Purple Martins: A Field Trip

by Sue Ann Kendall

Thanks to some impressive detective work, a group of folks from the El Camino Real Master Naturalist group, along with some Master Gardeners and friends, got to visit what may be the largest privately-owned collection of purple martin houses in the US.

Who, What, Where?

For years, people had been telling our resident purple martin expert, Donna Lewis, that there was “a guy in Milam County” with a whole lot of purple martin houses. She never could find out where the “guy” was, until the intrepid Cathy Johnson got wind of where he might be. So, they called him up and visited the place recently. It’s probably the highlight of Donna’s birding career.

Donna and Cathy just had to show all these purple martin houses and the mega-house to the rest of us.

Well, of course, they knew we’d all want to visit, too, so they arranged for us to visit the beautiful ranch property of Mike McCormick, a ways outside of Buckholts in Milam County.

Field Trip!

We headed out this morning and were treated to a drive through some of the most beautiful countryside in this area. Cathy and I were in the lead car, and were really relieved to find the place, since Apple Maps had no idea where it was.

Beautiful property in Milam County.
Continue reading “Purple Martins: A Field Trip”

Caterpillars Galore!

by Larry Kocian

A few weeks ago, I noticed a Swallowtail butterfly flying frantically in my tropical garden, going back and forth. It would land on this volunteer plant that I didn’t know what it was until now. I realized that this Swallowtail was laying its eggs on this plant.

Happy babies

It turns out the volunteer tree is a Prickly Ash. After the egg laying, I noticed five caterpillars a few weeks later. They look like bird poop. They were happily eating each day and staying here.

They did a good job chomping at the ash!

I would check them daily. Then over time, I noticed one disappeared. Then the next couple of days, two more disappeared. Oops.

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What Goes Yip-yip…Eww?

We thought you’d enjoy a story about a fox and a skunk.

The Hermits' Rest

I’ll tell you! It gave me a happy surprise yesterday, and who doesn’t love a happy surprise? I especially love one that leads to nature observations and stories.

I was leaving work around 5 pm, as workers tend to do, and turned left out of the parking garage. That road leads between two sets of offices, but is shady and has lots of trees. It once was a lovely park-like area, and some parts of it still are.

I looked ahead after making the turn and saw something in the road. Usually, you see deer, since the herd that’s always lived in the area is still here. But, no, this looked more canine.

As I got closer, I ruled out dogs. As I got even closer, I easily ruled out coyotes by looking at the tale. It was a native gray fox! You usually don’t see them when it’s light…

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A Story about Phlox

by Sue Ann Kendall

This is a post I wrote to my ranch blog, but since all the flowers are where we have our Chapter Meetings, I thought I’d share it with my Master Naturalist friends, too.

Ah, Phlox drummondii. Here’s a Texas native I have lifelong memories about.

When I was young, in the good old 1960s, these grew in great abundance in north central Florida, along the roadsides. There would be miles and miles of phlox blurring into a riot of pinks and purples.

Lucky for me, my mother loved to look at these wildflowers as much as I did. She’d ask my dad to please take us for a ride so she could get herself some phlox.

She’d take pitchers full of water in the car, and when she spotted the ideal field of phlox, she’d shout out for Dad to stop NOW!

We’d all pile out and brave the bees and ants (at least this was pre-fire ant) to pick huge bunches of these flowers. We had to be careful not to pull up the roots.

Back in the car, I’d marvel at all the colors and patterns in the blossoms. So much variety! I don’t think they lasted long in Mom’s vases, but they made her happy.

While the area where I live doesn’t have phlox, I’m happy that you only have to drive a few miles east to see some. It’s not like the old days in Florida, but they are pretty.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these flowers from the field next to Milano Methodist Church. They sure sent me down memory lane.

What’s a wildflower that brings YOU memories? Send Sue Ann your stories, in email, on Facebook, or on a piece of paper.

Annoyed by Trash

by Sue Ann Kendall

I’ve been thinking a lot about trash bags and how they endanger our domesticated and wild animal friends. So, you can imagine how perturbed I was when I got behind this garbage truck outside of Temple last week.

See the huge open bag? It was releasing its contents along the road. Above the caution sign at right is a genuine bit of trash that flew out.

The darned thing was blithely spewing trash, and plastic bags in particular, all along the highway. I couldn’t quite make out the license plate, though I was tempted to call this guy in for polluting the road.

I know this truck isn’t alone. The particular stretch of road we were on must be a trash route, because there was a LOT of debris on the roadside. What made us most sad was the plain evidence that people had quite recently walked the road and picked up trash, since there were black trash bags evenly spaced among the fresh new mess.

We really have a lot of education and enforcement work to do, don’t we?