Archive for March, 2016

Calling Critters at Night

Thursday, March 31st, 2016
Tree limbs.

You never know what you might see in the treetops at night.

This is Passport to Texas

Wildlife viewing at night presents a challenge. 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 – and animals might call back – but does that ever draw the animals to you? And if it does, what should you do? 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.

Hikes After Dark

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016
Night Hike

Night Hike

This is Passport to Texas

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

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

When we spoke, Kelley Lauderdale was an interpretive specialist at Ray Roberts Lake State Park north of Denton.

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

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.

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 wildlife.

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

Getting to Know Native Amphibians

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016
American bullfrogs

Photo of young American Bullfrogs in a pond at Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, courtesy of the site’s Facebook page.

This is Passport to Texas

Did you know Texas is home more than 40 different frog species, and other myriad other amphibians?

Scott Kiester, Texas Amphibian Watch volunteer, says you don’t have to travel far to find a frog or toad. In fact, he says they may be closer than you think.

The Gulf Coast Toad you’ll find anywhere where he’s got a moist place he can hide in the daytime and come out at night and hunt bugs. The Rio Grande Chirping Frog is endemic to the southern valley. They’re about as big as the joint on your little finger and they hang out in plants. They like particularly Bromeliads.

Not only can we identify these creatures by their habitats, we can also identify them by their distinct calls.

Different frogs and toads call at different times of the year. There are some that are year-round: the Bullfrog, [bullfrog sfx] the Southern Leopard Frog, and the Northern Cricket Frog. They may not breed year-round, but you can hear them. There are other species, like the Spring Peeper, [spring peeper sfx] and the Upland and Spotted Chorus Frogs; you will only hear when the weather is cool. Their idea of a perfect day is fifties and rainy. Frogs mostly call to attract mates. In fact, only really male frogs call.

If you’re interested in the education and conservation of indigenous amphibians, consider becoming a Texas Amphibian Watch volunteer. Find details on the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.

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

Texas Nature Trackers Amphibian Watch

Monday, March 28th, 2016
American Bullfrog

An American Bullfrog just minding his own business.

This is Passport to Texas

Texas Amphibian Watch is a statewide volunteer program in which citizen scientists monitor frogs and toads to help prevent the extinction of species currently in decline. Here are some ways you can help:

There are different levels of monitoring. The easiest of which is whenever you see an amphibian, you write down the time of day, the weather, the rough location, and then once a year you send that in to Parks and Wildlife and they’ll add that into one database.

Scott Kiester is a Texas Amphibian Watch volunteer.

There’s a program called ‘Adopt a [Frog] Pond,’ where you agree to go and listen and record the species you hear at a specific location. [start sfx] Once a month, sometimes more often than that, I’ll take 15 minutes and go out in the evening and listen to who’s out in the neighborhood croaking away. Frogs are a lot more active and do a lot more calling in that period of time after a rain, particularly if you can do it the day after a rain or if you get a rain in the afternoon go out and do it that evening. They just croak away.

Hop over to the calendar section of the Texas Parks & Wildlife website where you can find upcoming Amphibian Watch workshops.

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

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

TPW TV: Buffalo Soldiers

Friday, March 25th, 2016
Devonte Hill

Devonte Hill, decked out as a Buffalo Soldier

This is Passport to Texas

After graduating from college, but before entering the working world, Devonte Hill—who has a passion for storytelling—volunteered with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Buffalo Soldier program.

 I was a Texas state parks youth ambassador and got turned on to the Buffalo Soldiers program. I’m always open to new experiences.

Buffalo Soldiers entered Texas history in 1866; these African American men assisted and protected settlement as it moved westward. Texas parks and Wildlife developed the Buffalo Soldier program to preserve that history. As a volunteer, Devonte wore a soldier’s uniform to help bring history to life for grade school students.

 I don’t have too much experience with kids besides my cousins; so it will be interesting dealing with the little people. [laughs]

The program uses the Buffalo Soldier’s rich heritage and history to connect urban audiences to the outdoors. This is important because, as Devonte points out…

When you see things on TV about outdoors and things like that, all you really see is a certain type of demographic. And so you kind of get raised thinking those things are not for me.

Devonte Hill has gone on to a job in television, and says his work with the Buffalo Soldiers was life changing.

Hopefully this is the first step to me continuing my training and practice at being a storyteller. And this is part of my story.

See a segment with Devonte Hill and other Buffalo Soldier volunteers next week on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS.

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