THE HAYS HUMM
JUNE 2019 HCMN NEWSLETTER
TOM JONES & BETSY CROSS
Click on Images to enlarge and view in lightbox.
About Myself: I was adopted from a German orphanage and my family and I lived in several states before settling in San Antonio. I served a tour in the Navy and received a B.A.A.S from SWTSU. While attending college I discovered Wimberley and liked it so much I never left. Married a local girl and raised our family here. I retired from welding in 2015 and began working with several volunteer organizations in the community.
What You May Not Know: I served as an EMT for 6 years back when Wimberley EMS was staffed completely by volunteers. With a background in underwater welding, I logged many diving hours in Jacob’s Well and have some scary stories to tell!
Favorite MN Activity: Most of my volunteer hours are spent at Blue Hole and Jacob’s Well. Cutting cedar on a crisp winter morning is enjoyable.
Favorite Bird: Definitely the Mockingbird. He sings you the bird hit list and throws in a dance. What a deal!
THE SECOND IN A SERIES OF SPECIAL INTERVIEWS
Eva Frost has enjoyed all things nature since she was a young child. She certified with the HCMN Class of Monarchs in 2014, during which time she became an avid birder and took up photography. She studies her subjects thoroughly, often through the lens of a camera and aided by the sharp detail of her photographs.
Eva routinely contributes photos to the newsletter. In October 2018, she researched and developed an article called “Dragonflies…On The Fly”. It’s a detailed study about the life cycle of dragonflies and contains a collection of her colorful, stunning macro shots of dragonflies. Check it out here: https://haysmn.org/eva-frost-dragonlyon-the-fly_oct18.
She also wrote a brief article and shot video of an Alligator Lizard. If you failed to see it in the December newsletter last year, I recommend taking a quick peek at it: https://haysmn.org/alligator-lizard-articlevideo
Eva shoots lots of photos at work from the window, “I love birds, bugs, butterflies, and flowers. I’m not much into taking pictures of people.”
The following is a conversation I had with Eva. Her responses are indented below my questions in bold.
Could you tell us a little bit about your camera equipment and your field routine?
I don’t have fancy equipment. I still use my Canon EOS Rebel with telephoto zoom 55-250mm native lens and image stabilizer, but my go-to camera now is the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS with wifi and smart shutter. I used it for all the photos I shared for this article. The PowerShot SX60 has a 65x optical zoom wide-angle lens with optical image stabilizer, effectively providing a zoom range of 21-1365mm. I sometimes use a sports setting that captures subjects in motion, and I mostly use smart shutter. It works well in sunshine situations and shows great detail.
I try to head to a favorite hiking area - Pedernales, San Marcos, Kyle, Johnson City, Hamilton Pool, Reimer Ranch, or Westcave Discovery Center. If I can’t do that, I shoot from work, which is on private property with all habitats available - prairie, riperian with a pond and stream, woodlands, and canyon tops. Every day, twice a day, I go out. When I see a bird (or any wildlife), as soon as I can, I take a quick shot for identification purposes and in case the subject gets away. Then I try to shoot the subject at many angles and different backgrounds. I watch for behaviors, keeping an eye out for habits or make tick noises to get their attention. I try to get a good background with color and frame the subject. One time I put my camera in a hole to get the background I wanted. The camera does the focusing.
How do you capture spontaneous moments? How do you anticipate an unexpected opportunity?
One time I came out of HEB and there was a huge flock of pelicans and I didn’t have my camera. Now I take it everywhere. If I see something moving, like butterflies landing in the yard or on flowers, I zoom in and take the picture. I look for movement. Sometimes I “flush and chase” the subject. I had bluebirds today on the house and I heard them calling, so I also listen for opportunities.
Would you describe how you manage and process your photos?
I keep all my original photographs on the SD card. I copy the best shots into a “Work in Progress” file and date it. For example, WIP 02-19. From there I go through and identify them, edit them in Windows 10 photo app, and copy them to separate files such as “Best Birds 2019”, “Best Copies”, and “Card Inventory 2019”. Then I re-size and sign the photos for publication on my Facebook page or in Facebook groups. All files are then backed up on a thumb drive.
Do you print your photos? What kind of media have you used?
Sometimes I make prints myself (8x10, 5x7, 4x6). I’ve printed on canvas or metal using Bay Photo’s online service, and I’ve also used Holland Photo in Austin.
