Archive for the 'Citizen Science Projects' Category

Christmas Bird Count Winding down

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018
Christmas Bird Count participants. Image from Audubon.org, by Camilla Cerea.

Christmas Bird Count participants. Image from Audubon.org, by Camilla Cerea.

This is Passport to Texas

The National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count began December 14 and ends this Friday—the last day to collect data.

Teams of birders go in the circle and they repeat that every year. So the circle never changes. And after decades, you have some really neat data to look at.

More than one-hundred, 15-mile diameter counting circles dot the state. Cliff Shackelford, non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, says circle organizers, called compilers, choose one day during the 3-week timeframe where observers tally species over a 24-hour period.

Some of the circles with few observers, [those people] cover that whole area in that circle. Some of the circles that are in really populated areas with lots of bird watchers like down on the coast, they’ll break up that circle into piece of pie: ‘And this is your piece of pie. You stay in this section and you count all the birds you can.’ If you want to get up at midnight and start counting one minute later, you can look for owls. Or listen for owls. It’s a 24-hour counting period per circle.

What happens to the collected and compiled data?

We use information from the Christmas bird count to determine where hot spots are for wintering species.

And with that knowledge researchers are better prepared to provide these birds with what they need to thrive.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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.

Climate Change Lottery and its Affects

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017
Bracken ferns at Bastrop State park

Bracken ferns at Bastrop State park

This is Passport to Texas

Texas wildlife has a stake in the climate change lottery.

Climate change is going to affect species that are found – and breed – in backyards here in Texas.

Former Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist, Cullen Hanks, says models that predict impacts of climate change on wildlife vary, so we need baseline information on each species.

To be able to document change, we need to know where things are before they change. And, this highlights the need of documenting the distribution of species that we have today in Texas. And, there aren’t enough biologists to do all of that. And so, what we do is we reach out to citizens. That’s exactly right! Texas is a big state with a lot of species, and the community of naturalists and citizens interested in wildlife in Texas can play a huge part in documenting wildlife in Texas.

Monitor backyard species, and then share your observations online.

ebird, a citizen science platform, created by the Cornell laboratory of Ornithology is a great way to maintain your checklist of birds. In addition, iNaturalist is a really useful platform for documenting your wildlife sightings of any species — not just birds.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has various projects on iNaturalist. Just go to the Texas Nature Trackers page on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for details.

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

Watch the Birdie (at the Feeder)

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016
Project Feeder Watch

Project Feeder Watch

This is Passport to Texas

The Christmas Bird Count, a project of the National Audubon Society, is December 14 through January 5. Volunteers count birds during a 24-hour period inside defined 15-mile diameter circles throughout the state.

But there aren’t any on December 25th—you can’t compete with family time and ripping open presents.

Nongame ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford says if you’re unable to participate in a Bird Count circle, you can still contribute to the count as a feeder watcher.

That’s someone that just merely watches out their back window and looks at the birds coming to the feeder and just counting those things. It’s a really good niche for someone that’s not able to get out if it’s too cold, or you’re just not physically able to get out, or maybe you have a newborn at the house, These are people that might have their eyes open watching the feeder and can contribute.

Get in touch with your area Audubon Christmas Bird Count Compiler through the Audubon website.

Contribute to the world of citizen science all year long as a feeder watcher. Just go to feederwatch.org for details.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series and funds diverse conservation programs in Texas.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Count Birds, Help Science

Monday, November 28th, 2016
Christmas Bird Count participants. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

Christmas Bird Count participants. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

This is Passport to Texas

More than a hundred years ago people participated in a time-honored Christmas tradition.

People would go out and do what was called a side hunt, and the winning group would come back with the biggest pile of dead critters.

Most of the critters in those piles were birds. Cliff Shackelford, non-game ornithologist with Parks and Wildlife, says conservationists had a better idea.

Early conservationists thought that we ought to count birds and not try to collect birds.

Today we have the Christmas Bird Count, December 14th through January 5th. Volunteers, armed with a bird list and binoculars, head into the field on a specified day to count birds over a 24-hour period.

What people do is they get into teams, and they have a defined 15 mile radius circle that they’re counting in, and that circle never moves. The hope is that you would count that circle for decades and decades and over time you would see trends.

Everyone turns in their data to a compiler who sorts it out and sends it to researchers; they use it to assess the health of bird populations, and to guide conservation action.

Go to audubon.org for more information and to register.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

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