Archive for September, 2018

The Eastern Bluebird of Happiness

Friday, September 28th, 2018

Eastern Bluebird raising a family in a nest box.

This is Passport to Texas

Henry David Thoreau once wrote that “the bluebird is the bird with the sky on his back.”

While they carry the blue sky on their backs, their chests and under their chin are reddish orange, while their bellies are a beautiful soft white.

The Eastern Bluebird is among three species of bluebirds found in Texas. During the past few decades, the Eastern bluebird’s populations have been declining in some areas, due in part to an alteration of habitat. Habitat alteration isn’t the only threat to the bluebird of happiness: the prevalence of European Starlings and house sparrows also play a part in its decline.

The non-native starling and sparrow were introduced to North America in the 19th Century. Like the Eastern bluebird, they are both cavity nesters. Unlike the bluebird, they are bullies. They’ll takeover a cavity already inhabited by a bluebird (or other cavity nesters)… and take no prisoners.

Something you can do is to build a bluebird nest box and put it up in your yard. You will need to monitor it, though, to ensure that neither a European Starling nor house sparrow take up residence.

Find a link to plans for making your own bluebird nest box at
For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

A Simple Birdbath is all You Need

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

You never know who will show up at your backyard birdbath.

This is Passport to Texas

Attracting birds to your backyard is as simple as adding water…to a birdbath.

They’ll use that birdbath year-round. They’ll use it for drinking. They’ll use it for bathing…

Cliff Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Decorative ceramic birdbaths often make better art than they do watering stations for birds.

The simpler the better. What I found, is the basin needs to be a little rough and not smooth. It needs to have a gradual dip to it.

Dripping water is something birds will appreciate, too, says Cliff Shackelford.

Bird drips are really good; you can hang a milk jug up with a little pin prick hole in it. Just the sound of the water dripping could be attractive to birds. And also, they may like to get under that drip a little bit.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says a good birdbath mimics shallow puddles, which are nature’s birdbaths. They suggest digging a shallow hole in the ground, lining it with plastic to make it watertight, and then putting sand in the bottom so birds can get their footing. Place a few plants around the perimeter, and you have a bird spa.

Find more birding information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

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

Mule Deer Antler Restrictions

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018
Mule deer at sunset.

Mule deer at sunset.

This is Passport to Texas

When Mule Deer season opens mid-November hunters must abide by antler restrictions on bucks in six counties in the southeast panhandle.

We’re using the same model as the white-tailed deer.

Restrictions implemented in the early 2000s in six east Texas counties for white-tailed bucks prevented hunters from taking very young animals from the landscape. The experiment saw an increase of bucks, and more natural buck age structure and sex ratios.

Shawn Gray is the state’s mule deer program leader. For white-tail bucks hunters use an inside spread restriction.

But, for mule deer—to protect the age classes that we want to protect, and to allow hunters harvest of the animals that we would like for them to harvest—instead of an inside spread, we’re going to use an outside spread of the main beam.

Which is ear tip to ear tip. There’s a 20-inch minimum restriction on the outside antler spread of the main beams on mule deer bucks.

And, we’re going to monitor that through voluntary check stations. Also, through our population surveys to see if we can improve our age structure of the buck segment of that population over there.

When hunting is not a factor, natural selection determines which bucks reach maturity. Antler restrictions on mule deer bucks are in Briscoe, Childress, Cottle, Floyd, Motley, and Hall counties

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series and funds Mule Deer management in Texas.

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

Why We Stock Fish in Texas

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018
Stocking fingerlings

Stocking fingerlings in Texas waters

This is Passport to Texas

It’s no accident that some of the country’s best sport fishing happens in Texas lakes and rivers.

Fish stocking is an ongoing activity of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s inland fisheries division.

But why stock fish at all? Stocking helps to establish initial year classes of fish in new or renovated waters. It also supplements existing populations that, for some reason, have insufficient spawning or recruitment. Stocking also increases species diversity.

Restoring fish populations that have been reduced or eliminated by natural or manmade or catastrophes is another reason to stock fish in Texas waters.

Parks and Wildlife may also stock fish to either change or enhance the genetics of a particular fish population in a specific water body.

Moreover, the agency stocks certain lakes, streams and community ponds with catchable size fish year round—rainbow trout in winter and catfish spring through fall. Doing so makes sport fishing more accessible to all. The agency even offers free fishing in state parks, angler education classes and tackle loaner programs.

So, if you’re not catching fish in Texas, you’re just not trying. Find fishing information and the locations of Neighborhood Fishin’ lakes and ponds on the TPW website.
The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

“Citified” White-winged Doves

Monday, September 24th, 2018
White-winged dove

White-winged dove hanging out in a suburban backyard.

This is Passport to Texas

White-winged doves, originally associated with the Lower Rio Grande Valley, have expanded their range. Changes in land use practices sent the species farther north into urban areas. Suitable habitat kept them there.

Probably 80-85% of the white-wing dove population in Texas is associated with urban and suburban areas.

Nesting white-winged doves prefer established residential neighborhoods with large live oak, pecan, and ash trees. The availability of consistent food and water sources (birdbaths and bird feeders) make the living easy. Owen Fitzsimmons, Texas Parks and Wildlife’s web-less migratory game bird leader says Texas Parks and Wildlife staff conducts yearly urban dove surveys. He encourages citizens to share their observations of the species, too.

That being said, there are a number of citizen science information collection methods—things like eBird. That’s something that is not run by states or by fish and wildlife service, but it’s something I guarantee, that everybody looks at. It’s a very valuable information source. So, while we don’t have citizens of Texas doing the urban dove survey, I encourage them to report whatever they find on eBird. You know, because, that information is looked at as well.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series and funds research on White-winged Dove Density, Distribution, and Harvest.

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