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(VH) Texas Winter Storm 2021 Plant & Pollinator Survey
March 5 - March 31
Logging VH: Your VH should be logged as BPTMN: Blackland Prairie iNaturalist Project. Break down your time as follows in the description box: (1) Time spent in the field recording observations (record location(s) of observations to the description box); (2) time spent online, identifying, editing, uploading your observations; (3) curating time reviewing, identifying, and commenting on other’s iNaturalist observations. Twelve (12) hours VH/AT per day is the max allowed by the State.
Calling all community scientists!
The February freeze damaged vegetation across Texas. The February freeze damaged vegetation across Texas. We’d like your help tracking the recovery of plants that flower in March along with milkweeds. Both are resources used by monarchs returning from Mexico in mid-March and their availability will determine how well the monarch population develops in 2021. Observations of milkweeds, nectar sources and monarchs can be linked to a Tempest weather station.
We want to share with all Texans a new iNaturalist project that we are hoping you will contribute to between now and March 31st. As mentioned below, monarchs will be heading north soon. One of the concerns is how the storm will impact milkweed emergence as well as nectar sources for the adults returning from Mexico.
In conjunction with MonarchWatch at the University of Kansas and Dr. Chip Taylor, Texas Nature Trackers has created an iNaturalist project to track the emergence of flowering plants throughout March, as well as pollinators, including butterflies and moths, that you encounter. The project is: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/texas-winter-storm-2021-plant-pollinator-survey
We also want to monitor the emergence of milkweed plants — if you have them planted in a garden or on your property, we encourage you to keep an eye open for their new leaves over the course of the next couple of weeks. We have included a photo of what one species, antelope-horns, looks like as it emerges. (See photo attached)
Please check out the project by clicking on the link, and join if you would like. Your observations will be picked up by the project even if you don’t, just so you know. This project will help document the phenology of flower emergence following the URI storm that swept through Texas.
Here is the detailed information about this project from Dr. Chip Taylor, Director of Monarch Watch:
The 11-day cold spell (10-20 February) in Texas was a disaster. Freezing temperatures covered the state and extended well into Northern Mexico. While many of the immediate effects of the freeze are clear, season long and multiple year effects may linger. The damage to the flora was extraordinary, and it is likely that nearly all above ground insects died over a wide area. Plants already in flower may have been so damaged as to not flower this year. We are seeking help to record that damage and the recovery of plants that flower in March along with the appearance of milkweed shoots and buds. Both are resources used by monarchs returning from Mexico in mid-March. We also need help recording the number of returning monarchs. ALL monarch observations are of value. How well the monarch population will develop in 2021 will be determined by the March conditions in Texas.
Since we know the freeze ended on the 21st of February, that becomes day 1 when assessing plant development. We can determine the number of days after the freeze that it took for a species to recover. Those dates can be compared to the long-term peak appearance for a species to determine if flowering was delayed. Monarchs generally reach the milkweed rich areas of Texas around the 12-15 March and the question that follows is: Will arriving monarchs encounter milkweeds and nectar plants in sufficient abundance or will they encounter a landscape still too deep in recovery to provide the needed resources to establish the next monarch generation? Those who participate in this project will learn how to link observations of plants and monarchs (or other species of interest) to nearby weather stations. These links will allow the participants, or our team, to record the exact conditions (temperature, wind speed and direction, etc. for monarchs or establish the record of temperatures and precipitation over time for the development of plants. We are NOT asking anyone to make the calculations. We will do that, but it will help us if you identify the nearest Tempest weather station within 10 miles of your observation. Instructions for locating a weather station are below.
Tempest weather stations
Locating a Tempest weather station within a 10-mile radius – if there is one – for each observation is easy. The following link will take you to a map of Tempest locations in the US – https://tempestwx.com/map/30.6122/-95.6428/8 . Simply zoom in and out on this map to find your location. Click on the icon for the closest station. Then, append the name for that station to your observations. The name for the station in the very center of San Antonio is Callaghan Ave. That window will give you basic data. However, the real value of these stations comes from those that are linked to weather underground. To see those graphics, visit https://www.wunderground.com/dashboard/pws/KKSBERRY14 and scroll down to see an example of those graphics. To determine whether Callaghan Ave is linked to weather underground, use the map feature in the upper right corner on that page to locate Callaghan Ave. And yes, it is, see https://www.wunderground.com/dashboard/pws/KTXSANAN1540 .
If there are enough people in Texas who upload photos of the first shoots and buds of milkweeds and the first flowers of nectar plants from now through March, along with a link to the nearest Tempest, we will be able to compare the timing of appearance of milkweeds as well as the onset and peak of flowering to that of previous years. This assessment will also help determine whether the development of the monarch population has been hindered by the freezing conditions in February. With respect to monarchs, associating all sightings and activities – directional flight, egg laying, feeding at flowers, patrolling, courtship and mating with temperatures and wind conditions and other variables will provide a better understanding of the weather parameters that define monarch activity.
Mary Pearl Meuth
Texas Master Naturalist Program Assistant State Coordinator
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Office: (979) 845-7294
Cell: (727) 366-1144
Texas Master Naturalist Blackland Prairie Chapter