March Newsletter


Cover Photo-Green Heron
Click on Images to enlarge and view in lightbox.

Cindy Luongo Cassidy

About Myself: I grew up in Virginia with strong connections to the out-of-doors, then spent too many years with Ross Perot’s company at a desk developing large computer systems. As a widow with “life’s too short syndrome” I quit to take care of my first grandchild. He and I, and later his sister, took to the out-of-doors daily. A desire to make the world a little better for them led me to promoting the reduction of light pollution. Over time, I put together pages of notes about a fun way to educate people and inspire them to get out-of-doors and enjoy the natural night time. Those notes became the basis for the Texas Night Sky Festival®. 

You May Not Know: Long ago and far away, I was a private pilot. 

FAV Master Naturalist Activity: I love the months of teamwork and resulting positive effects on thousands of people who attend the Texas Night Sky Festival®. I also love the quiet by Onion Creek when John and I monitor it for water quality.

I shoot the usual chickadees, titmice, cardinals, lesser goldfinches, and house finches, but my favorite is the Golden-cheeked Warbler. I get quite a few from my rocking chair on my front porch.
— Tom Hausler

Is a picture REALLY worth a thousand words? As newsletter editors, Tom Jones and I say absolutely yes, and much more. For the past year now, we’ve packed the newsletter with your pictures.

Our experience as Master Naturalists is enriched through imagery. And in many ways, our knowledge base is dependent on it. I’ve finally arrived at a place where pictures have become the core of my documentation. Have you ever looked at a photo on your computer that you took in the field and noticed something you didn’t see when you took it? Like a newborn fawn peering out from behind its mother’s legs? It changes your whole experience - after the fact.

The diverse approaches to today’s digital photography and the wide availability of innovative tools has enabled all of us to jump into the photography and videography game and test our abilities. The benefits of citizen science coupled with photography are broad and yet personal, too. There is still much to be explored in this space.

To help all of us expand our photographic ambitions, the newsletter team is bringing a cross-section of HCMN veteran photographers and videographers to the table to share their best practices, the use of their equipment, and their inspiring stories. Our goal is to offer a variety of approaches and techniques to enhance and expand your knowledge, or maybe to just encourage you to take a first step. We will hopefully engage you and you will continue to teach us all with your interesting and enticing photo captures and share back with us your experiences.


Let me introduce you to Mr.Tom Hausler, HCMN class of 2007 and one of our resident professionals in photography. I know a lot of you have worked with Tom for over a decade, but I didn’t know him until recently, when I had the pleasure to speak with him for a couple of hours on the phone and then meet him in person for lunch and a margarita.

If you aren’t familiar with Tom’s work, but you’ve been to the Nature Center at Jacob’s Well, you might have noticed a large 4 x 6-foot poster of Jacob’s Well above the welcome desk with his signature on it.

Tom started out just photographing birds, “I shoot the usual chickadees, titmice, cardinals, lesser goldfinches, and house finches, but my favorite is the Golden-cheeked Warbler.  I get quite a few from my rocking chair on my front porch.” He has essentially become a connoisseur of the Golden-cheeked Warbler (GCW). 

If you’ve wondered what Tom has been up to these days, Travis County biologist Paul Fushille asked him to be the official photographer for Balcones Canyonlands. He’s been covering about a dozen preserves in Travis County. Through his work with the staff at Westcave Preserve, Tom has documented the fragile life cycle of the GCW in pictures.

The following is a summary of a conversation I had with Tom. His responses are indented below my questions in bold.

Could you tell us a little bit about your camera equipment and your field routine?

I have three cameras – the full frame camera (Canon 5D Mark IV), the crop camera (Canon 7D Mark II), and I just bought a mirrorless Olympus (E-M1 Mark II) that I’m still getting used to.

Of those, my favorite go-to camera and lens combo is the Canon 7D Mark II crop camera with a 100-400mm zoom lens. This camera has a crop sensor factor of 1.6x, effectively increasing my 400mm zoom lens to a 640mm zoom lens, which can be an advantage for shooting wildlife. 

For specialized photo opportunities like shooting the Whooping Cranes, I take the Canon 5D with a 500mm prime lens and put it on a tripod.

