Whooper Week: A Rare Bird

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

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.

TPW TV — Finding the Story

October 13th, 2017
TPWD TV Series producer, Don Cash.

TPWD TV Series producer, Don Cash.

This is Passport to Texas

Get ready for the 32nd season of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV Series on PBS.

We start our new season the week of October 15th, and [we’ve] got some new stuff this year.

If you’ve never seen the show, or aren’t sure you’ll like it, series producer, Don Cash, offers this reassurance.

We like to call it a magazine format. We don’t just do one topic in a half hour show. We usually do three…or four…or five segments of different things in a show. So, if the first segment’s not that interesting to you, maybe the next four will be.

It is a show about people like you who love the outdoors.

We find stories by going out in the field and working on other stories. You go out, you meet somebody, they say: Oh, you should meet so-and-so; they’ve got this thing going. And by going out in the field and going to the parks and going different places – that’s how we find the stories. Now, sometimes, they come our way. Sometimes people let us know. But for the most part, we just find them when we’re out there traveling the state.

Such as when they discovered a woman in remote West Texas who creates habitat for birds.

I mean, you’ve got to be a special person to live by yourself out in West Texas, up in the back of a canyon, and do all this work on your own – and the welcome people to come in – and look at the birds that come into your place. So, that’s the thing that I enjoy about doing this.

We think you’ll enjoy it, too. The new season of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS begins the week of October 15.

Check your local listings.

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

TPW TV — New Season 2017-1018

October 12th, 2017
The new season of TPW Television starts the week of October 15, 2017

The new season of TPW Television starts the week of October 15, 2017

 

This is Passport to Texas

The new season of Texas Parks and Wildlife Television kicks off October 15th, marking 32 years on the air.

Yeah, it’s like older than one of the guys that works on the show, actually…

Even so, they keep it fresh. Series producer, Don Cash, says the program is not a hunting and fishing show.

We find interesting and unique people all across Texas who are into nature, who are into the outdoor, who are into wildlife – and we tell their stories.

Thirty-two years later, producers tell more stories thanks to new technology. Consider the upcoming segment about a university student who walked the 100 mile Lone Star Hiking Trail.

One of our producers took still cameras – you know, DSLRs – and was able to do a good portion of a hundred mile hike. So, it’s cool that we have the technology and the smaller cameras that allow you to go do things like a hike – of 100 miles – that maybe you couldn’t do back in the day when you had to carry a 35 pound camera.

Cash says he hopes stories like the 100 mile hike inspire people to experience the great Texas outdoors.

A lot of people are new to the state –a lot of people have been here a long time – and don’t really know what all we’ve got. And that’s what the show does. We show you all this cool stuff that you can do in the outdoors, and hopefully, maybe you’ll go out there and discover it for yourself.

Discover the new season of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series the week of October 15. Check your local listings.

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

Become a Texas Waters Specialist

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.