Archive for October, 2017

Understanding the Value of Dark Skies

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017
The stars at night....

The stars at night….

This is Passport to Texas

Few of us have ever experienced a truly dark sky.

A dark sky is what humanity saw for basically its entire history up until the invention of electric light a little more than a century ago.

While we may feel safer outdoors at night because artificial light illuminates our way, over time, it may actually do more harm than good, says John Barentine, with the International Dark Sky Assn.

We know that artificial light at night has a measurable impact on wildlife; we know that it has an impact on human health. Light governs the night and day cycles of all organisms, so when we put light into the environment when our bodies aren’t expecting it, there are inevitable results—some of which we are just beginning to learn – but turns out that it may be related (at least in humans) to incidents of some types of chronic disease.

Until the advent and widespread use of electric lighting, the sun, and to a lesser extent the moon, governed the cycle of day and night.

That set a rhythm among living things we’ve been disrupting ever since. And we’ll have more about that tomorrow.

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

Maximize Your Fall Camping Experience

Monday, October 23rd, 2017
Camping with the Family

Camping with the Family

This is Passport to Texas

Fall camping season is here. And Texas Outdoor Family coordinator, Robert Owen, says following a few simple suggestions will enhance your camping experience.

Plan ahead for your activities. Make sure you have a good pair of comfortable shoes to go along with your weekend; while you’re spending time on the trail you’ll want to keep your feet comfortable. Bring some water and sunscreen along regardless of the season. I like to bring along a GPS unit when I camp because I do enjoy Geocaching as a sport. Bring along that fishing equipment – the fish always tend to bite better in the cooler months. And also [bring some] binoculars – the winter months provide great opportunities for bird watching at Texas State Parks, and wildlife watching as well. Would you say that going to is a good place for people to begin their camping trip? Absolutely. It’s broken down into a map view, so you can find a park that’s nearby home or if you’re looking for a reason to get out and explore someplace new. It will tell you all about what the park has to offer; you can check out the park map there, and get a feel for what each campsite may offer. And, there may be a schedule of interpretive activities as well.

Thanks, Robert.

Go to to plan your next campout.

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.

Whooper Week: Become a Whooper Watcher

Friday, October 20th, 2017
Whooping crane in flight.

Whooping crane in flight.

This is Passport to Texas’ Whooper Week

People of all ages can become citizen scientists through Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Texas Nature Trackers program.

Texas Nature Trackers is a program that gets citizens involved in helping us collect data on rare species.

Marsha May is a biologist in the program, which includes Texas Whooper Watch. When Whooper Watch started in 2011, the state was in drought; this affected wetlands at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where the whoopers winter.

Their main diet down there is the blue crab. But, that particular year [2011], there was not a lot of freshwater coming down to the coast, so the wetlands were really salty. So, a lot of the birds went further inland.

Two hundred miles farther inland at Granger Lake, where they ate mussels instead of their usual diet of crabs.

That’s where Texas Whooper Watch comes in. We want to get sightings of whoopers outside of their normal range at Aransas. Is this something that’s going to happen continually in the future? Are they expanding their range? These are questions we would really would like to see answered. Citizen scientists can get involved by documenting birds in the areas where they’re not normally found.

Find details on Texas Whooper Watch on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Whooper Week: Help Track Whooping Cranes

Thursday, October 19th, 2017
A whooping crane in quiet contemplation.

A whooping crane in quiet contemplation.

This is Passport to Texas…Whooper Week.

October brings mild temperatures and Whooping Cranes to Texas.

Mid-October is when they start coming back to Texas. So, it’s a great time to start looking for them.

Marsha May is a biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

They basically come through the central portion of the state. So, it’s that route between Canada and Aransas National Wildlife refuge.

Marsha oversees several Texas Nature Tracker projects, including Texas Whooper Watch.

Texas Whooper Watch started 2011, about the time we had that drought. Because we were seeing whooping cranes going to new locations that we had never seen before. They were showing up at Granger Lake; two or three hundred miles north of their natural wintering habitat.

If you catch sight of a whooper, join the growing ranks of citizen scientists: document your sighting with the iNaturalist app.

Citizen scientists with Texas Nature Trackers collect data using iNaturalist. You can use your smart phone to take pictures of things and that data comes back into iNaturalist; and that’s data that we can use for many different things.

More on Texas Nature Trackers and Whooper Watch tomorrow.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Whooper Week: Population on the Rise

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017
Whooper chick and adult in Canada. Image from Whooper Conservation Society.

Whooper chick and adult in Canada. Image from Whooper Conservation Society.

This is Passport to Texas’…Whooper Week.

Whooping cranes are headed to the Texas coast from their breeding grounds in Canada, and some of us might spot them along the way.

There’s this funnel that happens just to the west of the Dallas-Fort Worth area that these birds funnel through and then come down to winter on Aransas [National Wildlife Refuge] .

Whooping crane migration path.

Biologist Shaun Oldenburger says it’s not uncommon for the birds to “fall out” along their flight path.

Early October through late October, around the red River Region, some birds fall out there. And then make their way finally down to the coast. So, they start falling out there, but for the most part, all those birds will push to the coast at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge by November.

There will be more of them, too. During the last winter survey their population numbered 329 members.

20— This last year in Canada they produced 98 nests, which was a record. And of those 98 nests they had 63 birds fledge, which was an all-time record. And that was more than 15 birds over the previous record.

Whether you view the birds in transit… or at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge…

Just make sure you don’t disturb them, keep your distance, and enjoy your time viewing them.

Despite Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the coast, the Whooper’s wintering grounds is ready to support them.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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