Blog Archive

In the News

Wild About Houston Short Film Screening Wednesday, 6:30 pm - HNPAT Monthly Meeting Co-presenters for this event are: Houston - NPAT,…

Read more of this >>

Conservation Easement Workshop FRIDAY, 2pm to 5pm Co-Hosts: Cibolo Conservancy and the Hill Country Alliance Hill Country…

Read more of this >>

Saturday, beginning at 7:30 am! Deer Park Prairie - Monthly Bird Survey Come join Damien Carey for the survey and learn about the…

Read more of this >>

Prairie Facts

Our Blog

WATCH THE SKYS!  POLLINATOR MIGRATIONS ARE BEGINNING!

Tuesday, Aug 01, 2017

WATCH THE SKYS!  MIGRATIONS ARE BEGINNING!

MONITOR “LIVE” ON WEBSITES!

As we progress through the upcoming weeks of our LONG – HOT SUMMER, we can observe some of our feathered friends as they fly south to their winter homes in Central America and South America. 

Migrations begin for the Purple Martins, Hummingbirds, Monarch Butterflies, and Mexican Free-tailed Bats (just to name a few, plus swallows, cranes, and many more)!  Some of the migrations can be observed online thanks to some very clever technology:

MIGRATIOIN OF MONARCH BUTTERFLY Danaus plexippus

Observe the Monarch Migration - Report Summer Sightings on the U.S. Forest Service’s migration map!

Early Spring to Late Summer Timeline:
In late February or early March Monarch Butterflies awake from hibernation where they’ve been in the protected forests of oyamel fir trees in Central Mexico. They find a mate and begin the long journey northward for to spend spring and summer in warmer climates and pollinate plants as they travel to north or northeast areas of North America (U.S. and Canada).  Each generation lives 2-6 weeks; each progresses northward during those weeks, each generation will live long enough to lay eggs, then it dies.

The fourth generation begins migrating southward in early autumn; they must fly thousands of miles (taking several weeks) to reach their destination in Central Mexico by November.  There they will hibernate until late February or early March when they will mate and begin the long journey northward. (We have observed spring arrivals in Central Texas; they like to lay their eggs on milkweed plants.) Remember each generation (first, second, and third) usually lives no longer than a period of 6 weeks, during which they have mated, laid their eggs, and died. Some of the fourth generation fly as far north as Canada by May and June.

MIGRATE SOUTH FOR WINTER The Monarch Butterfly cannot survive cold winters of northern climates, so in early fall, monarchs living in eastern North America migrates south, funneling through Texas and hugging the Gulf Coast on their way to central Mexico.  The last generation is responsible for the Monarch Butterflies’ survival: it MUST fly to Central Mexico so they can hibernate over the winter months!  It is amazing to realize these butterflies have never flown the southern migration route nor seen the oyamel fir tree forest in Central Mexico.  (They were all born in far North America months after their ‘ancestors’, the first, second and third generations made their journeys living just long enough to mature, mate, and lay eggs of future generations before dying.  Each newly hatched generation lived to fly its portion of the journey.)  The entire Monarch Butterfly population will hibernate in fewer than 20 sites within the exact same oyamel fir trees in which their ancestors hibernated.  Imagine 20-30 million in clusters to keep warm. 
Photo of Oyamel Fir Tree in Central Mexico:

MIGRATION of the MEXICAN FREE-TAILED BAT Tadarida brasiliensis

“BAT-WATCH” LIVE!
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department collaborated with Bat Conservation International and recently introduced the site: Bat-Watching Sites of Texas!   It highlights 12 Texas bat-watching sites (4 are TPWD properties!) and covers general bat biology, lists bat species in Texas, discusses white-nose syndrome (WNS), and explains bat-watching etiquette.

The Nature Conservancy wrote that the Eckert James River Bat Cave is one of the largest bat nurseries in the country. Photo of Bats near the Eckert James River Bat Cave:

Mexican free-tailed bats are the most common bat found throughout Texas. These mammals are VERY BENEFICIAL, as they are agents of seed dispersal and cross-pollination for many plant species.  They join other beneficial pollinators, purple martins, hummingbirds and swallows, in helping control insect populations!  Each bat consumes close to its body weight in insects (they eat mosquitoes and numerous crop pests such as cutworm and corn borer moths).  Like the Monarch Butterflies, the bats, who are mammals, also winter in Mexico, but they settle into and remain in caves!  Mexican free-tailed bats begin their migration southward in October through mid-November (when the first cold fronts start to push through).  Like the monarchs, they also fly to central Mexico, but they spend the winter in caves.  Then in February they begin their northward migration to Texas.

The female bats form large “maternity colonies” where they will raise their young.  They require high humidity and high temperature levels (so Texas is perfect)! 
Once the bats mate, the male bats move into their new, smaller “bachelor colonies”.  They live away from females and pups and are not involved in raising the young.
The mother bats’ milk is very rich; so within 4-5 weeks they have grown and are ready to fly.  The mothers and pups remain in the ‘maternity colonies’; it gets VERY crowded. They roost in densities of up to 500 pups per square foot. The mother has miraculous hearing; each mother can return from eating insects and fly directly into the cave to her own baby by using her sense of smell and knowing the sound of their pup’s call.

Then, when the first cold fronts start pushing through in late October to mid-November, the Mexican free-tailed bats begin their migration to Mexico for the winter.

