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Every Drop Counts
On October 8, 2022 Texas Master Naturalist, Hill Country Chapter participated in an event at Riverside Nature Center called “Every Drop Counts”, intended to bring awareness of the need to conserve water in the drought-stricken Texas Hill Country. This is an example of the Hill County Chapter’s cooperation with Riverside Nature Center and the Native Plant Society – Kerrville Chapter. Click here to view a short video of the event.
Zion Pollinator Garden KR-03-B
Chapter Project Coordinator: Katy Kappel
Zion Lutheran Church in Kerrville received a visit from the chapter’s Pollinator Garden Assistance and Recognition Program (PGARP) in February 2019. The Garden Club had decided to revive a neglected field and upgrade the landscape on the church’s whole property.
Following PGARP recommendations members planted many natives in the “Resurrection Garden” during 2019. Efforts will be enhanced by a recently received grant from the Native Plant Society of Texas’ “Bring Back the Monarchs” program.
There is lots of work to do in the church’s gardens located at Sidney Baker and Barnett Street.
Our goal is to have a beautiful, large, 30’ x 200’ demonstration garden right on the main street (Sidney Baker).
Other service dates will be scheduled to transplant donated plants, to harvest and install rock borders, and to pick up trash.
Contact Katy for garden service schedule. Bring your favorite tools. Water and drinks will be provided. We will design and plant our monarch/pollinator garden, and tend the rest of the native wildscape.
NEW! The Pollinator Garden at Kerrville-Schreiner Park KR-04-A
Chapter Project Coordinator Larry Eskridge
To find the seemingly secret, unknown Pollinator Garden (previously the Butterfly Garden/Theatre), one only has to drive south from Kerrville on State Road 173/Bandera Highway past the intersection with Loop 534. Within a quarter of a mile, turn left into Kerrville-Schreiner Park (KSP), proceed past the Administration Building, and take the first left. You will find yourself at one of Kerrville’s Best Kept Secrets (somewhat of a left-handed compliment). A better description would be a-diamond-in-the-rough.
This 18-year-old high-fenced pollinator area within the park covers just over 10,000 square feet. It is filled with native plants, many of which have spilled over into the surrounding meadow. A mature natural garden, it is +97% native plants in a wide variety of species, including more than 114 trees, shrubs, vines, groundcovers, perennials, annuals, grasses, and milkweed. With a staggered blooming cycle from early spring through late fall, this large vibrant and compact combination of native flora provides continual, critical nectar and larval food for the large numbers of butterflies, bees, moths, beetles, and hummingbirds native to the Hill Country.
Beyond the general pollinator population, these nectar and larval food plants prepare the monarchs for their annual migrations, north towards Canada in the spring, south to Mexico in the fall while providing constant food for queen and other butterflies over the summer and early fall. The quality, quantity, and variety of plants as well as location on the Monarch Flyway led to certification of the garden as a Monarch Way Station in 2006. Subsequently, the Monarch Larva Monitoring Program (MLMP) was organized. A weekly census counts milkweed plants, nectar flora, presence and stages of butterfly larva (Instars), and approximate counts of adult butterflies. Collected information is reported up-line as part of a national data collection effort. In 2017, we were recognized as a “Recognized Hill Country Pollinator Garden”.
We work every Thursday morning from about 0815-0830 – 1100 or so until too hot/cold, tired or both, weather PERMITTING (reasonable temperatures, no precipitation, etc.) While this is a Texas Master Naturalist ,Hill Country Chapter activity, we welcome anyone who wants to learn more about native plants, their care, pollinators, and other beneficial ecological renovation practices.
Because our garden is “mature”, it requires careful observation, planning, and meticulous maintenance. Over the past few years the Pollinator Garden has declined as a result of general benign neglect and lack of resources. As original volunteers aged, they moved to easier volunteer activities. Another factor has been the disappearance of the KSP Pollinator (Butterfly) Garden Friends Group.
