Sunday, September 27, 2009

Monarch Butterfly Tagging Event

Monarch butterflies migrate through Wichita Falls in their way to Mexico. This year the butterflies seem to be passing further to the west of us in large numbers; we aren't having the large numbers we normally do so far. For the past few years Master Naturalists have been taggin ghte butterflies to help learn more about their migration. This is a chance to learn more about monarchs in an up-close-and-personal way.

The Rolling Plains chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists is hosting a Monarch Butterfly tagging event in Lake Wichita Park on Monday, September 28 and Tuesday, September 29 beginning at 6:00 PM until dusk. We will set up near the parking lot at the entrance at the end of Fairway Blvd. Bring the kids; we'll have nets.

If you want to learn more about monarchs try Monarch Watch at It's a great site.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Big Sit October 11

The annual Wichita Falls Big Sit will be held Sunday, October 11, from sunrise until we get tired and go home (usually by noon.) We gather behind Wild Bird Rescue on what we optimistically call "the peninsula."

The Big Sit is a nationwide event (although some international groups are now taking part)--so groups all sit on the same day. This is a lazy birder event as the rules require that participants have to sit inside a 17-ft circle and count birds from inside that area. Groups compete for having the birdiest site. Most groups are a little more competitive than we are and start in the dark; end in the dark. We are out for the portion of the day that yields the most birds.

This event is sponsored by the North Texas Bird and Wildlife Club. It is free and open to the public. You don't have to know anything about birds to take part--there are plenty of experienced birders on hand. This is a come and go, so if you are not inclined to be up and functional at sunrise, come a little later in the morning (although you will miss some great sights.)

Dress appropriately (there is almost always a breeze off the water.) I advise layers as you will likely shed them as the morning warms. Also bring a lawn chair, your binoculars, a field guide, bug spray if you need it, and whatever you want to drink.We have had some excellent birding mornings in the past, so come on down! By the way, check out the video on the BirdWatchers' Digest website about the event.

Good birding!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Congratulations to Our Friends In Norman, OK

Norman, OK is about the same size as Wichita Falls, TX. One of the organizations there is the Norman Sustainability Network which is a coalition of organizations promoting a sustainable community. Mother Earth News recently recognized Norman as one of 11 great places--what an achievement! Which then makes me think, "Why Not Wichita Falls????" Certainly, if they can do it, there isn't a very good reason for us not to be able to make great progress in the area of sustainability.

Walk for Farm Animals

Even if we eat meat (and I do), I think we all want to believe those animals lived a good life before they were killed and processed for food. Unfortunately, that is not always (or even likely) the case. Joanna Bonnheim is supporting a local Walk for Farm Animals to bring attention to the poor conditions many food animals endure. She sent me the following information:

Because you are a fellow animal-advocate,

I want to invite you to take part in an special opportunity to help animals coming up soon in Wichita Falls. In celebration of World Farm Animals Day, we're holding a Walk for Farm Animals on Saturday, October 10th at 10:00AM. All proceeds will go to benefit a great animal rescue organization, Farm Sanctuary, which is working to end the suffering and abuse of animals raised for food. You can learn more about this organization at, and you can register for the Walk at

This will be our second annual Walk, and last year was quite a success. I'm hoping that this year will be even better! Please come out and join us in raising awareness for this massive, yet often-forgotten population. Meet new friends and old while re-affirming your commitment to animals large and small. Celebrate the humane advances we have made in the animal industry. You, too, can be a voice for the voiceless!

What: Walk for Farm Animals
Where: Beginning at Sikes Lake, the intersection of Midwestern Pkwy. and Louis J. Rodriguez Drive
When: Saturday, October 10th, 10:00 AM (registration at 9:00AM)
Who: All who care about the welfare of farm animals!

Be sure to pre-register so that you will receive your Walk for Farm Animals t-shirt in time for the big day. And please forward this email far and wide to anyone you think may be interested!

