Bailey Kinney, Development Director of the Nature Discovery Center, recently received a Junior League of Houston (JLH) Community Assistance Grant of $10,000 on behalf of the Center. Thanks to the Junior League’s support, the Nature Discovery Center will offer on-site camp scholarships and reach beyond location limitations with creative Nature on the Go programs. These programs will ensure more children are able to participate in hands-on nature education this year. Pictured with Bailey are representatives of the JLH, and Licorice, one of the Center’s beloved ambassador animals.
by Eric Duran, Head Naturalist
Twice a year, the Nature Discovery Center has a BioBlitz, one in the Spring, and one in the Fall.
A bioblitz is a chance for an organization to count as many species of living things as they possibly can in a given area.
This helps us keep an eye on how populations of plants, fungi, animals, and slime molds are doing in our park (Russ Pitman Park) from year to year, as well as how living things may be faring in the Houston area. We’ll be able to understand long term trends as the years go on, and we continue to do them, as well.
A bioblitz is also a chance for our staff to better understand what’s living here in the park, and keep a detailed list of everything that may be living here (and is observable). For our naturalists and staff, its also a lot of fun!
This year’s Fall 2020 BioBlitz, just ended, and we’re happy to report the count here.
The final list is compiled, and the numbers are counted. This year we set the dates to 10/9 – 10/26, giving us a little over 2 weeks, because we had very little help with observations this year (Covid-19 being the reason).
I did most of the species observations this year, but we got help from retired Senior Naturalist Mary Ann Beauchemin, Mary Spolyar from the Native Plant Society and the Gulf Coast Master Naturalists, Office Manager Pam Dunker, naturalist and teacher Debbie Lancaster, and our community of resident birdwatchers.
This year, we counted 340 species over all, which broke down like this…
ANIMALS: (139 species)
VERTEBRATES: (50 species)
INVERTEBRATES: (89 species)
FUNGI: (36 species)
SLIME MOLDS: (1 species)
PLANTS: (164 species)
There’s nothing new and exciting to report this year, but we had a very good bird list for a Fall Bioblitz, and we identified a few small insects that hadn’t been listed in the park before. We ended up having a good insect and invertebrate count, because of the warm weather. Overall, we were up from last year’s Fall Bioblitz (our first Fall Bioblitz, as a matter of fact). We had several people helping us last year, but we actually got a higher number of species! (Last year we only had 281 species.)
Let’s hope that covid is more under control for the Spring Bioblitz 2021, which will be sometime in mid-late April.
If you have any questions about the list, or our BioBlitzes, please contact me, Head Naturalist, Eric Duran at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Okay, so, here’s the list:
RUSS PITMAN PARK FALL 2020 BIOBLITZ (10/9 – 10/26)
ALL SPECIES: (340)
SLIME MOLDS: (1)
ANIMALS: 139 Species
Gray Squirrel – Sciurus carolinensis
Fox Squirrel – Sciurus niger
Black Rat – Rattus rattus
Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens
Cooper’s Hawk – Accipiter cooperii
Chimney Swift – Chaetura pelagica
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Eastern Screech Owl – Megascops asio
White-winged Dove – Zenaida asiatica
Carolina Chickadee – Poecile carolinensis
American Robin – Turdus migratorius
Ovenbird – Seiurus aurocapilla
Black-bellied Whistling Duck – Dendrocygna autumnalis
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
Great Horned Owl – Bubo virginianus
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Archilochus colibris
American Redstart – Setophaga ruticilla
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis
Empid flycatcher – family Empidae
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottus
Eastern Wood-Peewee – Contopus virens
House Finch – Haemorhous mexicanus
Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis
Nashville Warbler – Leiothlypis ruficapilla
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Magnolia Warbler – Setophaga magnolia
Swainson’s Thrush – Catharus ustulatus
Black & White Warbler – Mniotilta varia
Wood Thrush – Hylocichla mustelina
Philadelphia Vireo – Vireo philadelphicus
Blue-headed Vireo – Vireo solitarius
Summer Tanager – Piranga rubra
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata
Black-throated Green Warbler – Setophaga virens
Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
Three-toed Box Turtle – Terrapene Carolina
Red-eared Slider – Trachemys scripta elegans
Green Anole – Anolis carolinensis
Cuban Brown Anole – Anolis sagrei
Ground Skink – Scincella lateralis
Rough Earth Snake – Haldea striulata
Gulf Coast Toad – Incilius nebulifer
Rio Grande Chirping Frog – Eleutherodactylus cystignathoides
Bony Fish: (1)
Mosquitofish – Gambusia affinis
INVERTEBRATES (Non-insects): (17)
Asian Tramp Snail – Bradybaena similaris
Globular Drop – Oligyra orbiculata
Dome Snail – Ventridens sp.
