Rain Revives the Park

by Carolyn Henderson

The amounts of rain received over the last few days varies, but a stroll around Wilson Ledbetter Park on Sunday shows just how much a little rain can do.  

It’s green!

The 0.40 inches I received at my house was enough to elicit excitement because I had none for so long. The 2.5 inches friends a few miles down the road received also inflicted envy. Based on the location of Wilson Ledbetter Park and rain reports, I would estimate 0.50 inches there so far this week has really “greened” up the place. 

I was there a month ago and all grass was brown, almost no flowers bloomed, and trees were turning brown, too. Today, grass is green, several types of flowers are blooming and most of the trees look perkier

The bright yellow Rio Grande Copper Lily was popping up in many areas. Also blooming in the yellow category were Bitterweed, Spreading Fanpetals, and Texas Snakeweed. To be honest, Bitterweed never went into hibernation. Drought and 108 degrees didn’t faze it.

In the pink/purple category, Shaggy Portulaca, Tievine, and Texas Vervain were in bloom.  Violet Rueilla  and Purple Nightshade were abundant, but they never completely died off. The Whitemouth Dayflower, a vivid blue flower, was in abundant bloom both near and far away from the little lake. 

Texas Bull Nettle was really starting to put on medium sized white flowers. Try hard not to touch that one because all those nettles will really make your skin itch. Other whites were the Santa Maria Feverfew and Turkey Tangle Frogfruit. I would bet that Turkey Tangle Frogfruit could survive anything. It totally ignored the 8 days of below freezing temperatures and ice and the drought with excessively high temperatures.

All that color was popping out at me in a short stroll around the park. If the amount of rain forecast for this week materializes, I hope you’ll go out to Wilson Ledbetter and take it all in, too.

Peppervine fruit

The Bee Story

By Dorothy Mayer

So, I saw the following story online today (see screenshots from Facebook below). Some time ago, I’d likely have blown it off as a pretty farfetched tale. But I couldn’t help but think about an incident I experienced at my house a couple of years ago.

This story brought to mind about me seeing a wasp nest on our RV bumper about sixty feet from our house. I was worried about somebody getting stung, so I told Hubs that we should probably do something about them. So, he takes his handy pliers and pulls it off the bumper, as nothing was on it at the time. Then, he laid it on a little table by our porch swing that was 60 feet away from and out of sight of the RV bumper it came off. After that, we pretty much forgot about it.

Later that evening I happened to look over there and saw about three or four wasps back on it lying on that little table far away from that bumper we pulled it from. I was amazed that they’d looked for it and found it in a totally different place than it was supposed to be.

So, do I think this bee story is farfetched? I think not.

I think insects have way more sense than we realize. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know.

[saw]

To learn more about insects and all the other nature in Milam County, consider signing up for our next class! Contact ElCaminoRealMasterNaturalist@gmail.com and we’ll get you in touch with our new class team.

In Memory of Sam Jolly

Sam Jolly – 1969-2022

Our chapter was sad to learn that one of our long-time friends and member of our most recent 2020 graduating class, Sam Jolly, passed away on April 13.

Sam attended our meetings for many years before joining a class. He was always there to help his friends and neighbors with lifting objects, driving at night, or getting up and down the stairs when we met at the old church basement.

While he had many challenges from brain tumors that affected his memory for the past few years, he was always cheerful about them and didn’t let them stop him from learning, participating in activities, and helping out in any way he could.

As recently as last year, he built bee houses for our chapter that we gave away last year at an event we held at the Wildscape. He was always busy creating, teaching others, or photographing the world around him. You can see some of his photos on iNaturalist, and it’s worth taking a look. Some are just amazing.

Long-time friend Cindy Travis said:

Pipevine swallowtail near the end of its life, but still beautiful. Photo by Sam Jolly.

He had a good heart and we feel blessed to have had him close to us and our friends for most of his last years.

Cindy Travis, friend and former landlord

After moving from Milam County to be near his family for his last few months, Sam passed away. He has left his body to science. He was always generous that way.

Learn more about Sam and his life and family in his obituary. Please share your own thoughts, photos, and memories of Sam with Sue Ann at ecrmnsecretaryATgmail (figure it out) or in the comments, and she will add them to this post.

Here are some great pictures of Sam, most of which were sent to us by his son (as was the photo at top). We are grateful for more memories of our friend to enjoy.

Build it and they will come OR Landscaping for spiders 101

by Eric Neubauer

A special spider story: I’ve developed an interest in this Pardosa mercurialis partially because it’s the only Pardosa species in Texas that anyone on iNat can reliably identify. They have particular habitat preferences which make them more common in the hill country than on the prairie. I’ve been looking far and wide for them for over a year and had only found one colony in Milam County. Needless to say, I’d become pretty familiar with the habitats they like.

For the last few months, I’ve been piling up chert nodules around the outlet of a culvert under the driveway all the time thinking the spiders might like it if only they could find it. I could try importing some spiders, but it’s better to let nature do her own thing.

At this point there were about six square feet of nodules, and I was adding half a bucket more so any pioneering spiders wouldn’t laugh at my meager efforts and move on. As I was placing some rocks by hand, I saw movement and realized I needn’t have worried. A well grown juvenile was already there.

When I came back for the empty bucket 10 minutes later, it was sunning itself on a rock the way they do. I’d never seen one on my property or within 10 miles of it before.

Birds at the Park

By Carolyn Henderson

Birds where everywhere Sunday at Wilson-Ledbetter Park. I came upon a few out of the ordinary species while walking the park to contribute to the GTWT Adopt-A-Loop project with the Texas Nature Trackers/Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and iNaturalist

Normally, flora is abundant in that park, but most things were wilted, or dried up and gone, which is primarily due to the lack of rain in August and September and mowing. I heard on the local weather report that September has been a record dry month here in Central Texas. There were a few butterflies, but they were sparse, too, probably because there are very few nectar-producing plants right now. But the birds showed up. 

There were domestic mallards that I would called mottled, mallards, mallards x muscovy cross, black-bellied Whistling Ducks (juvenile), and pekin ducks. The ducks appear to be intermingling. 

There were green herons, great blue herons (which kept stealing fish from the green heron), and a great egret. Watching the Great Egret fly over the pond was beautiful – until it landed (see top photos). It was comically ungraceful when it landed in a large patch of floating primrose-willow. 

There were also domestic geese that have been living in the wild there for a very long time. The geese and most ducks  were amazingly indifferent to humans standing amid them. All of the pictured birds have been verified for research grade on iNat except the Geese and Mallard x Muscovy, the latter of which was the suggestion by iNat.

Usually sparrows, mockingbirds, and grackles are there, but I did not see them Sunday.

If you’re a bird watcher or just want to earn some volunteer hours, it’s an interesting place to spend a little time. If you don’t yet use iNat and want to, they are having at least three programs on the use of the program at the annual meeting next month. You can attend virtually if you aren’t going in person.