Archive for the 'Habitat' Category

Birding Classic Attracts Birders Old & New

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017
Big Sit in Austin with the Tweeting Chats

Big Sit in Austin with the Tweeting Chats

This is Passport to Texas

The Great Texas Birding Classic continues to attract seasoned and beginning birders to its flock.

It’s really crazy. We keep seeing amazing growth. I keep wondering when we might plateau, and it hasn’t happened yet.

Shelly Plante is Nature Tourism Manager for Texas Parks and Wildlife. The tournament had a growth spurt beginning in 2013 after it became statewide.

We had the largest participation in over ten years in that first year that we were statewide. And that was 58 teams. Since then, we’ve grown every single year; last year in 2016, for our 20th anniversary, we had 113 teams.

The money raised funds conservation grants. Birders have fun doing it, when they participate in various tournaments. One of the most popular is the Big Sit.

And it is what it sounds like. You are sitting in a 17-foot diameter circle for 24 hours (or parts of 24-hours), to see how many birds come through that area. In 2016 of the 113 teams that were registered for the Birding Classic, 40 of those teams were Big Sit teams. And they took place in every region of the state.

Register a team before April 1, at birdingclassic.org.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation supports our series and helps keep Texas wild with support of proud members across the state. Find out more at tpwf.org

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti

Birding Classic Still Flying High after 21 Years

Monday, March 6th, 2017

This is Passport to Texas

Twenty seventeen marks the 21st anniversary of the Great Texas Birding Classic.

I’ve been involved for 20 of those 21 years.

Shelly Plante is Nature Tourism Manager for Texas Parks and Wildlife. In the beginning, Plante says the majority of participants were “hard core” birders. Since becoming a statewide event, she says it’s evolved into a tournament for everyone.

We have a lot of different categories. There are categories for beginners; categories for kids who are just getting started; categories families can take part in—or bird clubs can take part in. And so, I’ve seen this really huge growth in the generalist, which I think is fantastic. That’s who we would love to connect with nature. They may not have a connection. So, we’re hopefully making that connection for them with an event.

The Great Texas Birding Classic is April 15 through May 15; registration deadline is April 1st. Money raised through fees and sponsorship goes toward conservation grants.

The more money we raise through registration fees and sponsorship, the more money we are able to award to conservation grant projects throughout the state. So last year, we gave out $36-thousand dollars worth of grants. And, some of the winning teams got to pick which projects received that funding. So, it’s really a fun way to take part in conservation, and maybe even get to choose who gets those conservation dollars.

Put together a team and register before April 1, at birdingclassic.org.

That’s our show… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti

Habitat Improvements for Better Fishing

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017
Enjoying a day of fishing at Possum Kingdom.

Enjoying a day of fishing at Possum Kingdom.

This is Passport to Texas

Collaboration can bring about positive outcomes. Consider the teamwork between Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Brazos River Authority, and other supporters and volunteers. Together they made habitat enhancements at Lake Granbury, Possum Kingdom Lake, and Proctor Lake.

The work was designed to improve habitat for a variety of fish species, and to provide better fishing overall.

The enhancements include artificial structures made of recycled plastics, and natural structures made of recycled bamboo and Christmas trees. These items were vetted for safety, and deployed to create new habitat and improve areas with existing habitat for popular sport fish and prey species.

Environmental conditions such as golden algae, drought and the natural reservoir aging process can affect fish populations. The enhancement projects offer improved areas for spawning and feeding, in addition to providing cover from predators to help fish grow to maturity.

GPS coordinates and maps of the locations of the habitat improvement projects In Lake Granbury, Possum Kingdom Lake and Proctor Lake are available on the TPW web site.

The Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series.

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

Farming Practices Impact Pheasant Population

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016
Ringneck Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant

This is Passport to Texas

Pheasant can make a good living in the Panhandle.

If they can find an area where there’s good grain crops—like wheat, sorghum, corn—and playa lakes that will intersect with CRP [conservation reserve program] and the grain crops. That’s really good habitat. The CRP and the playa lakes provide plenty of cover, and the grain crops provide an ample food source for them. And then the irrigated crops, you know, that will provide a good water source for them, too.

Biologist Todd Montandon surveys pheasant in fall to develop harvest recommendations, noting their numbers and distribution.

The change in farming practices has affected where the distribution of the birds has been. Up in the northern panhandle you have more grain, sorghum, corn and wheat. And then as you move further south, it shifts over to cotton and wheat. And it’s not as conducive to pheasant populations as it is up north.

Changes in irrigation also play a role in the species’ survival.

Back in the 70s and 80s, most of the irrigating was done with irrigation ditches into the rows. And now, it’s switched over to the sprinkler system. And there’s not as much water on the ground as there used to be.

Despite these setbacks, Todd Montandon is optimistic about the upcoming hunting season. Details tomorrow.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Challenges for Pheasant in the Panhandle

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016
Ringneck Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant

This is Passport to Texas

Pheasant is an introduced game species in Texas.

They were introduced up here starting probably in the 1950s. And then we did more introductions in the 60s and 70sto get the population boosted, because they’re such a good species to hunt.

Todd Montandon is a district biologist based in the Panhandle.

They tend to do really well around farmland. That’s one of the reasons they’ve done so well here in the Panhandle—because we’ve got lots of irrigated crops and grain crops.

Yet, the drought of recent years took a toll on the species.

In 2007, we saw 2002 birds on our routes, and in 2013 we saw 15. So, it was quite a decrease; and then last year we were back up to 210. It’s still not near what it could be or what it was, but we’re getting back.

Montandon is optimistic the Panhandle’s pheasant population will continue its upward trend if weather conditions remain favorable. Yet, drought isn’t the only challenge these birds face.

I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to what we were because of the changing farming practices. There’s just not as much good quality habitat as there used to be.

More on that tomorrow.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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