Segmented Worms: (1)
Common Earthworm – Lumbricus terrestris
Chinese Hammerhead Planarian – Bipalium kewense
Wolf Spider – family Lycosidae
House Orbweaver – Metazygia sp.
Spinybacked Orbweaver – Gasteracantha cancriformis
Bifurcate Trashline Orbweaver – Allocyclosa bifurca
Tangleweb Spider – Theridion sp.
South American Hacklemesh Spider – Metaltella simony
Twin-flagged Jumping Spider – Anasaitis canosa
American House Spider – Parasteatoda tepidariorum
Comm. Striped Woodlouse – Philoscia muscorum
Lawn Shrimp (Amphipod/hopper) – Talitridae
Common Pillbug – Armadillidium vulgare
Powder Blue Isopod – Porcellionides pruinosis
Elongate-bodied Springtail – Salina banksi
Band-winged Dragonlet – Erythrodiplax umbrata
Butterflies and Moths: (19)
Monarch – Danaus plexipus
Spicebush Swallowtail – Papilio troilus
Gulf Fritillary – Agraulis vanilla
Horace’s Duskywing – Erynnis horatius
Cloudless Sulphur – Phoebis sennae
Tawny Emperor – Asterocampa clyton
Ocola Skipper – Panoquina ocola
Dun Skipper – Euphyes vestris
Clouded Skipper – Lerema accius
Common Buckeye – Junonia coenia
Painted Lady – Vanessa cardui
Bagworm moth – Psychidae
Southern Flannel Moth – Megalopyge opercularis
Fall Webworm Moth – Hyphantria cunea
Indian Meal Moth – Plodia interpunctella
Grass Moths – family Crambidae
Yellow-collared Scapemoth – Cisseps fulvicollis
Velvetbean Caterpillar Moth – Anticarsia gemmatalis
Southern Beet Webworm – Herpetogramma bipunctalis
Secondary Screwworm Fly – Cochliomyia macellaria
Goldenrod Gall Fly – Erosta solidaginis
Long-legged Fly – Condylostylus patibulatus
Long-legged fly – Condylostylus sp.
Asian Tiger Mosquito – Aedes albopicta
Oriental Latrine Fly – Chrysomya megacephala
Leaf-miner Fly – family Agromyzidae
Hoverfly – family Syrphidae
Dusky-winged Hoverfly – Ocyptamus fuscipennis
Grass Fly – Thaumatomyia sp.
Bees, Wasps, Sawflies, Ants: (20)
Eastern Carpenter Bee – Xylocopa virginica
Southern Carpenter Bee – Xylocopa micans
Strand’s Carpenter bee – Xylocopa strandi
Western Honeybee – Apis mellifera
Carpenter Mimic Leafcutter Bee – Megachile xylocopoides
Carpenter Mimic Cuckoo Leafcutter Bee – Coelioxys dolichos
American Bumblebee – Bombus pensylvanicus
Carpenter Ant – Camponotus sp.