What are your favorite ways to share or display your pictures?
I have a Facebook page - Evazeye Photography and Flickr - evazeye2013.
I print 4x6 photos to make 5x7 note cards.
Can you share a story about a photo opportunity that was especially exciting or rewarding?
I get so excited when I see something new. Finding the Alligator Lizard and getting the video of it was very exciting. And getting to see it in the newsletter was also very rewarding.
Has being a Master Naturalist changed or influenced your approach to photography?
Yes, I feel closer to birds and I use my photography to study them. The rewards of being a Master Naturalist include having access to a lot of people with common interests and working as a team to meet the end goal. Using photography has been a vehicle for me to teach people about all areas of nature so they can be, and will want to be, good stewards of our natural world.
Could you share a tip or two and give us your best advice for a beginning hobbyist?
Shoot pictures of things you like and take LOTS of pictures.
Don’t get discouraged, it gets easier and better with practice.
Go to different settings.
Use a fence post as a tripod or flip a walking stick upside down for a monopod.
So this year is the 20-year anniversary of our chapter. That got me thinking about the passing of time in my own life (I am now 65). In other words, how had I changed over the years and how did I wind up here in Hays County?
I grew up in Chicago through 8th grade. I remember looking up at the night sky and seeing the Milky Way. I bet it’s been a long, long time since any kid growing up in the city (or even the Chicago suburbs) has seen the Milky Way. I don’t really remember seeing much in the way of grass or wildflowers or anything like that, just the Milky Way. I loved going to the museums on field trips, not only to get away from school, but because I really liked to see and learn the various things I found in the great Field Museum, a museum filled with Natural History exhibits. Matter of fact, when I was in high school and started ditching school, I frequently went to a museum instead. (What a nerd!)
Then we moved to the suburbs. A semi wild park, Emily Oaks, was just down the block. It was just a neighborhood park. But it had trees, trees, glorious trees. And a pond! I saw ducks, turtles, fish, snails, skinks, algae, dragonflies, hoverflies, water-spiders, foxes, hawks, and flowers. I found Trilliums, Jack in the Pulpits, Snowberries, May Pops, Pussy Toes, Lilies of the Valley, Lady Slippers under all those trees. I collected those flowers and pressed them into a book, labeling them with their funny hard to pronounce Latin names. Was this the start of a Master Naturalist? I don’t have those flowers anymore, but I still remember them; their colors, their smells, and most importantly, the joy of their discovery.
But it was the trees that I loved. Looking at the park today, the trees are still there, 40 years older and bigger than ever. I spent as much time as I could in this little park as it was a perfect source of refuge during my angst-filled teenaged years.
Alas, the Dutch Elms of my youth did not get bigger. They died out in my teens, of Dutch Elm disease. Whole neighborhoods, even towns (Evanston) changed overnight. This was my first, but not my last, experience of tree death. The carefree first 20 years of my life were over.
I followed a friend to Iowa and went to work at Sugar Bottom Stables; named for the Sugar Maples someone planted in a failed attempt to start a maple syrup farm. Even then I understood that while Iowa was full of hardwoods, they were not naturally of the sugar maple variety. But enough survived that they lit up the landscape in the autumn.
I learned about soil here. The dark clay soils of the Midwest. In the spring and summer, the local news stations would list the soil temperature and subsoil moisture amounts. Who knew that soil could hold moisture up to 6” below the surface? After sinking the tractor in the mud up to the seat one day, I learned to listen and absorb the knowledge given. Was this more evidence of a Master Naturalist popping out?
Coralville reservoir was across the road. Golden eagles nested there. I remember the first time I saw one, flying overhead. I stared at it, tilting my head back so far to see it, I fell over backwards. But I didn’t care, it was a magnificent bird and I would have happily stared at it all day. I saw a small flood event create a real oxbow in the creek on the farm, just like the one in the book I read during that year, The Ox-bow Incident.
I started moving to where it was warmer, first stopping in Evergreen, Colorado. Here I learned about humidity, or the lack thereof, and its effects: how the weather feels. Clothes that were correct for zero degrees in Iowa were overkill at 7,200’. I learned that once it got cold enough, there was a spot on the way up the mountain where it would rain on one side of the tree, and snow on the other. I figured while it would be too cold for me even to contemplate going above the tree line anywhere, at least I could say I was above the snow line. I experienced my 2nd tree loss here. Pine beetles.
