Friday, March 20, 2015

Screech Owl nesting Boxes

One of the projects Marlin worked on in March was the construction of four new Screech Owl nesting boxes.  Sherry researched plans on line, Marlin purchased the materials and went to work.

He worked on the boxes in the maintenance garage, in between his other daily jobs, especially on cold and rainy days.

The finished product.  There was one old box that was taken down because it was too close to the bicycle shed and not used.  It needed some repairs, but was usable when patched up.

Naturally, when the boxes were ready, Mother Nature brought in some very cold, windy, weather with rain that came down in sheets.  Eventually the weather straightened out so the boxes could be put up before nesting season was over.

Pushing through the thorny brush to find the "just right" tree.  The boxes need to be a minimum of 10 feet high and they should face south west.  Lots of easy access trees did not meet that criterion.

Kieth, a Master Naturalist volunteer, climbed up to test how the box could be attached to the tree

Richard, one of the Park Rangers, carried the box up to Kieth and helped him secure it to the tree.

The boxes were  held to the tree using old bicycle inner tubes.  The tubes will stretch as the tree grows and will not cut into the bark.  Great team effort.  Marlin didn't even have to get on the ladder.

A view of the box from the tram road.

The day after the boxes were put up -------

Four of the five boxes now have Screech Owls nesting.  Several of the boxes can be seen from the tram road, so visitors get to see them most every day.  A good success story to have been a part of here at Resaca de la Palma.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ocelot Conservation Days

Ocelot Conservation Days was a two day  presentation organized to focus attention on the remaining wild ocelots in Texas.  There are reported to be approximately 50 ocelots left in the United States, specifically in the southern tip of Texas.  Day one of the program was held at the University of Texas, Pan Am.  Speakers included a research professor, a Department of Transportation Representative, the Wildlife biologist for Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, and an ocelot ambassador from the Cincinnati Zoo.  The ambassador was, of course, the highlight of the day.

Before we got to see the major event, the speakers reviewed current research being done, current and future plans for critical road crossing underpasses, and a wish list of habitat extension for the cats currently living here in Texas.  Within Laguna Atascoca Wildlife Refuge there are 13 documented ocelots, two of witch are kittens.  Several more exist in a county north of Brownsville.  However there is no connecting habitat between these two populations.  One concern for these ocelots is the lack of genetic diversity.  Efforts to create a wildlife corridor between the two populations is currently being investigated. 

The Department of Transportation's plans for addressing road kill are extremely important because when the young males begin to explore for their own territory they often wander onto roadways and are hit by cars.  Fortunately several of the under road bypasses are already in existence, with several more planned for critical areas. 

Two women handlers from the Zoo accompanied the ambassador and told us all about her.  This beautiful female ocelot was born at the Cincinnati Zoo and raised by humans to be shown in public.

A beautiful animal.  The pictures speak for themselves.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Vegetation Transect

Stephanie, the park biologist, asked for volunteers to help with a vegetation transect.  This involves sectioning off a 20 meter by 50 meter area where different sizes of vegetation are recorded in order to obtain a general estimate of what kinds of vegetation are in a particular area of the park.  Several people who are taking the Texas Master Naturalists class came to help out.

Beginning to measure off the area of the transect.

Some sections were difficult to squeeze through the thorny brush.

We began by recording all the vegetation in the entire 20m X 50m space that was larger than 6 inches

For the next task, one corner of the transect was marked off into a space 10m X 25m, and any vegetation between one inch and six inches was counted and identified by species.

This was a great opportunity to learn how to identify trees and plants that grow here in Southmost Texas.  The group examined bark, leaves, thorns, and location to classify these plants.

Stephanie had made a measuring tool from some pvc pipe held together with rope.  This tool was used to delineate a space 1m X 3m.  Here we were to list all the plants in this area.

After this exercise, I can now identify at least four tree species that are native to this part of Texas!  The question is---will I remember them by next year when we return?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Folklorico, La Joya High School

For the second year in a row, we have been delighted to attend the Folklorico and Mariachi Spring concert at the La Joya High School.  The goal of the "Folklorico" is to perform and preserve the folklore and culture of Mexico, through dance and music.  Kathy and David Whittier, our friend from Mission, invited us be part of a group going to the show.

