bluebird fact as we all listen.

Right now, people in our area are seeing bluebirds, mostly in the rural areas. The ones we see are Eastern bluebirds, though the Mountain bluebird and Western bluebird are also seen in parts of Texas. Note that the three species do crossbreed and that there are eight sub-species of the Eastern bluebirds.

They are in the thrush family, like robins, and usually live around two years, though they can live up to 6-8 years. They usually have blue eggs, with the occasional clutch of white eggs. They can nest from 2-4 times per year, depending on the conditions.

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Let the Tours Begin

By Lisa Milewski

On Saturday, October 12, 2019 the Rancheria Grande Chapter of the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association conducted a tour of several significant, certified sites along the El Camino Real in Milam County. 

https://photos.smugmug.com/Milam-County-Historical-Commission/Milam-County-Historical-Commission-2019/El-Camino-Real-Tour-2019/i-g5QZxqm/0/094e64ef/X2/El%20Camino%20Real%20Tour%202019-27139-X2.jpg
Local history buffs John Pruett and Geri Burnett discussed county and trail history along the route. 

The tour started in Cameron at 9:00am and ended back in Cameron at the Milam County Museum at 5pm.   

Dr. Alston Thoms, Professor of Anthropology at A&M, and Dave Cunningham provided rich and insightful commentary about Sugarloaf Mountain and the surrounding area.

Dave Cunningham

The Tour began with an introduction by Dave Cunningham on the Sugarloaf Bridge as well as a brief history of the area.  Sugarloaf Mountain is privately owned and permission is needed for tours/hikes. 

Sugarloaf Mountain
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Bryoventure III at the Big Thicket

by Ann Collins, with additional photos by Linda Jo Conn

Linda Jo Conn and I just got back from “Nature Nerd Nirvana” – a phrase coined by a fellow traveler this past weekend. Ten lucky participants were able to trail along after Master Teacher Dale Kruse on Bryoventure III. We spend three glorious days immersed in the flora and fauna of the Big Thicket National Preserve. Talk about herding cats; Dale actually had a whistle to keep us rounded up!

Finding mosses everywhere in the Big Thicket.

Dale arranged lodging at the Research Station in Saratoga, Texas. We brought our own food and “drink,” but everything else was furnished. Not exactly the Plaza, but more than adeqquate for our needs.

Extreme dragonfly close-up

Trails in the Thicket were in great shape. There hadn’t been too much rain, so there were few muddy ruts in the roads. Of course, some of us managed to get in water deep enough to seep in over out boot tops – not me, of course! One trekker actually fell in and another, who shall remain nameless, fought her way across a bay gall (that’s an area dominated by sweet bay and holly) on a fallen cypress log. Such fun to watch!

We were supposed to ignore all the vascular plants and focus entirely on the bryophytes – like that was going to happen! Fortunately, birds are somewhat difficult to see with so much vegetation, and the trees are so tall!

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Monarch Training at Bird and Bee Farm

The meeting was held in the chidken building. They did a great job on the projector screen!

Last time, we told you about the Wildscape program at Bird and Bee Farm. They also sponsor educational events, and our members attended a training on raising monarchs for release there on Sunday, March 3. It was presented by Karen and Steve Thier of Plano. We were also joined by monarch expert Bob Mione.

Bob Mione answers a question from the audience.

Bob brought a group of Master Naturalists from the Dallas area, who joined seven El Camino Real members and some curious neighbors for a total of 23 attendees. Catherine Johnson of the El Camino Real chapter served as the host for the event, along with the Reks, who own the farm.

Catherine Johnson introduces Steve Thier

Steve Thier gave a complete overview of the butterfly propagation (if that’s the right word) project that he and Karen have been working on for the past year, which has resulted in them releasing many butterflies, not only monarchs. They have also raised queens, swalllowtails and others.

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