Black Crazy Ant – Paratrechina longicornis
Graceful Twig Ant – Pseudomyrmex gracilis
Paper wasp – Polistes dorsalis
Dark paper Wasp – Polistes fuscatus
Metric Paper Wasp – Polistes metricus
Yellow-legged Mud Duaber Wasp – Sceliphron caementarium
Four-toothed Mason Wasp – Monobia quadridens
Tarantual Hawk Wasp – Calopompilus maculipennis
Thread Wasted Sand Wasp – Ammophila sp.
Black Ichneumon Spiderhunter – subfamily Ichneumoninae
Gall Wasp – Andricus sp.
Southern Live Oak Stem Gall Wasp – Callirhytis quercusbatatoides
Click Beetle – family Elateridae
Asian Ladybird Beetle – Harmonia axyridis
Ground Beetle – Carabidae
June Beetle – Phyllophaga sp.
Diaprepes Root Weevil – Diaprepes abbreviates
Metallic Flea Beetle – Altica sp.
Common Green June Beetle – Cotinis nitida
Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle – Libidomera clivicollis
True Bugs: (3)
Aphids – family Aphididae
Hackberry Petiole Gall Psyllid – Pachypsylla venusta
Scissor-grinder Cicada – Neotibicen pruinosis
Suriname Roach – Pycnoscelus surinamensis
American Cockroach – Periplaneta americana
Cockroach – Blatella sp.
Smoky Brown Cockroach – Periplaneta fuliginosa
Eastern Subterranean Termite – Reticulitermes flavipes
Yellow-legged earwig – Euborellia arcanum
Grasshoppers, Crickets, Katydids: (1)
Great Anglewing Katydid – Microcentrum rhombifolium
Brown Lacewing – family Hemerobiidae
Green Lacewing – Chrysopidae
Bark Lice: (1)
Tree Cattle – Cerastipsocus venosus
SLIME MOLD: (1)
Carnival Candy Slime Mold – Arcyria denudata
Hairy Hexagonia – Hexagonia hydnoides
False Turkey Tail – Stereum ostrea
Bracket Fungus – Ganoderma sessile
Bracket Fungus – Trametes lactinea
Hoof Fungus – Fomes fomentarius
Mustard Yellow Polypore – Fuscoparia gilva
Firerug Inkcap – Coprinellus domesticus
Turkey Tail Fungus – Trametes versicolor
Common Tarcrust – Diatrype stigma
Ceramic Parchment fungus – Xylobolus frustulatus
Splitgill Mushroom – Schizophyllum commune
Crowded Parchment Fungus – Stereum complicatum
Oak Bracket – Pseudoinonotus dryadeus
Honeycomb Bracket fungus – Favolus sp.
Dyer’s Polypore – Phaeolus schweinitzii
Reddening Lepiota – Leucogaricus americanus
Bonnet Mushrooms – Mycena sp.
Red Russula – Russula sp.
Common Browncup – Phylloscypha phyllogena
Pore lichen – Pertusaria sp.
Rough-speckled Shield Lichen – Punctelia rudecta
Powdered Ruffle Lichen – Parmotrema hypotropum
Common Greenshield Lichen – Flavoparmelia caperata
Common Script Lichen – Graphis scripta
Whitewash Lichen – Phlyctis argena
Sinewed Bushy Lichen – Ramalina americana
Farinose Cartilage Lichen – Ramalina farinacea
Perforated Ruffle Lichen – Parmotrema perforatum
Mealy Rim Lichen – Lecanora strobilina
Hoary Rosete Lichen – Physcia aipolia
There are of course way more than this number of plants in Russ Pitman Park.
The Nature Discovery Center, however, already has a rather voluminous and exhaustive plant list for the park. Thus, the naturalists who participate in our Bio-blitz do not attempt to document all or even most of the plants in the park. Participants simply noted plants they found interesting, observed fruiting or blooming, or thought may not already be on the official park list of plants.
Unidentified moss sp.
