Great Texas Birding Classic Underway

April 24th, 2015
Coastal bird watchers

Coastal bird watchers


This is Passport to Texas

Any novice or seasoned birder worth their field guide comes to Texas for the Great Texas Birding Classic – a statewide bird watching tournament, April 15 to May 15.

08— It isn’t all about winning, it really is about fun. And I’m really happy to see that people are finally realizing this isn’t just
for hardcore birders.

Shelly Plante oversees Nature Tourism for Texas Parks and Wildlife. Don’t be surprised if during the tournament you see out of town birders roaming your communities.

38—We do see some traveling. We have a statewide weeklong tournament and there’s a statewide big day tournament. So, you can do 24 –hours and go wherever you want – from the Hill Country to the coast; you aren’t bounded by regional territory like you are in some of the other big day competitions. The statewide weeklong is six days of birding anywhere in the entire state. And so, we have a lot of teams doing that. Even though it’s a huge commitment, it’s a lot of fun. A lot of them go from west Texas, all the way down to south Texas, all the way to the upper Texas coast to the Pineywoods. So, they’re seeing 350 or more birds in a week; and, you can’t do that in a lot of states.
So, Texas is unique.

Winning teams choose where to direct funds for habitat conservation. Check out what the birders are seeing this year at birdingclassic.org.

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

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

Wildlife: The Birds and the Beans

April 23rd, 2015
Birds and coffee, image from coffeekrave

Birds and coffee, image from coffeekrave


This is Passport to Texas

If you’re morning ritual includes savoring a cup of coffee, you might want to know what’s in your mug, and how it’s affecting birds.

04— We’re talking about shade grown coffee versus full sun coffee.

Cliff Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with Parks and Wildlife. Farmers in Mexico, Central and South America who grow coffee in full sun replace migratory bird habitat with coffee shrubs, but not so when its shade grown.

07—They don’t eliminate all the native forest. They take out some of the forest, and plant the coffee within the forest.

Shade grown coffee tastes the same as sun grown, but is better for birds. The remnants of native forest that harbor coffee shrubs attract a variety of overwintering species.

13— This is important for us as Americans because a lot of these birds are backyard birds. If there’s a complete change of the vegetation that the birds are keying in on, then they are going to have to keep moving.

And that could affect what we end up seeing in our backyards in spring and summer. You can help migratory birds by drinking shade grown coffee.

06—We’re also calling it bird friendly coffee. And, even if you drink [bird friendly coffee] part of the time, it’s better than none
of the time.

Look for the bird friendly seal of approval on bags of coffee, or ask your barista if your hot beverage is made in the shade.

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

Happy Earth Day!

April 22nd, 2015
Earth Day in Texas--what will you do to make it a better place?

Earth Day in Texas–what will you do to make it a better place?


This is Passport to Texas

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment…and thus began the annual celebration of the planet called Earth Day.

2015 marks the 45th Anniversary of Earth Day, and millions of people worldwide are gearing up for it. But a once a year celebration is useless if that’s where it ends. So I want to challenge everyone listening, to do something every day to care for Mother Earth.

What kinds of things can you do? Perhaps plant native plants that use less water and provide food and shelter for wildlife. That’s my plan. Or take a ceramic coffee mug to the office instead of using disposable cups. Perhaps when you’re out fishing you could properly dispose of monofilament fishing line so it doesn’t harm aquatic life.

In addition, when camping, leave your campsite in better shape than you found it. Or, your stewardship goal might be to spend time with your family outdoors instead of inside with the television—because you’re no good to nature with a remote in your hand.

Mix it up, and add new earth friendly activities to your list every month between now and next Earth Day. Challenge your family, friends and neighbors to do the same.

What will you do? Go to passporttotexas.org and let me know in the comments section, and start inspiring others.

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

Wildlife: Bats and Bridges

April 21st, 2015
Bat watching in Austin

Bat watching in Austin


This is Passport to Texas

When it comes to living arrangements, bats are adaptable. In Texas, for example, millions of Mexican free-tailed bats live comfortably in crevices under bridges.

06—We know from our studies of bats that there’s a very high percentage, especially in Central Texas that, if you build it they will come.

Mark Bloschock, retired from the Texas Department of Transportation as a special projects engineer with the bridge division, and earned the moniker “Batman of TxDOT” due to his passion for the mammals. He said to accommodate bats’ needs he had to “listen” to them.

18—Bats can’t speak to us in English, so they can’t tell us whether this housing that they find in the made environment – or let’s say the man-made environment – is preferred housing or whether it’s desperation housing. But when they go in there to raise their young in these nursery colonies, we think that it must be preferred housing.

It generally costs the same to construct bat friendly bridges, yet when bats colonize under these structures, especially in agricultural areas, everyone profits thanks to their voracious appetite for insect pests.

11—And that means the farmers have to spray less insecticides, or they spray significantly less insecticides. It’s good for us because we eat food with less use of insecticides and we eat food that’s produced cheaper.

You don’t have to build a bridge in your backyard to attract bats. Find information on how to build a bat house on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Web site.

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

Wildlife: Return of the Bats

April 20th, 2015
Mexican free-tailed bats emerging from Devil's Sinkhole.

Mexican free-tailed bats emerging from Devil’s Sinkhole.


This is Passport to Texas

Millions of Mexican Free-tailed bats are returning to Texas where they will bear their young and eat tons of pesky insects. And that makes farmers happy.

05—The Mexican free-tailed bat in particular is really valuable for agricultural purposes.

Meg Goodman is a bat biologist.

13—Current research has shown that these bats can save farmers up to two sprays of pesticides per year because of all the insect pests that they’re eating. They’re eating things like the corn earworm moth and the cotton boll worm moth, among other crop pest species.

In addition to eating their weight in insects pests each evening, their nightly flights from inside caves and under bridges has become tourist attractions statewide.

14—Just their numbers and nightly emergences bring in a lot of tourist dollars to a lot of small communities and big communities like Austin. It’s one of our top tourist destinations right here in Austin. But they do provide a lot of dollars through nature tourism through a lot of our smaller communities throughout the state.

Bridges, like the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, boasts more than 1.5 million visiting Mexican free-tailed. And tomorrow we meet a man who builds bridges with bats in mind.

07—I would say that they type of bridges we build that would accommodate bats, we probably build about 30 of those statewide every year.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program supports our series and funds diverse conservation projects in Texas.

Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.