Archive for the 'Conservation' Category

Whooper Week: A Rare Bird

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017
Whooping cranes are one of the rarest birds in North America.

Whooping cranes are one of the rarest birds in North America.

This is Passport to Texas’…Whooper Week.

Whooping cranes may be one of the rarest bird species in North America, but they’re hard to miss.

When we look at whooping cranes, there’s really nothing on the landscape its size. We do have lots of Sandhill cranes here, wintering in Texas. But, the whooping crane is somewhere in the neighborhood of over five feet tall, and has a wing span of over seven feet. In reality, it’s mostly white, so they really show up on the landscape, and they’re very iconic. You can see them from a long distance. And when they’re flying, they appear to take up the sky. And so, they tend to be these iconic species that people are really drawn to.

Biologist, Shaun Oldenburger, says what really gives them away is their call. [Whooper call] Since the 1940s, we’ve gone from a low of 20 birds to 329 according to the 2015-2016 winter survey.

And so, that is pretty substantial over the 20 birds or so during the 1940s. And what is even more incredible is if you think about these birds is they have very high survival rates and very low reproductive rates. And so, they only nest once per season. They usually lay two eggs per year and nine times out of ten you only have one bird that is successful in fledging. When you look at that, it’s just really slow trying to bring the species back from the brink of extinction, and trying to bring those birds back to a recoverable level.

More good news tomorrow when Whooper Week continues.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Whooper Week: Protections Since 1941

Monday, October 16th, 2017
Whoopers at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Whoopers at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

This is Passport to Texas’…Whooper Week.

Pushed to the brink of extinction by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat, federal and state protections on Whooping Crane breeding and wintering grounds were enacted in 1941 to save the remaining 21 wild birds.

And we’ve steadily seen those whooping crane numbers come up farther and farther and farther. And currently now, when we look at Aransas national Wildlife Refuge on the coast of Texas, it is one of the major whooping crane birding spots in the world now.

Biologist, Shaun Oldenburger says the flock is currently 300 strong; it took a coordinated effort between the US and Canada to reach that number.

If we look back in the 1940s, the US Fish and Wildlife Service purchased Aransas National Wildlife Refuge – which was the major wintering grounds at the time for the last population that we had here in North America. Their breeding grounds also became a national park through Canada. Wood Buffalo National Park. And, also along through the migration corridor, there’s also been protections and closures of hunting seasons in the past, and just doing lots of activities and education to make sure that those birds succeed in spring and fall migration from their wintering and breeding grounds.

More about this iconic species tomorrow when Passport to Texas Whooper Week continues.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Become a Texas Waters Specialist

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017
Learning about Texas water.

Learning about Texas water.

This is Passport to Texas

Water is a precious resource, and a new Texas Parks and Wildlife program helps citizens to become certified Texas Waters Specialists.

It comes down to appreciation for the natural world – to realize that everything’s connected. From humans to wildlife; we all need water to survive.

Colin Findley, an AmeriCorps Vista Volunteer, oversees the program, which covers ecosystems to water law.

There’s a curriculum, and also there’s webinars. It’s really just a matter of going to the Texas Parks [and Wildlife] website: tpwd.texas.gov. Search for Texas Water Specialist, and it will take you to that page.

Anyone may register for the course.

There are specific requirements for Texas Master Naturalist, so if you are a Master Naturalist, you go through the representative for Texas Waters for your program to log those hours. But if you’re from the general public, it’s completely free. It takes eight hours of different program requirements to get your certification. To renew it – it’s all about community service. You have to do ten hours of water related community service each year.

Many volunteer opportunities exist for certified waters specialists.

Texas Stream Team. Texas Parks and Wildlife has different volunteer opportunities in terms of water quality, habitat conservation, restoration and management, freshwater inflows. And then, you know, there’s a lot of different coastal restoration projects as well.

Find information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series.

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

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

Climate Change Lottery and its Affects

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017
Bracken ferns at Bastrop State park

Bracken ferns at Bastrop State park

This is Passport to Texas

Texas wildlife has a stake in the climate change lottery.

Climate change is going to affect species that are found – and breed – in backyards here in Texas.

Former Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist, Cullen Hanks, says models that predict impacts of climate change on wildlife vary, so we need baseline information on each species.

To be able to document change, we need to know where things are before they change. And, this highlights the need of documenting the distribution of species that we have today in Texas. And, there aren’t enough biologists to do all of that. And so, what we do is we reach out to citizens. That’s exactly right! Texas is a big state with a lot of species, and the community of naturalists and citizens interested in wildlife in Texas can play a huge part in documenting wildlife in Texas.

Monitor backyard species, and then share your observations online.

ebird, a citizen science platform, created by the Cornell laboratory of Ornithology is a great way to maintain your checklist of birds. In addition, iNaturalist is a really useful platform for documenting your wildlife sightings of any species — not just birds.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has various projects on iNaturalist. Just go to the Texas Nature Trackers page on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for details.

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