Archive for the 'Habitat' Category

Value of Fire on Turkey Habitat

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Working on a prescribed burn.

This is Passport to Texas

We welcome rain in Texas as it promotes lush vegetative growth. Yet, in the absence of fire, such growth can become a problem.

The lack of fire on the landscape has been a big issue. Especially in East Texas, but across the state. We’re seeing a lot of our habitat go from those grasslands to being more dominated by woody vegetation.

Jason Hardin, Turkey Program Leader at Texas Parks and Wildlife, says woody vegetation with an open understory is good turkey habitat.

A turkey’s main defense is its eyesight. Its sense of smell isn’t much better than ours; it’s sense of hearing is good—but it’s not going to keep them alive. So, their vision is most critical for them. So, they need to be able to see where they’re going. If they can’t see through it and move through it easily, it’s not good habitat.

Fire creates an open understory, which affords usable space for turkey, especially in rainy East Texas.

When you see forty, fifty, sixty inches of rainfall a year—you’re going to get a lot of rapid growth on that woody cover. So, burning those forests is essential. We don’t have a fire culture in Texas; people know it’s important, but they’re scared of it. So, we’re trying to provide funding where we can, and work with partners to try and get fire on the ground with certified prescribed burn bosses doing that fire—some of our staff as well—to educate those landowners. And try to—as much as we can—begin to develop a culture that if they’re not willing to burn it themselves, at least they can support fire as a management tool.

The Wildlife Restoration Program Supports our Series.

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

Habitat and Turkey Restoration

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019
A fine looking turkey gobbler.

A gobbler in its natural habitat.

This is Passport to Texas

Texas has three sub-species of Turkey: the Rio Grande is the most abundant, followed by the Eastern and then by the Merriam. Without good habitat, none will thrive.

They have to have good structural cover.

Jason Hardin, Turkey Program Leader at TPW, says this may include low-growing, woody cover for nesting.

It provides like an umbrella that they sit underneath to protect from avian predators and then also weather elements. And then also, grasses, weeds, forbes growing up to provide vertical cover.

Think of woody cover as you would a deer blind: you can see out, but nothing sees in. This feature is critical when hens are on nests and raising poults. The biggest threat to good turkey recruitment (nest success and poult survival) overall is weather.

Because that nesting rate, re-nesting rate, poult survival—all that’s driven essentially by moisture and the climate. So, if we have three years of drought, you’re going to see that Rio Grande type turkey population begin to decline. So, it’s something we try to pay attention to. And over a long term—five ten years—is there something beyond weather that’s causing a shift in that population.

In addition, the lack of fire to burn out dense understory growth from an abundance of rain, impacts Eastern turkey habitat. The value of fire when managing habitat—that’s tomorrow.

The Wildlife Restoration Program Supports our Series.

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

Make Plans for the Big Sit Next Year

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

Great Texas Birding Classic begins April 15 and runs through May 15.

This is Passport to Texas

If you didn’t enter a team in the Great Texas Birding Classic by the April 1st deadline because you think you and your friends aren’t good enough birders. Fuhgeddaboudit.

Next year, enter The Big Sit.

The Big Sit is a wonderful category if you only have one or two good birders, and everyone else just has an interest in nature.

Shelly Plante is nature tourism manager for TPW and organizes the classic. Only one person on a Big Sit team needs to ID a bird for it to go on the team’s checklist.

It’s super easy, it’s easily accessible to everyone. And you go and bird in a 17-foot diameter circle for as much as you want in a day. I’ve seen people do it at their local park; I’ve seen people do it in their backyards, which is a lot of fun. So, there are so many different ways that you can do a Big Sit, and it’s just a lot of fun. We like to call it the tailgate party for birding, because people usually have a great food spread, and just a lot of camaraderie throughout the day. So that’s a lot of fun.

Food…friends…feathers? That just screams good times. Find out what this year’s teams spotted across the state between April 15 and May 15 at birdingclassic.org or eBirds.org, where teams upload their checklists.

Every team fills out a checklist and they upload it into eBird, which is an online bird checklist system through Cornell Lab of Ornithology that we use. So, teams are contributing to citizen science on an international level when they do the birding classic. Once they’ve submitted their checklist, they share that checklist with birding classic staff, and that’s how we know what was seen or heard.

Registrations fees fund habitat projects in the state.

We receive support from RAM Trucks. Built to Serve.

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

TPW TV–Progress on Paddlefish

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

Paddlefish

This is Passport to Texas

Alongside Big Cypress Bayou seems an unusual place to perform a surgical procedure. That doesn’t stop Mike Montagne with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from carrying out surgery on a paddlefish—a species that’s more than 300-million years old.

They are one of the most ancient fishes and species that we have on the planet. They don’t look like any other fish, and they are super cool.

Montagne  inserts an acoustic transmitter into the abdomen of a fish that’s been anesthetized before stitching it up and releasing it back into the water. Receivers along the bank track the fish. Overharvesting and manmade changes to habitat, caused the species to disappear from east Texas waters. Restocking, with an emphasis on recreating natural flows, helped the fish and habitat to rebound.

 [Laura-Ashley Overdyke] The Paddlefish were the perfect poster child to explain and test out our theory that more natural flows would help the forest as well as all these fish and other animals.

[Tim Bister] We’ve been reintroducing paddlefish since about 2014; we started out with about 50 fish that we radio-tagged and pout inside the Big Cypress and Caddo Lake, and we followed those around for about a year. One of the things we really wanted to find out is if the fish would stay in the system…

That was Laura-Ashley Overdyke with the Caddo lake Institute and Biologist Tim Bister.

Find out if the fish stayed in the system, or went over the dam, when you watch the TPW TV Series on PBS this week.

The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series.

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

Identifying Good Horned Lizard Habitat

Thursday, March 21st, 2019
Horned lizard

Horned lizard

This is Passport to Texas

Urbanization and invasive species are two impacts that’ve led to the decline of the iconic Texas horned lizard. The San Antonio Zoo plans to eventually release lizards from its captive breeding program into the wild.

Management is the first step in this process.

Andy Gluesenkamp is Director of Conservation at the zoo. He says he and his staff will consider environmental factors before releasing lizards onto a property.

One is: are they within the historic range of the species. Two is: are there horned lizards there now? This is a really important question. Because if there are horned lizards on that property, then that’s really a matter of managing existing populations. And I tell landowners that they are much better off than having to try and start anew and establish a population where one doesn’t exist. Other criteria are the size of the parcel; is there enough habitat for the lizards that—if we get a population established—that it will not just persist. The idea for them is to metastasize out into other habitat. And so, we’re putting lizards back onto the landscape, and not just on parcels of the landscape.

Andy Gluesenkamp says he uses high-resolution satellite-based maps from the Texas Parks and Wildlife GIS department to help assess whether areas have quality habitat for newly minted lizards.

We receive support in part from RAM Trucks: Built to Serve

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