I always shoot in RAW and I use Adobe Lightroom (subscription model) to process my photos. I download all photos to Lightroom and tag them with location and date. I review everything there, delete the ones I don’t want, and work on the best ones. I haven’t moved to shooting video.

How do you capture spontaneous moments?  How do you anticipate an unexpected opportunity?

I’m always on the lookout. If driving through a national park, I have my camera in my lap. Last time I was at Yellowstone, I went out at sunrise. On my way back, I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye. I jumped out of the car and hiked through the woods. I captured a photo of a Great Gray Owl (shown above left), the largest owl in North America. It made my trip!

In the Davis Mountains, I got a photo of the Elf Owl (above right). So now I have taken photos of the largest owl (27 inches tall) and the smallest owl (5.75 inches tall) in North America.

Do you print your photos? What kind of media have you used?

I can print small photos like 5x7’s at home, but I like to put some photos on metal because the colors really pop. I send them out and have often used Color Inc. for that work -

What are your favorite ways to share or display your pictures? 

I use Facebook for friends and family, and I have a website -

Some photos are displayed at the YMCA in Dripping Springs and a few other places. I’ve had some photos published in Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine (May 2017 and December 2018).

I’m also a member of Photographers of Dripping Springs and Hill Country Photographers.

Note: In September 2017, the Hill Country View published an entire article about Tom and his photography as a Master Naturalist called Loving Nature Through A Lens.

Can you share a story about a photo opportunity that was especially exciting or rewarding?

I took my son to Alaska in August. We went fishing, but I got tired of that and said, “let’s go chase bears!”  So, we hired a guide to take us through the bear preserves. We went to Glacier Bay. Along the lake I took a picture of a bear. It turned out to be a Glacier Bear (shown below), and the rangers there said they hadn’t seen one in 11 years.

Has being a Master Naturalist changed or influenced your approach to photography?

It’s probably enhanced it a little. I’m always looking, my eyes are roaming. It’s a constant thing. I was in the class of 2007. The class was getting ready to come out, and I was out on my porch. I saw what I thought was a dog walking up the path, but it had a 4-foot long tail. It was a Mountain Lion. The camera was down in my studio and I couldn’t get to it, so I reached inside and grabbed my binoculars. I watched the cat. The next morning, I saw tracks where it had crossed the creek. I’ve never seen it again.

Could you share a tip or two and give us your best advice for a beginning hobbyist?

The main thing is to shoot in RAW, otherwise you’re limiting yourself. It’s more work, but better colors. JPG has 256 colors and RAW has 4,096 colors. 

Advice?  (1) use the largest Zoom lens you have, minimum 300mm, 400mm+ is better; (2) use a fast shutter speed, 1/1000 second; (3) use a tripod if possible, and (4) be persistent, be patient!

Tom has only been doing serious photography for about six years. That inspiring accomplishment should get the rest of us moving. Besides being an expert bird photographer, he has added landscape photography to his repertoire. For a full understanding of the scope and quality of his work, visit his website at

Tom will be teaching a photography workshop at Westcave Preserve this spring on April 22.  Stay tuned for additional information.

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The second longest underwater cave in Texas!!!  Really??? We speak this often and get the same response. And it’s right here in your backyard. Jacob’s Well spring bubbles out of the limestone like a large cauldron, only the temperature is an average 72 degrees. Small when compared to your typical Hill Country swimming hole, but huge by geological formation standards. 

David Baker moved to Wimberley from California in the 1980’s. He  immediately fell in love with the beauty of the spring, and with his vision of the future, could see that it needed immediate attention for protection. If not conserved, Wimberley’s water source would be in big trouble. The Wimberley Valley Watershed Association (WVWA) was formed to do just that. 

When it became evident that this job was much larger than the group could manage, Hays County was approached about purchasing the property for protection. In 2007, and together with WVWA, an agreement was reached for management of the area, with debt payment and maintenance. And in 2013, Hays County took over management of the Jacob’s Well Natural Area. Staff members now have a presence each day to assure protection of the area into the future. 

In 2009, the Hays County Master Naturalists established a guiding team and began a program of public tours from September through May. The Restoration Rangers was formed to assist the county with trail building, work on removal of invasive species and restoring native plants. 

In 2018, a docent program was created to staff the nature center on Saturdays, and it has recently expanded into a “First Saturday” program for families during the months of January through May and September through December. During the summer months, the Hays County staff focuses on the swim season.

Volunteer opportunities are abundant at Jacob’s Well. These range from tour guiding, docent work in the nature center, community education and outreach programs, trail building and maintenance, bird box management, and work in the native plant gardens. It’s a beautiful and unique place to commune with nature, swim, and  make new friends. 

This is a wonderful volunteer opportunity. We would love to have you join us. For details please contact Quincy Kennedy or Jay Taylor at 512.214.4593.

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When: Thursday, March 14, 6:30 pm
Where: AgriLife Extension office
Agri-Life 200 Stillwater Drive Wimberley, TX 78676


When: Thursday March 28 at 6:30p - 8:30p
Where: Freeman Ranch
6:30pm dinner & announcements
7:00pm presentation

Goodwill donations are greatly appreciated to cover our food costs.

Dr. Kristy Daniel will speak on “Galls: a plant insect interaction”


President – Susan Neill
Vice President - open
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
Newsletter– Tom Jones, Betsy Cross
AgriLife Sponsor- Jason Mangold

Planting Tress Along the Blanco River

Lance Jones participated in a tree planting along the Blanco River sponsored by Tree Folks. Over 100 volunteers from different organizations planted more than 1,000 trees in a stretch of the City of San Marcos-owned land, north of the Five Mile Dam parks.

Tree Folks, Project 1203, is a leader in stewardship of all things woody. The organization sponsors advanced training and tree plantings in the Greater Austin area.

Photo by Christine Middleton

HCMN Project 426 - “Thanks so much to the Team snipping Junipers at Onion Creek. I had cut 51 saplings yesterday in the area west of where we worked today. We downed a total of 285 saplings/seedlings!  Dick McBride wins the chopping trophy having cut down 102 trees!! Donna Browning was next with 81. The total number of mature trees removed by HCMNs 2007 - 2009 was 400+. The total number of saplings/seedlings removed since that time was at least 244. And counting today, more than 529 saplings/seedlings have been removed since then. The grand total number of junipers removed from the West flood plain is 1173, all by Hays County Master Naturalists! Good show folks!!” - Tom Watson.

If you are interested in volunteering with WCD, you can sign up to volunteer and get announcements of ongoing projects by clicking this link.  Wildland . 

I have been Co-editor of the HCMN Newsletter for a year.
Here are 5 things I learned.

Tom Jones

Wow! Thousands of folks attended the last Texas Night Sky Festival and it was AMAZING! Save the Date of March 30 & 31, 2019 for the next big Festival.

Click on the link below and then enter the password to view an excellent video promoting the Texas Night Sky Festival®.
Password: nightsky

HOW TO VOLUNTEER FOR THIS EVENT - Once again we are using which is the leading online sign up and reminder tool to organize our volunteers for the TNSFestival. Here's how it works in 3 easy steps:

1) Click this link to see our SignUp on -
2) Review the options listed and choose the spot(s) you like.
3) Sign up! It's easy! You will NOT need to register for an account or keep a password on

Note: does not share your email address with anyone. Please plan to arrive 15 minutes before your shift so you can check-in at the Volunteer Registration Desk in the main entrance to the event center and receive instructions for your volunteer assignment. The Educational Booth volunteer jobs require that you be trained in advance. If you sign up for these, you will be contacted by the trainer with training options.

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I have been blessed with a wanderlust and curiosity of the natural world since early childhood. My childhood exposure to woods and waters was nourished by my father who encouraged my sojourns into the woods surrounding our simple lake cabin in deep East Texas. I am a passionate fly fisherman and am enamored with the world outdoors. I walk daily around the lake at Plum Creek to observe and photographically record the little world around me. I am often surprised by my findings as this area is largely urban. I have seen and photographed coyotes, beavers, bobcats, a bald eagle and countless birds in this urban area. My favorite photo subjects are the raptors, the Kingfisher, and the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. All are very difficult to photograph due to their elusiveness or their constant motion. Spring is greatly anticipated for the opportunity to photograph wildflowers as well as the large numbers of songbirds that will migrate into the area. I am currently watching a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks building a nest and hope to be able to chronicle their family raising. I am honored to share a few of my images.

Editors Note: Mike is a member of the 2019 HCMN Training Class