Ligustrum removal at Prospect Park

The Thursday trail crew regulars culminated two workdays' effort at removing the invasive ligustrum from Prospect Park on March 28th.  With help from Susan Hanson's Honors English Composition class and a group of Bobcat Theater Majors the cut trees were moved and spread to stem the flow of rainwater down the hill.
English Honors Class
Limbo Loop is opened to planting native plants similar to what has been done along Virgil's Way and the karst features.  The plan is to encourage mountain laurel to dominate the hillside below the Westover neighborhood. Wildflowers were also planted, hopefully to appear next Spring.  The mountain laurel is expected to take a few years longer.
The bois d'arc and Mexican plum trees planted years ago were weeded, given a new mulch bed and new or repaired deer fencing. Years from now the trees are expected to shade the trail and provide a visual interest to the meadow with their unusual fruit.
The student volunteers also hauled a number of ligustrum trees and branches to a staging area next to Limbo Loop in preparation for a needed trail re-route. In the 'dry' wetlands pond Devil's Claw was planted to the bare sides in an attempt to grow vegetation.
This was the fourth year that SMGA has worked with Bobcat Build to improve the nine acre Prospect Park that is part of the larger Purgatory Creek Natural Area. --LJ

Bobcat Build at Blanco Shoals Natural Area

Ben Taylor leads the group to work
Over 40 Texas State University students gathered at the Blanco Shoals Natural Area on March 28th for a Bobcat Build Project. The students were members of the Environmental Conservation

Student group photo under the pecans at Blanco Shoals
Organization (ECO), Phi Sigma Alpha and the Texas State Athletic Trainers Association. Ben Taylor, a member of the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, led the project. The volunteers trimmed trees along a future hiking trail, picked up approximately 50 lbs. of trash and 30 lbs. of recyclables, and removed bastard cabbage. After their hard work they relaxed and enjoyed a pizza lunch. Ben invited the participants to future workdays at the site when the trails will be developed in this beautiful natural area along the Blanco River.
Story & photos JEK

Trail Closures March 1 to May 31, 2015: Golden Cheek Warbler Nesting Season

A Golden-Cheeked Warbler was sighted Saturday, March 14 not far from the parking lot at Upper Purgatory Creek Natural Area, 1751 Valencia. -LJ

The City of San Marcos released maps that clearly show the trails and areas that are closed from March 1 to May 31, 2015 to protect the nesting golden-cheeked warbler. From the City of San Marcos web site:
Sign posted at affected trail head
The golden-cheeked warbler is an endangered species of bird that breeds only in central Texas and nests in the Ashe-juniper and oak found in some of our natural areas. In an effort to protect these rare birds certain trails in Purgatory Creek Natural Area and Spring Lake Natural Area will be closed from March 1-May 31 annually.
Two of our natural areas: Spring Lake and Purgatory Creek were acquired thanks in part to funding by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife and Texas Parks & Wildlife for the specific purpose of protecting this endangered species. These closures are only a fraction of these large open spaces -- please observe the closures!
Click here for maps of the closed areas.

Birding hike at Blanco Shoals -- March 7, 2015

Ten birders explored the northern-most natural area at 1201 River Ridge Road. A broad meadow with towering pecan trees and fence-line with anacua are the dominant trees. Sighting more species than previous months the trees, grassland and, importantly, the Blanco River combined to create the variety of species.--LJ
Thanks to Colton Robbins for the sighting list and regal photo~!

Among the pecans (Lance Jones photo)
34 species (+1 other taxa)

Double-crested Cormorant  2
Great Egret  1
Black Vulture  11
Turkey Vulture  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  2
Red-tailed Hawk  2  
 Killdeer  1     Heard only
White-winged Dove  6
Belted Kingfisher  1     Heard only
Golden-fronted Woodpecker  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Crested Caracara  1
Loggerhead Shrike  1
Sitting on the pecans (Colton Robbins photo)
Blue Jay  1
Carolina Chickadee  2
Black-crested Titmouse  2
Carolina Wren  3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  2
Northern Mockingbird  5
European Starling  2
Orange-crowned Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  12
Chipping Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  9
Song Sparrow  1
Lincoln's Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  7
Red-winged Blackbird  2
Western/Eastern Meadowlark  7
Common Grackle  200
Great-tailed Grackle  4
American Goldfinch  10

11th Annual Naturescapes Photo Contest

The Hill Country Photography Club and the Hays County Master Naturalists are pleased to announce the opening of the 2015 Naturescapes Photography Contest and Exhibition.

Sunflower and bud photo by Rose Epps
The contest is designed to showcase the beauty of Hays County and its surrounding counties including Comal, Guadalupe, Caldwell, Blanco, and Travis counties. There is a Youth Division for those under 18 years of age. Cash awards will be presented in several categories, including Best Youth image, andthe Master Naturalists will present an award for the Best Natural Waterscape image.

Photographers of all experience levels are encouraged to enter. And yes, cell phone images may be submitted. No more excuses for not having your camera with you!

The contest is a juried show, meaning the selections for the show are in the hands of a very competent photographer. This year’s juror is Carla Ellard who received her Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Texas-Austin and a Bachelor of Science in Photography at East Texas State University (now A&M-Commerce). Carla has been the Curator, Southwestern & Mexican Photography, at the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University since 2013, where she started as Assistant Curator in 2000.

She has previously juried other photography shows for the A Smith Gallery, Seguin Art League, and Texas State campus photography club.She has also participated in the Valley Land Fund photo contest, and appreciates the patience, technique/skill, and serendipity required for producing nature photographs.

The contest is accepting entries from March 1st through May 18th, 2015.

The Award Reception will be held at the San Marcos Activity Center on July 25th and the Exhibition will run from July 25th to September 11th, 2015.

Complete details for this year’s contest can be found at:

Preparing for Bobcat Build 3/28/2015

   One of the sure signs of Spring is the preparation for Bobcat Build. Texas State University students organize a massive, one-day community service effort to provide labor for multiple beneficial projects in San Marcos.
  Although Bobcat Build and SMGA have worked together for a number of years at Ringtail, Lower Purgatory and other natural areas, it is Prospect Park that has benefited over the last four years.
Minnette talks to Dick, Todd, Jo and Jim about exclosures.
SMGA leaders receive advice from Minnette Marr, member and local resident, each year to plan projects in Prospect Park that enhance and restore the 9 acre section of Purgatory Creek Natural Area. March 1 six SMGA members met with Minnette to discuss possible projects. In addition to necessary trail work, the students are involved in removing ligustrum and other non-native invasive plants.
   In the weeks prior to the March 28th event, trail crew and master naturalists cut the invasive trees and treat the stumps with a herbicide under the direction of licensed applicators. When the 30-50 students arrive on Saturday they will lop the trees into smaller pieces and lay them down to slow rain water flowing downhill.
   Other students will plant native grasses and wildflowers as part of the restoration effort. Still others will work to repair the trail and create water bars to divert the flow of water off the trail.
   The Greenbelt Alliance strives to make getting out into nature a safe and enjoyable experience. The contribution of labor from the students is appreciated.