Unidentified moss #2
Resurrection Fern – Pleopeltis michauxiana
Japanese Climbing Fern – Lygodium japonicum
Southern Wood Fern – Dryopteris ludoviciana
Dwarf Palmetto – Sabal minor
Mexican Fan Palm –
Indiangrass – Sorghastrum nutans
Eastern Gamagrass – Tripsacum dactyloides
Basketgrass – Oplismenus hirtellus
Virginia Wildrye – Elymus virginicus
Switchgrass – Panicum virgatum
Wood Oats (Inland Sea Oats) – Chasmanthium latifolium
Florida Paspalum – Paspalum floridanum
Bermuda Grass – Cynodon dactylon
Marsh Bristlegrass – Setaria parviflora
Big Bluestem – Andropogon gerardi
Hairy Crabgrass – Digitaria sanguinalis
Umbrella Papyrus – Cyperus involucratus
Cherokee Sedge – Carex cherokeensis
True sedge – Carex sp.
Deep-rooted Sedge – Cyperus enterianus
Shortleaf Spike Sedge – Cyperus brevifolius
Broadleaf Plants: (141)
Mexican Plum – Prunus mexicanus
Boxelder Maple – Acer negundo
Red Maple – Acer rubrum
Black Willow – Salix nigra
Gum Bumelia – Sideroxylon langunosum
Coralberry – Symphoricarpos orbiculatus
River Birch – Betula nigra
Sweetbay Magnolia – Magnolia virginiana
False Indigo – Amorpha fruticose
Mulberry – Morus sp.
Parsley Hawthorn – Crataegus marshallii
Shummard Red Oak – Quercus shumardii
Loblolly Pine – Pinus taeda
Yaupon Holly – Ilex vomitoria
American Black Elderberry – Sambucus canadensis
Southern Magnolia – Magnolia grandiflora
Sugarberry – Celtis laevigata
Green Ash – Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Southern Arrowwood – Viburnum dentatum
Southern Live Oak – Quercus virginiana
Buttonbush – Cephalanthus occidentalis
Chinese Holly – Ilex cornuta
Roughleaf Dogwood – Cornus drummondii
Eastern Redbud – Cercis canadensis
Carolina Laurelcherry – Prunus caronliniana
Loquat-leaf Oak – Quercus rysophylla
Bur Oak – Quercus macrocarpa
Bald Cypress – Taxodium distichum
Common Lantana – Lantana camara
Texas Lantana – Lantana x urticoides
American Beautyberry – Callicarpa americana
American Hornbeam – Carpinus caroliniana
Mexican Buckeye – Ungnadia speciosa
Osage Orange – Maclura pomifera
Possumhaw – Ilex decidua
Orchid Tree – Bauhinia variegata
Shining Sumac – Rhus copallinum
Pecan – Carya illinoinensis
American Elm – Ulmus americana
Groundsel Bush – Baccharis halimifolia
Southern Sugar Maple – Acer floridanum
Swamp Chestnut Oak – Quercus michauxii
American Sycamore – Platanus occidentalis
American Sweetgum – Liquidambar occidentalis
Chinese Privet – Ligustrum sinense
Ornamental Pear – Pyrus sp.
Tree Privet – Ligustrum lucidum
Willow Oak – Quercus phellos
Common Gardenia – Gardenia jasminoides
Cedar Elm – Ulmus crassifolia
Water Oak – Quercus nigra
Northern Catalpa – Catalpa speciose
Chinese Raintree – Koelrueteria elegans
American Basswood – Tilia Americana
Camphor Tree – Cinnamomum camphora
Straggler Daisy – Calyptocarpus vialis
Frogfruit – Phyla sp.
Yard Aster – Symphotrichum divaricatum
Blue Mistflower – Conoclinium coelestinum
Climbing Hempvine – Mikania scandens
Tall Goldenrod – Solidago altissima
Seaside Goldenrod – Solidago sempervirens
Giant Goldenrod – Solidago canadensis
Tievine – Ipomoea cordatotriloba
Narrowleaf Sunflower – Helianthus angustifolius
Camphorweed – Pluchea camphorata
Opposite-leaf Spotflower – Acmella repens
Spiny Chloracantha – Chloracantha spinosa
Cuban Jute – Sida rhombifolia
Chamberbitter – Phyllanthus urinaria
Leafy Elephant’s-foot – Elephantopus carolinianus
Frostweed – Verbesina virginica
Missouri Ironweed – Vernonia missurica
Mexican Primrose-willow – Ludwigia octovalvis
Three-lobed False Mallow – Malvastrum coromandelianum
Three-seeded Mercury – Acalypha sp.
Lizard’s Tail – Saururus cernuus
Buttonweed – Diodia virginiana
Obedient Plant – Physostegia virginiana
Mustang Grape – Vitis mustangensis
Muscadine Grape – Vitis rotundifolia
Brazos Pensemon – Penstemon tenuis
American Trumpetvine – Campsis radicans
Carolina Snailseed – Cocculus carolinus
Catclaw Vine – Dolichandra unguis-cati
Hairy Crabweed – Fatoua villosa
Pickerelweed – Pontederia cordata
Rattlesnake Master – Eryngium yuccifolium
Cast Iron Plant – Aspidistra elatior
Monkey grass – Lirope sp.
Shrimp Plant – Justicia brandegeeana
Mexican Ruellia – Ruellia simplex
Heavenly Bamboo – Nandina domestica
Wedelia – Sphagneticola calendulacea
Turk’s Cap – Malvaviscus arboreus
Whitemouth Dayflower – Commelina erecta
Wild Petunia – Ruellia caerula
Poison Ivy – Toxicodendron redicans
Scarlet Sage – Salvia coccinea
Virginia Creeper – Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Ball Moss – Tillandsia recurvata
Japanese Honeysuckle – Lonicera japonica
Late Boneset – Eupatorium serotinum
Saw green Briar – Smilax bona-nox
Cross Vine – Bignonia capreolata
Eastern False Aloe – Manfreda virginica
Western Ragweed – Ambrosia psilostachya
Maximillian Sunflower – Helianthus maximiliani
Tickseed Beggar’s Ticks – Bidens aristosa
Downy Lobelia – Lobelia puberula
Pepper Vine – Ampelopsis arborea
Giant Ragweed – Ambrosia trifida
Scarlet Creeper – Ipomoea hederifolia
Crow Poison – Nothoscordum bivalve
White Clover – Trifolium repens
Bladder Pod – Sesbania vesicaria
Alligatorweed – Alternathera philoxeroides
Swamp Criunum – Crinum sp.
False Daisy – Eclipta prostrata
Carolina Crane’s-bill – Geranium carolinianum
Spotted Spurge – Euphorbia maculata
Graceful Spurge – Euphorbia hypericifolia
Painted Spurge – Euphorbia heterophylla
Wisteria – Wisteria sp.
Oriental False Hawk’sbeard – Youngia japonica
Sensitive Plants – Mimosa strigillosa.
American Hog Peanut – Amphicarpaea bracteata
Greater Plantain – Plantago major
Broad-leaved Dock – Rumex obtusifolius
Mock Strawberry – Potentilla indica
Carolina Ponysfoot – Dichondra carolinensis
Southern Dewberry – Rubus trivialis
Pennsylvania Blackberry – Rubus pensilvanicus
Largeleaf Pennywort – Hydrocotyle bonariensis
Goosefoot Plant – Syngonium podophyllum
Black Snakeroot – Sanicula canidensis
Peruvian Lily – Alstroemeria aurea
Tahitian Bridalveil – Gibasis pellucida
Blue Violet – Viola sororia
Shrubby Boneset – Ageratina havanensis
Saturday, September 21
8 am – 3:30 pm
Anderson-Clarke Center at Rice University
Bulb & Plant Mart
Thursday – Saturday, October 3 – 5
The Church of St. John the Divine
We are pleased to announce that kids ages 11 to 12 will have a new option for summer fun this year at the Nature Discovery Center! Our new Survivor Camp (offered August 5 – 9) is going to be an incredible opportunity for tweens to learn and test new skills in outdoor survival, from shelter building, to filtering water, finding edible plants and insects, and starting a fire without a match or cooking with the sun. This camp is all about finding out if you have what it takes to survive alone in the woods and learning new strategies to ensure that you can! Advance registration is required. You can register your tween online here.
Bethany Foshée, an avid birder and naturalist, a driven educator, and a devoted conservationist, has spent her entire adult life preparing to be the director of a nature center, a passion she hoped to eventually pursue. Today, Tuesday, January 29, 2019, the Nature Discovery Center will welcome her as their new Executive Director. Foshée brings with her 20 years of experience in animal care, environmental education, volunteer and community outreach programs, and project management. Foshée has spent the last 5.5 years as Edith L. Moore Sanctuary Manager for the Houston Audubon Society, and has spent the past 11 years as the Director of the Houston Audubon Docent Guild. Before her time with Houston Audubon, Foshée worked locally with YES Prep Public Schools, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Memorial Park Conservancy, and the Houston Zoo.
“We are thrilled to have Bethany join the Nature Discovery Center team,” said Nature Discovery Center Board President Jennifer Nelsen. “Her breadth of experience, from grant writing to maintenance of facilities and grounds, from direction of environmental education programs to volunteer coordination and the development of community partnerships, make her uniquely qualified to lead and support the team in igniting lifelong curiosity, understanding, and respect for nature through education.”
As our world becomes increasingly urbanized and our climate increasingly imperiled, reconnecting people with nature is more imperative than ever. Foshée believes that by delivering meaningful outdoor recreation and interpretive opportunities, and by reminding people of the joy that can only be found in nature, we can engage our community in ways that foster a true appreciation for protecting our natural spaces.
Foshée’s passion for providing all people with the opportunity to connect with nature grew from her own childhood discoveries. “Growing up in the urban complex of Houston, my earliest experiences in nature included exploring our city’s channeled bayous, vacant lots and utility easements. While these settings might not sound picturesque or even truly ‘natural,’ they informed me of one powerful lesson: we are part of nature. ” When asked about her new role as Executive Director of the Nature Discovery Center, Foshée said “The Center offers families and children a chance to be present… present to nature around them and to each other… vital joys in life that are often lacking in our modern, urban lives. I am humbled and excited to join the NDC team to continue our great work together.”
Under my desk at the Nature Discovery Center, I keep a tub full of thousands of red wiggler earthworms. The worms are fun and they are also hard at work eating our food scraps like coffee grounds and banana peels.
Worm Composting (Vermicomposting) is easy, good for the Earth, good for your plants, and fun. Worm composting allows you to responsibly dispose of your vegetable food scraps while at the same time creating a nutrient-rich compost that you can use on your indoor or outdoor plants to make them healthier.
Overview of Worm Composting
Worm composting is a form of composting in which you feed your veggie kitchen waste to a specific type of earthworm known as red wigglers (scientific name is Eisenia Fetida). Vermicompost (worm poop) is better for plants than almost any other type of compost. Composting worms have three jobs: eat, poop, and make babies.
Worm Composting Container
Almost any container can be used as a worm bin. Worms breathe air through their skin, so air holes are very important. The simplest bin to use when getting started is a plastic storage tote or tub. You will need to drill holes in the sides so that the worms can get air. The composting worms won’t go out the holes because they don’t want to leave the nice comfy home that you have made for them. In fact, if they do leave, they will die without moisture, bedding, and food.
What Type of Worms are Used in Worm Composting?
Red Wigglers are the most widely used composting worms. These worms are used because they eat A LOT (up to half their weight every day!), tolerate being dug through, and are easy to keep contained indoors or out. Red wigglers can be purchased online and mailed to you. Red Wigglers can be found in nature in leaf litter or under logs but gathering your own to start a worm composting bin is very difficult.
Bedding for your Worm Compost Bin
Your red wiggler worms need bedding to live in. Think of the worm bedding as their furniture. Any carbon source can be used as worm bin bedding. For example, leaves, shredded office paper, shredded cardboard, and shredded newsprint (no glossy paper) all work well. The bedding must be moist at all times.
