Archive for the 'Great Texas Birding Classic' Category

Learning the Ropes (Birds) from a Ringer

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017
Find the Ringer.

Find the Ringer.

This is Passport to Texas

When I hear the word ringer, I think unfair advantage. Yet, ringers are encouraged in the Great Texas Birding Classic’s Big Sit tournament.

You can have a team with all people who are beginning, and then they just have to be sure they have a ringer or two on their team who can ID the bird for them for it to go on their list.

TPW Nature Tourism coordinator, Shelly Plante oversees the event, and told me our colleague, Bob Sweeney, an attorney, is a Big Sit ringer.

You know, I’ve been fascinated with birds since childhood, and even in high school I was out in the field and woods with my binoculars and my book. I just think it’s an exciting, dynamic part of the natural world, and pretty easy if you’re willing to put a little time into it to develop a minimum level of knowledge.

Bob says he enjoys helping beginning birders gain knowledge and confidence.

I think any teacher has a great feeling when they feel like someone in the class gets it. Someone snaps to it. That Eureka moment may come, not during the Big Sit, but it may be something that was learned during the Big Sit that is then used in the backyard, or used on a hike or communicated to another person who is wanting to start out, so maybe the light bulb when it goes on is the confidence to transmit that knowledge—I know what that is. I saw it in the Big Sit. And here’s why I think it’s that.

The Great Texas Birding Classic is continues through May 15th. Stay on top of the action at birdingclassic.org.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Road Tripping for the Birds

Thursday, April 6th, 2017
Birds one might see in the coastal region of Texas.

Birds one might see in the coastal region of Texas.

This is Passport to Texas

Twenty years ago, Bill Baker and two teammates began a journey of discovery during the very first Great Texas Birding Classic.

It was like the greatest scavenger hunt of all time—for birds! Being with your friends. Driving at a frantic pace. Covering habitat. Looking for different species. And learning. Our learning curve was so great.

As total rookies, their performance was uncompetitive, at best, but since they had fun, they’ve returned year after year. Members of the current team, called the NRG Eco Eagles, bring with them specific skillsets.

I can hear very well, even at my age. Tom—his vision is incredible. And Andy, the third member of our team now, has been a hunter most of his life. And he catches movement. He is really, really good at finding things. He can see movement, and has a skillset that really helps us as well. It is truly a team event in our case.

During the classic, teams try to identify the most birds they can. The NRG Eco Eagles participates in the week-long tournament, which puts them on the road.

That’s what makes it so much fun for us. And it’s very grueling. I’ll give you an example—on day one—we end up driving about 750 miles. And we walk about 8 and a half to nine miles that first day.

They sleep four hours and repeat…for an entire week. More with Bill Baker tomorrow. The Great Texas Birding Classic gets underway April 15. Keep up with the action at birdingclassic.org.

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

Growing as a Birder with the Birding Classic

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017
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

Neither Bill Baker nor his teammates were birders 20 years ago when they participated in the very first Great Texas Birding Classic.

We were so bad the first year, the Parks and Wildlife department staff felt sorry for us. And they gave us an award for being rookies of the year so we might think about coming back the next year.

Back then he worked for Houston Lighting and Power managing a program called Environmental Partners.

And the goal of that program was to leverage money to enhance wildlife and fishery habitat here in Texas. So, when I saw the Texas Birding Classic advertisement, I thought we could participate in the classic with the Parks and Wildlife Department. If, perchance, we would happen to win, we could leverage our company money with any winnings to enhance a project here in Texas.

Bill may have been overly optimistic about his team’s prospects that first year, but he said it opened his eyes to what they needed to do to become competitive.

So, that was the goal after year one. And it drove us to come back. It was like, ‘Okay. We were embarrassed the first year. So let’s see what we can do to close the gap.

More with Bill Baker tomorrow. Meanwhile, The Great Texas Birding Classic gets underway April 15. Winning teams help decide the distribution of habitat restoration funds. Keep up with the action at birdingclassic.org.

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

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 birdingclassic.org.

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 tpwf.org

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti