Archive for March, 2011

Rethink Releasing Aquarium Fish in Texas Waters

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

This is Passport to Texas

How far would you travel to ensure the future of your favorite exotic aquarium fish?

06—We had some folks telling us that they would go as far as 50 miles to find an appropriate body of water.

You may think releasing your pet fish into Texas waters, when you can no longer care for it, is humane. Yet these exotic aquarium species disrupt natural ecosystems and out-compete native fish for resources.

Priscilla Weeks is a senior research scientist at the Houston Advanced Research Center. Her team is using a TPWD grant to research why people release their fish into Texas waters.

14—I think there might be a stereotype where folks think that it is easy, emotionally, just to release a fish. But actually what we’re finding is folks are very attached to their pets.

Weeks says research shows whether a person gets rid of their fish depends on personal preference.

17—What we’re finding so far, but this is very preliminary, is that different individuals prefer different attributes of a fish. So it’s not necessarily that it grows too big in my tank because I may like a big fish.

…but if you don’t like big fish, you could have a problem. So what do you do?

Weeks says some people think releasing a fish is the only option, but, among the alternatives would be to euthanize the animal, and the less drastic—taking it back to the pet store.

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

Don’t Free Willy in Texas Waters

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

This is Passport to Texas

04 He’s gonna get out of here. He’s going to get flushed. What a smart little guy!

We love the Finding Nemo scenario; the aquarium trapped fish released back into the wild. The problem is most fish in Texas aquariums aren’t from Texas.

Luci Cook-Hildreth is a Parks and Wildlife projects coordinator in Inland Fisheries.

18–Even really really smart people sometimes don’t understand that a fish is not just a fish and water is not just water. They go, “I have a creek in my backyard, and I have a fish that’s too big for my tank. Well, why don’t I just set him free?” And they don’t understand that there’s a lot of biological and ecological ramifications to that decision.

Many of these non-natives end up thriving in Texas waters and out-competing native fish populations.

Cook-Hildreth says controlling what fish people own is practically impossible because of the Internet. Despite state laws, there seems to be a constant supply and demand for illegal species. And these fish can sometimes be expensive.

16–Folks that are interested in selling illegal fish have the potential to make thousands of dollars on these fish. And we can slap a fine on them, for 200 or 300 dollars, and it’s really just the cost of doing business for these folks.

So remember, by releasing your fish into the wild, you might just be endangering a lot more.

That’s our show…with support from the Sport Fish restoration program…funding sport fisheries research in Texas.

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

Davis Mountains and Dark Skies

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

June Hershey, who in 1941 penned the lyrics of the well-loved song, Deep in the Heart of Texas, must have been inspired by a nighttime visit to the Trans Pecos region for her first verse.

08—The stars at night are big and bright (Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap!) Deep in the heart of Texas.

Once you experience the deep, velvety blackness of the west Texas night sky, studded with a profusion of luminous stars, you’ll come away thinking….

01—The stars are unbelievable.

David Bischofhausen manages Davis Mountains State Park. He says that in west Texas, dark skies are the law.

04—There is a dark sky policy in town. You have to have restrictions on lights and stuff.

Poorly directed outdoor lighting interferes with our ability to see stars clearly. And dark skies are crucial to the park’s neighbor – the McDonald Observatory.

20—From the park headquarters you can see McDonald Observatory. It’s about thirteen miles away. They built the observatory here because some f the darkest skies in North America are right here. And I’ve seen a picture McDonald observatory did on a slide show of the United States at night. You can definitely tell where Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth are…and then you look over here, and there’s this big black spot where Big Bend and Davis Mountains are. And it’s just unbelievable.

Learn more about Davis Mountain State Park when you log onto the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

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

A Cool Mountain Park

Monday, March 28th, 2011

This is Passport to Texas

Spring is that ephemeral time between our unpredictable winters and our all-too-predictable summers.

The unrelenting heat and humidity of summer turns many of us into prisoners of indoor air conditioning. Yet, imagine… if you can… a place in our great state where in July, people wear sweaters and light jackets to protect themselves against the chill of the night air. Is this just some beautiful dream? No, my friends, it’s the Davis Mountains of west Texas.

