Archive for the 'Birding' Category

Join in the Great Texas Birding Classic

Friday, March 16th, 2018
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

During The Great Texas Birding Classic, birding teams raise money for conservation while they compete for bragging rights against other teams…if there are other teams.

If you wanted to know where I really feel like people need a challenge, I think the Panhandle. They want some competition up there.

Shelly Plante is Nature Tourism Manager for Texas Parks and Wildlife. While the coast hosts a multitude of birding teams during the classic, regions like the Panhandle barely have any, and they aren’t alone.

Far west Texas—they want some competition. The DFW area only has a couple of teams participating. They could use some great competition. It would be wonderful to see those areas grow by leaps and bounds this year, and to see a real shift in people seeing birdwatching as an activity that they can do with their friends and family in spring as the Birding Classic.

There are tournaments suitable for nearly every experience level. So, c’mon Panhandle, Far West Texas and DFW Metroplex, step up to the challenge and put together a team. You other regions, too. I’m not trying to bird-shame anyone, but you can all do so much better.

When you register, the fee you pay supports conservation, and you’ll have fun outdoors with friends and family. Doesn’t that sound better than watching The Real Housewives of wherever?

The Birding Classic is April 15 through May 15, and the registration deadline is April 1. Do it for the birds.

That’s our show for today…For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Sitting in Circles for the Birds

Thursday, March 15th, 2018
Members of a big sit circle.

Members of a big sit circle.

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

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

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti

Evolution of the Great Texas Birding Classic

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018
2018 Great Texas Birding Classic Poster.

2018 Great Texas Birding Classic Poster.

This is Passport to Texas

Twenty eighteen marks the 22nd anniversary of the Great Texas Birding Classic. Shelly Plante, Nature Tourism Manager for Parks and Wildlife, has been involved for 21 of those years.

In the beginning, Plante says most 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 sponsorships goes toward conservation grants.

The more money we raise through registration fees and sponsorships, the more money we are able to award to conservation grant projects throughout the state. So las 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

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

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti

What Monarchs Need

Thursday, February 8th, 2018
Milkweed for monarchs

Milkweed for monarchs

This is Passport to Texas

Larval monarchs have very specific nutritional needs.

Larval monarchs depend on milkweed species. Essentially, that’s the only plant monarch caterpillars consume.

Ben Hutchins, state invertebrate biologist, says availability of milkweed in Texas is vital to their survival.

As monarchs migrate north from their overwriting grounds in Mexico, Texas is one of their first stops. And this is where they begin to reproduce. And so all of the monarchs that then migrate farther north through the US and Canada, those future generations depend on successful reproduction in the spring here in Texas.

Yet, Texas is just one stop along their migration route.

Monarchs also reproduce and depend on milkweed in the Midwestern states in the united states. And, we know that in many of those states—for example, in the corn belt region—that the availability of milkweed plants has declined substantially over the last several decades. And so, there is some pretty good science that suggests that decline in milkweed availability in the Midwest, directly relates to the monarch population declines that we have seen.

We can all play a part in the monarch’s survival when we plant milkweed and other nectar producing plants.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Smith’s Longspur in Decline in Texas

Friday, January 26th, 2018
Smith's Longspur

Smith’s Longspur, Breeding male © Andy Johnson, MB, Churchill, July 2012

This is Passport to Texas

The Smith’s Longspur, a subarctic songbird, is the ultimate “snowbird”. It travels from Alaska and Canada to Northeast Texas where it spends the winter months.

It’s remarkable migration for a little bird the size of a chickadee. And he flies all the way by himself; he’s been doing this for millennia.

Ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford says based on winter surveys, this grassland species is in decline.

Parks and Wildlife has a project where we go out and we survey for Smith’s Longspurs. There’s several staff involved where we go out every winter and we spend several days looking for Smith’s Longspurs, and talking to landowners. We’re trying to encourage them to leave native prairies for these species, and to be on the receiving grounds for this really neat wintering bird.

Changes in land use can cause a reduction in habitat for this migrating bird.

My hope for the Smith’s Longspur is that it could be with Bobwhite and other grassland birds, poster children for protecting prairies and protecting them in big swaths. A lot of these grassland birds need a lot of real estate. So, we can’t just do two acres here and five acres there. It needs to be hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of acres, for these birds to survive.

Landowners are key to the future of the Smith’s Longspur and other native grassland species.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

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