We Need Your Help - Volunteer

Crew on Malacoda trail.
Volunteers are encouraged to join SMGA members in cleaning up more than 10 miles of trails in Purgatory and Prospect. There's a lot of work to be done but first you need to complete a volunteer form. There's a brief orientation that we'll ask you to go through. If you come for trail work in flip-flops and shorts we gotta send you home. There's sharp (tools), pointy (cactus) things out in the wild, and we don't want you to get hurt. Even though you'll sign a waiver it's just good relations to start right -- and safe.

When do we work? Most Thursdays (not Christmas Eve but New Year's Eve) from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. You'll get an eMail the afternoon before as to the location and directions. We also have a Saturday crew that works most weeks 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. that is focused on Sessoms natural area. We do like our coffee and often meet at a local coffee house after and discuss our next work project.

We're starting a new crew January 4th on Monday afternoons from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Some of our younger crew might like this better than those cold, early mornings. We hope to have a restoration crew that replaces invasives with native grasses and wildflowers. Right now we have a feral hog problem and we want to use the opportunity of "tilled" soil with appropriate grass seeding.

We'd love to have you or your group join us for a day, or the next few years. There's certainly a need and every bit of ownership you put in results in an investment in our future.

Working on a re-route for Roadrunner trail.
Purgatory Creek Natural Area took a big hit October 30, 2015 when more than 10" of rain fell in a few hours right over San Marcos. The enormity of the water in a short time was not rare in the area known as "flash flood alley". The San Marcos natural areas provide floodzone buffers and help to insure good quality rainwater flowing into the Edwards aquifer, as well as the  San Marcos and Blanco Rivers.

Exciting Spring Lake birding hike

  There were only seven of us on a cold morning Dec. 5 but the light was golden and steam rose from the lake. And the birds were out. When you read Colton Robbin's list you'll see we saw 39 different species of birds and the numbers of each kept our binoculars up and viewing the antics of each species.
  Stephen Ramirez led the hike as we enter the fifth-year of monthly birding hikes around San Marcos. Colton brought persistence as he tried to identify the hummingbird who continued to visit a nearly leafless, small tree on the lake. The sighting was unusual for the time of year but the tiny bird refused to stay in one place very long. Colton's persistence paid a dividend when he studied the circling vultures too numerous to count. One bird flew a little lower and had different characteristics from the Turkey and Black Vultures was a Zone-tailed Hawk.
Zone-tailed Hawk photo by Colton Robbins

   Colton said, “ Seen with the San Marcos monthly birding group. Juvenile due to lack of strong bands in tail and lack of dark trailing edge along the wings. Distinguished from Turkey Vultures by the curved yellow beak. The bird circled the area repeatedly, sometimes flying alone and other times flying with nearby vultures. It generally flew lower than the vultures and several times flew directly over the group of birders, giving fantastic views. We watched it for at least 20 minutes and it was still present when we left the location.  At one point it burst through a close sycamore tree full of American goldfinches and sent them scattering. Very Exciting!!”
   We also watched one of two Belted Kingfishers as he downed a small fish while perched on the handrail of the boardwalk that was damaged in the October flood. 
   The birding walks occur on the first Saturday of the month in the early morning. Contact Stephen@birdsiview.org  to be notified of time and location. Lists can be found in earlier posts to this blog and at eBird. --LJ

Spring Lake, San Marcos December 5, 2015
Fall colors as we view the Osprey perched across the lake.
39 species

Snow Goose  22     Flyovers
Pied-billed Grebe  4
Double-crested Cormorant  2
Great Blue Heron  2
Great Egret  1
Black Vulture  X
Turkey Vulture  X
Osprey  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  2
Zone-tailed Hawk  1   
White-winged Dove  12
Mourning Dove  2
Belted Kingfisher  2
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
Couch's Kingbird  1
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  2
Carolina Chickadee  3
Black-crested Titmouse  1
Carolina Wren  3
Bewick's Wren  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
Northern Mockingbird  3
European Starling  30
Cedar Waxwing  25
Yellow-rumped Warbler  10
Chipping Sparrow  1
Field Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  2
Lincoln's Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  2
Great-tailed Grackle  2
House Finch  3
American Goldfinch  20
House Sparrow  2

