Society

Fields of interest vary for Milam Naturalists

Back in May, I wrote an article about how we are all naturalists at heart. Most people feel it's important to preserve our native habitat. Some go a step further and become Master Naturalists.

Master Naturalists focus on the restoration, preservation, and conservation of nature, primarily through educational programs to the public. The El Camino Real Master Naturalists of Milam County began two years ago and now has over 50 active members. They show a small group can make a big difference.

What's exciting about being a Master Naturalist in Milam County is that we are treading new territory in many ways, as most of the flora and fauna native to the county have not been fully documented and studied by wildlife agencies. Hence, researchers can use the data the group collects to understand Milam County's natural resources.

So, when our Horned Lizard Nature Trackers find another horny toad, we add one more blip on the Horned Lizard tracking map that tells us they still survive east of I-35.

Milam County sits in a major migratory flyway. Our birding group actively participates in bird banding to document and track both year round avian residents, as well as those that migrate through the area.

The Big Tree group works with the state to locate and document the county's big trees.

We also participate in the

Millennium Seedbank with the Ladybird Wildflower Center and the Little River Basin Texas Master Gardeners.

Our Amphibian and Mussel Nature Trackers do mussel and frog watches that help researchers understand the health of the county's water resources.

Interested in bats, or lichens and mosses? We've got groups focused on those subjects. Many of you may have seen the window displays in both the Rockdale and Cameron Public Libraries. Master Naturalists build the displays, working hard to make them educational and fun.

We joined the Adopt-AHighway program and don orange vests to pick up trash on US 79 west of Rockdale. We use this opportunity to identify plants growing along the road.

Those talented in writing, photography, and art find an outlet as well. Our group won the Best Newsletter Award at the Texas Master Naturalist Convention held last month. For two years straight, we have won best photography and art.

Our biggest planned project is the Milam County Nature Festival planned for June 11 and 12, 2010 at the Wilson-Ledbetter Park in Cameron.

This event focuses on different aspects of Milam County's wildlife. Experts will talk about wildflowers native to our area, as well as the grasses and plants of our quickly diminishing prairies. You can learn how to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard, landscape with native plants, and even how to build a bluebird trail. Night brings "Sounds of the Night," where you can listen for owls and other night creatures. The keynote speaker will discuss the future of water and water conservation in Texas.

We plan on making this a yearly event, full of fun for kids and adults. This is the perfect place for anyone curious about our native environment to come learn more, and possibly decide to become a Master Naturalist!

Most Texas Master Naturalist groups have state parks or other public areas in which they can focus their efforts. Milam County is almost 100 percent privately owned property. Any attempts we make to study nature requires the cooperation of private landowners, who have always been ready and willing to make their land available.

It is definitely the combined effort of certified Master Naturalists and the general public that make it possible to preserve the native heritage of Milam County.

For more information, please visit our website: grovesite.com/ tmn/ecrmn.

walton.shawn@gmail.com


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The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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