Seated, just before the program began.

The costumes are beautiful.  Each section of the program portrays a different cultural aspect.  This segment theme reflected the long ranching traditions in the area.

The program switched between dancers and Mariachi Sol, a traditional mariachi band.

Hard to tell from this far away picture, but this dance number was selected and choreographed by the students themselves.  The costuming was reflective of today's culture.

One segment was traditional Spanish flamingo dancing.

At the close of the show, all the students were available in the lobby to answer questions and for photographs.  I asked this young girl how many different dance routines did she have to learn.  She said,  "Well there were six sections  and each section had five different
numbers in them"  Guess that means they had to learn 36 different dances, as well as have the stamina to perform in all the segments.!

Kathy had invited "a few" friends to join her for a pot luck supper at her house after the show.  When we returned to her house  from La Joyla, her guests had already arrived!   Great party, good food, lots of new friends.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Old City Cemetery Tour

Lots of skeletons exposed during this Old City Cemetery Tour.  The event began in a museum called "The Old City Cemetery Center"  With an entire center dedicated to a cemetery, it seemed like a guided walk through this one would have some interesting highlights. 

The museum showcases some interesting displays about City founders and famous residents.  It also contains an extensive library of Brownsville history and genealogy reference books.  Brownsville boasts a very diverse ethnic character.  Many Easterners came with General Zachery Taylor, during the US-Mexican war, which ended in 1848.  Along with soldiers, adventurers from foreign lands, Spanish land grant holders, land developers, merchants, and others, who came to make their fortunes, the City's beginnings were enhanced by multiple cultures and languages. 

 The Cemetery Center has a mission to advance opportunities to lean about the history, architecture, and geneology, as well as presere the cemetery as a family friendly park and tourist destination.

 After spending about 30 minutes in the museum, our docent rounded everyone up and headed us across the street to begin the tour.

The unique and varied grave markers are a reflection of the diverse ethnic, cultural, and economic background that reflects the founding population of Brownsville.

 Portions of the cemetery resemble burial plots in New Orleans.  Even though this was higher ground, the Rio Grande River could flood this high, so many vaults were constructed above ground.  In fact, the Popper's field section, which was located on the bank nearest the  river,was under water in the past.

This grave marker actually opens, revealing a stairway down into a family vault.  Gene said he would someday be burried here along with his ancestors.

Gene, our docent, seemed to know the history, and secrets, of most of the inhabitants here.  His entertaining monologue included intrigue, back door deals, family disgrace, and murder.  The picture that emerged was of a free-wheeling fronteer town where most anything might happen, and did.

 These tree-like markers were scattered throughout the cemetery.  We were told that the "Woodmen of the World" was an insurance company that collected payments when you were alive, then paid for your funeral and memorial marker when you passed away  Funeral Insurance


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tree Planting

Stephanie Galla, the Park Biologist, planned a  tree planting day for the 14 new trees she received to add to the Park.  Ten of these trees are Montezuma Bald Cypress.  These native trees are related to the cypress you find in Florida, however, these cypress do not have the "knees" you see on other southern species. Although they can tolerate being under water for a short time, they like a somewhat dryer spot on the banks of waterways.  

Texas has a Master Naturalist program in this area and those taking part are required to put in 40 hours of volunteer work each year. 
 For this volunteer opportunity, four Master Naturalist students helped us with the planting.

Some of the volunteers, doing a bit of birding, while walking to the resaca where the trees will be planted.
Stephanie on the phone, Sam, Joanie, Mary, Hamez, and Sherry, who is a Park Host.

Stephanie and Gloria, Park Naturalist, unloading the trees at the resaca

 Gearing up!

The edges of the resaca have been churned up by feral pigs.  Large numbers of these pigs frequent the wet areas of the Park, doing substantial damage to plants and soil stability. 

Lots of digging.

And planting

and watering

A good job done.  Ten trees planted.

The crew.