Always wanting it to be warmer, I showed up in Texas - oh so warm, not so sunny - Texas. Oh well, you can’t have everything.
I did lots of trail riding here. I rode on the beach at Matagorda Island in January, learning once again how humidity affects your comfort level; I never repeated that foolishness. Another time I rode on the beach two weeks after a hurricane. I don’t recommend doing that either. By then, the mosquitos are huge. Not because of the storm itself, but because the particular species (Psorophora ciliate) that hatches out after big flood events like a hurricane. They aren’t called American GIANT Mosquitos for nothing. I learned that many things (flora and fauna) in Texas scratch, stink, or sting.
I turned 40 during this time and packed away a lot of adventures and memories before I stopped riding. Now it was time to live by a river, the Blanco River. Riparian adventures awaited me. I saw water rises of 15 feet in less than 15 minutes. There were water moccasins and cottonmouths, mole-hunting herons, and pecan tree bagworms. I talked the neighbors on either side of me to join in and buy parasitic Trichogramma wasps for release. I was getting closer to being a Master Naturalist.
I saw my neighbor pump water out of the river all summer long to irrigate his 2 acre Zoysia grass lawn. I didn’t have to be a Master Naturalist to know how wrong this was. But I didn’t yet have the language to communicate effectively with him. I also began to see my 3rd tree death event, Oak Wilt, which isn’t limited to Texas.
I stopped training horses and got a real job. I bought a house and started planting, planting, and planting some more. I discovered there were deer, and deer, and more deer, oh my! I thought back to Emily Oaks Park and all the native flowers there. Could that be the key? Yes!!!!! And so my 40’s rolled into my 60’s with me learning about native plants, and how I could use a non-mowing strategy to recolonize my meadow and woods with native grasses and plants.
Then I finally take the plunge. I become a real live Master Naturalist. How fitting that my class was the Nighthawks, a common bird I saw (and heard) backlit against the Milky Way sky of my youth.
Now, as I watch my neighbors mow their front yards, I can write a blurb for Nextdoor Saddleridge and point out how by mowing the annual Coreopsis they all “oohed and aahed” over this year before it set seed, they pretty much guaranteed it will be a long time before we ever have that large a bloom in the neighborhood again. I can tell them about the monarch’s life cycle and how their mowing of Asclepias asperula (Antelope horn milkweed) before all the 1st generation of monarch chrysalises had hatched hastened the decline of the species, instead of its growth. I could tell them… Maybe I won’t tell them all of it at once. I’ll let them start their own 20-year journey into the wonders of being a Master Naturalist.
And now a fourth tree death event looms on the horizon, Emerald Ash Borers.
As I contemplate the next 20 years of my life, I suspect thoughts of my own mortality will show up on some of those quiet mornings when I am feeding the koi in the pond and watching the hummingbirds fly to their feeders. So I have planted American and Cedar Elms., Big Tooth and Southern Sugar Maples, and Texas Ash trees in my woods. I hope they will be survivors waiting for me when I enter my 80’s.
As a Master Naturalist, I know there is always hope.
MN BOARD MEETING
When: Thursday, April 11, 6:30 pm
Where: AgriLife Extension office
Agri-Life 200 Stillwater Drive Wimberley, TX 78676
When: Thursday, April 25, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
6:30 pm Dinner & announcements
7:00 pm Speaker
Goodwill donations are greatly appreciated to cover our food costs.
President – Susan Neill
Vice President - Venita Fuller
Secretary - Tracy Mock
Treasurer - Larry Calvert
Past President - Beth Ramey
State Representative and Volunteer Service Projects Director - Dixie Camp
TPWD Advisor - Gordon Linam
New Class Director – Mark Wojcik
Advanced Training - Beverly Gordon
Calendar - Beverly Gordon
Historian – Dana Martensen
Membership Director - Jane Dunham
Webmaster - Dana Martensen
Communications Director - Art Arizpe
Outreach Events - Paula Glover
Host Committee - Mary Dow Ross, Roxana Donegan
Training Class Representative - Linda Paul
Newsletter– Tom Jones, Betsy Cross
AgriLife Sponsor- Jason Mangold