Archive for the 'Texas Nature Trackers' Category

Milkweed for Monarchs

Thursday, August 25th, 2016
Milkweed for monarchs

Milkweed for monarchs

This is Passport to Texas

More than seventy species of milkweed have been recorded nationwide; over half of those are native to Texas. Including two that are endemic.

These are species that are found nowhere else but within the Texas border. One of them is called Texas Milkweed, which is found in canyons in Central Texas. And then we have a species called Coastal Milkweed that occurs roughly from the Houston area to just north of Brownsville.

Jason Singhurst, a botanist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, says milkweeds provide sustenance to the iconic monarch butterfly during its migration.

So, here in Texas, we know certain species like green milkweed, antelope horns, broadleaf milkweed, and zizotes are some of our most abundant species that we’re seeing monarch larvae and adults visit.

Because milkweed species vary, do monarchs use each species in the same or different ways?

That’s a really good question. That’s something we’re trying to figure out in Texas. And that’s why we started this mapping project called Texas Milkweeds and Monarchs project—using iNaturalist. It’s an app that you can download on your smartphone. We’re using that project to help us identify different species of milkweeds across the state, and then also which species that larvae, or adult monarch butterflies are visiting.

Find a link to the Milkweeds and Monarchs project on iNaturalist at

Find an article about milkweeds by Jason Singhurst in the August/September issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Getting to Know Native Amphibians

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016
American bullfrogs

Photo of young American Bullfrogs in a pond at Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, courtesy of the site’s Facebook page.

This is Passport to Texas

Did you know Texas is home more than 40 different frog species, and other myriad other amphibians?

Scott Kiester, Texas Amphibian Watch volunteer, says you don’t have to travel far to find a frog or toad. In fact, he says they may be closer than you think.

The Gulf Coast Toad you’ll find anywhere where he’s got a moist place he can hide in the daytime and come out at night and hunt bugs. The Rio Grande Chirping Frog is endemic to the southern valley. They’re about as big as the joint on your little finger and they hang out in plants. They like particularly Bromeliads.

Not only can we identify these creatures by their habitats, we can also identify them by their distinct calls.

Different frogs and toads call at different times of the year. There are some that are year-round: the Bullfrog, [bullfrog sfx] the Southern Leopard Frog, and the Northern Cricket Frog. They may not breed year-round, but you can hear them. There are other species, like the Spring Peeper, [spring peeper sfx] and the Upland and Spotted Chorus Frogs; you will only hear when the weather is cool. Their idea of a perfect day is fifties and rainy. Frogs mostly call to attract mates. In fact, only really male frogs call.

If you’re interested in the education and conservation of indigenous amphibians, consider becoming a Texas Amphibian Watch volunteer. Find details on the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.

That’s our show for today… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Texas Nature Trackers Amphibian Watch

Monday, March 28th, 2016
American Bullfrog

An American Bullfrog just minding his own business.

This is Passport to Texas

Texas Amphibian Watch is a statewide volunteer program in which citizen scientists monitor frogs and toads to help prevent the extinction of species currently in decline. Here are some ways you can help:

There are different levels of monitoring. The easiest of which is whenever you see an amphibian, you write down the time of day, the weather, the rough location, and then once a year you send that in to Parks and Wildlife and they’ll add that into one database.

Scott Kiester is a Texas Amphibian Watch volunteer.

There’s a program called ‘Adopt a [Frog] Pond,’ where you agree to go and listen and record the species you hear at a specific location. [start sfx] Once a month, sometimes more often than that, I’ll take 15 minutes and go out in the evening and listen to who’s out in the neighborhood croaking away. Frogs are a lot more active and do a lot more calling in that period of time after a rain, particularly if you can do it the day after a rain or if you get a rain in the afternoon go out and do it that evening. They just croak away.

Hop over to the calendar section of the Texas Parks & Wildlife website where you can find upcoming Amphibian Watch workshops.

That’s our show… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Monarch Week: Milkweed and Monarchs

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015


Monarch on milkweed plant.

Monarch on milkweed plant.

This is Passport to Texas

Why are monarch butterflies declining?

06— The current thought is that it is actually several different factors that are contributing to the decline that we’re seeing.

Ben Hutchins is Texas Parks and Wildlife’s invertebrate biologist. Deforestation of the species’ winter roosts in Mexico, unusually cold winters, and prolonged drought along their migratory path, all have negative effects.

13— And then, finally, what this project is addressing is this widespread decline in availability of milkweed plants. That’s due to a couple things: predominantly increased use of certain herbicides.

Texas Milkweeds and Monarchs is a new citizen science project where folks keep an eye out for the state’s 38 different species of milkweeds –vital to the monarch’s lifecycle – and then then share their observations on the website

21— We have experts that are going to be looking at these observations and identifying those. We’re also working on a guide to Texas milkweeds, and that guide is going to be freely available online. It’s going to have pictures of all of the different species of milkweeds, distribution maps—so you know if you’re in the right part of the state—and also some of the key characteristics.

How you can get involved helping monarchs – that’s tomorrow.

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

Monarch Week: The Value of Monarch Butterflies

Monday, January 5th, 2015


Monarch butterflies on hand.

Monarch butterflies on hand.

This is Passport to Texas

The gorgeous monarch butterfly is on the decline; efforts are afoot to conserve them. Yet, they’re not great pollinators, or a significant food source for other critters, so is being pretty reason enough to keep them around?

11—I think it’s important not to de-emphasize how important this is. If you’re ever out on a Texas river in the fall, and you have hundreds or thousands of monarchs coming through – that’s a fabulous natural phenomenon.

Ben Hutchins makes a good point. He is Texas Parks and Wildlife’s invertebrate biologist, and says the insects have a practical value in Mexico where they overwinter.

06— Overwintering monarchs are a really important source of economic income as tourists come from around the world to see them.

Conserving monarchs also benefits other Texas species.

30—Monarch conservation, benefits a whole suite of other species. So, for example, if you’re managing a landscape to benefit monarchs, you’re also going to be benefitting many other pollinators. They also benefit a host of larger species. For example, if you’re managing habitat – keeping it open as a prairie or savannah – that’s going to be benefitting upland bird species like quail; so there’s really an economic incentive of for being conscious of monarchs when we’re managing landscapes.

Tomorrow: a new citizen science project to help monarchs.

Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

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