In a typical year, KSP issues 12,000 or more camping and usage permits. In addition to the campers we would like to gain more local citizen visitors to overcome the “Best Kept Secret” disadvantage.
Approximately 18 months ago we started a restoration project that is the first step towards unveiling the “KSP secret”. By continuing to increase our volunteer task force we can return the garden to showcase condition for Kerrville and restore it to an inviting, viable, educational venue for schools, scouting groups, garden clubs, church, and civic organizations who are interested in Hill Country ecology, including native plants and pollinators.
All of this points to a serious need for a larger volunteer presence because we have reached a critical point where extensive efforts are required if we want to ensure that the “Native Garden Maintained by Texas Master Naturalist” sign presents a positive image of the Hill Country Chapter that reflects our skills, knowledge, and pride.
NEW! Upper Guadalupe River Authority EduScape KR-08-NPA
Chapter Project Coordinator: Reggie Cox
Texas Master Naturalist, Hill Country Chapter has entered a partnership with Upper Guadalupe River Authority (UGRA) to plant and maintain a pollinator/wildflower garden as part of the EduScape project.
The purpose of the EduScape project is to provide an educational platform to help educate residents of the Texas Hill Country. UGRA wants to provide choices for yards that will survive and provide food and shelter for native animals, especially pollinators which play a huge part in our food production and other plants growth. A big focus is on conserving water and keeping rivers clean. UGRA uses the EduScape for tours by our fellow master naturalists, schools, interested residents, visitors, and others.
Our chapter’s part of the partnership is to plant the native plant pollinator garden and maintain it. We will also participate in the maintenance (weeding), and assisting with replacement of plants that fail in the overall garden – many of these plants are native, but there are also adapted plants in the landscape. In return for our assistance, UGRA is waiving all room fees for our monthly chapter meetings and annual training class. These fees are a significant part of our annual budget so we will benefit directly in return for maintaining our pollinator garden and assisting with the project.
Reggie Cox is the project coordinator and would appreciate your help.
Reggie says, “If you have a particular plant that thrives in your garden, I would like to know about it.
Donations of plants when you are dividing plants will help the garden grow. This is not a fenced garden so your success (and failures) with deer issues are needed.”
UGRA has constructed a rain water catchment system including a large storage tank, an HVAC condensation storage tank, and rain barrel. Rain gardens are started but remain to be completed.
Work starts in the garden again in February and volunteers are needed to help with planting of replacement plants that perished over the winter and maintenance of the garden.
Please call or email Reggie if you would like to participate in this project, or to share your plant suggestions, deer strategies, rain gardens, or favored workdays. Workdays will be on the chapter calendar as they are scheduled and you will receive emails.
Thank you to Gary Fest, Veronica Hawk, and Brenda Fest for your plant identifications and suggestions. Kim Burkhart, Pam Lienhard, Pam Goolsby, Al Cox, Katy Kappel, Nancy Huffman, Rebecca Laird, Marian Worthington, and others who have come to workdays to get the ball rolling.
Boerne Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas, KL-08-A
NPSOT Boerne chapter works to protect Kendall County’s native plants. Our efforts and accomplishments are vital to our success with native plant appreciation and preservation. Native Plant Rescue opportunities occur each year to rescue native plants slated to be destroyed. Bigtooth Maples for Texas is a ten-year project to supply bigtooth maple trees at no charge to qualified Boerne businesses, organizations, and residents. Volunteers are needed in November to process trees. The Boerne chapter maintains a demonstration garden at Bergheim Volunteer Fire Department and participates in maintenance of demonstration gardens at Cibolo Nature Center. Be prepared to have fun learning about native plants while digging in the dirt.
