Join Texas Parks & Wildlife, Texas Master Naturalists, Houston Audubon Society, and many others in a fun challenge to see which city can document the most species from April 14 - 18. It is easy to participate by joining an event, or making observations on your own using the iNaturalist app. With the iNaturalist app, you just take a picture of a plant or animal, and the community will help identify which species it is. Any observation in the greater metropolitan area of each city will count during the five day challenge. You can participate by exploring the life in your backyard, in your local park, or on a field trip with your local naturalist group. The challenge has been taken up by Dallas, Houston and Austin! Join the project on iNaturalist - City Nature Challenge 2017: Houston.
Not too familiar with iNaturalist? Contact Gulf Coast Master Naturalist Jenn Drummond, who is conducting iNaturalist lessons this month in preparation for the big challenge!
• Accumulate at least 8 hours of advanced training using the Texas Waters curriculum. These hours must be approved at your chapter level:
• Texas Waters Day (4 Hours)
• Upcoming Texas Waters Webinars (Up to 4 Hours)
• Small Group Interactive Study
• Texas Waters Field Trips
• Additional Renewal Requirements:
• Participate in at least one approved community service project.
• Contribute at least 10 hours of volunteer service in the area of water and watersheds. Those hours can also count toward the requirements for recertification in the Texas Master Naturalist program.
• To complete certification for 2017, participants must complete advanced training by the October Texas Waters Day event and can include AT completed at the 2016 Texas Waters Day gathering.
• Volunteer service hours must follow the January-through-December calendar year milestone requirements of the Texas Master Naturalist program.
• AT and volunteer service hours can apply to both TMN recertification and Texas Waters certification.
• Texas Waters certification will be acknowledged with a yet-to-be-determined milestone pin.
Webinar Schedule / Advanced Training Options
• “The Characteristics, Components, and Value of Healthy Watershed Ecosystems,” Megan Bean, TPWD’s Watershed Ecologist in Inland Fisheries, February 27, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6389948543435331588.
• “The Ecological Significance of Natural Flow Regimes,” Kevin Mayes, April Date and Time TBA
• “Instruments of Watershed Change,” Nikki Dictson, June Date and Time TBA
• “Texas Water Law and Planning,” Cindy Loeffler, August Date and Time TBA
• Tour of Exploration Green Native Wetland Nursery and Phase 1 Planting Site, Led by Mary Carol Edwards, April or May Date TBA
TPWD-Approved Community Service Project
• Exploration Green is a 200-acre conservancy site devoted to flood control, hydrology, wetland plant and native tree planting, and habitat restoration. The park is located on the site of the former Clear Lake City Golf Course.
• Regular workdays at two on-site nurseries and planting events at the Phase 1 site (photographed here) will be held on most Thursdays and select Saturdays this spring.
• Tree planting events at Exploration Green will be held on February 11 and 18 and March 11 and 18 from 8:00 a.m. to noon.
• Park on the street near the test pond (1801 Reseda Drive, Houston, TX 77062).
• Native wetland planting events will be held in April and May, Saturday dates TBA.
Websites and Contacts
• Texas Waters: Exploring Water and Watersheds (Texas Parks and Wildlife Website): http://tpwd.texas.gov/education/water-education/texaswatersprogram/texaswaters
• Johnnie E. Smith, M.Ed. / Conservation Education Manager /Texas Parks and Wildlife Department / (512) 389-8060 Work / (512) 517-5527 Cell / email@example.com
• Jerry Hamby / Gulf Coast Chapter, Texas Master Naturalist Program / firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-Sponsors: The Garden Club of Houston; Texas Master Naturalist-Gulf Coast Chapter; Native Plant Society of Texas, Houston Chapter; Nature’s Way Resources
Urban gardens have long played an important role in nourishing city dwellers and enhancing communities, from the victory gardens of World War II to the verdant plots springing up in yards, empty lots and on rooftops today. With the increasing popularity of fresh, local “farm to table” foods and a return to living in the core of many cities, there is a growing interest in urban gardening. Gardening offers flavorful, healthy and inexpensive food, fresh air and exercise, the pride and satisfaction of providing your own food, and a deep connection to the place we call home. Houston gardeners may enjoy abundant produce and flowers at least nine months of the year, with proper plant selection. Master naturalist Glenn Olsen will provide a comprehensive overview of urban gardening in the Houston region with a field trip to a local farmers’ market.
