Archive for the 'Birding' Category

Great Comeback for Whooping Cranes

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Whooping crane pair at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

This is Passport to Texas

The majestic Whooping Crane is the tallest bird in North America and has a wingspan of seven and a half feet. But even with its impressive size, the Whooping Crane nearly became extinct, and in 1970 the bird was listed as an endangered species.

They are still federally listed as endangered. The population will be classified as such until they get around a thousand.

Trey Barron is a Wildlife Diversity Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Once we get to that thousand population number the US Fish and Wildlife Service will readdress the status of the bird and potentially delist it. And that’s the ultimate goal is protect enough habitat and have enough birds that we can keep them off the list.

That habitat is the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Gulf Coast and Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. Due to massive conservation efforts over several years, the Whooping Crane population once in the teens, now number the hundreds.

The outlook for the Whooping Crane is very positive. Just through years of successful reproduction, good wintering habitat down here, they’re on their way to total recovery.

That’s good news, and validation that conversation and management of Whooping Cranes will ensure survival of the species.

Whooping cranes began their fall migration south to Texas in mid-September.

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

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.

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.

TPW Magazine: Knock on Wood

Thursday, July 11th, 2019
Pileated woodpecker with young.

Pileated woodpecker with young.

This is Passport to Texas

Cliff Shackelford—the nongame ornithologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife—is one of our favorite guests on Passport to Texas. He’s always upbeat and ready to share interesting birding facts. Plus, the guy’s super passionate about his subject matter.

And in the August/September issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine—on newsstands now—he tells us about a species that’s held his fascination since he was a youngster, in an article called: Knock on Wood: Why I Love the Woodpeckers of Texas.

In the article Cliff writes: My fascination with woodpeckers has become somewhat of a life’s journey. In graduate school, I wrote a thesis on woodpeckers…I’ve published numerous papers on woodpeckers…I’ve traveled to other countries specifically to observe woodpeckers…Thus, I’ve long considered myself a qualified fan of woodpeckers.

Yeah, I’d have to agree with his self-assessment. In addition, he lets us know about the 16 species of woodpeckers and allies in Texas, which go by a variety of other names including sapsuckers and flickers—but they’re all in the woodpecker family.

He even shares a list of 15 regularly occurring woodpecker species here in Texas, complete with photos.

Get to know Cliff Shackelford and his beloved woodpeckers in the August/September issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. On Newsstands now.

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

The “Bird Man” of the Airwaves

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019
Cliff Shackelford

Cliff Shackelford

This is Passport to Texas

You are listening to Red River Radio. Stay tuned “Bird Calls” is coming up in just a few moments right here on your public radio station.

On the second Tuesday of the month, 10,000 loyal listeners tune in to hear the bird man of East Texas.

I’ve never heard a show on the radio that people can call in and ask questions about birds

Cliff Shackelford is the State Ornithologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife

[DJ] And we have lines open right now. We’re going to Clair from Shreveport, Claire you’re on line. What’s your question?

[Claire] Hi Cliff, such a big fan.

[Cliff] Hey, great. What’s up?

A lot of people that like watching reality TV ought to turn off the TV and go outside because there’s a reality there that’s so pure, so real, so interesting.

The show took flight after Cliff helped with the station’s annual fund drive.

He does this voluntarily.

Kermit Poling is the General Manager for Red River Radio.

It’s a lot of work for him and there’s travel back and fourth

[Cliff] This is a great partnership for Parks and Wildlife. They just send me over to preach the good word about birds through a radio station that’s already established …I can reach a lot of people in one hour.

For more about the show, “Bird Calls” with Cliff Shackelford, go to redriverradio.org.

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