03—One thing nice about the Davis Mountains is you can’t beat the weather.

David Bischofhausen (bish-off-howzen) manages the Davis Mountains State Parks Complex.

30—I see people on the fourth of July I the park having to wear sweatshirts because it gets so cool at night. It’s generally dry, and usually – you know – ten to fifteen degrees cooler up in the mountains than it is down I the flats. The lodge is right about five thousand feet in elevation. Park headquarters is about 49-hundred, so we go up from there. We’re in the foothills of the Davis Mountains. So, we’re definitely in a sky island, and lost of vegetation…and lots of wildlife…and just a beautiful place. And, some people don’t think there are mountains in Texas…you come out here and it’s just unbelievable. I mean it’s just gorgeous.

So when you can’t stand the heat…head to the mountains.

Learn more about Davis Mountain State Park when you log onto the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

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

Bluebird Boxes

Friday, March 25th, 2011

This is Passport to Texas

Not all birds nest in trees.

[sfx….bluebird song]

In fact, bluebirds are actually a cavity dwelling species in need of holes to build their homes. Habitat loss has diminished their housing opportunities, but bluebird enthusiasts are rolling out the welcome mat with man-made nest boxes.

16—It’s a rectangular box. In Texas we make it with a large overhanging roof, to protect from the sun. The dimensions are a little larger, that’s because our birds need more air because it’s so hot. Our birds need to be protected from the heat.

Pauline Tom is with the Texas Bluebird Society. The hole of bluebird nest box is about one and a half inches…perfect for a bluebird, not so great for a European Starling.

16—These birds came over from England in the mid 1800’s. It was like bringing fire ants in, a terrible, terrible pest. And so they’ll take the cavities that our native birds need, and they’ll actually destroy the eggs and the nestling.

For information on how to build you own nest box, log on to the Texas Parks and Wildlife web site. If you do take on the responsibility of a blue bird nest box…

09—You would clean out the nest box when the birds fledge. The nest box is used over and over.

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

Build a Bluebird House

[illustrated instructions for building a bluebird house]
Materials List

  • 1 x 10-inch lumber–33 inches.
  • 6’/2 inches of ‘/2-inch wood dowel or metal hinge.
  • One 1-1/2-inch wood screw with washer.
  • 20 to 25 l’/2 to P/t-inch nails.
  • Wire or ring-shank nails to attach box to post.

Construction Notes

  • Dimensions given are for 3/4-inch thick lumber.
  • Make entrance hole precisely l-1/2 inches in diameter and l-1/4 inches from the top.
  • Provide space between top and sides for ventilation.
  • If possible, use 1-3/4-inch galvanized siding nails or aluminum nails.
  • Round comers on bottom of box for drainage, and recess bottom 1/4-inch.
  • Roughen inside of front board by making notches with a saw or holes with an awl or drill, to assist young in climbing to entrance hole.
  • Top of the box should be attached at the back by a 1/2-inch wooden dowel or metal hinge, and in front by a 1-1/2-inch wood screw to facilitate easy opening for inspection and cleaning.
  • Drill two or three holes in the back panel of the box above and below the enclosure, to aid in quick, easy attachment to pole or post.
  • Do not add any type of perch to the box; it will only serve to attract sparrows.

Site Selection

Site selection is the single most important step in having a successful bluebird program. Bluebirds utilize only a very specific type of habitat for nesting and only rarely will deviate from it. In general, bluebirds prefer open areas with scattered trees where the ground is not covered with tall undergrowth.

There are three general areas that should be avoided when selecting a nest site:

  1. Avoid placing nest boxes in towns or within the immediate area of farm yards. House sparrows invariably will occupy every such nest box.
  2. Do not place boxes in heavy timber. Bluebirds prefer sites associated with timber, but more at the edge of a clearing rather than in the timber stand itself.
  3. Do not place boxes in or near areas of widespread insecticide use. Bluebirds feed almost entirely on insects during the nesting season.

Installation and Maintenance

  • Place boxes at 150- to 200-yard intervals.
  • Mount boxes about five to seven feet above ground level. Fence posts make excellent mounting sites.
  • Clean boxes as soon as possible after a successful hatch. Bluebirds will not utilize the same nest box unless it is cleaned.