TOPICS WILL INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING: • Garden design tips and techniques • Organic soil preparation, the key to a productive garden • Organic composting and mulching • Vegetables, herbs and fruit trees that grow organically in Houston • Attracting pollinators for improved vegetable and fruit yield • Garden maintenance tips and techniques
SECTION ONE: Six Thursdays, Feb. 16-March 30, 1:30-3 p.m., plus one Saturday field trip to a local farmers’ market (no class March 9)
SECTION TWO: Six Thursdays, Feb. 16-March 30, 7-8:30 p.m., plus one Saturday field trip to a local farmers’ market (no class March 9)
FEE: If registering by Feb. 2: $200 After Feb. 2: $210 For Rice alumni: $189 CEUs: 1.1
INSTRUCTOR: Glenn Olsen grew up on a small organic family farm. He has taught for Houston Audubon, the Garden Club of Houston, the Katy Prairie Conservancy, the Master Naturalist Program and various gardening and nature organizations. Mr. Olsen consults on gardening, sustainable landscaping and other nature-related projects and periodically contributes articles to the Houston Chronicle.
This article was written by chapter member Jennifer Trandell. For over a century, citizens around the globe have participated in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Every year for 117 years, volunteers gather in parks, prairies, woodlands, waterfronts, and in their own backyards dedicated to citizen science and bird conservation. This year from December 14 – January 5 binocular wielding groups across the Houston area assembled in an effort to record the number of observed bird species. The Houston Parks and Recreation Department hosted their Second Annual Christmas Bird Count inviting park employees, master naturalists and volunteers to participate on Monday, December 19, 2016.
The National Audubon Society divided participating regions into 15-mile diameter circles for the official bird count data. The Houston Parks’ designated circle included most of the Innerloop and southeast into Pasadena and South Houston. The circle was further divided into 6 sections comprising several teams of 2 to 4 volunteers. Teams were assembled to include experienced birders and birding enthusiasts to novice participants like myself (but not for long). According to Kelli Ondracek, Park Naturalist and coordinator of the event, “We started this circle last year to try and track the abundance and diversity of birds utilizing our parks and to show how much diversity is found in our urban areas. We are currently working on restoration projects in 6 different parks and we wanted this data to supplement some of our other surveys pre and post restoration. Houston Audubon has been a great supporter of us getting this circle started.”
On the morning of the CBC, a cold front rolled into the city lowering the temperature to 37°F. Dressed in layers, I arrived at 7 a.m. at the designated meeting spot for area 6, team 2, Buffalo Bayou. Clouds blanketed the sky hiding the sun as we introduced ourselves. Immediately, we created a plan to cover our sector, Buffalo Bayou from Shepherd into downtown including Glenwood Cemetery and the Montrose neighborhoods. Once the plan was decided we pulled our jackets tight, grabbed our binoculars with gloved hands and started recording.
The team observed very few birds in the first hour walking along Buffalo Bayou. The steel grey sky and cold concealed more than the sun. As the clouds dissipated and the sunshine warmed the day, our group identified several blue jays, many mocking birds, a starling or 2 and a group of tiny Carolina wrens flitting among the branches of an oak tree (a new species to add to my list of identifiable with it’s yellow tinged belly and jeeting sounds). We also heard the cry of a hawk but were unable to identify the species with certainty. The leader of the group, Bill Wright a volunteer for Audubon, revealed that sound is the least invasive way to observe birds and a positive identifier for species that have similar size and markings.
As the day progressed, the temperature increased and our team recorded some exciting observations, 2 American crows cawing at Glenwood Cemetery, a downy woodpecker, a pine warbler, a great egret and a great blue heron. Overall, our team observed 26 species and walked more than 8 miles. The total number of species for the entire Houston Parks’ circle was 106 down from last year’s count of 130. The cold weather is believed to be the reason for the decrease. Some of the more unique species recorded, according to Kelli Ondracek, “a broad-tailed hummingbird from one of our feeder-watchers and red-breasted nuthatch, Wilson’s warbler, redhead, and canvasback this year and we did not have those last year.” The highest number of single species was white wing dove at 6,324.
Many of the parks and conservancies across the Houston area observed on different days during the 2 week period, including Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Thus, the lower number of observed species on colder days will average out with regional data. I was happy to participate with 60 other volunteers for the Houston Park and Recreation Depatment’s second annual Christmas Bird Count and for the Audubon’s historical bird conservation project.
