Monarchs and more spring nature programs set

CONTRIIBUTED/CATHY DOWNS
A male Monarch butterfly pauses to dine on spring phlox. Migration and habitat preservation will be topics of at least three upcoming area programs.

BY GLYNIS CRAWFORD SMITH
THE HIGHLANDER
 
Area wildlife and gardening organizations are lining up spring programs and high on the list of topics is the Monarch butterfly.
On April 10 from 2-5 p.m., Friends of Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge (FBCNWR), a Feed the Monarchs program will be presented by Sondra Fox. Her free family program will provide hand-on instruction for planing a butterfly garden, making a wildflower seed ball to plant and a hike to search for Monarch eggs, butterflies and caterpillars in fields of native milkweed and to plant seeds in the new butterfly meadow at the refuge.
Balcones Canyonlands is a national wildlife refuge east of Marble Falls at 24518 Ranch to Market Road 1431. For more information call 512-339.9432.
Exploring the Past, Present and Future of Monarch Populations will be the topic of the Monday, April 25 meeting of Texas Master Naturalist Hill Country Chapter in Kerrville.  Cathy Downs, Hill Country Master Naturalist and Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist, will speak on the iconic Monarch butterfly. She will explain how Monarch overwintering populations up to one billion butterflies have dwindled to the low millions. She will explain can be done to insure the migration phenomenon continues.
Downs is a Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist with Monarch Watch (www.monarchwatch.org), and chairwoman of Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas (BBMT) program for Native Plant Society of Texas (www.npsot.org) and is a certified Monarch Larval Monitoring Project educator (www.mlmp.org). The public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Upper Guadalupe River Authority Lecture Hall, 125 North Lehmann Drive, Kerrville. For information, call 830-796-3182.
Downs will speak again in Marble Falls on June 4, at 10 a.m., at the meeting of the Highland Lakes Birding & Wildflower Society (HLBWS).
Downs brings to her programs experience from raising Monarch caterpillars for education as well as propagating native milkweeds. Her talks are honed as a host of live butterfly pavilions at nature centers and state parks throughout the Hill Country. 
Following the June 4 meeting, a picnic lunch at the Marble Falls Johnson Park will include a visit the Monarch Way Station Butterfly Gardens prepared by the Highland Lakes Chapter of Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT).
Other spring programs of interest in April are:
The Tuesday, April 7, Burnet Middle School Plant Sale. From 8 a.m.-4 p.m. plants at good prices will be offered at the school greenhouse, 1401 N Main Street in Burnet. 
On Friday, April 8, at 1 p.m., the Kingsland Garden Club will sponsor a free tour of the Upper Highland Lakes Nature Center (UHLNC) with founder and director Billy Hutson.
The UHLNC is a nonprofit organization promoting appreciation, understanding, and conservation of the Highland Lakes area natural assets and resources through field-based educational and recreational outreach programs. The intent is to make nature personal, from generation to generation, with a special focus on nurturing the next generation of naturalists.
The center is located at Reveille Peak Ranch about eight miles northwest of Burnet at 105 County Road 114.
From Friday – Sunday, April 8-10, enjoy activities and vendors at the Burnet Bluebonnet Festival, including free wildflower displays and other activities with the HLBWS at the Herman Brown Free Library on the Burnet Courthouse Square, on Friday, 2-5 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
On Saturday, April 9, at 11 a.m. Skip Richter, Texas AgriLife Agent and horticulturist,  will present “Organic Soil and Beneficial Insects” at Backbone Valley Nursery, 4201 Farm to Market Road 1980.
The Highland Lakes Master Gardeners will present a free Green Thumb program on Wednesday, April 13 at noon at the Kingsland Library, 125 West Polk Street.  Master Gardener Violet Carson will present “Gardening – Large or Small.”
The public is invited to the Highland Lakes Garden Club Annual Flower Show will be held from 1-3 p.m. on Thursday, April 21 at the Marble Falls Library, 101 Main Street.
Register soon for spaces remaining on the Friday-Monday, April 24-April 27, Balcones Songbird Festival at the Balcones Canyonlands refuge. 
Nature tours will follow the birds, so come prepared to get off the beaten trail with closed-toe shoes and long pants, sunscreen and hats. Tours go out regardless of rain or temperature. For more information and updates, call 512-965-2473 and register online at www.friendsofbalcones.org/festival.
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