Archive for the 'Birding' Category

Birding: Chimney Swifts

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015
Cliff Shackelford focused on a roost-hole of a rare woodpecker in Argentina in 2013.

Cliff Shackelford focused on a roost-hole of a rare woodpecker in Argentina in 2013.

This is Passport to Texas

Chimney Swifts don’t hang around Texas in winter. These small sooty colored birds, with slim bodies and long, narrow, curved wings show up in spring and leave in fall.

05— All our swifts go to Latin America to overwinter; down to Peru.

Ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford, says we’ll see them again beginning mid-March when they start their return to the eastern two-thirds of the state. Before European settlers arrived, the birds nested in hollow trees, but now they nest almost exclusively in man-made structures like…well …chimneys.

13—I have a school that’s less than a mile away [from my home] that has an old smokestack. And they didn’t tear it down even though it’s not in use; and, that smokestack is very popular with the swifts in our area.

While the birds live most of their lives in flight, they do settle in at night. You’ll know you’re observing Chimney Swifts by the way they approach their roost at dusk.

18—A lot of times you’ll see them circle the chimney, and something’s wrong, and they don’t like it and they don’t commit. And, then, they come back and check it out again; they’re very hesitant. So, when they finally agree to commit, they turn their wings upward and just like a wad of paper, fall into the chimney.

Learn more about Chimney Swifts at

Funding for our series provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Nature: Becoming a Master Naturalist

Thursday, February 12th, 2015
Volunteer planting pine trees.

Planting pine trees at Bastrop State Park after the wildfire. Photo courtesy Texas Master Naturalist Facebook Page.

This is Passport to Texas

There’s a training program for people with a passion for nature. It’s called the Texas Master Naturalist Program.

19— The Texas Master Naturalist Program is a volunteer based training program; we develop a corps of well-informed volunteers that provide education, outreach and service around the state in the beneficial management of natural resources and the natural areas within Texas.

Mary Pearl Meuth is assistant state program coordinator. They train roughly 700 volunteers annually, and have sessions this spring in 16 of their 44 chapters.

15— Our curriculum that is used for the training, has 26 chapters in it. So, they march through those 26 chapters all with a large context of the state of Texas, but then developed even more within their local ecosystem.

Once trained, volunteers provide 40 hours of community outreach, and take 8 hours of advanced training annually. The program’s not just about taking or facilitating classes. It’s also about discovery.

08—Quite a few of our Master Naturalists have identified new species of plants or new species of animals located within the state of Texas.

Are you ready to help Mother Nature? Consider the Texas Master Naturalist program; training sessions starting soon. Learn more at

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Birding: Making Backyard Birds Count

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015


Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

This is Passport to Texas

The Great Backyard Bird Count provides citizens a chance to collect data to help researchers understand birds.

15—You’re basically counting all the birds you see at that spot on the planet; and the best part is it’s in your backyard. You’re starting to really pay attention to what birds are there in the wintertime. And, it’s just a lot of fun – it’s a learning experience for everybody.

TPW ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford, says the count, February 13 through 16, is like a snapshot of bird life.

08—You’re counting both the number of species and the number of individuals per species. So, you’re getting two different numbers. Both kinds of information are very valuable.

Register at or It’s free. Cliff suggests doing your “homework” before getting started.

20—Crack your field guide open and start learning what species are even possible for your area – which ones would be in big numbers and which ones might be something rarer that you would want to get a photograph of. So, if you had, say, a Rufus hummingbird in February that might be something you might want to get a picture of just in case.

By participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, and sharing your observations, you help expand the knowledge base of all… in the fascinating world of birds.

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

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

Birding: Great Backyard Bird Count

Monday, January 26th, 2015
Cardinal in a backyard tree.

Cardinal in a backyard tree.

This is Passport to Texas

You want to take part in a citizen science project, but you can’t get away to spend time in the field. What do you do?

05—Count the birds that are coming to your feeder and in your backyard all day long.

That may sound random. Yet, Cliff Shackelford, Texas Parks and Wildlife non-game ornithologist, says the Great Backyard Bird Count, organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is far from random. They combine data submitted by citizens with other surveys, which helps scientists understand how environmental changes affect bird species.

15— And what’s really neat is after thousands of people do it, and in the country tens of thousands people, you see: Wow, look at where black capped chickadees are versus Carolina chickadees. And you can see where the invasion of – say – red breasted nuthatches are that winter.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is February 13 through 16; it’s easy to participate. Just choose a day and register your location on or

05—So, you just count the birds and submit online. It’s really easy and doesn’t cost anything.

Count for at LEAST fifteen minutes – but you can count longer – and keep track of the species you see and how long you watched.

10—And, you might have chores throughout the day, but you’re constantly walking by the window. Just look and see what’s out there, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be at your bird feeder; it’ can be at your birdbath; it can be in the trees in the backyard.

We’ll have tips on making birds count tomorrow.

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

Wildlife: Birdwatching

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015



Birdwatching in Texas

This is Passport to Texas

What do you like to do from the privacy of your backyard?

03—Spying on the neighbors; but I think it’s healthy.

Fortunately, the neighbors Texas parks and Wildlife ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford’s referring to are birds. This brand of outdoor voyeurism is socially acceptable.

07— You get a lot of relaxation out of hearing birds and seeing their beauty. But also, figuring out what they’re doing.

Cliff says he enjoys observing how birds live and interact within the surroundings he shares with them.

19—And, I think it is a lot of fun to figure out what are my neighbor birds doing, and how do they fit in with my way of life. So, if they’re eating insects that I consider pesky – eating the mosquitoes and gnats – I love it. If they’re feeding on the plants that I put out there, like a hummingbird or butterfly or a bee—I love it.

We can even learn life lessons from birds, says Cliff, such as industry, perseverance, creativity, and responsibility.

14— Look how good they are at being parents. We hear complaints about getting dive bombed from birds in the springtime; well, those are good parents. They’re perceiving you as a threat. And I think a lot of people can learn from a bird how to be a good parent.

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

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