BioBlitz fever continues to spread across Houston this weekend. The Great Houston Wildlife Count will take place this Saturday, October 8 and will cover Mason Park (email@example.com), Rice University/Hermann Park (firstname.lastname@example.org), Buffalo Bayou Park (email@example.com) and the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center (firstname.lastname@example.org). Click here for more information and to register. You will have a great time and be a part of gathering valuable data about the state of Houston’s natural environment!
Can’t get enough? Don’t forget about the big Texas Pollinator BioBlitz that runs from October 7 - 16. This is the first ever statewide pollinator bioblitz! In an effort to observe and identify as many pollinators as possible, participants will look for pollinators and nectar-producing plants and post photos and/or short videos to Instagram (#SaveThe Pollinators) and/or iNaturalist (in the Texas Pollinator BioBliz project. For more information - http://tpwd.texas.gov/education/bioblitz/
Get out and count!
Photo of an American Kestrel by Mary Waters
A record number of volunteers worked at the Exploration Green Native Wetland and Tree nurseries on Saturday. They included twenty-five students representing the Lee College IMPACT ECHS Spanish Club. Volunteers potted up and repotted plants and wiped out a massive weed infestation. Mary Carol Edwards informed us that the volunteers working in the native wetland nursery set a record today, potting up 446 water shield plants (Brasenia schreberi). We are all grateful to have so many young volunteers working at Exploration Green!
Dr. Yuta Karawasaki from Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota is conducting research on Goldenrod Gall Flies that create ball galls on goldenrod in our area and is requesting our help in locating potential populations. While out in the field, please keep your eyes open for stands of goldenrod with numerous ball galls present. If you find stands of goldenrod with numerous ball galls, please report the location to Bob Honig - email@example.com. Dr. Karawasaki is only interested in ball galls, so please look for galls that resemble the one in this picture.
After a series of classroom and prairie training sessions, the Prairie Seekers prairie remnant survey is underway! Teams, including many Gulf Coast Master Naturalists, are scouring Google Earth for possible remnant prairies and fanning out in and around the Greater Houston area and across Texas for in-person inspections. Sites are reviewed and the promising ones formally surveyed. Plant and animal species are logged to the iNaturalist Prairie Seekers project and landforms like mima mounds and prairie potholes are noted. These surveys provide useful information for Texas Parks and Wildlife in determining the status of prairie lands and adding new prairies to the existing database maintained by TPWD. If you are interested in joining the Prairie Seekers project, please contact Native Prairies Association of Texas Executive Director Pat Merkord at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Between June 9th and June 26th, volunteers, including Gulf Coast Master Naturalists, at Exploration Green began establishing the first native wetland plants on the site of the old Clear Lake City golf course, which is now a 200-acre conservation easement signed with Galveston Bay Foundation. Over the course of four planting events, volunteers worked at the Phase I development site, the first of several finger lakes that will run through the park. Volunteers installed more than 3,000 plants, including Spartina spartinae, Iris virginica, Crinum americanium, and Cyperus articulatus. Each planting event drew between ten and forty volunteers, and work was overseen by Mary Carol Edwards, Stormwater Wetland Program Coordinator, Texas Coastal Watershed Program, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service/ Texas Sea Grant.
This phase of development is something the citizens of Clear Lake have been waiting a long time to experience, and it represents a major milestone in making Exploration Green become a reality. Additional finger lakes in the Phase I site will be completed by the end of this year, so there will be additional native wetland and tree planting events in the future.
Mary Carol hosts regular work events most Thursday mornings at the native wetland nursery and other sites; check with her (email@example.com) for more information about locations and times. The tree nursery sponsors workdays the second Saturday and last Sunday of every month. In the summer those events go from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. Contact Jerry Hamby (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) for more information.
The Katy Prairie Conservancy Horned Lizard re-introduction project has begun! On Friday, June 17 and Sunday, June 19, Dr. Cassidy Johnson, president of the Coastal Prairie Partnership, led a group of volunteers, including some Gulf Coast Texas Master Naturalists, across several promising re-introduction sites to assess conditions and survey existent plants, animals and insects. Although no resident Horned Lizards were spotted, over 50 different species of flora and fauna were identified and cataloged. Some promising sites were tagged and other, less promising sites, crossed off the list. If you would like to take part in this project, send Cassidy an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be put on her Horned Lizard Project volunteer list for future opportunities.