Since the first year of the Blackland Prairie Chapter our tribe members have taken on responsibilities with other groups or have served as advisors and teachers. If you have or are serving as a board member for another organization, if you have served on the chapter board – elected or appointed, if you have been an advisor or presenter for an organization, school or other chapter, if you have taken turns at the Outreach booth, let us know. If you know of someone in the chapter who has done so, pass on the good news for Shaking the Trees. Our philosophy is like a three-legged stool: Education, Restoration, Preservation. Let the education leg be known. List name, class year, and the recipients of service. (i.e. Outreach booth at Collin County Garden Show or Advisor at Plano Senior High for landscaping class) I know several work with school classes and groups. Several serve on boards. Several travel the state/other states sharing the life learnings of a master naturalist. So, what ‘cha doin’?
Check your Tech for the 2020 Annual Meeting!
It’s almost time for our TMN Annual Meeting Virtual Coffee Hours!
In our previous Tech Check email messages, we mentioned Virtual Coffee Hours ahead of the 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting to so that you can double check your ability to virtually attend the main event. Those Virtual Coffee Hours are just around the corner, and we’re excited to host these sessions to help you get used to navigating and using WebEx before the start of the 2020 Annual Meeting.
To help all of our attendees prepare for a never-done-before 100% VIRTUAL Texas Master Naturalist Annual Meeting, we’re hosting a series of three Virtual Coffee Hours before the first day of the conference.
Grab a cup of coffee, pop in to the meeting, and get ready to get to test out your WebEx skills in a relaxed, low-pressure environment.
Our Virtual Coffee Hours are the best opportunity to test out your connection, practice using WebEx, or get answers to your general video conferencing questions. Our goal is to get you comfortable with using WebEx before the Annual Meeting begins so that you’re practiced and prepared to attend all of our exciting sessions and ceremonies without a hitch!
Join us on any of the following dates:[Wednesday October 7th – 8:00am ] | Click here to register [Saturday October 10th – 10:00am ] | Click here to register [Monday October 12th – 8:00am] | Click here to register
Mary Pearl Meuth
Texas Master Naturalist Program
September 6–12, 2020
The first DFW Fall Socially Distant BioBlitz was a huge success! During these seven days, over 1100 people participated in the greater DFW 11-county area. Many of these people were Master Naturalists, but many more were not. Between all of us, we made over 35,000 observations, of over 2700 species. What a great way to kick the end-of-summer doldrums!
The competition between Master Naturalist chapters was friendly, but enthusiastic. Elm Fork’s service area had the most observations, with over 10,000, but Cross Timbers Chapter and our own Blackland Prairie Chapter were not far behind, with over 8000 observations each. (Note that Elm Fork had THREE counties, while we only had two. Just saying….) Overall, the Blackland Prairie Chapter made a terrific contribution. We had 45 members contribute over 7000 observations during that seven-day period. We observed 931 different species! To put that in proper perspective, over the comparable week in 2019, our members made only 379 observations. According to my calculations, we made around 19 times as many observations this year as last!!
We held ten small group outings during the BioBlitz, and all the participants enjoyed getting a chance to explore with fellow Master Naturalists. Twenty-five members attended at least one outing, with some hardy souls attending five, six, or seven! We kicked off the week with an outing to Hunt County, an area that has had very little iNaturalist activity. Manju Ruikar (Class of 2020) kindly invited the group out to explore her family’s Hunt county property. There were 384 observations made in Hunt county during the BioBlitz, so we still have lots of room for improvement out there. Still, compared to the 15 observations made last year during this time period, we’ve come a long way! We made other outings to places new and old, from the Heard Sanctuary and Erwin Park, to Parkhill Prairie and Breckenridge Park. On Friday, we had perfect weather for exploring the Woodfin property. (Thanks, Bill and Fran, for having us!) We saw more butterflies at the beautiful Stiff Chapel Cemetery than we’d seen all week!
In addition to the outings, many people worked hard collecting observations on their own. We had several people new to iNaturalist jump in with both feet! A big welcome to iNaturalist for Rochelle Delozier (iNat ID “delozier4”). She just joined iNaturalist in August and made over 500 observations during the BioBlitz! Wow! Matt Delozier (iNat ID “outdoormatt”) wasn’t too far behind her, and Brent Blackwell (iNat ID “backfire”,) while not entirely new to iNaturalist, caught the bug this year and did some serious ‘Blitzing, too!
Identifying observations made by others is one area in which our chapter has historically lagged. However, we’re well on our way to remedying that this year! We had more people than ever before making identifications during the BioBlitz. Twelve members each provided identifications for over 100 observations made by others, and several chapter members each made thousands of BioBlitz ID’s. This is such an important part of the outreach component of iNaturalist, so a big thanks to people who worked on identifications!
Kudos to Sam Kieschnick for organizing this project and inspiring so many of us! Check out the whole project and results on iNaturalist: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/fall-socially-distant-bioblitz-dfw-urban-ecosystem Sam will be presenting a webinar reviewing the results and relevancy of the 2020 BioBlitz, on Friday, September 25, at 7:00 PM. Pre-registration required: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ssLSn7T6Qe6r_HfTAjyCtg
This may be a stretch, but for those interested in the outdoors, there are often some crazy good films to be found at the Banff Festival of Mountain Films which is open for viewing online this year (hooray!) but only until October 17.
In my experience, they are not all Mountain Films… and they can range in quality some years, but there’s always some really amazing, ‘I can’t believe they did that and lived’ – type outdoor adventures. The whole gamut actually.
It’s $15 per each of three groups of films; or $40 for the whole lot. In total it’s 8 hrs of film viewing (perhaps blowing my entire yearly TV time in one go!)
