Archive for the 'Birding' Category

No Bird Shaming, Just Bird Watching

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017
2017 Great Texas Birding Classic, April 15 - May 15.

2017 Great Texas Birding Classic, April 15 – May 15.

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.

Birding Classic Attracts Birders Old & New

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017
Big Sit in Austin with the Tweeting Chats

Big Sit in Austin with the Tweeting Chats

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

Birding Classic Still Flying High after 21 Years

Monday, March 6th, 2017

This is Passport to Texas

Twenty seventeen marks the 21st anniversary of the Great Texas Birding Classic.

I’ve been involved for 20 of those 21 years.

Shelly Plante is Nature Tourism Manager for Texas Parks and Wildlife. In the beginning, Plante says the majority of 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 sponsorship goes toward conservation grants.

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

When a Bird is a Nightjar

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016
Image of Nightjar by Dûrzan Cîrano, Creative Commons

Image of Nightjar by Dûrzan Cîrano, Creative Commons

This is Passport to Texas

Just as purple martins and barn swallows keep insects in check during the day, birds known as nightjars eat bugs that take flight at night.

The graveyard shift is when these birds are active. They sleep all day, and they have super big eyes for night vision. And they’re looking for nocturnal insects—mainly moths.

Texas Parks and Wildlife ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford says it’s not uncommon to confuse the calls of two of these nighttime nibblers: the whip-poor-will and the Chuck Will’s Widow.

The essayists and naturalists of 100 years ago—they would always talk about the whip-poor-will, because they were up in the Northeast US where the whip-poor-will is common.  But here in the south and Texas, the dominant bird we have singing is the Chuck Wills Widow. So, if you hear a night bird singing on your property in the warmer months—that’s going to be a Chuck Will’s Widow.

That’s not to say the whip-poor-will doesn’t make an appearance in parts of Texas.

Whip-poor-wills do migrate through the eastern third of Texas—the Eastern Whip-poor-will. And that’s going to be a march-April thing. And they sing very briefly as they head north.

So as you dream of spring and summer, make room in your thoughts for nightjars and their melodious music.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our show.

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

The Drummers of the Bird World

Thursday, December 15th, 2016
Golden fronted woodpecker, and golden throated ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford

Golden fronted woodpecker, and golden voiced ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford

This is Passport to Texas

Birds use their songs as a means of communication. But there are other ways birds get their point across, too.

Woodpeckers communicate by means of drumming.

Woodpeckers are the Questlove or Ringo Star of the bird world, and know how to make a racket.

Something like this: Brrrrrrrrrr. Very loud. Rapid succession beats to an object. Usually it’s going to be wood.

Those are the country woodpeckers. The city-dwelling woodpeckers drum on different surfaces.

They [woodpeckers] found in urban areas that we have metal rooves, telephone poles, aluminum gutters… These things really resonate and amplifies that drum to where that bird can cover more ground when drumming.

What are woodpeckers communicating through their drumming? And are they damaging property doing it?

When you hear that rapid-fire brrrrrrr, he’s not hurting anything. He’s just found a spot that really resonates, and he’s communicating to other woodpeckers, saying: ‘Hey, I’m the male here. This is my territory.’ And he’s also telling females: ‘Hey, if you’re interested, I’m here, too.’

Put a little smooth jazz or Barry White in the background and you have a bird version of love line.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our show.

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