By Timi Maples
Gazebo Nature Preserve Co-Lead
While it may not look like it to walk around our Gazebo Nature Preserve, or GNP as some have dubbed it, there is much work underway. In spite of the drought and triple-digit heat there is life near the seep and within the pollinator loop. We have locked in a critical element for our branding. Plans for our birding platform are moving forward. And in spite of the heat and drought, our grasslands are alive with wildlife.
Perhaps our biggest news is receiving a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Lone Star Bird Award Conservation Grant of $5,000 at the conclusion of the Great Texas Bird Classic. The application was submitted by our newest interns to fund their class project – building the bird tower.
With the help of Emily Sabrusula and Beth Miller, we have a logo to begin the production of signage, flyers, and online communication. The logo we settled on is pretty simple and flexible to fit well in a variety of uses. We’ll soon have a GNP Facebook page, a section on the Piney Wood Lakes Texas Master Naturalists website devoted to the GNP and more updates. Maybe we’ll have some shirts or caps for sale.
Willows are coming back along the native seep and in the spring, we may need to do some judicious removal of a few according to our maintenance agreement with Trinity River Authority. Throughout the GNP, there is plenty blooming, thriving and even flying. Field birds were all over the place feasting on seed provided by our Illinois bundle-flower (Desmanthus illinoensis). Protein from this seed equals that of soybean, and as a legume, it’s a nitrogen-fixer to improve the soil. The bundle flower also provides nectar, high in sugar and amino acids, for hummingbirds, songbirds, butterflies, moths, bees and beetles. The American basketflower (Centaurea americana) has also gone to seed and is providing high nutritional value to song and game birds. Bumblebees are major visitors to the basketflowers.
You want to talk about drawing pollinators to your land – these are two great plants to add. Our overgrown pollinator loop has many starts of our native butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Its orange flowers are popping up even in the deepest of weeds, mostly Johnson grass. It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and is the larval host to the grey hairstreak, monarch and queen butterflies. It’s also a special value to our native bees.
Whether you visit the GNP to explore or volunteer, come early. The gates open at 7 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. There is no water out there so bring your own and be careful in the heat.