Archive for the 'Birding' Category

Share Your Bird Sightings on eBird

Friday, April 14th, 2017
Share your bird sightings on eBird.

Share your bird sightings on eBird.

This is Passport to Texas

If bird watching is your passion, consider sharing your sightings with the world on eBirds

That the Cornell lab of Ornithology sponsors.

Cliff Shackelford is Parks and Wildlife’s non-game ornithologist. With spring migration underway, who knows what you’ll see in the next few weeks.

And you can easily – on your smart phone or your computer – enter your sightings. You can even start with eBird by setting up your yard as a hotspot or a patch that you frequent. And it’s already in the system, and then all you have to do is you go and say, ‘Okay; it’s April 27th, and we had a black-throated green warbler, and two Tennessee warblers, and a chestnut sided warbler. And other people can see that and get pretty excited.

Of course if the hotspot is, say, your backyard, you may not want strangers walking up to your fence line with binoculars. You can be somewhat vague when inputting the location of your sighting, and still provide meaningful information to your fellow birding enthusiasts.

If you’re worried about people finding your secret patch, you can make it more of a broad brushstroke on the map, but still submit the data so people can say, ‘Wow. That was Travis County and they had all those great birds.’ So eBird is a real good tool.

Find a bunch of birding information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. The WR Program supports our series.

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

Field Guides for Better Birding

Thursday, April 13th, 2017
field guide

Using a birding guide enhances your bird-watching experience.

This is Passport to Texas

Before long you’ll see treetops dotted with color. Flowers? Nope. Feathers! Feathers of migrating bird species stopping over in Texas. To know what you’re seeing, you’ll need a good field guide.

There are so many really good field guides out there. I always like to recommend the ones that cover the whole country, because that way you just spend $20 or so, and you’ve got a book that’s great for any trip, when you go visit California to Florida to New York or here in Texas.

Cliff Shackelford is Parks and Wildlife’s non-game ornithologist.

So, I really like the National Geographic Society’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America. The Sibley guide is very good. The Roger Tory Petersen guide is very good. And the Golden Guide to Birds of North America. So, there’s really three or four. And the neat thing is, is to buy more than one; have one in the car, have one at home, and have one at the office. That way, you see different depictions of the birds, and then wherever you are that book is going to be at your fingertips.

Find birding information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

We humans – we like to watch reality TV. You can have that experience out in your yard or at your local park, just looking to see what’s going on in the life of a bird.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Wisdom of the Owl (pellets)

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017
Barred Owl

Barred Owl

This is Passport to Texas

Owls symbolize wisdom – and we can learn much from them when pick their… pellets.

It’s more dignified than digging through poo because you’ll be digging through vomit.

Amy Kocurek and I have different ideas about what’s dignified, but this interpretive ranger at Martin Dies Jr. SP, in East TX does know how to keep visitors engaged.

The kids especially, they love it. Little furry, tin foiled wrapped up presents, that they get to unwrap and see what sort of mysterious surprises await inside.

Wrapped in foil? Yes, because you can order them online.

Most of them are from barn owls that people will collect from in their bars where owls just hack up these pellets; they’ll collect them and sanitize them and sell them for teachers, mostly.

Whether pellets are fresh or sanitized for your protection, those small, furry capsules have secrets to reveal.

Because it contains these almost perfectly preserved pieces of bones and beaks and different things the owl ate, researchers can see what their man food source is in the area that they’re living, if that food source is changing seasonally…. But also, if you’re doing population studies on small mammals that will allow you to see how many different types of mammals are being eaten by owls. So, it can give you an all-round general idea of the population of animals in that ecosystem.

Dissect pellets with Amy Kocurek April 15 at Martin Dies Jr. SP; details at texasstateparks.org.

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

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

Road Tripping for the Birds

Thursday, April 6th, 2017
Birds one might see in the coastal region of Texas.

Birds one might see in the coastal region of Texas.

This is Passport to Texas

Twenty years ago, Bill Baker and two teammates began a journey of discovery during the very first Great Texas Birding Classic.

It was like the greatest scavenger hunt of all time—for birds! Being with your friends. Driving at a frantic pace. Covering habitat. Looking for different species. And learning. Our learning curve was so great.

As total rookies, their performance was uncompetitive, at best, but since they had fun, they’ve returned year after year. Members of the current team, called the NRG Eco Eagles, bring with them specific skillsets.

I can hear very well, even at my age. Tom—his vision is incredible. And Andy, the third member of our team now, has been a hunter most of his life. And he catches movement. He is really, really good at finding things. He can see movement, and has a skillset that really helps us as well. It is truly a team event in our case.

During the classic, teams try to identify the most birds they can. The NRG Eco Eagles participates in the week-long tournament, which puts them on the road.

That’s what makes it so much fun for us. And it’s very grueling. I’ll give you an example—on day one—we end up driving about 750 miles. And we walk about 8 and a half to nine miles that first day.

They sleep four hours and repeat…for an entire week. More with Bill Baker tomorrow. The Great Texas Birding Classic gets underway April 15. Keep up with the action at birdingclassic.org.

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

Growing as a Birder with the Birding Classic

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017
On the lookout for birds during the Great Texas Birding Classic.

On the lookout for birds during the Great Texas Birding Classic.

This is Passport to Texas

Neither Bill Baker nor his teammates were birders 20 years ago when they participated in the very first Great Texas Birding Classic.

We were so bad the first year, the Parks and Wildlife department staff felt sorry for us. And they gave us an award for being rookies of the year so we might think about coming back the next year.

Back then he worked for Houston Lighting and Power managing a program called Environmental Partners.

And the goal of that program was to leverage money to enhance wildlife and fishery habitat here in Texas. So, when I saw the Texas Birding Classic advertisement, I thought we could participate in the classic with the Parks and Wildlife Department. If, perchance, we would happen to win, we could leverage our company money with any winnings to enhance a project here in Texas.

Bill may have been overly optimistic about his team’s prospects that first year, but he said it opened his eyes to what they needed to do to become competitive.

So, that was the goal after year one. And it drove us to come back. It was like, ‘Okay. We were embarrassed the first year. So let’s see what we can do to close the gap.

More with Bill Baker tomorrow. Meanwhile, The Great Texas Birding Classic gets underway April 15. Winning teams help decide the distribution of habitat restoration funds. Keep up with the action at birdingclassic.org.

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