Archive for the 'Birding' Category

Use Caution When Feeding Backyard Birds

Monday, July 25th, 2016
Birds at backyard feeder.

Birds at backyard feeder.

This is Passport to Texas

Texans like to place seed feeders in their yards to entice nearby birds to venture even closer.

There are things to consider when putting out a bird feeder.

Cliff Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. He says to carefully consider feeder placement.

You don’t want to put it too close to the window, where a bird might fly into the window. You don’t want to put it too close to the shrubs, where the neighbor’s cat might be very attracted to the Grand central Station that you’ve created.

As nature provides plenty of food this time of year, and hot humid weather plays foul with feeders, Cliff recommends using them during less abundant times.

There’s a fungus that can grow on the seeds and create something called aflatoxin that’s deadly to birds. And, there’s also Mother Nature giving birds a lot of food in the warmer months. So, we often tend to gauge bird activity by what is at our feeder. And when we don’t see birds at the feeder, we think oh the sky is falling—there’s are no birds. Well, the birds are there, they’re just up high ion the tree, eating what mother nature provided. It’s a homemade buffet versus pre-packaged stuff we call seeds.

If you do put out feeders, clean them every two weeks—more often during times of heavy use and wet weather.

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

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

Brush Piles for Backyard Birds

Thursday, June 16th, 2016
Cliff Shackelford's daughter Robin standing next to their backyard brush pile.

Cliff Shackelford’s daughter Robin standing next to their backyard brush pile.

This is Passport to Texas

If you’re a suburban or urban bird lover who maintains an extremely tidy landscape, don’t be surprised if interesting birds don’t flock to your yard.

Yeah, tidy yards don’t always attract good birds. Wanted birds.

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

A lot of people have their golf course looking lawn and they just get great tailed grackles in some of these cities. But, what we recommend for urbanites is keep a little brush pile.

When you’re doing yard work, instead of sending fallen branches and deadwood, or cuttings from pruning trees or shrubs to the landfill, use them to create a sanctuary.

For some birds that like thickets and hiding places, those brush piles are good. And, also think about in the breeding season; there’s nest material that they can break off from those brush piles.

Don’t worry about your HOA—just keep the bush pile in the backyard away from prying eyes. And in rural areas, create habitat for thicket-loving birds by leaving shrubs and brush growing along fence rows.

There are a lot of birds that really like that cover. A lot of native sparrows and wrens and quail and thing that like the brushy edges. So, keep brush piles when you can and keep your fence rows brushy when you can.

The bigger the brush pile the better for the birds, but even a small brushy patch is better than nothing. That’s our show… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

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

Birding from Fifty Yards Away

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
Roseate Spoonbill nestlings and parent.

Roseate Spoonbill nestlings and parent.

This is Passport to Texas

The Texas Gulf Coast buzzes with bird life year-round. And while it’s tempting to get close to them when visiting the beach…

Fish, swim and play from fifty yards away. It’s an idea that we want to relay to folks.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford says this slogan is a catchy reminder to keep your distance from our feathered friends.

Especially in the nesting season. You want to keep your distance when you’re fishing, birdwatching, boating—keep fifty yards between you and the birds.

Fifty yards is considered a safe distance so that you don’t spook birds from their nests.

When people get too close they notice—oh, all the adults are flying off the nests. And the hot sun cooks the little nestlings. Well, that is bad stuff.

Cliff adds that while it may be fun to bring your dog to the beach, keep it fifty yards away and on its leash.

That dog might love running after those flocks of birds, but in migration, some of those birds like red knots, could have flown hundreds and hundreds of miles and that’s their resting spot. That’s their refueling spot. And that’s disruptive on a bird during its long journey. So, keep the dog leashed, and remember to fish, swim and play at fifty yards away.

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

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Bad “Hair Day” for Cardinals

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
Norther Cardinal during molt.

Northern Cardinal during molt. Image courtesy Kay’s Garden

This is Passport to Texas

Imagine the sleek, bright red body of a male cardinal topped with a small, lumpy black walnut-shaped head. That’s what you’ll see mid to late summer when cardinals molt.

Feather molt is really important because feathers fray, they’re fragile.

You don’t want to look, but you can’t look away. Texas Parks and Wildlife Ornithologist Cliff Shackelford says the cardinal’s head feathers fall out over a short amount of time. While a bird with a naked noggin may be shocking, Cliff says “don’t fret.”

All we’re doing is witnessing that annual molt that replaces those old feathers—and he’s about to get new ones.

Their head feathers regrow within a few weeks. And, mercifully for the cardinals, they lose body and flight feathers at a more leisurely pace.

They just lose a couple at a time and they can still fly. So, most of our land birds and songbirds like the Cardinal don’t lose all their flight feathers at once because they would never make it. They wouldn’t be able to flee from predators and keep warm with the weather.

This summer, if you see a red bird that looks like it was put together with spare parts, it’s probably a cardinal suffering the humiliation of molting. Try not to point and laugh.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

TPW TV: Birding in the Brushlands

Friday, April 15th, 2016

This is Passport to Texas

The Texas Parks and Wildlife PBS Television series broadcasts a segment the week of April 17 on birdwatching in the brushlands of South Texas.

I can go to the outdoors and have something to do, and it’s something you know it’s kind of relaxing and peaceful. You just need your binoculars and you can just do it anywhere! So that’s what I like about it and the birds are neat ya know! To see different birds!

Ruayda Bouls is one of the birdwatchers you’ll meet on the show. Texas Parks and Wildlife Ornithologist Cliff Shackelford makes an appearance to help guide the birding enthusiasts.

[Cliff Shackelford] Look at all those Chachalaca’s sitting there!
[Ruayda Bouls] It’s not very bright but I like the noise it makes!
[Cliff Shackelford] It would make a good ring-tone wouldn’t it!
[Ruayda Bouls] Yeah! Ha!
[Cliff Shackelford] Chachalaca, Chachalaca, Chachalaca!

There are 500 bird species in the south Texas ecoregion where they shot the segment, and birder, Josh Anderson, isn’t shy about picking a favorite.

13— My favorite probably is the Green Jay, I know that’s kinda like the hallmark of South Texas down here, everybody will come from miles around just to see that bird! It’s just cool, a lot of them are like camouflaged or blending in, but that one really pops out!

Birding in the Brushlands airs the week of April 17 on PBS stations statewide. Check your local listings.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti