Archive for the 'Migration' Category

Helping Hummers After Hurricane Harvey

Thursday, October 5th, 2017
Hummingbirds are adaptable.

Hummingbirds are adaptable.

This is Passport to Texas

Rockport, hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, is famous as a fall/winter hummingbird migration stopover.

Hummingbirds are equipped to handle all kinds of environmental situations – [including] natural disasters. And, they are opportunistic: they look for opportunities in which to feed.

Urban wildlife biologist, Kelly Simon says residents are rightly focused on recovery, and may not hang nectar filled feeders this season.

Hummingbirds have endured natural disasters like this for as long as there have been hummingbirds. And so, while we’re focusing right now on human needs, the physical needs of hummingbirds will be met by the hummingbirds.

Folks along the migration path might consider hanging a few extra feeders, using a 3:1 ratio to increase energy content. However…

Hummingbirds don’t live by sugar water alone. They actually require spiders and mites that the find in native plants in order to gain the fats and proteins that will help fuel their journey. That may be a thing that’s hard for them to find. But, Corpus Christi is not that far away. And Corpus Christi has an abundance of flowers – they were not hit quite as hard. So, there’s a lot of natural food out there. It may not be in Rockport, but adding about 100 miles on top of the journey, when you’re looking at a 2-thousand mile journey, is probably not significant.

Hummingbirds, like those hit by Harvey, are survivors, but always appreciate help from their friends.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti

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The following is from the TPWD publication about hummingbird gardens:

Food Resources for Hummingbirds
Remember, while sugar is important to these birds, it is not the only food resource. We need to provide for not only their energy needs, but vitamins, minerals, protein and other nutrients as well. This is done with a carefully planned and maintained garden. A good hummingbird garden will include:

  • Nectar producing plants designed for hummingbird attraction
    – Plants with trumpet shaped flowers usually oriented horizontal or downward
  • Insect attracting plants
    – Plants with large, flat flower heads usually oriented vertical or near so
    – These are generally yellow or blue in color Bloom season is important.

In Texas it is possible to have hummingbirds year-round, so you should aim to have plants in bloom as long as possible. In the northern reaches this becomes more difficult because of frost, but careful selection can extend the hummingbird season by weeks. Try to select plants with overlapping bloom periods so that there is always something in bloom.

Plant a food source: Nectar producers and insect attractors   

Shelter Trees and Shrubs

  • Pecans
  • Oaks
  • Elms
  • Cedar
  • Pines
  • Mountain laurel
  • Prairie flame leaf sumac
  • Evergreen sumac
  • Possum haw
  • Agarita Yaupon holly

Food Plants for Texas Hummingbirds

  • Any native sage such as autumn sage (Salvia gregii)
  • Trumpet vine
  • Cross vine
  • Coral honeysuckle
  • Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides)
  • Turk’s cap
  • Yellow bells
  • Flame acanthus
  • Native hibiscus

Layout Tips

  • Try to provide food at multiple levels of the garden
  • Plant islands of color
  •  Be sure to have plants s with overlapping bloom periods in each garden

Your Own Backyard Offers Birding Opportunities

Friday, March 31st, 2017
Mockingbird photgraph taken from the roof of TPWD HQ building.

Mockingbird photgraph taken from the roof of TPWD HQ building.

This is Passport to Texas

The Texas coast attracts a wide variety of species of birds during spring migration. But what if you live inland and don’t have plans to visit the coast?

Folks that are inland can probably scout and look for big groves of trees and watch the weather.

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

I’m here in Nacogdoches, and we have a place in town called Pecan Park – it’s right next to Stephen F. Austin State University – and it is a migrant trap. So what I do is I look at the weather; if it rained the night before during a window of time when I know birds are passing through, that would be late April, early May, I would immediately get out there at eight in the morning and see what’s there.

Inclement weather grounds birds as it does some aircraft. Shackelford said a location with large trees and an open understory is ideal for birders to glimpse migrants high above in the canopy. Of course, if you want to encourage migrants to visit your backyard…

Provide a wildscape; that’s landscaping for wildlife. And in that you’ll start to see that ‘hey if I want berry-eating birds like tanagers and grosbeaks and buntings, I should put some of these berry-giving shrubs and trees out. If you’re wanting to attract fly-catching birds, then just having a wildscape means you’re going to have a lot of insect fauna – flies and bees and things like that – that a lot of birds feed on.

Find wildscaping and birding information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Birding Hot Spots During Spring Migration

Thursday, March 30th, 2017
Altamira Oriole

Altamira Oriole

This is Passport to Texas

Texans perk up as the monochromatic birds of winter give way to their colorful counterparts of spring.

Like the orange and black of the Baltimore Oriole, or the red and black of a Scarlet Tanager. So, all of a sudden you see this splash of color that you haven’t seen in months, and it’s very exciting.

Cliff Shackelford, Parks and Wildlife’s non-game ornithologist, says to witness these colorful migrants, location is only part of the equation.

Location is important, but if a storm hit – like a blue norther – in late April, that grounds those birds just like it would ground small aircraft. And so, they’re seeking shelter, and that could be your backyard.

Hot spots where you can view large concentrations of migratory birds are plentiful – the Texas coast is one of the best.

Places like High Island, Sabine Woods near Sabine Pass, Bleacher Park near downtown Corpus Christi, the South padres island Convention center. Birdwatchers go to those spots, typically in April and May. They can be very productive. Those are just a few of the really important hot spots we call “migrant traps” that are great for the birds and the bird watchers.

Find birding information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Monarch Malaise

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016
Monarch on milkweed.

Monarch on milkweed.

This is Passport to Texas

Habitat loss along its migration route may be one reason the Monarch butterfly is in decline. While feeding on nectar, Monarchs pollinate wildflowers along their route, which benefits our ecosystem.

There are two primary ways that habitat supports pollinators.

Johnnie Smith is Texas Parks and Wildlife Conservation Education Manager.

And one is, the adult pollinators oftentimes feed on nectar of flowers. So, flowering plants that are a food source for the pollinator is very important. But also, is the food source that the pollinator’s larvae rely on as they’re growing up and becoming an adult. And so, that is just as important as the flowering plants that support the adults.

For Monarchs, native milkweed is an important plant. By cultivating them in our yards, along with other nectar and larval plants, we can all play a part in their survival.

There is no effort that is too small to be counted worthy. And there’s no spot of land that is too small to contain pollinator habitat. So, we really want to empower everybody—that they can make a difference. Right where you stand. Right where you live—you can create pollinator habitat, and help turn around this negative trend with the monarchs.

Tomorrow: the Pollinator Bioblitz, an event to build awareness to help all pollinators.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Save Birds, Save the World

Thursday, August 4th, 2016
Birding in Texas

Birds and humans need the same things to live; spend time getting to know them.

This is Passport to Texas

The Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds, signed in 1916, between the US and Great Britain–which signed for Canada–paved the way for conservation of all migratory birds.

All birds out there, except our upland game birds are covered underneath this act and this convention. It includes songbirds, doves, ducks, cranes… And it includes nearly all the birds that you see on the landscape.

Shaun Oldenburger is a migratory game bird biologist with Parks and Wildlife. Grassroots conservation efforts have been ongoing since the 19th century, but it wasn’t until the Convention, also known as the Migratory Bird Act, that meaningful protections were put into place.

A lot of these laws came forth in the 20th Century, but these ideas have been around a long time. A lot of folks now are engaged in bird conservation; it’s more out there. It’s more, say, in your face. But there are a lot of groups out there doing a lot of good work. And a lot of this is spawned from 100 years ago from this convention.

Oldenburger says birds enrich our lives. We share the planet with them, and as such, we also share that which makes life possible.

We depend on water. We depend on air. We depend on resources. The same as birds. So, if folks start thinking about walking out of their house in the morning and hear birds calling–they can make that connection: we are all here, we’re all depending on the same things, and birds play an integral part of our world.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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