Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Arranging Tours of the Bamberger Ranch Preserve

In the past, groups requesting tours of the ranch have sometimes contacted Margart Bamberger directly. Instead, we'd now like those requests to be directed to Colleen Gardner, whose email address is: brp(at)tstar(dot)net. Thanks, and enjoy the tours.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Margaret's Medical Status

Chris Johnson here, with an update on Margaret Bamberger's health:

Margaret Bamberger has been receiving radiation therapy for brain cancer all month. She had an MRI on the 17th which showed no change in the lesions. So, the good news is that they haven't grown. Also, she's had no seizures, no headaches, and she feels great.

This week, she'll continue the radiation treatment, after which they'll finish-up with three days of higher-dose treatment. Once that's done, her condition will be re-evaluated, and future treatments will be planned accordingly.

Because a month of daily cancer treatment can't have been any fun, there was a large party in Margaret's honor this afternoon at the Benini Sculpture Ranch, kindly hosted by the Beninis. Margaret was understandably tired, but had no trouble coping with being the center of attention for five hours. She was smiling, chatting, and hugging anyone who came within range the whole time.

I'm sure she'd appreciate kind thoughts from her readers. Please feel free to leave them here as comments.

Monday, February 2, 2009


I didn't use all the pictures I'd gotten together in a folder for the post IMAGES FROM 2008 on January 8th, so I'm going to put together another post of images from last year and call it MORE IMAGES FROM 2008.

I like this picture of the Scimitar-horned oryx, that was taken last winter. Their pasture looks very dry. With their elegent horns, they really are handsome critters, and a pleasure to watch, especially when they run together.

This hairy jumping spider looks like it has a green mustache. I was pleased to get such a clear picture of a critter that was less than a centimeter across. Check out the large version by clicking on the picture. How many eyes can you see?

Even though the lake is very low, it still looked beautiful on the afternoon in November that I walked around the lake. I love the rusty red color that the Bald Cypress trees turn before their leaves fall off.

These earth balls poke their way up through the caliche soil along the road side, and it is only when they are on the surface that you can see that they are a hard fungus, with dark, very fine spores inside.
Because we had such a severe drought, we expected our maples to turn brown and drop their leaves. What a surprise to have them turn beautiful colors and remind us of trips to Lost Maples State Park.

The big-tooth Maples were stunning this year. I was sure that with the very dry year, the maple leaves would just turn brown and fall off. What we saw were beautiful colors from lemon yellow to deep red. The Maple Trail reminded me of the Lost Maples Park. When I first came to Selah in 1994 David was planting the maples on the trail, and they were all pretty small. But David knew that someday it would be magnificent, and this year was amazing.

This beautiful little "Rough green snake" is a favorite of kids. It doesn't try to bite, it calms down quickly, and tolerates a lot of handling.

One of Cory's favorite pastimes is "mouse hunting". He listens and sniffs, and if his ears or nose tell him "mouse" he leaps through the tall grass. We've always assumed that he would never catch a mouse, but the other day he was seen running across the grassy area to the south of the ranch house with something small in his mouth. He ran over to an area with soft soil, dug a hole, dropped the mouse in it, and covered it up. Wow, were we surprised!

Aiden has stolen many hearts in his 3+ years, and one of his most ardent fans is a former Selah intern, Kim Kennard.

Mary Kay Sexton has been a huge help to the ranch education programs in many ways. But perhaps her biggest contribution has been with the Bamberger Nature Adventure Camp held in the early summer each year. She leads the kids on field trips, and with her fun-loving and enthusiastic enjoyment of the outdoor world inspires us all to learn and discover more. She is a treasure! Steven gives her a hug during the Volunteer Appreciation Day party.

After the party we all went out to the new water feature and sand play area at the back of the Center. Chris Johnson had two Eastern Screech Owls to release that Sallie Delahoussaye had taken care of as they recovered from non-fatal injuries. Before being released, Sallie has them in a flight cage where she releases live mice for the owls to practice their hunting skills on. They must be able to catch prey in order to survive in the wild.

For years Chris has had a video camera in an owl box with a pair of owls that raised chicks to adulthood, which he made available to the public over the website. Because of this interest in owls, he knows a lot about them, and gave an excellent, and entertaining program about them before the release.

Chris explains that owls have huge eyes that are fixed in their head and in order to look around they have to swivel their head from side to side. They can't turn their heads around in a complete circle, but they can turn far enough that they can look behind them. Their eyes also have lots of cells that are very sensitive to low light, and that helps them to see in places that are almost dark to us. When it was time to release the owls, Chris climbed up a ladder and put them in an owl box, which they may live in at least for a while.

After the owl releases we all went to the new "Solar Toilet". It doesn't use water to flush, but instead uses heat to evaporate liquid, and sterilize the waste material. We have to be very careful not to waste water here because the amount of spring water available is limited, especially during such a dry year. The "ribbon" for the "ribbon cutting" ceremony is actually toilet paper, and Colleen planned a joke, which was that I would be inside and at some point I would come out and say,"What is all the noise around here?"

J David talked about the new "Solar Out-house" and why we had decided to build one, and remember, he didn't know I was inside. So, at the point that he opened the door, he was startled to see me and started laughing. Then we were all laughing!

Another of our regular and very important volunteers is Jessie, who is a wonderful birder, and an amature astronomer. He has built his own telescope and comes to the ranch and gives a sky and star program to 5th grade students when they are here.

Ervey belongs to the Austin Astronomy Club, and when we have a large class he is one of the members that brings out his very fine telescope and sets it up so that the students can see some of the wonderful sights in the night sky.

Our volunteers are so important for our programs. They not only teach facts, they inspire us all to share our knowledge and enthusiasm which is an invaluable gift.