“Volunteers working together to measure precipitation across the nations.” CoCoRaHS is an acronym for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail,and Snow Network. CoCoRaHS is a unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow). By using low-cost measurement tools, stressing training and education, and utilizing an interactive website, our aim is to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education, and research applications. Everyone can help, young, old, and in-between. The only requirements are an enthusiasm for watching and reporting weather conditions and a desire to learn more about how weather can effect and impact our lives.
Each time a rain, hail or snow storm crosses your area, volunteers take measurements of precipitation from as many locations as possible (see equipment). These precipitation reports are then recorded on our Web site www.cocorahs.org. The data are then displayed and organized for many of our end users to analyze and apply to daily situations ranging from water resource analysis and severe storm warnings to neighbors comparing how much rain fell in their backyards.
CoCoRaHS has several goals (as stated in our mission statement). 1) provide accurate high-quality precipitation data for our many end users on a timely basis; 2) increasing the density of precipitation data available throughout the country by encouraging volunteer weather observing; 3) encouraging citizens to have fun participating in meteorological science and heightening their awareness about weather; 4) providing enrichment activities in water and weather resources for teachers, educators and the community at large to name a few.
One of the neat things about participating in this network is coming away with the feeling that you have made an important contribution that helps others. By providing your daily observation, you help to fill in a piece of the weather puzzle that affects many across your area in one way or another. You also will have the chance to make some new friends as you do something important and learn some new things along the way. In some areas, activities are organized for network participants including training sessions, field trips, special speakers, picnics, pot-luck dinners, and photography contests just to name a few.
Buy an official rain gauge and sign up as a CoCoRaHS Volunteer Observer.
Dr. John Lipe Memorial Garden, GL-06-A
The Dr. John Lipe Memorial Garden is located on the highly-visible county-owned property at Frederick Road and SH 16 Llano Highway in Fredericksburg. The large beds around the USDA service building and parking lot are planted with native and adapted plants, all low water and low maintenance. Many plants were planted by Dr. Lipe in the 90s. He was the first Ag agent to promote native plants in the Hill Country. Texas Native Plant Society Fredericksburg Chapter (NPSOT) installed more native plants and worked the garden for many years. The Hill Country Master Gardeners took over the entire garden a few years ago – it’s a worthy project. The grounds of the Ag building contain native trees, shrubs, and native grasses, including an American Smoke Tree Cotinus obovatus.
Joyce says, “It’s one of the best collections in Fredericksburg and is often used as an outdoor classroom.”
The USDA service center is heavily visited and folks stop by and ask questions, especially when we are tending the garden. We have seventy or so plants on our list and plant lists are available. Most plants have identification signs. The nearby nursery reports that people bring in plant samples and smart photos of the signs and plants asking to purchase a like plant.
Joyce continues, “A master gardener friend who is a horticulturist in Ingram quickly volunteered plants when he heard I had taken over the garden. Dr. Lipe was his mentor and had encouraged him to grow native.”
Joyce has submitted the Lipe Garden for certification in The Best of Texas Backyard Habitats Program. This program is a joint effort of the National Wildlife Federation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Texas Wildscape program allowing Texans to certify under both programs with a single form. Best of Texas Backyard Habitat took the best of the two individual programs and pushed the bar a little higher, challenging Texas wildlife gardeners to create a habitat that seeks to maximize wildlife benefits and highlight sound conservation stewardship within the bounds of urban restrictions.
We can always use volunteers in the garden! Our regular service mornings are fourth Wednesdays. We usually start at 8:30. Our gardeners come when they can and we usually put in two to three hours. Most volunteers are master naturalists, NPSOT, and master gardeners. Many of these same members volunteer at the Pioneer Museum NPSOT Garden. Tell your fellow master naturalists and friends to join us! Joyce states, “I can answer any questions you have.”
Fort Mason City Park/Hemphill Nature Trail, MS-04-A
The approximately two-mile long trail in Fort Mason City Park follows a very nice riparian area along Comanche Creek before moving uphill into a grassland area, providing multiple environments to enjoy. This natural asset has been neglected and underutilized, but has the potential to provide residents and visitors opportunities for recreation, health, and education.
