Archive for the 'Birding' Category

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.

Birding: Finding a Christmas Bird Count Near You

Thursday, December 4th, 2014


Le Conte's Sparrow,  image by Greg Lavaty, from

Le Conte’s Sparrow, image by Greg Lavaty, from

This is Passport to Texas

Counting birds at dawn during the Christmas Bird Count guarantees you’ll see lots of them. Yet, a big bunch of birds can lead to confusion.

04—Especially if you get into a big flock of robins or grackles; you just have to start estimating numbers. But, it’s really fun when you start getting big numbers of species. You know, you’ve only been out for an hour and you already have 30 species of birds; that’s really fun.

Cliff Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. This year’s count is December 14 through January 5.

07—There are over a hundred Christmas Bird Counts in Texas; so, chances are there’s one in existence in your area.

Counts take place inside 15-mile radius circles. Cliff says the best way to find a nearby count is online.

09—Search for Christmas Bird Counts in Texas, and figure out which one is nearest you. Also, you’ll see who the compiler is, and you can get phone number or email and start coordinating with that person.

Compilers act as “captains” of their circles, and relay data from the count back to Audubon, which analyzes it. Birders of all skill levels are welcome.

23—And what they’ll do [if you’re a novice] is stick you with some seasoned vets, and that’s really good because you learn a lot when you’re out in the field with someone whose been doing this awhile. So you go out with this team of observers and you basically beat the bushes and try to see as much as you can see. It’s a lot of fun.

The data volunteers collect help researchers better understand trends as they relate to our feathered friends.

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

Birding: Making Birds Count

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014


Christmas Bird Count -- the early years.

Christmas Bird Count — the early years.

This is Passport to Texas

The name “Christmas Bird Count” is a bit of a misnomer.

04—It doesn’t happen on Christmas Day. It happens in a period around Christmas.

That period is December 14th through January 5th. And it’s when volunteers go into the field to count birds.

04— You just have to pick a day in that three week period to do the count.

Cliff Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Volunteers count birds in teams within a 15-mile radius circle with oversight by a count compiler who rules the roost.

11—And those people [compilers] decide on a day, and they divvy up the pie of where these teams can go look for birds in this fixed radius circle, and you count birds within that circle.

The time-frame for the count is 24 hours – midnight to midnight. You might wonder “who” takes the early shift.

10—A lot of people want to know about owls [for example]; so, they get up early. Three A.M., maybe, and go listen for owls. And that’s pretty valuable. But, most people do just the daylight hours.

Cliff recommends the earliest daylight: dawn.

12—That’s when you get the best bird diversity at dawn. Everybody’s waking up: singing, calling and foraging and activity is the greatest right at dawn. Because, birds have slept all night and they’re hungry for something to eat.

Compilers collect the volunteer’s data and submit it to Audubon, which analyzes it.

Find more information about the Christmas Bird Count at

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