Moisture Level of your Worm Bin
Red Wigglers need a moist environment to live. The easiest way to provide moisture is to soak the bedding material in water before adding it to the bin during the set-up process. The ideal moisture level is like a damp sponge. The bedding should feel moist, but when you squeeze it, no water should drip out. You should never have standing water in the bottom of your bin.
Feeding Your Composting Worms
You can feed your worms any vegetable scraps including egg shells and coffee grounds (if you use a paper coffee filter, throw that in too!). You can also feed your worms lint from your clothes dryer and paper towels (use only paper towels that were used to clean up drink spills and do not have cleaning solution on them). Don’t feed them meet, eggs, butter, or oil. They also don’t do well with bread or cheese. Be careful not to overfeed your red wigglers as this can attract fruit flies and other pests because the red worms won’t be able to eat the food scraps fast enough. Here at the Nature Discovery Center, we feed our composting worms coffee grounds from the kitchen and Mr. Eric’s banana peel from his breakfast.
Harvesting the Worm Compost
You won’t harvest for the first time for at least 6 months, after that you can harvest more frequently. When it is time to harvest, simply dig down to the bottom of the worm bin and pull out a handful of worm castings (poop). This can be added directly to your soil with the worms included or you can pick out the worms and add them back to your bin.
I love teaching people worm composting so much that I started a website about it. Check it out if you are ready to begin your wiggly journey (www.wormcompostinghq.com) and soon you will proudly say “I’ve got worms!”.
By Henry Owen, Executive Director
November will be my last month serving as Executive Director of the Nature Discovery Center. I have accepted the position of Executive Director of John Knox Ranch, a summer camp and retreat center near Wimberley, TX.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to have served the Nature Discovery Center over the last four years. I am immensely proud of the great work that our team accomplished and the thousands of lives we helped connect to nature. Success is not possible without a community of people pulling in the same direction. Thank you to the staff and board of the Nature Discovery Center; our members, supporters, and visitors; the City of Bellaire residents and staff; and all our partner organizations across greater Houston.
The Nature Discovery Center is a unique place where kids and adults have a much-needed place to see migratory birds, watch butterflies, enjoy native wildflowers, and catch tadpoles. The mission: to ignite lifelong curiosity, understanding, and respect for nature through education is as relevant today as it has ever been.
The future of the organization is bright. I look forward to following the story as it unfolds. I am so grateful for the impact the Nature Discovery Center and its people have had on my life and that of my family. It was a pleasure to serve with you.
Go play outside!
Nature Discovery Center
It’s that time again, time to update your calendars with your child’s schoolyear commitments, whether they be music lessons, sports practices, afterschool art or robotics programs. Our children are busier than ever! As you work on penciling it all in, consider scheduling time for nature. Exposure to the natural world plays a critical role in child development and acts as an important de-stressor (www.texaschildreninnature.org/resources/research) but yet is often overlooked as we commit our children to other activities.
What does scheduling time for nature look like? What does it mean to commit to nature for an hour or so once or twice a week? For every family and every child this commitment may look different. The specifics may change from week to week as you and your children dabble and explore abundant opportunities to get outdoors around Houston and learn what catches your interest. What is important is that spending time in nature or appreciating the natural world becomes a priority as we fill our children’s (and family) calendars. Penciling in time for nature and treating it as a commitment just as we would soccer or drama or coding classes will not only benefit our children’s development, and reduce their stress, but it will also ensure that they grow up understanding, respecting, valuing, and hopefully protecting the natural world.
So, what are the possibilities? Here are some ways we suggest your child, or even your whole family together, might commit to nature:
- Signing up for structured classes or scheduled programs at a local nature center. The Nature Discovery Center offers Curious Kids for preschoolers and Junior Scientists for elementary aged students.