Chapter members provide a monthly nature study program during the school year for students who are enrolled in the Kroc Center’s afterschool program. Our group of volunteers has planned and executed a variety of programs with the intention of encouraging young students to appreciate nature and to develop the desire to become good land stewards now and in the future. We teach a variety of subjects such as recycling by nature and by man, learning the water cycle, good watershed practices, water insects ID, plant ID, mammals, bats, and more. We use a variety of hands-on methods of study such as scavenger hunts, puppet shows, bug bingo, and others. Our volunteers have fun with the kids and enjoy sharing what they know. The stories the kids share with their parents about nature as they walk to their cars inspire us.
L.A.N.D.S. (Learning Across New Dimensions in Science), Texas Wildlife Association’s youth program, works with students K–12 to create an awareness of wildlife and wildlife related issues. The program immerses children in the wonders of nature from the classroom to the back sendero. Subjects include: land ethics, conservation, wildlife management, soils, plants, ecosystems, and how to be good stewards on private lands.
Love Creek Preserve is a gem in the Nature Conservancy’s collection. Our chapter participates in many key volunteer tasks. “Our volunteer efforts have, I believe, raised the enthusiasm level and promoted the momentum for the active conservation/preservation efforts there, ” says Bob McKinley. Projects range from labor intensive (brush clearing, fence removal, and building, etc.) to lighter tasks such as butterfly and plant surveys.
Rebecca Neill states, “I am the only TNC staff person who offices in this area. I rely heavily on volunteer support to help implement management projects and achieve the goals we have in place for maintaining and managing this property for the continued benefit of the diversity of plants and wildlife that depend on it.”
Rebecca continues, “We are always looking for new volunteers to join our team, and can almost guarantee a project to fit the interest and expertise of the individual interested in helping us. If a project is not currently in place, we can look for ways to get new projects started that would be of interest to folks. The volunteers who work on Love Creek have become some of my closest coworkers and friends!”
Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, MS-01-A
Volunteering at Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area (MMWMA) is an exciting opportunity to experience a place that few get to visit. Opportunities abound to learn a great deal about the science of habitat management, study Hill Country flora and fauna, experience the town of Mason and the surrounding Hill Country, and earn volunteer hours. In addition to providing a very useful service to MMWMA, Master Naturalists will also have a great opportunity to deeply connect with the Mason County area of the Texas Hill Country including its flora, fauna, and people, and to meet volunteers from various chapters in Central Texas.
Our current primary project is assisting with data gathering for MMWMA’s ongoing Quail Management Study. Attending one of the series of orientations gives each volunteer the basic tools needed to be a partner in this program. The data to be gathered is simply the flora structure along a specified transect line within each of 72 rotational burn plots. The data about plant structure from the tree canopy to ground level will be entered by volunteers into a tablet and then a master database. MMWMA staff then crunches this data with quail counts in an effort to learn more about optimal quail habitat and quail management techniques.
Each plot may take two to three hours to survey, taking less time as familiarity with the process improves. Over the course of eight days (July 6-9 and July 13-16) three teams of at least two people will work together on each plot with a goal of three plots per day until all 72 plots have been surveyed. This plan has data collection completed in eight days. Ideally data will be collected by a core group of volunteers who can commit to one to four full days during each data collection period. A core group of fewer volunteers committing more hours will help with data integrity as volunteers become proficient. The grand ideal is to attract as many volunteers as possible who can commit to four consecutive days.
As this exciting partnership develops between the Texas Master Naturalist program and MMWMA, other opportunities for involvement will likely present themselves. In addition to providing a very useful service to MMWMA, Master Naturalists will also have a great opportunity to deeply connect with the Mason County area of the Texas Hill Country including its flora, fauna, and people, and to meet volunteers from various chapters in Central Texas.
