More Field Trip Memories

by Carolyn Henderson and Catherine Johnson

The El Camino Real chapter of Texas Master Naturalist took their first field trip of the year to the farm of Master Naturalist Alan Rudd. About twenty members, including new trainees, toured the place learning about natural methods of fish farming and how the stock ponds were created. Rudd also gave a history of all the new species drawn to the area by the abundant water and food sources.

After the hike around parts of the place, members cooked hot dogs and pie iron goodies over the fire. Many thanks go to Rudd and his family for hosting the chapter.

Let’s Get Outside to Palmetto State Park

by Jackie Thornton

Each week in our El Camino Real Master Naturalist’s newsletter we are encouraged to get outside and are given suggested activities. One week recently the activity was to visit a Texas State Park. On an absolutely gorgeous day (January 30) I did just that and visited a park that has been on my bucket list for a long time.

(The images are videos for some reason…hope to fix it soon).

The park was Palmetto State Park between Luling and Gonzales Texas, about a two hour drive from Rockdale.  The park did not disappoint.  I met a friend from Austin there and we took off on the trails, which are easy to walk.  Our first trail ran by the San Marcos River and all I could say is “I wish my iNaturalist guru was here”.  I was like a kid running here and there trying to look at everything and this is in January!  (My Girl Scout Leader daughter-in-law told me to go before the mosquitoes wake up.)  The second trail we walked was the Palmetto Trail and I was in love with this park.  We stopped for our picnic lunch on a bluff high above the San Marcos River with a a beautiful view!

I took off on my own to explore other parts of the park and met two gentlemen who were practicing for the Texas Water Safari in their canoe.  The event will begin June 11 this year at the headwaters of the San Marcos River and will end in Seadrift on the Texas coast, a distance of 260 miles.  Imagine in a canoe, in June, for 260 miles!

The park is a nature lover’s paradise.  The dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) is a visual delight along with the other plant life.  Looking at the website for Palmetto will give you its wonderful history and for birders, it is heaven!  Entrance fee is $3.00. without any discounts!  It was not crowded on the day we were there, but it is easy to imagine that it could become very busy.  I highly recommend a reservation and a trip there soon!

Talking Trash and Texas History

Linda Jo Conn

The suggested “Let’s Get Outside!” ECRTMN chapter activity for the first week in January was to pick up litter at a roadside park or other public area.  Granted, it is not that exciting a task but with the Covid numbers still a concern, it was an activity that could be performed in solitude at any convenient time.    

Today was my day to “get outside”.  It was cool and overcast but fortunately, there was not an icy wind gusting from the north.  

After attending the hybrid ECR chapter board meeting in Cameron, I drove down FM 2095 to Gause and turned east on Hwy 79 toward the Brazos River and the Milam and Robertson County line. Just before the river, there is a pullover with a couple of granite monuments and a row of large crepe myrtle trees.  

One of the monuments commemorates the former site of the town of Nashville surveyed in the fall of 1835 as the capital of Sterling C. Robertson’s colony and named for Nashville, Tennessee, where Robertson and many of his colonists had formerly lived.  The location also commemorates the first Texas home of George C. Childress, the chairman of the committee who drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence.    

The monuments

The other monument was erected by the Texas Society of DAR in 1991 to commemorate the DAR Centennial Park.  According to the inscription: “In 1936 the Sarah McCalla Chapter DAR of Cameron created a park (about ¾ mile upriver) at the site of old Nashville to commemorate the Texas State Centennial.  The red rock DAR monument to the left was in that park which is now inaccessible.”  The red rock monument referred to was vandalized and is no longer on the site.  The inscription continues: “Sterling C. Robertson who is buried in the old Nashville Cemetery was moved to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin in 1935.” The monument commemorates the Centennial of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution 1890-1990.

