More Visiting Turtles

by Donna Lewis

Hello all,

On the afternoon of Sunday, May 8, our little dog found a turtle in our yard near the house.

He barked and barked, getting my attention really fast. I was sure it must be a snake, but it was a female Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) a long name for a turtle…who comes up with these names?

She was really far from the pond at the rear of our property.   Maybe she was laying eggs, who knows?

I promptly canceled my task of mowing the area. Now I’ll have to hope she didn’t bury her eggs somewhere where the tractor will roll over them. I will never be able to look for them in the pasture.  But yes (you know me) I did look.

Normally I see these turtles on the turtle dock we made on our small pond. However, these guys are crossing the roads right now, looking for a date.

If you decide to assist that journey, put them on the side of the road that they are pointed at. Make sure to wash your hands as soon as possible after handling any reptile. Happy trails…

Monarch Caterpillars in the House!

by Donna Lewis

On Maya 4, I was so happy to discover two monarch caterpillars feeding on the milkweed a group of our Master Naturalists planted on our properties last year. This species of milkweed is Asclepias asperula, common name Antelope Horns or Spider Milkweed.

Of the twenty-four plants I received from a grant Cathy Johnson procured for us, only these few survived. Gophers tunneled under all the others and they did not regrow.

But… look what found them!  There are two monarch caterpillars munching away on them.

There were also two species of bees, a wasp, a variegated fritillary, and a hairstreak butterfly.    Everyone wanted in on the action.

Interesting was the fact that the Monarchs were eating the stems not the leaves? I do not know why that was. Something to learn about.

The main thing to take away is that while it may seem like a minor event…two more monarchs made it into our world.

So yes, we can make a difference!

Who are you gardening for?

The Great Caterpillar Run

by Donna Lewis

On May 2, I went out to the pollinator garden to work, and all I saw was black Pipe-vine caterpillars on the march to find more pipe-vine plants. They ate all the ones I have in my garden right down to the ground and are even eating the stems right now.  It’s a feast going on….

The vines, before

I almost stepped on a bunch of them.

Off it goes!

I got my camera, took a few shots and then carefully walked out of the garden.

The vines, after

They will go out to the pasture and find their native vine until they are big enough to make a chrysalis  and then become a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly.

Nothing left but future butterflies.

In several weeks, my plants will completely grow back and the process begins again. Last year I had four complete cycles.

The caterpillars can be black or dark red.

That is amazing.

PS: Out near where Donna lives, Suna saw at least a dozen of the adults enjoying Indian blanket flowers. Sadly, she was unable to stop the vehicle fast enough for a photo, but it was a beautiful sight.

Bird and Bee Wildscape Is in Bloom

by Carolyn Henderson

The El Camino Real Chapter wildscape at the Bird and Bee Farm is in bloom and looking particularly well-groomed this week.

Owners of the Bird and Bee Farm, Gene and Cindy Rek, who also happen to be official Texas Master Naturalists now, have received special recognition for their agricultural practices from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The TCEQ came out last Tuesday to film a video and interview the Reks about their operations, and the Wildscape got a little recognition, too.

Tim Siegmund, TPWD biologist and our friend, helped the Reks convert their pastures to native grasses.

The Reks, Catherine Johnson and family, and several members of our chapter worked hard to make the place presentable for the filming. Luckily, several of the native plants in the wildscape also decided to bloom in time for the filming.

The Reks will receive their award in May at a TCEQ banquet, where the short video will be shown. The video will then be viewable to the public via the TCEQ website and You Tube. We will post it here when it’s available.

In the meantime, look at what’s blooming at the wildscape! (Sorry the blogmaster can’t remember the names of all the flowers – she’s old.)