Native Healing Garden at Riverside Nature Center, KR-02-A
The Native Healing Garden strives to grow, maintain, and protect native medicinal plants. We hope to educate and empower the public to recognize and connect with the healing earth. The group has compiled a reference book of twenty-four plant profiles, including field identification characteristics and medicinal uses. Learn about native medicinal plants, bring gardening gloves, and get your hands into the earth.
There are many opportunities for Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation (WRR) volunteers to learn about the hundreds of native wildlife species found in Central Texas while helping them recover from injuries, illnesses, and the trauma of being orphaned. WRR rescues over 7,000 animals per year. The facility operates seven days a week. WRR depends on large numbers of reliable volunteers to keep the organization running. You will find a variety of shifts to choose from, depending on the volunteer position. WRR makes sure enough volunteers are scheduled to cover all tasks and shifts insuring the animals will have the care they need and deserve. Visit wildlife-rescue.org to learn about all the ways to help. Thanks for considering the volunteer opportunities at WRR and keeping Texas wild.
Opal B. Robert’s Landscape of Hopes and Dreams, KM-09-A
The Opal B. Robert’s Landscape of Hopes and Dreams is a predominantly native plant and passive rainwater landscape developed as a memorial for an exceptional teacher, Opal B. Roberts. The landscape is located in front of Junction Middle School and the “Old Rock Gym” on College Street in Junction. It is composed of a series of rock lined terraces, containing seven separate rain gardens, with granite gravel pathways separating the terraces and plant beds. The beds contain hundreds of individual plantings with over forty native plant species and at least four nonnative additive species. The landscape was designed in 2008 by Billy Kniffen, then rainwater specialist with AgriLife Extension. The landscape has become not only a model for water conservation, but also an outdoor classroom and natural environment that students walk through and take in daily. It adds year round beauty, and creates habitat for pollinators and students.
Pollinator Garden Assistance and Recognition Program (PGARP), HC-00-E
The Pollinator Garden Assistance and Recognition Program is lead by Richard Coleman and Pam Lienhard. The program unites our chapter and the Native Plant Society of Texas Kerrville, Fredericksburg, and Boerne Chapters to promote small plot gardens to protect native pollinators and increase the use of native plants. Texas Master Naturalist and Native Plant Society (NPSOT) volunteers educate local homeowners and groups about the importance of native plants and habitat in our unique Hill Country environment. Gardeners receive information about nectar and habitat for native pollinators and advice about garden plans and plants. PGARP recognizes and rewards gardeners’ important contributions to pollinator conservation by awarding “Pollinator Champion” certificates of recognition during Hill Country Chapter and/or NPSOT meetings. If you would like help with your pollinator garden, submit the PGARP form Request a Pollinator Garden Consultation or Garden Recognition or email PollinatorChampion@gmail.com
South Llano River Birding Festival, KM-01-A-DO
Festival activities begin Friday evening with a Meet and Greet social and festival registration at the Texas Tech Llano River Field Station in Junction. Saturday activities start early with Breakfast with the Birds. After a day of field trips, it winds down with a banquet dinner and keynote speaker. The day begins and ends at the Texas Tech Llano River Field Station. On Sunday, all activities will be conducted at South Llano River State Park, starting with Breakfast with the Birds, the Big Sit!, and roving guides until 11:30 a.m. Participants are welcome to spend the entire day at the state park. Registration is required to attend the festival. Chapter members attending the festival are eligible for some AT credit and chapter members volunteering at the festival assist with a variety of activities.
“Caring for Our Waters” Our chapter sponsors a Texas Stream Team project to perform water quality testing in Kerr, Gillespie, Kendall, and Bandera counties. Thirteen sites on nearby rivers and creeks are tested monthly. Fifteen chapter members currently volunteer for this project. Each received training to test for pH, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen, and how to make field observations and report data. Some volunteers have been trained in advanced water quality testing including testing for E. coli bacteria, nitrates, phosphates, and turbidity.