Would You Eat off a Dirty Plate?

by Donna Lewis

Would you like to eat off a dirty plate? Birds probably will, but it is not safe for them.

So, I bet your feeders are not clean. It’s a nasty job we all hate to do.  Let’s face it, it’s work!

Gotta clean out these seeds that are stuck to the feeder after a rain.

But a dirty bird feeder can transmit Salmonella enterica bacteria. Nasty…

Soap and water is not enough to do the job. Ole faithful…BLEACH is what is needed.

Your necessary cleaning supplies.

1. First, clear all the old seeds out of the feeder.  Use a brush or putty remover because it will be like concrete to remove.

2. Wash the feeder with soap and water, scrubbing it good.  Then dunk it in a bleach/water solution.  A nine to one solution is recommended.

3. Next it must be completely dry before you add any seed again.  Don’t get in a hurry.

Having a few extra feeders helps you rotate them.

Dunking in process. Note the rubber gloves!

4.  Next clean under the feeders. Get rid of the old moldy seeds on the ground. Dispose of them so the birds cannot eat them again. They’re birds, they don’t know any different.

It’s a very good idea to wear rubber gloves while doing this. Birds can transmit some diseases

A good photo instructional to watch is www.wikihow.pet/clean-Birdfeeders.

Have fun…

Water Feature Fun for Beauty, Conservation, and Natural Habitat

by Pamela Neeley

Note from Suna: Pamela Neeley from the El Camino Real chapter has been working with water features on her property for the past few months (years), creating not only areas of beauty (sight and sound), but places for aquatic plants to flourish, and wildlife to sustain themselves on. I toured her property a couple of weeks ago and encouraged her to share some of her ideas and techniques with fellow Master Naturalists. Maybe you can borrow of her creative thoughts some in your own gardens and wild areas!

Here’s another example of a dripping faucet connection caught into a container. Cats and dogs like this one, too.

Milkweeds and a Woodpecker

by Lisa Milewski

Milkweed Report

Members of our chapter have been participating in a Monarch Watch Milkweed Project, where we each try to grow some plants and carefully monitor them. Mine don’t seem to be growing as well as some of the others’ plants. Maybe I’m over-thinking!

I picked up the plants on May 2. They are antelope horns (Asperula).

That’s the plants, bottom left.

I planted them on May 4 in a raised bed garden (formerly my vegetable herb garden that didn’t do well since I am still learning how to get a green thumb.J  However, I left the fern leaf dill for the black swallowtail caterpillars which love them are doing well. 

The planting spot.

They are in mixed soil (1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite).

Since the planting, I have tracked the rainfall and dates I hand watered the plants. I take photos of them every week for my logbook. Here are the most recent pictures:

I’m going to try to add the grass clippings around and not water too much, maybe?  Wish me luck. 

Annie the Woodpecker

I told the people at last week’s chapter meeting about Annie the red-bellied woodpecker, who has been hanging around the food pantry in the church building in Hutto where I do a lot of my volunteer work.

We’re hoping to discourage her from pecking away at the wooden cross on the property, but not chase her away entirely. I have really enjoyed watching Annie. These pictures are taken through a dirty window, but you can see her pretty well!

Toad Abodes and Frog Fun

by Pamela Neeley and Sue Ann Kendall

Last week, Sue Ann got all excited when she spotted a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus) in her little pond at her ranch. She also saw 14 bullfrogs and a Gulf Coast toad, and wrote a blog post about it. When she mentioned the leopard frog at our July Chapter Meeting, lots of members chimed in that they’d been seeing them in large numbers this year.

Toad in the water, frog well camouflaged on the shore.

This morning, Pamela went out into her garden and found a truly magnificent leopard frog specimen. We agreed that this had to be shared.

Hello! How do you like my eye stripe?

The stripes and the way they got through the toad’s eyes are so interesting, and the color is almost glowing! Pamela measured its belly print at over three inches. That’s a big one.

Look at those long legs! You can tell it’s a true frog.

Pamela mentioned that she has more than one toad house on her property, which some of the frogs apparently use, too. Here’s the really pretty one.

Any toad would appreciate such a fine home.

But the plain ones work just fine, too, as long as you leave the bottom open, so their bellies can rest on the dirt.

Perfectly adequate toad home.
Now you can see its pretty white belly.

Making a toad abode is easy and fun. Here’s a great page Pamela found, from the Houston Arboretum Nature Center on how to make toad abodes of many charming styles, along with a lot more information about them. Don’t forget, they will need a source of water!

What kinds of toads and frogs do you have where you live?

Here’s a Colorful Project

by Sue Ann Kendall

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I wrote up a version of this for my personal blog, but thought I’d share it here, in case it inspired any of you to do something similar while you are sheltering in place (or any other time).

This fun project I did yesterday didn’t require any human contact nor leaving the property where our office is. I decided to see how many different yellow flowers I could find in the weed/wildflower collection known as our empty lot.

I simply ambled outside with my phone and tried to get good pictures. Yellows are difficult in bright sunlight, so it was good practice for me to try to get photos with a lot of detail and not just glare. As you can see, I managed to fill a whole screen in iNaturalist!

Most of the field actually LOOKS purple, because there is so much common storks-bill (Erodium cicutarium) growing in it, but when you look closer and closer, the yellows dominate (purple is in second place, with field madder and a little patch of grape hyacinth that must be left over from when there was a house here – I plan to replant them in the “flower bed” I’m making).

What have we got? Let’s take a look. Many of these flowers look really similar, but are different sizes or have other subtle differences. Note that I may have gotten something wrong in my identification, so if anyone corrects me on iNaturalist, I’ll correct it here, too.

Common Dandelion. Taraxacum officinale. Delicious and nutritious. Bees love them.

False Dandelion. Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus. Plus a tiny wasp and tinier beetle.

Prickly Sowthistle Sonchus asper. It’s everywhere. And very prickly. Note that there are aphids or something on it.

Smooth Cat’s Ear. Hypochaeris glabra. Looks like a teeny dandelion on a very long stem. Compare to the first dandelion and you’ll see how small it is.

Cutleaf Evening Primrose. Oenothera laciniata. Smaller than most evening primrose, but a beautiful buttery yellow.

Crete Weed. Hedypnois cretica. I thought it was a dandelion, but look at the leaf and the cool petal shape.

Woodsorrels. Genus Oxalis. I’m not sure which one it is, but it’s certainly oxalis. Sour tasty leaves!

Bur Clover. Medicago polymorpha. It’s about finished blooming and starting to make burs. Yellow is a hard color for my camera, and I couldn’t get a good shot of these.


Straggler Daisy
. Calyptocarpus vialis. Lots of leaves, tiny flowers. They are pretty up close, though.

I got a lot of bugs and other things, but I’m just going to leave this parade of yellow-ness alone, in all their glory. I’ll see what other themes I can come up with over the next few weeks as all the flowers bloom away.

Do you have any suggestions? Share with the group!