Archive for the 'Birding' Category

Netting Songbirds for Research

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018
Golden-Cheeked Warbler

Golden-Cheeked Warbler

This is Passport to Texas

Mist-nets are tools used by ornithologists and biologists that allow them to trap birds, to collect information. The data helps them to understand and manage species.

The net’s mesh is so fine that it doesn’t even register as a barrier, and so birds end up flying directly into it. While they become entangled, they rarely sustain injuries.

Once entrapped, biologists take special care to gently extract their feathery captives, and waste no time identifying the species, its sex and its estimated age. Biologists do not handle the birds more than is necessary.

When researchers employ mist-nets, it’s often so they can trap birds for banding. They may target threatened and endangered birds like the golden-cheeked warbler. The hope is that at some future time, another scientist will capture the previously banded bird and gather more data, such as where it came from and where it’s traveled along its life’s journey.

Mist-netting by Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists takes place throughout the year on wildlife management areas and in some state parks. From time to time, the bird-loving public is invited to participate in the process.

Keep an eagle eye on the calendar section of the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for these and other opportunities to join biologists in the field.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series, and provides funding for the operations and management of Texas’ Wildlife Management Areas.

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

Wasteland to Birding Wonderland

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Yellow-legged Sandpiper observed at Hornsby Bend.

This is Passport to Texas

On the second Saturday of every month, Eric Carpenter surveys birds with Travis Audubon, at Hornsby Bend, east of downtown Austin.

Hornsby is one of the better spots to bird in Central Texas.

Carpenter and cohorts have recorded more than 360 species of birds at the site over the years. Dr. Kevin Andersen runs the Center for Environmental Research at Hornsby; an unlikely place for the genteel activity of bird watching.

Hornsby Bend is the facility that recycles all of Austin’s sewage solids, which is a euphemism for poop.

Austin’s sewage and yard waste is recycled at this unique, 1200 acre site along 3.5 miles of the Colorado River.

There’s a farm and a bottomland forest, treatment ponds that are famous for birding. Many different things that we can use for environmental research.

Pathogens in the sludge are killed off naturally. Some solids, when mixed with recycled yard waste, become compost; the cleaned water goes into ponds, creating an environment attractive to wildlife and those who watch it — like photographer Greg Lasley.

Even though we’re right near the city of Austin, there’s an amazing variety of wildlife: butterflies, dragonflies, birds, reptiles and amphibians. My philosophy is if you just get out in nature and spend time looking, things show themselves to you.

That’s our show …for Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

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.

TPW TV – West Texas Wetland

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

Curved Bill Thrasher at Christmas Mountains Oasis

This is Passport to Texas

In a region best known for its rugged terrain and dry desert ecology, avid birders, Carolyn Ohl-Johnson and her late husband Sherwood, created something magical in the Christmas Mountains of West Texas.

It’s a refuge for birds, butterflies.

Started in the 1990s, the couple developed ways to capture water that fell or flowed on their property.

And I told him how we could put in some diversion dams, and he just hopped right on that without greasing his equipment the same day! And so we started out with one tank that wasn’t nearly big enough.

So began a lifelong passion to establish an oasis in the middle of the desert to draw birds to her West Texas home. The Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS features Carolyn’s oasis on this week’s show.

I can be sitting here, just looking at the same old stuff, and bet money that nothing interesting’s gonna come along. And there, all of a sudden, oh my gosh, there’s a lifer! But it won’t happen if I’m not sitting here looking, so what do you do! You sure don’t get much work done, that’s for sure.

Tune into the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS through August fourth to see not only Carolyn’s oasis, but another lush wetland project in West Texas. Check your local listings.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

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