Thank you for all that you do!
~Joanna Bonnheim

If you would like more information, you can contact Joanna by email at

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monarch Tagging Event Coming Soon

The Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists tag monarch butterflies each year to help study this creature's migration. We enjoy it a lot, but thought this year we would add a public tagging event in a city park to help the public learn more about monarchs. We'll have a display with information, butterfly nets for children to help catch butterflies, and the tags and paperwork. This will not only help children learn more about monarchs but also introduce them to scientific method in a very basic way.

This will be a short-notice event, based upon when the monarchs arrive in good numbers in Wichita Falls. We are seeing a few butterflies already and should have large numbers passing through within the next few weeks. Since the butterflies haven't given us their travel itinerary and weather is never certain, we will probably make a date decision 2 - 3 days in advance of the event. We plan to tag in Lake Wichita park, near Murphy's Mound where the willows (and consequently, butterflies) are plentiful. I will post as soon as I have a date. I am just providing a heads up to get the event on your radar.

The Master Naturalists will also do some limited tagging at the EcoFair at River Bend Nature Center on October 3, so you can also plan to be there. I don't know what time the tagging will happen, and it is likely the butterflies will already be caught for the demonstration.

Don't Forget NPSOT Symposium Coming Up

The Native Plant Society of Texas is planning to hold their symposium in Wichita Falls this year. The Symposium will be October 15 - 17, with a number of lectures, social events and field trips. Unfortunately, the dates conflict with a "must attend" conference for me, but I plan to attend some of the lectures on Saturday when I get home.

You can register online or if you prefer to register by mail, contact Martha at River Bend (940-767-0843) or Paul Dowlearn at Wichita Valley (940-696-3082). Both have hard copy registration information. You can attend the entire conference for $120 if you register by October 9 (this includes several meals and printed proceedings) or if, like me, you want to attend only the lectures, it's only $10. What a deal.

We're lucky to be able to have such an event in Wichita Falls.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Texas Invaders

I attended the Texas Invaders training yesterday at River Bend Nature Center, sponsored by the Rolling Plains Texas Master Naturalists. What a great time! We spent most of the day outside, learning more about invasive plant species and how to document them. In addition to many of the local Texas Master Naturalists, we had some of the Master Gardeners and Native Plant Society folks attending as well.

The purpose is to help learn more about the spread or invasive plant species in Texas. If you weren't able to attend the training, you can still become a members of the Rolling Plains Invaders satellite group by taking the online training at and signing up. I know the Rolling Plains Master Naturalists will have some field trips, but this is also something you can do on your own. You can also sign up for a monthly newsletter to learn more about invasives of all types at this website.

Monday, September 7, 2009

When the Right is Right

I knew it would happen as soon as I saw the report in the paper that a study proved eating meat contributes more to climate change than driving an SUV. Within a couple of days, the conservative talking heads on Fox News started talkng about the hypocritical liberal environmentalists. Glenn Beck yelled that when an environmentalist talks to you about driving an SUV instead of a hybrid to ask if they are a vegan; if not, just tell them to "shut their pie hole."

Whether you like or dislike the way the sentiment was expressed, in many ways the Right is right on this one. I'm not a vegan myself. From a moralistic view, I don't really have a problem with eating other animals--I have too much education in biology for that (if you look around, there are darn few animals that don't eat other living things in order to live.) At the same time, what made sense when there were a few million people makes much less sense now there are over 6 billion, and I am trying to reduce the amount of meat prepared and eaten in this house (for goodness sakes, don't tell my husband that--Mr. Meat will keel over!)

That is part of the reason I volunteered to put together the Meat-Less Cookbook for the Sierra Club to be available at the EcoFair. Even if one isn't ready to go completely vegan, we can all make little changes in our diets that collectively can have huge consequences for the environment. So even if you aren't ready to make an all-out commitment to eat plants only, how about one meal a week for now and perhaps a day a week later, and then work your way forward from there?

Sierra Club/EcoFair Planning Meeting

For those interested, the Red River Sierra Club will meet Tuesday, September 8 at 7PM at the Olive Garden. The meeting agenda includes: Cookbook, Booth at the EcoFair, upcoming hike and more. No RSVP required--just be there.