Inform: Exploring CodeSMTX Open House, December 3

The City of San Marcos is hosting the Exploring CodeSMTX Open House on Thursday, December 3 from 10AM – 8PM at the San Marcos Activity Center Room #3 to present and display the initial strategies for CodeSMTX. These strategies highlight how the Land Development Code is being modified to meet Vision San Marcos Comprehensive Plan adopted in April 2013. During the Open House a survey will be available for participants to weigh in on whether the proposed strategies for CodeSMTX meet the Vision that was established during the Comprehensive Plan. The results of this input will be used to further shape the strategies incorporated in the draft document scheduled to be released early this Spring. During the Exploring CodeSMTX Open House community members, land owners, city employees, and professionals are encouraged to stop by to:
  • Listen to a 10 minute presentation every hour on the hour
  • Learn from the information and plans at one of 5 stations
  • Comment on the proposed CodeSMTX strategies presented
Please join us for this come & go event and help us to spread the word by passing on this email and by joining and sharing the event on the City’s facebook page. See you on December 3!

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Stay Informed: Mountain Lions

The San Marcos Natural Areas protect and provide habitat for a variety of animals. It's important to be informed and prepared when hiking and biking in natural areas.
From TPWD http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/nuisance/mountain_lion/

TPWD has collected mountain lion sighting and mortality data for the past 18 years. If you have a verifiable sighting or kill a mountain lion please contact your local biologist or game warden or call Texas Parks and Wildlife headquarters at 1-800-792-1112.

Because lions are secretive by nature it is rare to see a mountain lion; however, as we encroach upon their habitat conflict is bound to occur. It is wise to know what to do if you ever find yourself confronting a mountain lion.

What To Do If You Encounter A Mountain Lion
  • Pick all children up off the ground immediately.
  • Do NOT approach the lion
  • Stay calm. Talk calmly and move slowly.
  • Face the lion and remain in an upright position.
  • Do not turn your back on the lion. Back away slowly.
  • Do NOT run.
  • Do all you can to enlarge your image. Do NOT crouch down or try to hide
  • IF the lion is aggressive, throw rocks, sticks, or anything you can get your hands on.
  • If the lion attacks, fight back. Fighting back can drive off lions.

Purgatory Creek Natural Area Remains Closed

We know Fall is the perfect time to hit the trails! SMGA is working with the City of San Marcos to assess the damage from the October flood and determine appropriate repairs at Purgatory Creek Natural Area (PCNA). As soon as we have assessed all of the damage, we will begin organizing volunteer crews to help us with the clean up.

Even though Purgatory and Prospect will remain closed for a few more weeks, Spring Lake Natural Area trails will give you your nature fix. Try the new trail head on Lime Kiln Road to go straight to the top, or park at the Meadows Center lot and hike the full length. Ringtail Ridge and Schulle Canyon trails were also damaged but some trails are still enjoyable.

TOWN Birding Hike Included Drama

  The Texas Outdoor Woman Network - San Marcos group hiked Spring Lake Natural Area on Saturday, November 14th. They were led by Wimberley resident, Jesse Huth, recently graduated from Texas A&M with his master's degree. Jesse has been birding for more than 10 years and was featured on the Texas Parks & Wildlife television program.
  Without including Spring Lake itself with its collection of aquatic birds the group managed to see 31 different species including a pyrrhuloxia, similar to a cardinal but usually found further west. The drama came as the chatter increased among the birds and a Great Horned Owl flew overhead toward the city. Two Red-shouldered Hawks increased the drama with their calls and eventual flight out of a large live oak tree. The small birds resumed their forage as we watched two different groups fly from tree to tree in the understory.
   While some trails were still muddy the group managed to hike Buckeye, Blue Stem, Porcupine, Roadrunner and Skink Link trails.-LJ
TOWN members scan the tops of the trees for the elusive birds.

Great Blue Heron
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Crested Caracara
Eastern Phoebe
Blue-headed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Black-crested Titmouse
Carolina Wren
Bewick's Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Field Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
29.9035, -97.9396
Great-tailed Grackle
House Finch