Report from the 2021 Annual Meeting

by Carolyn Henderson

Linda Jo Conn received special recognition Saturday night at the annual meeting of Texas Master Naturalists in Dallas/Ft Worth. She has reached a milestone of 4,000 service hours. She was in very tight company. Only one other statewide member qualified. 

Congratulations to Linda Jo

The award included a dragonfly pin of brushed gold with a ruby in the center and a special pin and certificate from the office of the President of the United States. 

The Presidential pin

In other categories, Eric Neubauer received recognition for reaching 250 service hours. All who received initial certification from the class of 2020 were also recognized (there were many statewide).

Eric stands as his name is called.

Larry Kocian was recognized for “109!” hours of service in the Texas Water Specialist program with TPWD. Kocian and Sandra Dworaczyk were both given recertification this year. 

Good job!

I attended a 3-hour session on this program, and it looks particularly interesting. If we can get a group of three interested, they can take the class and gain certification. I have a connection to it if anyone is interested. If you’d like to find out more information, contact Melissa Felty, conservation education manager for TPWD, at Conservation Edu@tpwd.gov or go to the web site. The class counts as advanced training hours (8) and the service, which can be education, water testing, CoCoRaHs precipitation measuring, and other things, count as service hours for Texas Master Naturalist. 

Yay for our folks!

The meeting had some very educational sessions. I went from water conservation, to wildscaping in the shade, to Chronic Wasting Disease, to iNaturalist advanced training, to Tarantula sex with live tarantulas in one day. That last one was particularly amusing to me, Eric, and the rest of the packed class. A few members gave play-by-play commentary. My favorite occurred on Saturday. It was an excellent program given by a fellow iNaturalist from the Blackland Prairie chapter on identifying trees. I now have a brochure to carry with me. 

Award recipients

The meeting was educational, entertaining, and a great place to meet other TMNs. I came away with some good ideas for our chapter. 

Oh, and by the way, the new TMN pin for recertification in 2022 is the Lightning Whelk.

The Friendly Pine Siskins

by Larry Kocian

With all the snow that has fallen on a wide area of the region, it’s understandable that our wildlife does turn to us for their sustainable needs, like food, shelter, water. The birds are one such animal that look towards our gardens, birdbaths, bird feeders for nourishment and shelter.

One example I am sharing with everyone is one that surprised me and gave me great excitement.  I got the family outside to experience this rare act of trust and absolute need between Nature and humans.  

The star of this report!

Early Monday morning (February 15), around 7 am, I ventured outside to tend to our domestic animals, to make sure food and water were available and to check on their wellbeing. The temperature was 7F and the wind chill of negative 20. Being outside was difficult and dangerous for prolonged periods of time. After caring for the dogs and cats’ needs, it was time to go to the feeders, after a warmup break inside.

As I approached the feeders, there were many species of birds, more than usual.  I store my bird seed in a small, metal trash can.  I set the can down by the feeders to fill them.  Right away I noticed this particular species of bird that did not fly away.  I was in aww and I thought what if I hold my hand out with feed so I could get the opportunity to feed a wild bird with my hands. This became a reality.  Immediately, the birds flew to my hand, appearing not to fear me. I wondered if they knew me well enough that they trust me or are they that hungry due to the 8.6 inches of snow that fell overnight with blizzard-like conditions.  I believe that it is both.  

Here come the birds!

Throughout the year, I supply food, water, and shelter for many species of birds, both native and migratory. It is very exciting and fulfilling to be a part of their lives.

Wonder!

I videoed the excitement right away, capturing the moments where these birds came to me for food. At first, I thought these birds were some type of Warbler, as there were Warblers in the mix of the many species present. I learned later that these birds are Pine Siskins. After further research,  I learned that every couple of years, Pine Siskins make unpredictable movements into southern and eastern North America.

Friendly bird

I got my kids and wife to go outside and try to feed these birds and the excitement grew.  We have been feeding them in this manner for two days now.  What a great opportunity to have the chance to let a bird land on you, fearless, and feed out of your hand.

Visiting Birds during the Snow and Cold Event:

Pine Siskins
Sparrows
Cardinals 
Warblers
Purple Finches 
Silver Waxwings 
Robins 
Bluejays 
Mockingbirds 
Grackles
Mourning Doves
White-wing Doves
Woodpeckers
Tufted Titmouse
Chickadees
Carolina Warblers
Starlings
Brown headed Cowbird

Welcome Home, Boss

by Larry Kocian

Yesterday, many of us mentioned hearing and seeing hummingbirds in the tree tops, gardens, and at some feeders. Today, just after noontime, this hummingbird posed for the camera. Enjoy the short narrative as to what happened.

I looked out the window and saw a hummingbird at the feeder. I grabbed the big camera and went outside, somewhat hidden, and stayed motionless for 15 minutes or so.

Can’t tell who it is from here.

It was still raining off and on, pleasantly mild, thundering, all foliage was wet. The hummingbird sat on a tiny branch on a large Crape Myrtle tree next to the feeder. Did he see me? Most likely! So it was standoff. I stayed motionless and was not going to move, no matter what was itching or biting me. This went on for many minutes; it seemed like forever.

Big raindrops began to fall again. A couple of Carolina Wrens landed in the same tree. The hummingbird was aggravated with them and chased them off. I waited a few more minutes, raindrops more frequent. Then, the hummingbird made his move.

Yummy!

My camera clicked rapidly at the fast-moving target. I wondered, “What type of hummingbird are you, who are you?” I asked repeatedly.

Then, after feeding a couple of times at the left feeder, he came right at me to the camera. I zoomed the lens back, he positioned himself in the upright position, and revealed his identity, proclaiming, “I am back.”

The Big Reveal!

Then he went to the second feeder to feed. Welcome home, Ruby Red-throated Hummer.

Invasive or Inviting: The Wild Morning Glory

By Larry Kocian. Adopted from a Facebook post on Milam County Veggie and Plant Exchange, September 22, 2019.

Free from nature, these vines (also known as tie vine —Impomoea cordatotriloba) make an appearance in late spring, early summer. In mid- to late summer and into autumn, they are showy with their purple/lavender colors.

Tie vine is just as pretty as hybrid morning glories, just with smaller blossoms.

Some people say invasive. I say not, because they are easily controlled by going into the garden and removing/sculpting them. I let mine climb, and they do climb into the mimosa trees. I do control some when they wrap in the wrong place or too much on a particular plant/tree.

My point is that most natural occurring plants that are labeled invasive are not at all. I always encourage everyone who reads this to go outside and get to know your garden. It’s very therapeutic.

Continue reading “Invasive or Inviting: The Wild Morning Glory”