Archive for the 'Habitat' Category

TPW TV–Swift Saviors

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
Nesting chimney swift.

Nesting chimney swift.

This is Passport to Texas

Chaetura [KAY-tura] Canyon… is a chimney swift sanctuary of sorts, found in the growing city of Lakeway…just west of Austin.

Their numbers are declining dramatically, they’re down by probably fifty, sixty percent since the sixties here in the United States. And [in] Canada they are on the threatened and endangered list; they’ve lost ninety percent of their chimney swift population.

Paul and Georgeann Kyle, who oversee KAY-tura, say chimney swifts are unable to perch or stand upright, and so they rely on a type of habitat that’s been disappearing.

Historically they roosted in large hollow trees, and those are not allowed to stand anymore. They then moved into the brick chimney’s, but now most of those are aging and many are being capped or torn down.

In an upcoming segment of the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series we meet the Kyles, and learn how they’re helping to save these small, endearing black birds by building them towers for roosting and raising young.

The perfect home for Chimney swifts, it’s a nice rough surface, little grooves for them to hold on to, attach their nest. Ya basically anybody that can use a few power tools and read a tape measure can build one of these chimney swift towers and just one structure can make a real big difference in the breeding success of the birds.

Learn more about the Kyle’s work with chimney swifts the week of September 29 on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS.

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

Hands on Habitat

Thursday, August 29th, 2019

Manmade habitat for freshwater fish.

This is Passport to Texas

The Lone Star State is revered for its exceptional sport fishing opportunities.

To preserve and enhance these destinations, a recent project at Lake Sulfur Springs experiments with nontraditional materials and designs to create artificial habitat.

Fish need habitat and structure in general.

Tim Bister is a District Fisheries Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife

Even in reservoirs that left timber standing, over time, that timber in the water breaks down and the habitat for the fish declines. We’ve done work with Christmas trees in the past but the PVC that we’re using in the structures we’re building today are going to last for many, many years

One design for artificial habitat involves using simple, materials like PVC pipe and corrugated plastic drainpipe. Biologists and volunteers use the PVC to build a four-foot cube-shaped framework, and then weave and secure the drainpipe to it; it’s not much to look at, but it creates a nest-like structure.

Kody Corrin is the state director for Bass Unlimited and a restoration project volunteer

Somebody that doesn’t really know would think that we’re just piecing recycled garbage together, and we’re really not. We’re actually providing good habitat for the fish.

The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series.

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

Return of the Black-Capped Vireo

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019
This black-capped vireo male is a passerine species.

Male Black-capped vireo.

This is Passport to Texas

Not long ago the tiny masked bird known as the Black-capped Vireo nearly became extinct. The US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the species as endangered in 1987. But rigorous habitat recovery efforts have finally changed that listing.

Good news for the Black-capped Vireo is that it was recently delisted.

Cliff Shackelford is a state ornithologist at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Now we’re in a phase of what we call the post-delisting monitoring. So Parks and Wildlife is involved in continuing the count of Black-capped vireos to make sure that the numbers are still steady and increasing but not decreasing.

Cliff believes we’ve become better at understanding what makes a healthy Hill Country ecosystem.

I think the one thing our agency has learned is better deer management. We’ve relayed that to a lot of our landowners that we work with, and you can drive around the Hill Country and see who’s doin’ it right. But I think that’s the big thing is finding that balance of where you can have your agriculture, your deer, and your Black-capped Vireos and everybody lives in harmony, and we’ve found that sweet spot and it’s really working.

Now it’s up to us to hand down our lessons learned to the next generation so that the Black-capped Vireo is never endangered again.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Feline City Slickers

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019
Bobcats serve an ecosystem function.

Bobcats serve an ecosystem function.

This is Passport to Texas

According to the US Census Bureau, the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area leads the nation in population growth. But this growth has fragmented wildlife habitat, and as a result wildlife have become more visible. Now sightings of one particular species has citizens concerned.

There have been some neighborhoods in the DFW area that have seen a lot of bobcats.

Richard Heilbrun is the urban wildlife program leader at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

If you’re in an urban area and you happen to see a bobcat, the most important thing you can do is to stop and enjoy the moment. Keep your distance. Take a photo, but don’t approach it. The bobcat will probably run away.

To answer growing public inquiry, Texas Parks and Wildlife partnered with Utah State University to capture and study urban bobcats.

We caught 12 bobcats in the middle of the metroplex and we radio-collared 10 of them. And we followed them for a year. We found out that bobcats are good at living in the city. They use greenbelts and golf courses, cemeteries, river corridors, and when you stitch all those habitats together they actually form a functioning ecosystem for a wide variety of wildlife.

Understanding urban bobcats is an important first step in achieving a conflict-free coexistence with humans.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series and funds bobcat research in Texas.

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

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.