Archive for the 'Habitat' Category

Feel the (Prescribed) Burn

Monday, February 19th, 2018
Prescribed burn underway.

Prescribed burn underway.

This is Passport to Texas

Man mimics nature when he uses fire as a land management tool. He does this with controlled burning, and with prescribed fire.

David Riskin, director of natural resources for state parks, says there is a difference between the two.

Controlled burning is a term that people use that you start at part A, and you burn until you get to part B. Professional land managers use the term prescribed fire because you have specific objectives, you have specific outcomes, you burn under very specific conditions. And so a prescription is a planning document… you lay everything out ahead of time and you then implement it with very specific objectives in mind.

Those objectives naturally have to do with land management, as well as a range of various objectives a landowner may hope to achieve.

There can be a whole series of objectives. From very simple things like fuel load reduction. You can have specific habitat objectives…to change the vegetation structure and composition to support waterfowl, or to support antelope, or lesser prairie chickens…or Houston toads for that matter.

Learn more about prescribed fire on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Citizens Monitor Monarchs

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018
Monarch on milkweed.

Monarch on milkweed.

This is Passport to Texas

Why are monarch butterflies declining?

The current thought is that it is actually several different factors that are contributing to the decline that we’re seeing.

Ben Hutchins is TPW’s invertebrate biologist. Deforestation of their winter roosts in Mexico, cold winters, and prolonged drought along their migration path, has had negative effects.

And then, finally, what this project is addressing is this widespread decline in availability of milkweed plants. That’s due to a couple things: predominantly increased use of certain herbicides.

Texas Milkweeds and Monarchs is a citizen science project where folks keep an eye out for the state’s 37 different species of milkweeds –vital to the monarch’s lifecycle – and then then share observations on iNaturalist.org.

We have experts that are going to be looking at these observations and identifying those.

Hutchins says more than a thousand contributors have logged more than seven thousand observations of all 37 milkweed species. Texas Parks and Wildlife also has guide to Texas milkweeds to help you ID the plants.

It is available online, [with] pictures of all of the different species of milkweeds, distribution maps—to let you know if you’re in the right part of the state—and also some of the key characteristics.

Find it on the Nature Trackers page of the Texas Parks and Wildlifewebsite.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Climate Change Lottery and its Affects

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017
Bracken ferns at Bastrop State park

Bracken ferns at Bastrop State park

This is Passport to Texas

Texas wildlife has a stake in the climate change lottery.

Climate change is going to affect species that are found – and breed – in backyards here in Texas.

Former Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist, Cullen Hanks, says models that predict impacts of climate change on wildlife vary, so we need baseline information on each species.

To be able to document change, we need to know where things are before they change. And, this highlights the need of documenting the distribution of species that we have today in Texas. And, there aren’t enough biologists to do all of that. And so, what we do is we reach out to citizens. That’s exactly right! Texas is a big state with a lot of species, and the community of naturalists and citizens interested in wildlife in Texas can play a huge part in documenting wildlife in Texas.

Monitor backyard species, and then share your observations online.

ebird, a citizen science platform, created by the Cornell laboratory of Ornithology is a great way to maintain your checklist of birds. In addition, iNaturalist is a really useful platform for documenting your wildlife sightings of any species — not just birds.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has various projects on iNaturalist. Just go to the Texas Nature Trackers page on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for details.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Landscaping for the Birds

Thursday, September 14th, 2017
Working on a wildscape in San Antonio.

Working on a wildscape in San Antonio.

This is Passport to Texas

Putting out feeders is one way to attract wildlife to your yard. A better way is to create a wildscape.

What a wildscape is, is landscaping for wildlife.

Ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford, says this includes native plants that provide food and shelter; most urban yards, however, traded native habitat for lawns.

So, any little help you can [give] by putting in a wildscape really helps. And even if you don’t have a yard, you can do a wildscape on your patio with pots. I have seen hummingbirds go up to the 6th floor balcony of condos where someone has showy plants that say, “hummingbird come up here.”

A variety of berry and nectar producing plants will draw wildlife to your yard—or balcony.

You want to always stick to natives because they’re acclimated to the soil and the weather and the rainfall that you’re going to give them. And then, you want to make sure that they have some value to wildlife: that they’re going to give you the nectar to attract butterflies; they’re going to have berries at the right time when the cedar waxwings come, and so forth.

Fall is the best time to plant native trees, woody shrubs and perennial flowering plants. Find a list of native species that do well in your area on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Texas Brigades Inspire Careers

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017
Bobwhite Brigade Cadets. Image: Texasbrigades.org

Bobwhite Brigade Cadets. Image: Texasbrigades.org

This is Passport to Texas

To categorize the Texas Brigades as “summer camp” is like calling a mountain lion “a kitty cat”.

This is not a normal summer camp. This is meant to be a lot more than that.

Writer, Aubry Buzek wrote a story about the Brigades for the October  issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine.

The editor of the magazine said, I want you to go to this summer camp and write about it. And I was thinking: Okay. There’s going to be fun stuff happening; I get there and it’s in the middle of a session on how conservation groups work in Texas….and conservation and hunters ethics. And I was like, Whoa!

The 5-day, cell-phone free, camps for youth build confidence and camaraderie with projects, public speaking and debates on conservation issues.

There are some really amazing instructors who come to this camp. There are instructors there who are wildlife biologists from Texas Parks and Wildlife, other private hunting ranches, water control authorities…just the gambit of [conservation] organizations in Texas. The kids get to meet people not easily accessible. Every instructor that I talked to said that they want these kids to pick up the phone and keep in touch with them. They want to help them grow now and into the future.

Aubry Buzek’s story on the Texas Brigades appears in the October issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.