The Wildscape at the End of 2021

by Catherine Johnson

A good day was spent at the Wildscape at the Bird and Bee Farm between Rockdale and Milano, on the last day of 2021.

There are many cats!

In March, the Wildscape will be three years old, and no one knew what it would become.  It has been a place of happy times, learning, sharing, and surprises.

There were also some losses, including the favorite Garden cat Macaroni. 

Farewell, friend.

Much is planned for the new year. Already, another big building has been built for expanding the Rio Grande Turkeys. 

These are chickens, not turkeys, of course.

This last day of the year was spent with friends and relatives, including Master Naturalist Alan and son Adam building a great garden shed.   

Working on the shed.

Enjoy what is holding on.

Still blooming just before the first hard freeze hit.

What’s Blooming at the Wildscape?

by Carolyn Henderson

The Bird and Bee Farm Wildscape continues to produce butterfly- and bee-attracting blooms this November and people to take a look at what our chapter does there.

Monarch on white butterfly bush

The purple and white Butterfly Bushes are still in bloom as is the Tropical Sage. Those two seem to be the favorites of the pollinating crowd right now. Tropical Milkweed is also in bloom, but it’s not desired by either butterflies or bees of the three varieties there last Saturday. Indian Blankets, roses, Turks Cap of two colors, lantana, and a mystery bloom are also putting out lots of flowers. See the picture of the mystery bloom and take a guess.

Catherine Johnson, main manager of the Wildscape, has organized plant give-aways to anyone who wants to prep their own butterfly flower bed for next spring. It started last Saturday and will continue through Saturday, November 13, and Saturday, November 20. Hours are 9 to 12. Several people from out of town went home with Texas native plants for their gardens last Saturday. The Wildscape is on FM 334 between Milano and Rockdale.

If you don’t want to plant them, you can help dig them up and distribute them to patrons for service hours.

Rio Grande turkeys, guinea fowl, and a hen or two.

Enjoy the flowers while helping the pollinators spring through fall next year.

El Camino Real Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists Holds Event for Girl Scouts

by Carolyn Henderson, with additional photos from Linda Jo Conn

Young girls with boundless curiosity swarmed the Birds and Bees Wildscape Saturday, July 17, to perform public service in honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Girl Scouts of the USA. The El Camino Real chapter of Texas Master Naturalists hosted the event.

Girl Scout finds a monarch butterfly caterpillar

Approximately 40 scouts and their leaders and parents attended the event.  It started with talks given by Catherine Johnson, Donna Lewis and Alan Rudd. An additional 15 ECRMN members helped the girls.

Donna Lewis spoke to them about planting milkweed to help promote the continuation of monarch butterflies. Alan Rudd spoke about the control of mosquitos with a totally natural method.  Many adults were particularly interested in controlling mosquitos.  The scouts then put that information into practice by planting milkweed in several sections of the wildscape.

Scouts plant milkweed

The girls and members were also excited to watch the release of many Bob-white quail into the pasture at the Bird and Bee Farm. The pasture is in the process of being returned to its natural state, and the quail were released to try to repopulate the area with a native bird that once was abundant in the area. They are rarely found east of I-35 now.     

A scout shows off the goodies she’s taking home.

The girls also found stray eggs laid by other birds on the farm [guinea fowl], and monarch caterpillars that were already on the Milkweed plants that were to be planted Saturday. It was an informative and entertaining day for everyone and the scouts left with bags full of goodies and some native Texas plants to grow at home.

Two scouts explore and come back with some treasures – a large egg and some feathers.

So much went on! Enjoy more photos, as well as some taken by Linda Jo Conn. What a fun day! Click a photo to see it enlarged.

Shades of Purple

by Carolyn Henderson

Colorful blooms are bursting out all over at the Bird and Bee Farm Wildscape. Whatever your favorite color might be, it’s in there. 

Passionflower

Shades of purple are particularly abundant. They range from the bright Mock Vervain purple to the pale bluish-lavender of  Palmleaf Mists. There is a specimen of just about everything in between. I’ve included seven different flowers that are classified as “purple”. And all of them are native to Texas. They can grow in sand and blackland and most of them don’t need much rain. 

Garden cosmos

If purple is not your shade, reds, oranges, yellows, and whites are also broadly represented.  I encourage you to come and see all the colors. There are plenty of butterflies and bees to watch, too. They are particularly fond of most of these flowers. 

You can plot next year’s garden from here. And often times there are free samples to take home. Our chapter will be hosting Girl Scouts on July 17 in the morning, at the Wildscape. It’s a good time to go check out the place for yourself. 

Rainy Days at the Wildscape

by Catherine Johnson

The recent rains have delayed work at the Wildscape including planting free milkweed from Monarch Watch. 

Mason bee in nest!

Natives waiting to go in include new Side Oats Grama, Shenendoah and Heavy Metal Switchgrass, Maiden, Karl Forester, and Little Bunny grasses, Dwarf Adagio Miscanthus and Nolina for the Southwest garden.

New natives being tended include Common Bluestar and Wild Quinine (not pictured).

Between stones of the new patio will be Creeping Germander and Texas Sedge.  Soon, there will be more native plants for sharing.