Susan Craig Romance

Every story is a journey…

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Texas Master Naturalists: Twenty Years of Service

Naturalized Iris in Harris County, TX.

For the last twenty years, Texas Master Naturalists have been dedicated to the preservation and management of natural resources in Texas. This program, sponsored by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, trains volunteers who provide education, outreach programs and service in aid of the natural environment and native inhabitants of their local regions. The basic training program for Master Naturalist certification is 40 hours and usually includes both classroom instruction and field trips.

I was excited to learn of a local chapter of the Master Naturalists meeting in my area. It is one of forty-two chapters in the state, with more forming all the time. The local chapters provide a wonderful opportunity for learning and service within one’s local region. If you are interested in our natural world, and live in Texas, this is a wonderful group to join.

Many other states have Master Naturalist programs as well. Nebraska, Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maine, California, and Indiana each have a program, and most states have some kind of similar volunteer organization, perhaps under a different name. If your interests lie in that direction, I encourage you to get involved!

There is an excellent introductory video on the TMN site, click here to find it. Then let me know what you think. Did you like the video? Do you know of a similar group in your area? Spring is coming! It’s time to plan to get outdoors again!!

Until next time,
–Susan.

Bluebonnets in field, Harris County, TX

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Remember the Christmas Bird Count

Tundra swans on a foggy, snowy morning. Grand Island, NE.

Tundra swans on a foggy, snowy morning. Grand Island, NE

What is the Christmas Bird Count?

As Christmas draws ever nearer, I linger over photographs of snow and recall living in Nebraska and participating in the Christmas Bird Count there. The Christmas Bird Count is just what it sounds like–an annual event in which volunteer bird watchers identify and count birds in their local areas. The counting follows a strict protocol and has been done for over 100 years, yielding an accurate bird census that gives ornithologists critical data on species abundance over time.

The whole thing is administered by the National Audubon Society, with local organizers responsible for the count within their assigned area. The specific day of the count is determined locally, but must occur between December 14thand January 5th.

All over the Western hemisphere, the Christmas Bird Count sees volunteers spending all or part of the designated day tramping around outdoors, identifying and counting birds. Every year the information gathered is compiled, turned in to the National Audubon Society and added to a database containing over a century’s worth of avian census records.

Participating in the Christmas Bird Count

To participate in the Christmas bird count is a privilege that I enjoyed when I lived “up North”. There was something vastly satisfying about seeing for myself the diversity of wildlife that persevered in eastern Nebraska despite temperatures below freezing and the lack of abundant food that characterized the winter months.

My experience was in Nebraska, but yours could easily be close to wherever you live.  Find out more at the National Audubon Society webpage.  You will see that the number of areas surveyed is nothing short of staggering. North America has the greatest density of census “circles”, but there are are also circles in Central and South America.

Take a closer look at the map of 2018-2019 sites here. (The Audubon map is interactive. If you click on a circle, you will see the local organizer’s name and contact information.)

Whether you watch birds or photograph clouds, do make time this season to get outdoors and enjoy the wonders of nature in the winter, wherever you live.

Until next time,
Susan.