TPW TV – Owls Underground

July 29th, 2016
Burrowing Owl

Hey! Outta my burrow, you skunk!

This is Passport to Texas

Birds don’t get much cuter than the burrowing owl. And you won’t have to stay up past your bedtime to see one.

One of the great things about these owls is [unlike most owls] they’re out during the day; they’re active day and night.

The week of July 31, get to know this small sandy colored owl with long legs during a segment of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS. Alan Fisher produced a story that looks at how this species, threatened and endangered in some part of North America, survives its dwindling habitat in El Paso.

So, they’re a species of concern here because of habitat loss. Burrowing owls don’t tend to dig their own burrows from scratch. They will occupy burrows left from prairie dogs or ground squirrels or other burrowing animals. So, as those animals get pushed out burrowing owls lose their habitat as well.

Fisher also talks with Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Lois Balin, who creates artificial owl nest borrows fitted with video surveillance systems.

Having the cameras underground, gives the biologists a lot of new tools. It’s pretty awesome.

Not surprisingly, says Fisher, the cameras are revealing much about the hidden lives of burrowing owls, from the number of eggs and nestlings, to prey items, and even visitors.

The skunk discovery is the rather astonishing discovery. Skunks are going into the burrows and occupying them, and in some cases preying on the owls.

To find out how the burrowing owls fare, tune into the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS the week of July 31. Check your local listings.

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

Eating Insects on Purpose

July 28th, 2016
Bugfest

Sampling insect cuisine at 2006 Bugfest in Austin, Texas. Image: Marjory Wildcraft, Texas

This is Passport to Texas

The practice of eating insects is called entomophagy—and 19-hundred species have been identified as edible.

In terms of foraging for insects in the wild, I’ll just caution: we don’t recommend people do this to get their insects.

Lee Cadesky is co-founder with his brother Eli of C-Fu Foods, Inc. and One Hop Kitchen. They developed an ecological and sustainable meat alternative using insect protein. While most insects are edible, Lee says if you want nibble on some, don’t harvest them from the backyard; instead, buy bugs raised for human consumption.

Just to make sure, you know, you don’t want pesticide residues. And also that you aren’t harming the wild stocks of insects that are out there by over gathering them.

However—and let’s hope this never happens—if you lose your way in the wilderness while on a hike, this is the time to forage for insects to keep up your strength until a search party finds you.

If you do find yourself stranded, most ants are edible; they’re a little sour. They contain formic acid. Crickets tend to be edible. In general, most insect species are edible. You want to avoid ones that have bright colors. That’s typically a signal that there’s some kind of poison or toxin in the insect, and they’re trying to warn you: don’t eat me—I could hurt you.

Or you could remember to pack protein bars.

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.

Sea Rim Bounces Back from Past Hurricanes

July 27th, 2016
Sea Rim State Park

Paddling where the Gulf meets the marsh: Sea Rim State Park.

This is Passport to Texas

At the far southeast corner of Texas lies a remote and unique coastal park. Sea Rim State Park has 5.2 miles of Gulf shoreline and 4,000 acres of marshlands…and is no stranger to the fury of hurricanes.

Sea Rim has a long history with hurricanes.

Nathan Londenberg is site superintendent at Sea Rim.

Back in the late 80s, we had Hurricane Jerry that came through—and it wiped out Highway 87. Then, we had Hurricane Rita. Hurricane Rita came out and it devastated the park. Then, after Hurricane Rita, the park was just about to reopen, and lo and behold, Hurricane Ike decided to come and visit the park.

Ike completely wiped out the infrastructure at the park in 2008, save for the Gambusia Nature Trail. But it’s not all bad.

It’s a fresh, new leaf. The park has slowly been rebuilding with all brand new facilities and amenities for the public to come and enjoy.

This coastal wonderland is open, and ready for your visit.

We have 15 water and electric campsites. We have camping out on the beach. We have a boardwalk that you can walk out to the beach if you don’t want to drive out. We do have a couple of restrooms, and a cabin that we rent out with the comforts of home with air conditioning. We also have 10 miles of canoes and paddling trails. We do rent out canoes and kayaks at the park as well.

There’s more about Sea Rim SP on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

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

Ask a Game Warden: Is it Okay to Shoot Snakes?

July 26th, 2016

 

Timber Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake

This is Passport to Texas’ Ask a Game Warden

Some wildlife can be alarming. Twitter follower Julie Davis-Raley sent us a tweet asking if it is legal for citizens to shoot snakes they see in the road. We turned to Game Warden Kevin Davis, chief of wildlife enforcement, for her answer.

You know, there’s a state law that prohibits discharging firearms of any type from a roadway. What’s perplexing, though, is the thought that a snake needs to be shot. There are a lot of good snakes out there. Snakes are part of our ecosystem. Some are quite fascinating. Some are quite beautiful to look at. But, we do encourage safety around homes, and around things where snakes don’t need to be. And we certainly don’t want to discourage someone from keeping themselves safe. However, most snakes are put together something like this: if you leave them alone, they’re going to leave you alone. And so, we hope that by simply leaving that animal alone, that it goes on about its business and doesn’t need human intervention.

Send us a tweet with your questions for our game wardens. Use the hashtag #askagamewarden. We’re @passporttotexas. Your question could get answered on the radio.

Until next time…for Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Use Caution When Feeding Backyard Birds

July 25th, 2016
Birds at backyard feeder.

Birds at backyard feeder.

This is Passport to Texas

Texans like to place seed feeders in their yards to entice nearby birds to venture even closer.

There are things to consider when putting out a bird feeder.

Cliff Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. He says to carefully consider feeder placement.

You don’t want to put it too close to the window, where a bird might fly into the window. You don’t want to put it too close to the shrubs, where the neighbor’s cat might be very attracted to the Grand central Station that you’ve created.

As nature provides plenty of food this time of year, and hot humid weather plays foul with feeders, Cliff recommends using them during less abundant times.

There’s a fungus that can grow on the seeds and create something called aflatoxin that’s deadly to birds. And, there’s also Mother Nature giving birds a lot of food in the warmer months. So, we often tend to gauge bird activity by what is at our feeder. And when we don’t see birds at the feeder, we think oh the sky is falling—there’s are no birds. Well, the birds are there, they’re just up high ion the tree, eating what mother nature provided. It’s a homemade buffet versus pre-packaged stuff we call seeds.

If you do put out feeders, clean them every two weeks—more often during times of heavy use and wet weather.

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

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