Talking Trash and Texas History

Linda Jo Conn

The suggested “Let’s Get Outside!” ECRTMN chapter activity for the first week in January was to pick up litter at a roadside park or other public area.  Granted, it is not that exciting a task but with the Covid numbers still a concern, it was an activity that could be performed in solitude at any convenient time.    

Today was my day to “get outside”.  It was cool and overcast but fortunately, there was not an icy wind gusting from the north.  

After attending the hybrid ECR chapter board meeting in Cameron, I drove down FM 2095 to Gause and turned east on Hwy 79 toward the Brazos River and the Milam and Robertson County line. Just before the river, there is a pullover with a couple of granite monuments and a row of large crepe myrtle trees.  

One of the monuments commemorates the former site of the town of Nashville surveyed in the fall of 1835 as the capital of Sterling C. Robertson’s colony and named for Nashville, Tennessee, where Robertson and many of his colonists had formerly lived.  The location also commemorates the first Texas home of George C. Childress, the chairman of the committee who drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence.    

The monuments

The other monument was erected by the Texas Society of DAR in 1991 to commemorate the DAR Centennial Park.  According to the inscription: “In 1936 the Sarah McCalla Chapter DAR of Cameron created a park (about ¾ mile upriver) at the site of old Nashville to commemorate the Texas State Centennial.  The red rock DAR monument to the left was in that park which is now inaccessible.”  The red rock monument referred to was vandalized and is no longer on the site.  The inscription continues: “Sterling C. Robertson who is buried in the old Nashville Cemetery was moved to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin in 1935.” The monument commemorates the Centennial of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution 1890-1990.

I do not travel this highway very often, but when I do, I usually stop to check the site out.  Usually, there has been plenty of litter in the area, but today, there was not an inordinate amount so my workload was light. I found nothing exciting or valuable; just the usual beer bottles, aluminum cans, cigarette butts, and some miscellaneous paper items.  My haul was a Walmart bag stuffed full and a few large pieces of metal. I am intrigued by the mention of the Nashville cemetery and the former park.  I plan to do some research and will return to visit the cemetery in the spring.  

The haul of trash.

The area behind the monuments is now covered with rosettes of Texas Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and it will certainly be worth the trip. 

Bluebonnets!

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.

In the Media: Citizen Scientists

By Sue Ann Kendall

Do you get the Texas Co-op Power magazine? It’s actually one of my favorites. The writing is great, and I’m always learning something about rural Texas on its pages.

What’s that on the cover?

This month, I was excited to see “citizen scientists” right on the cover. Who could they be talking about? Sure enough, when I turned to page 8, there was a lovely article all about opportunities to contribute to science around the state.

Hey, that’s Craig Hensley!

Though the article talks about many opportunities, we’re in there, too. Some of our favorite projects, like CoCoRaHS, are mentioned, along with Nature Trackers and iNaturalist. There are photos of Tania Homayoun and Craig Hensley doing their stuff for Texas Parks and Wildlife and using iNaturalist.

Of course, there has to be a tie-in to electric co-ops. Who could be better than our own Linda Jo Conn! Yep, she gets quoted! We can charitably ignore the lack of capitalization when they mention Texas Master Naturalists.

So, if you get your electricity from one of the amazing Texas rural electric co-ops, don’t throw away your monthly magazine this month! If you don’t get the magazine, never fear. It’s online right here.

It makes you proud to be a citizen scientist, even though that’s not the preferred term for many people, who now say “community scientist” instead. Well, we know who we are.

So Many Moths, So Little Time

by Linda Jo Conn

Last week I turned on my porch light every night at “dark thirty” to attract moths I could photograph and submit to the National Moth Week 2021 project on iNaturalist.org.  This year was a bit cooler and more moist than most of the past years, and also a bit brighter because of the full moon.  Although I thought I did pretty well with my very basic mothing equipment and a “point-shoot-and-hope” camera, I was amazed by the quality and quantity of observations my Texas Master Naturalist / iNaturalist friends across the state of Texas submitted.  

Anacampsis fullonella, a Twirler Moth

You can visit my moth week observations at https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&project_id=103786&user_id=26296&verifiable=any.

Snowy Urola Moth, Urola nivalis

If you are inclined to add an identification, comment, or correction, please feel free to do so.  

Ragweed Borer Moth, Epiblema strnuana

One thing I have learned… There are so many, many moths and I will never have enough time to master the ID of even a small fraction. 

Detracted Owlet, Lesmone detrahens

Report on the ECR Seasonal Winter BioBlitz

by Linda Jo Conn

As I reported at the monthly chapter meeting, I was pleased with the participation and results of our first seasonal BioBlitz. We had 10 participants who have submitted 492 observations to date, which included 248 species. To view the observations, go to: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/ecr-seasonal-winter-bioblitz.

This was a low-key BioBlitz, promoting observations made at one’s place of residence to avoid travel and promote physical distancing during this time of COVID precautions. We enjoyed pleasant weather that encouraged outdoor time during the first part of the designated week, but it did get a bit disagreeable during the last days. Still, worthwhile observations were made.

Perhaps one of the first things noticed by plant observers was the lack of blooms. Yes, there were the typical cool-weather blossoms of henbit deadnettle, catchweed bedstraw, shepherd’s purse, and common chickweed, but also a lot of unidentifiable leafy green rosettes. 

Lichens, particularly the orange colored hair lichens, were definite eye-catchers in the drab landscape. 

Golden-eye Lichen Teloschistes chrysophthalmus Photo by Linda Jo Conn.

Some plants such as the American Trumpet Vine were identified by last season’s seed pods

American Trumpet Vine Campsis radicans photo by Sue Ann Kendall

Other plants were given a general tentative ID and hopefully will be revisited when blooms appear later in the year.

Fleabanes and horseweeds, unidentified. Photo by Ann Collins.

We observed birds. A Red-Shouldered Hawk is perhaps checking out the nearby martin house.

Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus Photo by Debbi Sorenson

We observed reptiles. Well, one reptile observation was made.

Common Slider Trachemys scripta Photo by Ann Collins

We saw mollusks,

River Mussels Family Unionidae Photo by Marian Buegeler

And spiders,

Shore Spider Pardosa milvina Photo by Eric Neubauer

and insects,

Stable Fly Stomoxys calcitrans Photo by Sue Ann Kendall

And other arthropods, such as this intact exoskeleton of a white river crayfish.

White River Crayfish Procambarus acutus Photo by Marian Buegeler – reviewer said it was a great observation!

So, I thank you, sunasak, birdladymilam, marianmarie, eaneubauer, chenderson, dsorenson, potterswasp, jfcthornton, and debbi9, for participating in the BioBlitz.

 I look forward to joining you at the spring iNaturalist seasonal BioBlitz, scheduled for May 20-26. 

Happy iNat-ing!