The First Martin Arrived January 31

by Donna Lewis

January 31: My first Purple Martin to arrive at my site. It was an adult male. Oh, I was excited…

The scouts are first to arrive. They are normally the older birds. They are really not scouting anything.  Who gave them that name?

So, my little friend first sat on top of the gourd rack until the bluebirds ran him off. After many more Martins arrive, the Bluebirds give up and mind their own business.

He then flew to the front pasture, where the apartment house is. He stayed there an hour.

I watched him with my binoculars until I remembered to go and get my camera. In the few minutes I was away from the window he left and has not returned.

The picture was for the blog only, not for me.  After over 50 years I know what they look like pretty good!

So today, February 1st, we had an ice storm…no wonder he left. I might like to leave too. I hate cold weather!

So, what happens if the Martins cannot find food for five days or so? It’s not a good thing. They usually do not survive. They are picky eaters, only using live flying insects as their food.

And when it is bad weather, especially ice, the bugs don’t fly. Just like airplanes. They are grounded.

So sad. Yes, I have tried dried meal worms and throwing up live crickets to them. No success. By the way, the crickets that went up in the air and back down on my face now reside here with me in the pasture. I can hear them singing in the summer months.

I stepped just outside for a few minutes and took these photos of the ice on the Martin housing.  All I can say is burrrrrrr.

I may not pass through this world but once.
Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature,
let me do it now.
Let me not defer or neglect it, for I may not pass this way again.

Stephen Grellet

One Last Wildscape Trip for 2022

by Catherine Johnson

We made one last trip to the Milam Wildscape after the freeze.

Evergreens Wax Myrtle, Gardenia, Sumac, and Iceplant looked pretty with the Fall colors.  We accidentally trapped a cow in a fenced area but were able to free it without letting the sheep or Scruffy the donkey out! 

Kim planted blue Salvia and Rock Rose, and Rosie started a Bluebonnet patch. Mexican Plum and Arroya Sweetwood are the next additions. 

The Boy Scouts have installed bee houses and plan to construct a grape arbor. 

Come visit in the Spring when baby plants and Mason bees emerge and Nature’s cycle starts all over again.

Happy Winter Weather

by Donna Lewis

Is it December?  Maybe I missed something somewhere.  This warm weather is not only messing up my trying to figure out whether I wear sweatpants or shorts, but it has a real effect on the wildlife and plants.

I have hundreds of Gulf Coast Fritillaries coming awake when they should be over wintering snug in their chrysalis forms.

So… Why is this not good for them? Look outside, there are very few, if any, nectar plants for them.  Hardly any wildflowers are in bloom and our own gardens have gone to sleep as they should.  All we can do is watch, learn, and wait for Mother Nature to do her thing.

The birds that are here in Central Texas are also wondering, hello, what is going on?

While warm weather helps them have more insects to eat for this time of the year it also causes them to think about mating and producing a new family.

Bad idea.  If they do that, the cold weather will finally arrive and kill the eggs.

Confusing for sure.

Now, let’s also not forget as we prepare for the winter to come, that we can do a few things to help our friends out.

Extra seeds, mealworms, water, and shelter like old limbs and falling leaves are some things that we can provide.

And of course, leaving some land natural, as it was originally, is what they need.

I have included some photos I just took this week showing some of the chrysalis on our front porch.  I see them daily emerging into beautiful butterflies.

Remember the wildlife every day.  Nature gives us her best every day.

You become what you believe.

And remember who you are gardening for.

Colors Outside the Frozen Window

by Larry Kocian

Birds of different species gather outside this frozen window. They gather around water fountains and various feeders filled with a variety of seeds. On this cold, winter day, they gather in larger numbers as the frigid winds blow and frozen water falls from the sky.

Many birds make your home their homes too. Singing melodies in the trees, reproducing their species, maintaining a balance of insects around your garden. Some of these birds take up residence at your home the entire year. One such bird in the Cardinal. Others migrate to your homes at various times of the year, like the Pine Warbler. 

Last year in February, a catastrophic winter event occurred in Texas that brought Arctic-like weather to a place that does not see this type of weather. The Polar Vortex was very intense and unstable, causing cold air to shift unusually far south. In February 2021, several days of Arctic cold and deep snows paralyzed the way of life for all animals and birds. Many animals froze to death in the wild. 

Cold Northern Cardinals

I remember venturing outside with our family during that event to find hungry birds. Birds that became unusually friendly to gather food. Many Pine Siskins would land on our shoulders and hands, feeding on seeds that we had to feed them. 

Today’s winter event is a very brief taste of that time. Many birds visited the feeders today as the ground is covered with ice and sleet.  The following are birds we saw feeding today :

  • Cardinals
  • Chickadees
  • White-wing Doves
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Various Sparrows
  • Warblers
  • Purple Finches