Wild About Houston Short Film Screening-August 23, 2017-Houston, TX

Monday, Jul 24, 2017

Wild About Houston Short Film Screening

Wednesday beginning at 6:30 pm - HNPAT Monthly Meeting

Co-presenting this event: Houston - NPAT, Katy Prairie Conservancy, and Coastal Prairie Partnership at the Cherie Flores Pavilion in Hermann Park.

The goal of this short film screening will be to “spotlight short (10 minutes or less) films” that focus on local conservation efforts or local wildlife/ecosystems.

We see this as a local complement to the Wild & Scenic Festivals that Citizens Environmental Coalition Houston and Bayou Land Conservancy are hosting.
We ​would​ love for ​you or ​your group to submit a film for consideration. If you would like to submit an entry please click here and fill out a short form.
We hope you can submit a film and make the screening!

Have You Watched Pollinators? by Barbara Keller-Willy

Tuesday, Jul 11, 2017

Have you stopped not only to smell a flower but to watch a pollinator extracting nectar from a flower?
Thanks “Strands Prairie - Follet Island,”
for allowing us to refresh our minds in your beauty and wonder!

Gratitude and photos contributed by NPAT’s Board President, Barbara Keller-Willy

Report from Executive Director, Pat Merkord

Tuesday, Jul 11, 2017

Executive Director’s Report on the Second Annual Prairie Tour, June 3, 2017  

Sponsored and Planned by NPAT’s Blackland Chapter,

Led by their President, Leigh Ann Ellis!

There were about 50 attendees, about 35 rode on the bus, and the rest, who followed in vehicles, came from Central and South Texas.
The bus departed from Dallas in pouring down rain!
But - it cleared for a beautiful day’s visit to Burleson Prairie. The owner of Burleson led the tour with information gained over many years of restoration efforts by Mickey and Bob Burleson. The prairie was beautiful with many species blooming and grasses waving in the morning breeze. It was a memorable visit.
We next headed to Salado for a fabulous lunch.
Then headed to Granger Lake to look at restoration efforts there and a discussion of the difficulty of maintaining restoration efforts. Visitors got to see large growths of Eastern Gama Grass and aggressive growth of Alamo Switchgrass.

After leaving Granger, the rain fell in torrents, and for a while we wondered if we would have to end the tour. We stopped for a rest at a gas station, discussed the situation; since it appeared that the weather might give us a break—

We decided NOT to go to NPAT’s Reisel Prairie but took advantage of being near a world-famous outdoor research facility, Agricultural Research Service (“ARS”), a.k.a., Reisel Watersheds.  “ARS’, is the chief scientific research agency of the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory; the facility is commonly known as the Riesel Watersheds. (Established in 1937 as the Blacklands Experimental Watershed. It is operated by ARS in cooperation with Texas AgriLIFE Research.)  Visitors from across the United States and around the world come to Riesel Watersheds to see the research site! Because water supply shortage, flood occurrence, and water quality degradation will increasingly affect the environment and future generations, watershed-based studies continue to be needed to solve these problems. It was agreed we should hold another field trip for a more in depth look at this valuable prairie and research site.
The ‘frosting on the cake’ of our tour was our visit to Simpson Prairie, one of NPAT’s easements near Crawford, Texas. The storm clouds on the horizon with rays of sunshine coming out after an afternoon of rain lit up the colors of the prairie and we all took our fill of prairie pictures.
It was a great end to a delightful day!

Congratulations, Blackland NPAT Chapter!

This Chapter, under the direction Leigh Ann Ellis, provided a delightful and very well attended Prairie Tour to Central Texas Prairies!
We all got to meet many new people to the prairie community and were inspired by comments from all on their enthusiasm and support for our Texas Prairies.

THANKS to all our PHOTOGRAPHERS! 

Blackland Chapter’s 2nd Annual Prairies Tour - June 3, 2017

Tuesday, Jul 11, 2017

June 16, 2017 Account by Pat Merkord (including various photos received by that date).

RAINY DEPARTURE:
The bus departed from Dallas in pouring down rain!
But - it cleared for a beautiful day’s visit to Burleson Prairie;
next to Salado for a fabulous lunch.  From there we drove to Granger Lake
Then the rain fell in torrents, and for a while we wondered if we would have to end the tour.  So, we stopped for a rest at a gas station and discussed the situation. 
Then it appeared the weather might give us a break
—we decided to head on to .... USDA’s Riesel Watershed (“ARS”),
and the tour ended with a visit to Simpson Prairie with storm clouds on the horizon and rays of sunshine coming out after an afternoon of rain; it lit up the colors of the prairie, and we all took our fill of prairie pictures! It was a great end to a delightful day!  Pat Merkord, Executive Director, NPAT

Beautiful Simpson Prairie! (Photo by Stalin SM)

Diane Weatherbee

Burleson Prairie

A ‘loaded’ pollinator, Granger Lake Prairie

Downy Paintbrush, Simpson Prairie

***

Imelda Haley

Walking Stick

Field of Flowers

Grasshopper

***

Kelly Walker

Crab Spider enjoying Mexican Hat

Reisel Watersheds

Reisel Watersheds

***

Kerry Newberry

False Gaura on Burleson Prairie

Skullcap on Simpson

Eastern Gamagrass-Lehmann

***

Stalin SM


Milkweed Seed Pods

Diving for Pollin

***

Terri White

Colorful Mix

Eastern Gamagrass

Love that WIDE, OPEN PRAIRIE! 

***

Amy Martin

USDA Reisel Watershed

Page 1 of 24 pages  1 2 3 >  Last »