Archive for the 'Birding' Category

Christmas Bird Count Winding down

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018
Christmas Bird Count participants. Image from, by Camilla Cerea.

Christmas Bird Count participants. Image from, by Camilla Cerea.

This is Passport to Texas

The National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count began December 14 and ends this Friday—the last day to collect data.

Teams of birders go in the circle and they repeat that every year. So the circle never changes. And after decades, you have some really neat data to look at.

More than one-hundred, 15-mile diameter counting circles dot the state. Cliff Shackelford, non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, says circle organizers, called compilers, choose one day during the 3-week timeframe where observers tally species over a 24-hour period.

Some of the circles with few observers, [those people] cover that whole area in that circle. Some of the circles that are in really populated areas with lots of bird watchers like down on the coast, they’ll break up that circle into piece of pie: ‘And this is your piece of pie. You stay in this section and you count all the birds you can.’ If you want to get up at midnight and start counting one minute later, you can look for owls. Or listen for owls. It’s a 24-hour counting period per circle.

What happens to the collected and compiled data?

We use information from the Christmas bird count to determine where hot spots are for wintering species.

And with that knowledge researchers are better prepared to provide these birds with what they need to thrive.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Finding Your Resolve for 2018

Monday, December 25th, 2017
Family hike at Inks Lake State Park.

Family hike at Inks Lake State Park.

This is Passport to Texas Resolutions Week

As we approach the New Year we consider ways to improve our lives in the 12 months ahead.

More time outdoors often ranks near the top of everyone’s list. Thirty minutes a day outdoors for adults, and an hour for children, improves overall physical and mental wellbeing.

Consider a daily walk ‘round your neighborhood, or explore your own backyard. Discover what critters make their homes there. Create a game of counting the species you see. Do this every day to see if something new has arrived. Keep a list and compare the seasons.

Perhaps this New Year you’ll become a citizen scientist. Texas Nature Tracker Programs can help. Sign up for Nature Trackers, choose from the rare species they’re tracking, and share your observations on iNaturalist. Biologists use your data to broaden their knowledge, and improve the support they provide these species.

Perhaps this is the year you volunteer with one of the friends groups at a nearby Texas state park, or become a master naturalist, or even a certified Texas Wasters Specialist.

The New Year holds so much promise for you, your family, friends and community. Enrich your life when you spend time in nature solo or with others, because Life’s Better Outside.

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.

Clean Windows May be Dangerous to Birds

Thursday, December 14th, 2017
A deceased yellow-bellied sapsucker that flew into a clean window.

A deceased yellow-bellied sapsucker that flew into a clean window.

This is Passport to Texas

When ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford, visited the studio recently, he brought with him a small, lifeless bird.

And it turns out to be a yellow-bellied sapsucker.

The little woodpecker had flown into a window at Texas Parks and Wildlife headquarters. Cliff determined its sex and age by the smattering of red feathers on its head and white ones on its throat.

This is a female, yellow-bellied sapsucker, first year bird. I have a permit that allows me to salvage these and take them to a museum where it can be put up as a museum specimen for scientific use.

You’ve probably seen dead birds in your neighborhood.

Bird deaths are rampant in urban areas [from] windows and/or housecats. You can’t take the killer out of a cat. And then windows: go outside—try to take the perspective of a bird. Look at the window. You’ll see blue skies and white clouds, and the trees. It’s all a reflection of what’s behind you.

Birds, especially the young and inexperienced, fly into the reflection because it looks like clear passage.

The really sad part is, this bird doesn’t breed in Texas or anywhere close to Texas. This is a winter bird. And actually, I haven’t seen one yet this fall. It’s sad that the first one [I see] is a dead one in my hand.

As a museum specimen, researchers will study the little bird to better understand her species.

Her death is not in vain, but tens of thousands of birds across the planet die every day by hitting windows.

As good a reason as any not to wash your windows. The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

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

Solution to Woodpecker Damage to Home

Thursday, November 30th, 2017
Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

This is Passport to Texas

As a rule, woodpeckers dig out cavities in dead trees, called snags. Once construction is done—they move in. The exception occurs when they mistake your home’s wood siding, for a snag. When they do—homeowners have problems.

And it looks like cannon balls have been shot through the house. Maybe two or three; and we’ve seen some with fifteen, sixteen holes.

Cliff Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with TPW. He says woodpecker damage occurs most often in urban and suburban areas where homeowners have removed the dead trees from their property.

What we recommend people to do with problems with woodpeckers is to put a nest box. If you’re familiar with a bluebird box, it’s just a larger version of that custom made for woodpeckers.

Find information and free blueprints to make your own woodpecker nest box at

People can build this in a couple of hours on the weekend, and put it up on the side of the house, and in all cases that we’ve done this – it’s worked. And the woodpecker stops chiseling on the home, and goes to this next box, and is very content.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Don’t Blame the Termites for this Damage

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017
Golden fronted woodpecker

Golden fronted woodpecker

This is Passport to Texas

If you live in East Texas, and have noticed strange holes in the wood siding of your home, don’t panic and call the police—call an ornithologist.

There are fifteen species of woodpeckers in Texas, eight of which are in the eastern third of Texas. And that’s where we get most of our calls of woodpecker damage.

Non-game ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford, says the pileated and red bellied woodpeckers are among the feathered culprits inflicting damage on homes with wood siding.

What happens a lot of time is that they see these houses that might be painted brown, they might have cedar siding, and this is very attractive to the birds to try to excavate a cavity. So, they’re not looking for food when they’re doing this; they’re looking to make a cavity to call home.

The pileated woodpecker, about the size of a crow, can excavate holes as big as a man’s fist—and not just in the outside walls of your home, either.

That’s right. We’ve documented pileateds going through into the sheetrock and into the room of the house. Of course, they’re very lost when they do that, they quickly go out. They’re not looking to make a mess of the house.

But they do. How to keep woodpeckers from damaging your home…that’s tomorrow.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

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