Archive for March, 2014

TPW Magazine: Monarch Decline

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Monarchs at their overwintering site.

Monarchs at their overwintering site.

This is Passport to Texas

Extreme weather and vanishing habitat, have taken a toll on monarch butterflies.

14—To use the oft-worn cliché about a “perfect storm,” that’s sort of what’s happened to the monarchs, unfortunately, and has caused their populations to plummet almost 80% since the winter of 2012.

Rob McCorkle wrote an article about the monarch decline for the March issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine. Monarchs migrate to Mexico from Canada and the US.

18—The first hit [to the monarchs] was in 2002 when they had a severe freeze in the mountains of Mexico where the population overwinters. Monarchs can take cold weather, but if it rains, or snows and they get wet – they can’t survive. They died off by the millions that year.

Weather is only part of the equation. Habitat loss is the other.

33—That is being propelled by the elimination of grasslands in the Midwest to plant GMO soybean and corn crops, and to plant crops for biofuels. What that’s done, obviously, is to limit the places where the monarchs go to fuel up for their migration. Also, the overwintering forests in the mountains of Central Mexico have been logged heavily and are being impacted by [tourism] people going to see the monarchs that overwinter there in the fir trees.

More on why monarchs are in decline and how to help — that’s tomorrow. For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Fishing: Drought and the White Bass Run

Friday, March 21st, 2014

A stringer of White Bass at Colorado Bend State Park

A stringer of White Bass at Colorado Bend State Park

This is Passport to Texas

The springtime white bass run is among the most anticipated freshwater angling events in the state.

14—Generations after generations seek these fish during this time, and it’s a good way to get kids involved in fishing. So there are a lot of traditional values to this fishery. And, there’s also a big economic impact by this fishery. It’s very important to our economy.

Marcos De Jesus is a fisheries biologist. Water levels in reservoirs are at historic lows, and river flows are also down due to severe drought, and that spells trouble for spring’s white bass run.

23—Because the water is so low, the connectivity between the lakes and the rivers are being lost. So, without the flows that the fish need, they’re not running up river [to spawn]. So, our concern is the fishery is not there for our anglers, and number two, these fish are not reproducing properly. And that starts to concern us because these fish are short lived, and we need them to reproduce within the second or third year.

De Jesus says east Texas isn’t experiencing flow issues like the Hill Country; so, there will be fish runs available in the state.

12—Anglers need to understand that these drought cycles occur, and that the fish still can be caught in the main reservoirs. It’s just that they may not be able to catch them in those typical areas upriver where people traditionally catch them.

Find the fishing forecast on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

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

Fishing: White Bass Run

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

White Bass

White Bass

This is Passport to Texas

In December and January, while we’re busy with the holidays and staying warm indoors, white bass begin to congregate where rivers and reservoirs meet.

06—And those fish are getting ready for those environmental cues to happen so they can actually all start migrating and running up river.

Environmental cues like changes in temperature and water flows. Marcos De Jesus is a fisheries biologist. When the time is right, white bass move up river to spawn, which is something anglers eagerly anticipate each year.

10—Some of them go up pretty far – as far as they can swim to complete their spawning run. So, they become congregated and create excitement for the anglers, because once they’re congregated they’re really fun to catch.

East and Central Texas offer many white bass fishing opportunities. De Jesus says while they’re active year round, springtime runs practically set up anglers for success.

27—As we get into the springtime, they congregate towards the mouth of the river waiting for those cues. Right when they’re at the mouth of the river, they’re easy to catch. But, the easiest time to catch them is when they’re running up river spawning in those shallow waters, because you can actually catch them from the bank.

Do these fish give you a good fight?

Definitely. They’re very great fighters. They become aggressive, and they take on many types of lures and live bait. Once they hook on – they’ll fight pretty hard.

How will the lingering drought affect this year’s white bass run? That’s tomorrow.

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

Recreation: Calling Critters at Night

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Eastern Screech Owl, Image TPWD

Eastern Screech Owl, Image TPWD

This is Passport to Texas

Wildlife viewing at night presents a challenge. I mean, it is dark, after all. Yet, some species become more vocal when the sun sets, and will “talk to you” and even come into view if you know how to speak their language. State park interpreter, Kelly Lauderdale, has a few tips for enticing wildlife to come out of the shadows.

There are apps you can download for free or for minimal cost – like Audubon Reptiles. I use it for my night hikes to play those calls and to identify those different calls. Visitors can easily use those themselves. And this is what I do on my hike: I play the call, and do it for a little while and see if anything answers.

If using a recorded call – animals might call back – but does that ever draw the animals to you? And if it does, what should you

I have had success with calling in an eastern screech owl. So, I play the call, it answers back, and it comes in. If you’re lucky you may be able to see the full owl sitting up in the tree talking to you. In that case – enjoy it! Don’t shine your flashlight up and blind him or her. Just sit and listen and enjoy and then go on.

State parks frequently offer guided night hikes. Find one near you on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

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

Recreation: Night Hikes

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Eastern Screech Owl, image from

Eastern Screech Owl, image from

This is Passport to Texas

Don’t let the dark keep you indoors. With a flashlight, friend, and a little daring, a night hike in a state park can be exhilarating.

05—One thing that’s really kind of fun, too, is to not use your flashlight.

Kelley Lauderdale is an interpretive specialist at Ray Roberts Lake State Park north of Denton. Among other things, she leads nighttime hikes called owl prowls.

18—If you let your eyes adjust to the dark and the moonlight, you’d be surprised at how well you can actually see. And sometimes when you do it that way, it really reveals a whole new wilderness. You see a lot more than when you get this tunnel vision with the flashlight and only see what’s illuminated.

Kelly recommends hiking with others on familiar trails, and to be prepared to experience wildlife by ear.

14—There are lots of amphibians that are active at night. And that’s one of the really fun things to listen for, because they’re pretty easy to hear. And oftentimes, once you learn to identify the sound of an amphibian, you’ll say: “Hey! That’s what I’ve been hearing all this time? I know that!”

Frogs and toads aren’t the only animals active at night.

14—There are owls that are active. Eastern screech owls are very nocturnal. Another bird that a lot of people hear at night is the Chuck Wills Widow; and they’ll sing and call all night long. Sometimes campers get a little bit tired of it if it’s really close to their campsite.

So step outside when the sun sets and get an earful of nature.

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