Anyway, we will be queuing the popcorn and settling in for some films at our house; I thought perhaps it would be more broadly popular with the group. 🙂 Watch the trailer and you’ll see what I mean. :0)
After the birding doldrums of August, I longed for a change in the wind and the early signs of fall songbird migration. I ventured out on September 6th to Frisco Commons to see what I could find. I would find Baltimore Orioles, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, White-Eyed Vireos, and Great Crested Flycatchers. The latter three possibly having bred in the park or county.
However, the highlight of the visit was what I saw first. As I made my way from the parking lot toward the pond at first light, I noticed four raptor silhouettes in a distant tree. As I got nearer, I was able to see they were Mississippi Kites. They are a common site to see around the area during the summer but I had never seen four at this location. As the path turned toward the pond, I saw another, an immature! Then another and another. By the time I counted them all, eleven Mississippi Kites were around the pond! Who needs songbirds when you have raptors?
All were engaged in their morning preening routine and awaiting the thermals. This afforded some intimate observations for over the next hour and subsequent visits. During this observation I wondered how many of them have been in the area all summer, and how many had been further north? A week previously, I counted over a dozen in Sherman on my failed Swallow-Tailed Kite expedition.
In the spring, a group of us saw our first kites of the year arrive over Bob Woodruff Park. Now I was seeing them group up to leave.
One of my favorite observations was watching an immature move about and awkwardly land on the smallest possible limb and struggle with its balance for a moment. This one also spent a fair amount of time observing me from above.
Another was when an adult made an opportunistic quick flight from its perch to grab a dragonfly flying above my head. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The bug activity around the pond was a perfect spot for migration fuel.
Watching bird behavior is my favorite thing to do. I spent over an hour standing in the same area observing the kites preen their features. They must be kept in great shape for the journey ahead. The aforementioned immature joined two adults to preen in the same tree. My favorite gesture to capture is of them using their talons on their head feathers. It makes for a memeable photo.
The family that preens together, stays together.
On my return visits it came down to two remaining kites (or possibly two different ones) who were in the same trees each morning for the last three-day period.
I last recorded them on September 14th. See you next year.
10/17 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM Trail to the East of the Towne Lake Recreation Center
If you have a large group, please RSVP an estimated number of participants to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please arrive 10 minutes before the start time to sign a waiver and meet the group. Individuals needing to earn service hours can have their records signed by a board member at the conclusion of the event. Clean up begins around 10:40 AM so the event can finish on time.
What do I wear:Long pants, long sleeves, face covering, and closed toed shoes or boots. You will also need to have your own work gloves. All tools will be provided by the McKinney Parks Foundation. Bring bug spray, sunscreen, a mask, and water.
The trail is to the East of the Recreation Center parking lot at 2001 S Central Expy, McKinney, TX 75070. Parking and restrooms available at the Recreation Center.
The McKinney Parks Foundation provides trail maintenance in this area for the enjoyment of the community. Event Page:
Dick and Lorelei guided about 9 tribe members through the prairie acres of the Raptor Center. They gave an overview of the needs for trail guides and of the exciting restoration and preservation efforts.
Photos compliments of Tasha Patterson, new class representative on the board. It was exciting to see Brockdale liatris among the prairie community members. And yes, that is Dick and Lorelei center stage.
September 12, 2020
This week is a big biodiversity search in our DFW area but I have been unable to participate due to other circumstances. So today I took a walk in my yard. I discovered I had missed three moon blooms last evening as their blooms were now hanging listlessly on the vine. BUT there is the promise of two more coming and very soon. I will have to be watchful after the sunset. As I looked at the blooms I became aware of a parade of ants going up and down a metal fence post. Those going up were ‘empty-handed’ but those going down were carrying egg sacks to a new destination on the ground in the ground cover. They had apparently taken those precious bundles to a high spot during the rains – which happens to be a hole in my fence. As a I watched them I was aware of another movement as a very small green anole moved along the fence and then jumped into a bush for a morsel to eat. This animal was less than an inch long but its tail was at least two inches long.
All over the yard are patches of surprise lilies in a brilliant orange red color. They suddenly pop up from the ground after that first fall rain – September 1 was the date this year – and they have continued coming up and blooming since them. Some have started their decline by losing their vivid color. I noted that in one area some were laying on the ground and something had stepped on them and broken them. Who or what was exploring my garden when I wasn’t looking? A tiny toad – about a half a penny size – moved away from my big feet. He could only hop a few inches but he did so quickly and disappeared in the ground cover of leaves.
I walked around a corner and found another anole of a more adult size. Part of its tail was green but the lower half was smaller and brown. I would guess it had met with a predator and was able to escape with just the loss of part of its anatomy. As I watched it climb up a wall of the green house a very small frog suddenly jumped high into the air and continued hopping towards a bush. I had finally seen one of the Rio Grande frogs that I can hear so often at night. Biodiversity journeys are often found at home.
Lu Anne: I heard this sweet guy singing this morning and found him in our backyard. A little sun beam on a very cloudy, wet day. Many thanks to all the folks working on the bobwhite restoration project at the Connemara.
Actually he did have a lady friend. She flew away as soon I opened my back door. He let me get within 10 feet of him and stayed around for quite awhile. I’m glad she seems to have some wild instincts…hoping next season’s chicks take after their mom!
Bob: We do too. Our plans are to purchase “wild strain” eggs next year, which means that at least one parent is “wild”. Lots of opinions about loss of DNA from domestic/pen raised BW’s, my vote is to go with seems logical, the more wild the better. We hope to work with a couple of breeders and after a few generations, have chicks we can release that approach 75% “wild”. If you get another chance, try to get a video to capture the “call’.
Well, as an added bonus listen in to this bird whisperer on You Tube by Texas Wildlife Association. You will enjoy: