News

June 2019 Wired to Nature

Duran, E. (6/2019) Why bats and wasps matter: Debunking myths about pollinators.  Essentials, p. 18

 

Wired to Nature is the Nature Discovery Center’s regular column in Essentials, a monthly magazine published by InstantNewsNetwork that covers the Bellaire and West University communities. Essentials may be read online at https://current.essentialsmagazines.com/

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117 Species Spotted on Spring Migration Field Trip

Last Friday, April 27, 2019, a group of senior members of the Nature Discovery Center traveled to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge and High Island for our annual Spring Migration Field Trip, a birding trip we offer during the height of spring migration. The bird list reported here includes species seen in Russ Pitman Park before and after the trip, species seen along the roadsides and at pit stops during the trip, and at the two primary birding destinations. In the photo above, birders are gathered at Boy Scout Woods at High Island.

Stopping to look at about 300 migrating Mississippi Kites overhead.

Mary Ann Beauchemin, Senior Naturalist, reports that one of the highlights of the day actually came at a pit stop at a gas station. The group witnessed about 300 Mississippi Kites migrating overhead with some Broad-winged Hawks mixed in!

  • Neotropic Cormorant
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Anhinga
  • Least Bittern
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Snowy Egret
  • Little Blue Heron
  • Tricolored Heron
  • Cattle Egret
  • Green Heron
  • Yellow-crowned Night Heron
  • White Ibis
  • Glossy Ibis
  • White-faced Ibis
  • Roseate Spoonbills
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Black-bellied Whistling Duck
  • Fulvous Whistling Duck
  • Gadwall
  • Mottled Duck
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Osprey
  • Mississippi Kite
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Broad-winged Hawk
  • Swainson’s Hawk
  • Crested Caracara
  • Northern Bobwhite Quail
  • Purple Gallinule
  • Common Moorhen
  • American Coot
  • Killdeer
  • Black-necked Stilt
  • Greater Yellowlegs
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Solitary Sandpiper
  • Western Sandpiper
  • Long-billed Dowitcher
  • Laughing Gull
  • Forster’s Tern
  • Rock Dove
  • White-winged Dove
  • Mourning Dove
  • Inca Dove
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  • Eastern Screech Owl
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Chuck-will’s-widow
  • Chimney Swift
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • Alder Flycatcher
  • Great Crested Flycatcher
  • Western Kingbird
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  • Loggerhead Shrike
  • White-eyed Vireo
  • Blue-headed Vireo
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Philadelphia Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Purple Martin
  • Tree Swallow
  • Cliff Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Gray-cheeked Thrush
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Wood Thrush
  • Gray Catbird
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • European Starling
  • Blue-winged Warbler
  • Golden-winged Warbler
  • Tennessee Warbler
  • Northern Parula
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Palm Warbler
  • Bay-breasted Warbler
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • American Redstart
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Worm-eating Warbler
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Kentucky Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Hooded Warbler
  • Canada Warbler
  • Summer Tanager
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Painted Bunting
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Eastern Meadowlark
  • Western Meadowlark
  • Common Grackle
  • Boat-tailed Grackle
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Orchard Oriole
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • House Sparrow
  • Cedar Waxwing
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SNAIL INVASION!

This past April 13th, during our Spring Fling Festival, an unwelcome discovery was made. One of our volunteers was dip-netting in the pond with kids, as part of a pond study, and discovered a live Apple Snail in the Cypress Pond (along with a few bright pink egg masses).

Apple Snails are a non-native invasive species of  freshwater snail from South America. They are very common in the pet/aquarium trade as a display species. When some people want to break down their aquaria, they dump unwanted pets into local water bodies, like bayous, creeks, lakes, and ponds. Because of this, Apple Snails have become a part of aquatic eco-systems across the South, especially in Houston and Florida. They can be rather harmful to eco-systems where they have been introduced, eating up much of the native water plants.

We immediately sprung into action, and have been attempting to physically remove them from the Cypress Pond, as well as hunting down their egg masses and destroying them. Apple Snails lay their eggs in clusters above the water line, on emergent vegetation, so they are fairly easy to find (also they are a very bright pink). So far, we have removed 3 live snails from the pond, and destroyed around 12 egg masses. The snails now live comfortably in a volunteer’s aquarium.

We continue to check back at the pond every day. Thankfully, it’s a small pond, and easy to manage.  In other larger eco-systems where they are released, they are very difficult to manage for. We’ll keep you updated on our efforts to remove this invasive species from our park.

Eric Duran

Staff Naturalist

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Heather Sullivan Brings New Mindfulness Classes to Center

We’re pleased to announce a new “Mindfulness in Nature” class series being offered by Heather Sullivan at the Nature Discovery Center this spring. Practicing mindfulness in nature allows you to focus your awareness on the present moment, your thoughts and feelings, and your environment, and can help you reduce the stress that comes from leading a hectic life.

Heather, a trained Mindfulness Educator, is passionate about teaching kids and adults the tools to cope with stress and develop a more mindful approach to life in order to nurture a positive state of mind. She currently teaches a mindfulness class at Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary and is working with schools in Spring Branch ISD to teach mindfulness to teachers.

Heather’s Mindfulness in Nature series here in Russ Pitman Park will start on Friday, April 26 and will run for 4 weeks as a pilot program. Classes will start at 12:30 pm and will last for about an hour. You are welcome to sign up for individual dates or for the whole series.

Learn more and register online here.

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March 2019 Wired to Nature

Duran, E. (3/2019) Look! Up in the sky! Our spring bird migration has begun.  Essentials, p. 15

Wired to Nature is the Nature Discovery Center’s regular column in Essentials, a monthly magazine published by InstantNewsNetwork that covers the Bellaire and West University communities. Essentials may be read online at https://current.essentialsmagazines.com/

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Center Welcomes Ranger to Staff

Ranger (pictured at right) with a group of Spring Break Campers at Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary.

NDC staff are pleased to welcome a new team member to the Center. Ranger has joined us to help with the day to day management of Russ Pitman Park, our nature park and outdoor classroom, as Park Steward Apprentice. Ranger will be working closely in this role with Mary Ann Beauchemin, our Park Steward and Senior Naturalist. In addition to her work with park maintenance, Ranger will also draw on her experience in environmental education to assist with programs at the Center from time to time. In fact, Ranger just taught our Wild Weather Spring Break Camp last Friday.

Her whole life, Ranger hoped to work at a nature center. She grew up on the outskirts of Kalamazoo, Michigan, next door to corn fields and sheep pasture, making frequent trips to the local nature center. Ranger studied biology (BA) and entomology (MS) as well as animal behavior (PhD work) and Library and Information Science (MLIS), so as a naturalist she is always ready to research and learn more about plants and animals. She worked as the birthday party naturalist and camp teacher at the Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary for six years and has many more years of experience teaching, both in the classroom and in outdoor settings. She is excited to continue her study of native plants and to add to her knowledge of Houston insects and other fauna. Ranger has a fondness for wasps and all creatures buzzy and slithery. She enjoys running, walking her dogs, gardening, reading, and playing board games.

Please join us in welcoming Ranger to the Center!

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Rainforest Exhibit – Now Open in Discovery Rooms

Visit the Central American rainforest at the Nature Discovery Center! Discover the diversity of plants and animals in the rainforest, relate rainforest plants to products we use, and learn about indigenous neo-tropical rainforest peoples. Large painted panels, twisty vines and tropical plants will transport you to a tropical oasis full of fun learning opportunities!

Participate in fun activities including :

  • Starting your own tropical band
  • Put on a puppet show
  • Build a Mayan temple
  • Learn about rainforest layers
  • Investigate rainforest products
  • Discover rainforest plants and animals
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The Gateway Project

  • The Gateway Project is committed to preserving the character of the historic Henshaw House and surrounding grounds while providing for its current function as a premier science and nature education facility. By creating a more open and inviting physical presence for the center and making needed repairs, Gateway renovations will enhance our ability to serve the needs of all visitors. 

In November 2013, City of Bellaire residents voted for a bond referendum for $500,000 to be used for improvements to the Henshaw House and Russ Pitman Park, operated by the Nature Discovery Center. Generous funding from community groups and foundations totaling $760,000 also transformed the Gateway Project dream into a reality. 

DONOR BRICK CAMPAIGN
To purchase an engraved brick, check out the Donor Brick Campaign page.

Gateway Phase One – Complete

Phase One of the Gateway Project, the renovation of the 1925 Henshaw House that serves as the nature center, was successfully completed in spring 2014. This included new interior and exterior paint, new wall coverings, new blinds, new office furnishings, refinished floors, and much, much more!

Gateway Phase Two – Underway Now

Phase Two will create a bright, fresh, and welcoming feeling in the one acre surrounding the Center by renovating animal enclosures, adding a new outside restroom, redesigning the native landscaping, and building new sensory gardens.

The redesigned animal enclosures will provide enlarged space for our outdoor animals in a more natural environment making viewing more accessible for kids of all ages. The new restroom will help us better accommodate large groups. The deck of the new outdoor bathroom will feature a trough sink at child height that will allow 4 kids to wash their hands at the same time, and added bathrooms will reduce strain and wait time for our three current restrooms.

The Center will remain *OPEN* to visitors throughout the project, which is expected to be complete in March 2017. Save the date for our renovation reveal event “Gateway to Nature” on Saturday May 6th at 10am.

Thank you for your patience as we make exciting changes to serve you better!

Landscape Architects: SWA Group
Contractors: Horizon International Group, LLC.

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