I do not travel this highway very often, but when I do, I usually stop to check the site out.  Usually, there has been plenty of litter in the area, but today, there was not an inordinate amount so my workload was light. I found nothing exciting or valuable; just the usual beer bottles, aluminum cans, cigarette butts, and some miscellaneous paper items.  My haul was a Walmart bag stuffed full and a few large pieces of metal. I am intrigued by the mention of the Nashville cemetery and the former park.  I plan to do some research and will return to visit the cemetery in the spring.  

The haul of trash.

The area behind the monuments is now covered with rosettes of Texas Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and it will certainly be worth the trip. 

Bluebonnets!

When a Four-Year-Old Takes Hold of Your Camera

by Carolyn Henderson

On Sunday, November 21, I discovered that four-year-olds have a natural eye for photographing nature. It started on the Saturday evening before when a friend asked me what I was going to do on Sunday, and I said I was going to go “iNating” at Wilson-Ledbetter Park in Cameron. And she said she and her daughter (the 4-year-old), would like to go with me. 

Vivi and the lady beetle.

Around noon on Sunday, we met at the park. Spring (the friend) had printed a nature scavenger hunt for Vivi (the 4-year-old). The idea was to keep Vivi occupied while learning about nature. It didn’t take Vivi long to find everything pictured except two with the help of Spring. A pinecone was not going to be found at Wilson-Ledbetter, because there is no pine tree there. We didn’t see a squirrel either. 

Wilson-Ledbetter Park bridge

She had been interested in me taking pictures of Birds-eye Speedwells, Straggler Daisies, Santa Maria Feverfew, Docks, and a Black Willow sporting yellow fall leaves. She asked me what each one was, and luckily I knew them – so far. This is when she decided to help me take pictures. Spring tried to divert her by offering her cell phone, but Vivi wanted the camera, and I was willing to share. It’s old and I need a new one, anyway. 

These seeds are not delicious.

After a few times reminding her to keep her fingers from in front of the lens, she had it down. She took a particular interest in holes in the ground, anything that had a “V” shape, because she knows that’s the first letter of her name (and the other letters, too), the blue seeds on an Eastern Cedar (which we had to dissuade her from tasting), Carolina Snailseed, Frostweed (which was still blooming), dandelions, and Lady Beetles, which she could also catch.  She had as difficult a time as I do trying to get some little yellow butterflies to be still for a minute. 

Carolina snailseed

All the pictures shown except for her holding the Seven-spotted Lady Beetle were taken by Vivi. She asked me to tell Santa Claus that she wants a camera for Christmas. I quickly sent the message to Santa. ; )

My New Friend the Water Snake Returned

by Donna Lewis

Well since I wrote about the yellowbelly water snake eating my toad friend, it returned.

I thought it had left since it had eaten my little friend.  Sadly, it liked the hole the toad had wallered out and decided that it would take up residence there.

Hole, before filling in

So, now I could see its head poking out the hole under the water faucet every time I used the hose. All I could think about was it might be a girl and she would have her babies there. Not a good thing.   

I didn’t want to hurt it, but it needed to go back to our woods, where the pond is. My Linda also said it must go. She would have been happy to get the shotgun and blast away. I could not let that happen.

So, all I could think to do was to remove the little area under the faucet and fill it in. Of course, the snake was in the hole while I got started. How exciting.

Tools are ready!

I put on my snake leggings, just in case it wanted to bite me. Then I got everything I might need to do this task.  I got a hoe, shovel, dirt, and some rocks and put them close to the area.

Protection

Then, I lifted the flat rock that I placed there to keep the water from making a hole.  As soon as I lifted it, Mr. or Mrs. Snake came flying out and lunged at me. 

I had the shovel, so I flipped the snake away and started trying to scare it. I kept moving towards it and flipping it about five feet away. It actually was bucking in the air!  It was both terrifying and funny at the same time. 

At last, the snake finally decided I meant business and took off across the pasture.  Yes!

I quickly dug out the hole and then filled it in with all the stuff I had assembled. This was last week, and so far no snake.

All covered up

Who would believe this, but it’s true. No snake was hurt during this adventure.