- Spending time outside at a nature park – playing, exploring, observing. Russ Pitman Park offers shady trails, ponds, a nature play area, interpretive signage and has abundant local wildlife. Try taking informal “field trips” to other area nature parks like Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary, the Houston Arboretum, Jesse Jones Park and Nature Center, or Brazos Bend State Park and the George Observatory.
- Volunteering for neighborhood or park clean-up with an organization or simply picking up trash as a family.
- Participating in citizen science and making valuable contributions to science by observing and recording local bees, butterflies, birds, or plants via a free SciStarter.com account.
- Gardening together in your own yard or in a community garden.
- Getting a little dirty with messy outdoor nature play. The sandbox and loose parts play materials in the Nature Play Area in Russ Pitman Park offer great opportunities to get a little dirty!
- Hiking or bike riding on local trails. The Newcastle Trail is a nice, wide trail for family bike rides. With the new bike pump and repair station and bike racks, Russ Pitman Park makes a great pitstop for bike riders of all ages. The Bayou Greenways trail projects along Brays Bayou and White Oak Bayou are also worth exploring and may provide glimpses of our urban wildlife.
- Trying out geocaching (geocaching.com) as a family. It’s like a scavenger hunt that the whole world is always playing (in secret).
- Requesting a behind the scenes tour of a local recycling center or wildlife rehabilitation facility. The Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and Wildlife Center of Texas have a wealth of experience caring for orphaned and injured animals and can offer great advice about what you can do if you encounter wildlife that may be in distress.
First of all, there’s really nothing to be afraid of. Venomous snakes in the Houston area are not as dangerous as people think they are. Keep calm. Now, I’m not saying you should go pick up a venomous snake, and kiss it on the lips, but they’re really not that aggressive. Venomous snakes get a bad rap. Very few people actually die in the U.S. from snakebite. The best ways to deal with venomous snakes, is to give them their distance (when you can) and to educate yourself about the common species of local venomous snake.
The most potently venomous snake in our area is the Texas Coral Snake, which is in the cobra family. Sounds scary, right? You definitely shouldn’t touch one, but they are shy snakes, that prefer to hide out under rocks and logs, in rodent burrows, and will flee, rather than hiss or strike, when surprised. Texas coral snakes have a distinctive red-yellow-black color pattern, which could also be described as alternating red and black sections separated by “gold rings.” They are thin snakes, that are usually only 2 – 2.5 feet long. These beautiful little reptiles eat mostly other snakes and small lizards, and they spend most of their time underground.
Southern Copperheads are most likely to be found in areas with trees. They can be very well camouflaged on forest floors covered in leaf litter. They are also rather shy snakes, have relatively milder venom than other area venomous snakes, and are not usually likely to bite. As with all venomous snakes though, give them some distance. Compared to other venomous snakes, they have an unusually wide variety of prey items, including: rodents, frogs, fish, lizards, birds, and large insects. Unlike coral snakes and most non-venomous snakes, Copperheads have elliptical “cat-like” pupils and heat sensing pits located between the eye and the nostril on each side of the head.
The aquatic Cottonmouth, which is also a pit-viper, also has the heat pit and slit-like pupils. The Cottonmouth is strongly venomous, and has a bad reputation for being aggressive, but recent scientific studies into their behavior has shown that they are actually not that likely to bite when encountered. Their fearsome hissing gaping mouth display, and occasional habit of fleeing in the direction of someone who has cornered them, have led many to believe that they are more aggressive than they actually are. Cottonmouths are almost always found in or near water. They sometimes climb onto low branches to sun themselves and keep an eye out for prey in the water below. They prefer to feed on frogs and fish, but they are one of the few snakes that will scavenge various dead animals, as well.
Venomous snakes are rightfully a source of fear and fascination. They’re helpful predators that keep rodent populations in check, and are therefore an integral part of local eco-systems. Also, they’re not usually that dangerous if given a respectful distance. However, if you should be bitten by a venomous snake, don’t attempt any home treatments, just get to a hospital as quickly and calmly as possible. Do not kill the snake. If you’d like to learn more about them, visit the nature center and talk to one of our naturalists.