Archive for the 'Birding' Category

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.

Birding: Gateway to the Natural World

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

Roseate Spoonbill on Texas coast.

This is Passport to Texas

Legendary Birder, Victor Emanuel, views birding as a gateway to nature appreciation.

Well, it’s the best way for people to get connected to nature, because birds are the most obvious part of nature visible to us. A lot of the mammals are active at night. But birds are here; they’re all around us.

Emanuel says it’s the fact that they are so visible that makes them interesting.

Birds are some of the most visible creatures around us. You have the song of birds, you have the motion of birds, the fact they can fly. A cardinal, a blue jay, a duck on a pond… they’re large enough and so they attract our attention in a way that smaller creatures don’t.

Victor Emanuel has spent a lifetime watching birds around the world. And while all birds are watchable, he says that doesn’t mean he likes them all.

I actually have a prejudice against introduced birds that are a problem, like starlings. They’re a beautiful bird, actually, with the colors on them in the sunlight. But they take over the nest of native birds, and throw out the young and eggs, so they don’t get to raise their young and eggs. But, yeah, they’re all watchable.

Find birding information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

That’s our show for today…For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

TPW TV: Guarding the Nest

Friday, July 6th, 2018

Rookery. Photo by Grady Allen from TPW Magazine.

This is Passport to Texas

When it’s nesting time for birds along the Gulf Coast, it’s time for humans to keep their distance and to be careful not to disturb them.

If you see a group of birds on an island, anywhere between say March and August, and they’re acting kind of conspicuously, they’re probably nesting. And if all of a sudden you see a whole bunch of birds getting up and flying off then you’ve already gotten a little bit too close.

David Newstead is an Environmental Biologist with Coastal Bend…Bays and Estuaries. He’s on next week’s Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS. Nesting is a critical period in the life cycle of the birds. Without a safe place to nest the overall population of coastal water birds will decline.

When people get a little bit too close to nesting birds that can have a pretty catastrophic effect on the nesting success of the birds. Getting too close can actually cause a panic reaction and scatter birds. When they move from the nest they are actually leaving those eggs and chicks completely exposed. And birds and chicks, they can’t thermo regulate very well at all so they rapidly overheat. And the eggs of course can’t thermo regulate at all. In this hot Texas heat, in the middle of nesting season, getting birds off of nests and chicks for just a couple of minutes can result in death or cooking of the eggs. They say you can cook an egg on the sidewalk, you’re basically cooking eggs on the island.

Check out the segment Guarding the Nest the week of July 8 on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS. Check your local listings.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program support our Series.

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

Red-Crowned Parrots: a Nearby Native Species

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Red-crowned parrot in Rio Grande Valley.

This is Passport to Texas

It may surprise no one the Rio Grande Valley is home to a native parrot species. What may astound you, though, is to find one in your yard.

They’re going to come to fruiting trees. When acorns are in season in the fall, they’ll really hit those. If you have a platform bird feeder, you might get parrots coming to your platform bird feeder for sunflower seeds.

Cliff Shackelford, non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, says the native red-crowned parrot makes itself at home in urban settings; readily building nests in abandoned “real estate.”

They really like dead palm trees. The kind that there’s just a trunk standing, there’re no more green fronds, and it’s very brittle. The golden fronted woodpecker comes in and excavates a cavity and uses it to raise a family; well the next year, a parrot might use it. A parrot can’t really excavate like a woodpecker, but he says, hey, I just need to make this a little bigger, and I’ll use it.

If you live in the RGV and have a dead or dying palm in your yard (that doesn’t pose a safety threat), leave it for the birds. It’s good for them and nature tourism.

Brownsville, Harlingen, Weslaco and McAllen—all have city ordinances where you cannot mess with the birds. And one reason is the nature tourists from all over the world come to the valley to see several unique birds, and the red-crowned parrot is usually near the top of the list.

Learn more about Texas birding opportunities on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

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

Texas Native: Red-Crowned Parrot

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Red-Crowned Parrot. Image: Earl Nottingham, TPWD

This is Passport to Texas

If you live in any of the urban areas of Texas, you’ve probably seen large colonies of the green and gray colored bird known as the monk parakeet. You might think they are native to Texas, but they’re not.

And they were escaped birds that have done very well. But what’s very neat, is if you go a little farther south into the Rio Grande Valley, we have a native parrot, that’s green and has a little red on the forehead, called the red-crowned parrot.

Cliff Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

And that bird [the red-crowned parrot] is a native species with a very small global range that is from south Texas all the way to parts of northeast Mexico.

Cliff says you’ll find the native red-crowned parrot in the Rio Grande Valley. And they may be closer than you think.

They’re highly urbanized. That’s where a lot of the green space is. A lot of the fruit that they’re eating in backyards. Seed feeders and so forth. They’re really thriving well in south Texas.

Tomorrow: This charismatic native parrot and its tendency to dine and nest in the backyards of Rio Grande Valley residents.

Meanwhile, discover the unique wildlife and habitat of Texas with our nine interactive Great Wildlife Trail Maps! Find them on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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