Archive for December, 2007

Christmas Bird Count: The History

Monday, December 24th, 2007

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

“Side hunts” were a popular Christmas tradition in the 1800’s; outdoor enthusiasts picked sides and whoever shot the most animals by the end of the day won. In 1900, a man named Frank Chapman proposed people should count birds, not hunt them…and the Christmas Bird Count was born.

The Christmas Bird Count is an event that goes on across the entire country. It’s coordinated nationwide by the National Audubon Society.

Joshua Rose is a Natural Resource Specialist at the World Birding Center at Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park.

The fact is that birding has become not just a pleasant leisure activity, to go out and wander around seeing birds but has become something of a competitive sport.

Over fifty-thousand birders took part in last years count.

The real mission is conservation. We want to know how many birds of each species there are out there to know if one certain kind of bird needs some more focused conversation action. Or maybe some bird that was rare, for instance the bald eagle or the peregrine falcon, is getting more common and whatever we’re doing for them in terms of conservation seems to be working.

More on the Christmas Bird Count at the World Birding Center tomorrow. For more information visit

That’s our show…with research and writing help from Kate Lipinski… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Invasive Plants

Friday, December 21st, 2007

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

Fall is a fantastic time to renew your landscape, but be careful what you plant.

A lot of times we’ll go into the businesses [garden center], and we see a plant that’s labeled ‘well-adapted’. Well, a lot of those well-adapted plants are actually highly invasive in our Texas
environment. There’s a movement afoot to do something about it – to cut down on their use.

Mark Klym oversees the Wildscape program at Texas Parks and Wildlife. He says well-adapted, yet invasive species create problems.

Those plants include things like privet, red-tipped photinia, ligustrum, pyrocantha.

While these species may show up in bird books as ideal plants to use in bird attracting garden…

Be careful with them. They are highly invasive; all across the US people are complaining about them in the landscape because they create a monoculture out there, and eliminate a lot of our native plants. And without our native plants, we could lose a lot of our native wildlife.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife website has a native plant database where you can find plants for your landscape that will benefit wildlife.

Just because it does look great in a landscape, and you do see a couple of birds sitting on them – I got one of my favorite pictures of a Costas Hummingbird sitting in privet down in Rockport – but, that doesn’t mean that’s a good plant for us to use in our garden.

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

Limited Use Permits

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program

If you’re not a hunter, but you have friends and family who are, you probably get left behind when they go to public hunting lands to bag game. Not any more.

We offer a twelve dollar limited use permit, which is kind of a companion permit to the forty-eight dollar annual public hunting permit.

Vickie Fite is public hunting coordinator. While the permit is a type of companion to the annual public hunting permit, it is a stand alone document that’s good for an entire year.

With that permit, the only thing that you’re not allowed to do is any of the hunting activities. You can actually even fish with the limited use permit.

People who don’t know any hunters can still take advantage of this inexpensive way to access public lands.

If you’re not a hunter, you’re a birdwatcher or just a nature lover, you can spend that twelve dollars and you’ve got access to all of these areas. At times when hunting is allowed, you have to be careful and wear your hunter orange. But you’ve also got access tot his property at any other time also. For just doing the nature watching type things. Over a million acres of land. Ready. Right there. Waiting for you to come out and spend an afternoon watching nature.

Visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s web site for detailed information about public hunting and the limited use permit.

That’s our show…supported by the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program… funded by your purchase of fishing and hunting equipment and motor boat fuels.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Outdoor Story: Mike Quinn

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Passport to Texas Outdoor Stories from Texas Parks and Wildlife

Mike Quinn is Texas Parks and Wildlife’s invertebrate biologist. His interest in bugs developed through an interest in birds.

My parents were birdwatchers, and I had an interest in outdoors as a child. But it wasn’t until I was in my twenties… I was helping ornithologists at UT study painted buntings at McKinney Falls State Park, and walked around the bend, and we saw this large butterfly there sunning itself – absolutely gorgeous in the sun – and Anita Fauquier says, “I think that’s a giant swallowtail.”

And it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was an epiphany for me that you could put a name on an insect. Why that was a revelation to me I still don’t quite don’t know, because I could identify birds by sight and sound, and plants and herps and etcetera. But putting a name on an insect was somehow a foreign concept.

And I went home and I borrowed my mother’s butterfly field guide (which I haven’t quite returned yet), and just from that point on I started paying much closer attention to insects, and that led me to my degree now that I have in entomology and the job that I have studying them at Parks and Wildlife.

Do you have an Outdoor Story? Go to, and share it with us…and we could share it with Texas.

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

Know & Report Golden Algae

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program

Small, relatively harmless, populations of golden algae exist in most freshwaters. Yet when conditions are right, as when temperatures cool, the population of this toxic organism may explode.

It could very well be that the cold knocks down the other competing algae so that then the golden algae has an advantage over them and blooms.

Dave Sager works with inland fisheries in the area of ecosystems and habitat assessment. He says golden tinged water with foam on the surface is a sign that a bloom is underway. Dead fish is another.

Initially, the fish that are in the shallows or at the surface of the water are impacted first. You’ll see the bait fish, the shad or minnows and shiners that will die first. And then later on as the bloom and the toxins spread through the water column you’ll see other fish like the sunfish, large mouth bass, striped bass and others starting to be affected.

Sager reminds freshwater anglers and boaters that they play an integral role as a kind of early warning system.

They can see when a fish kill event is taking place – see that the water is golden; there’s foaming on the water. And call in to let us know so that we can then go out and do an investigation.

You’ll find the number to call to report a golden alga bloom at

That’s our show… made possible by the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program…working to increase fishing, hunting, shooting and boating opportunities in Texas. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.