TPW TV – Brazos Bend State Park

July 20th, 2018

Biking the trails at Brazos Bend State Park.

This is Passport to Texas

The thing that makes Brazos Bend State Park special is its diversity. About an hour from Houston, visitors to the park experience Texas as it used to be.

And within this 5,000-acre park, we’ve got swamps to marshes to lakes, coastal tall grass prairie, and we’ve also got some pristine bottomland hardwood forests here.

David Heinicke is with Brazos Bend State Park.

There’s so many things to see here, but one of the biggest draws here are the alligators. On a good day it’s not unusual to be able to walk the trails, and see thirty or forty big alligators out basking either on the edge of the trails or out on the islands. And I’m happy to say that no one has ever been injured by an alligator here at Brazos Bend.

With three picnic areas, 30 miles of hiking and biking trails and plentiful wildlife viewing, Brazos Bend SP is a day trip waiting to happen. And after the sun sets…

The George Observatory is located here in the park. It’s actually owned and operated by the Museum of Natural Science in Houston. But, it has a 36-inch research telescope in a dome, and then two 18-inch telescopes in domes. You can come out any Saturday afternoon and evening and buy tickets to view through the big scopes, and there’s always a lot of astronomer club members that are willing to show you whatever they’re looking at that night.

Explore Brazos Bend State Park without leaving your living room. Tune into the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS the week of July 22. Check your local listings.

Our show receives support from RAM Trucks; Built to Serve.

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

End of Summer State Park Camping Trip

July 19th, 2018

State Park Family Camping

This is passport to Texas

I know it feels like summer just started, but school will be back in session before you know it. Before the school bell rings for the fall semester, maybe it’s time to gather the family for a camping getaway. With parks in every region of Texas, your destination is only a short drive away.

Most state parks have campgrounds, and some of those have water and electric hook-ups. Several parks also accommodate RVs for those who wish to bring a little piece of home with them to the great outdoors. Before you travel, check to see what RV connections are available at your campsite.

For the pampered camper, check out state parks that offer cabins and lodges. Historic landmarks and secluded ranches make for a relaxing getaway.

When camping, remember to properly dispose of food waste to discourage unwanted animals visitors; and always pack out what you pack in.

Remember that you are you are not just a visitor, you are part of the natural world, and as such, it is your responsibility to keep it healthy and inviting to others.

If you’ve never been camping before, consider attending a Texas Outdoor Family workshop where For Texas Parks and Wildlife staff teaches you and your family the basics in a fun-filled weekend.

Find more outdoor opportunities at the website lifesbetteroutside.org.

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

How to Spot the Cactus Moth

July 18th, 2018

Photo credits: (top) Susan Ellis, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org; (mid) Jeffrey W. Lotz, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bugwood.org; (bottom) CMDMN

This is Passport to Texas

Prickly pear cacti are economically important to Texas and Mexico. They’re also the larval food of the cactus moth, a nonnative species that’s heading to Texas.

Invertebrate biologist Michael Warriner says the larvae of this prolific South American moth species, which is active this time of year, can decimate prickly pear populations. The adult insect is non-descript and difficult to identify, but the larvae is easier to recognize.

Looking for the larvae or evidence of feeding damage is the best thing to look for. The caterpillars themselves are a bright orange to red coloration with black bands or spots. The larvae spend most of their time inside of the prickly pear pad, and they basically hollow it out. So the pad, as the larvae feed on it, will become transparent and they’ll eventually just collapse.

Researchers are developing methods of managing the moth. Until then, if you see infested plants…

You can still control it by removing the infested pads and that would help. Disposing and burning them. Or simply enclosing them in some kind of plastic bag to heat up the larvae and kill them.

Find links to more information about the cactus moth at passporttotexas.org.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

A Pest With a Passion for Prickly Pear Cactus

July 17th, 2018

Map from presentation by Kristen Sauby, from her presentation to the Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting.

This is Passport to Texas

There’s a moth making its way to Texas from Florida whose larvae feed exclusively on prickly pear cactus.

The cactus moth has proven to be a really effective eradicator of prickly pear.

Invertebrate biologist, Michael Warriner, says Australian officials imported the cactus moth—a South American native—in the mid-1920s as a biological control against the coastal prickly pear; a nonnative species they had imported in the early 1800s.

And over a few years, it didn’t totally eliminate it, but it reduced it substantially. So, it’s proven to be one of the most successful biological control agents, as far as insects go.

The moth, discovered in the Florida Keys in 1989, may have arrived on imported prickly pears, and since then has spread up to South Carolina and over to Louisiana.

So, the concern is that if it makes it to the southwestern United States and Mexico that it could have a similar impact and eradicate or reduce prickly pear; and the fact is that—for Mexico especially—prickly pear is a major agricultural commodity in the tens of millions of dollars in terms of value. And it’s worth millions of dollars in the US, too: for agriculture and biodiversity and landscaping.

Tomorrow: How to identify and prevent the spread of the cactus moth.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.
For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Catching Waves — Sound Waves

July 16th, 2018

Atlanta State Park

This is Passport to Texas

It’s easy to forget how the sounds of nature enrich our wellbeing, or how some manmade sounds can have the opposite effect. The World Listening Project recognizes these relationships.

The World Listening Project is a not for profit organization whose goal is to help people better understand our relationships with the sounds around us.

Dan Godston lives in Chicago and is involved in the World Listening Project. He says Wednesday, July 18 is World Listening Day, and one way to observe it is by taking a sound walk in a state park.

And a sound walk is where you’re focused on what you hear in your sound scape, your sonic environment.

In parks you might hear birds, rustling leaves, water, buzzing insects, the sound of mountain bikes whizzing by, people’s voices, and the crunch of a hiking trail beneath your feet.

Traffic, the clanging and growling of industry and manufacturing, and the thumping bass of car stereos heard from blocks away, are also part of the sonic environment, and often considered sound pollution. Just as bright city lights obscure our view of stars in the night sky, excessive manmade sounds muffle our ability to connect with the natural world.

As stewards of this planet, we should try to be careful about what’s happening to biodiversity, and certainly, I think, having the range of sounds relates to that.

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