Archive for the 'Birding' Category

Going in Circles is for the Birds

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Participating in the Christmas Bird Count.

This is Passport to Texas

The name “Christmas Bird Count” is a bit of a misnomer.

It doesn’t happen on Christmas Day. It happens in a period around Christmas.

That period is December 14th through January 5th.

You just have to pick a day in that three week period to do the count.

Cliff Shackelford is a non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Counting occurs in 15-mile radius circles; people participate in groups or teams, directed by a compiler.

And those people [compilers] decide on a day, and they divvy up the pie of where these teams can go look for birds in this fixed radius circle, and you count birds within that circle.

Volunteers count species during a 24 hour timeframe – midnight to midnight on the chosen day.

You don’t have to. But, a lot of people want to know about owls [for example]; so, they get up early. Three A.M., maybe, and go listen for owls. And that’s pretty valuable. But, most people do just the daylight hours.

Cliff recommends getting out at dawn.

That’s when you get the best bird diversity at dawn. Everybody’s waking up: singing, calling and foraging and activity is the greatest right at dawn. Because, birds have slept all night and they’re hungry for something to eat.

Find a count circle near you at audubon.org.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our show.

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

Making Birds Count

Monday, December 10th, 2018
Christmas Bird Count participants. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

Christmas Bird Count participants. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

This is Passport to Texas

In the 1800s, an annual competition called The Side Hunt pitted teams of hunters against one another. They wanted to see who could bag the most feathered and furry things. Once people woke up and smelled the carnage, in 1900, the Side Hunt evolved into The Christmas Bird Census–and finally the Christmas Bird Count. The only thing people kill in the count is a little time, and maybe a thermos of coffee. The event’s in its 118th year.

Which makes it the longest running citizen science project in the world. Which is pretty impressive, and it started right here in the US.

Texas Parks and Wildlife ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford. Birders count from inside a 15-mile diameter circle.

You go out into a fixed area and count birds. And the neat thing is, if you stick with that area like you should, and you do it for 10, 20, 30, 40 years–you start seeing trends.

Trend spotting is the true value of the bird count.

Those counts that are very old, that have forty plus years of data, we can start seeing things. And we are. We’re seeing things like the American Tree Sparrow is not coming down to Texas much anymore. I don’t think they’re rare, they just don’t need to come all the way south for “maybe”climate change. Maybe it’s not so cold up north; they don’t need to come down. That’s the beauty of the Christmas Bird Count — you can look at it continentally– and see where the changes are in the bird life.

Tomorrow … how the Christmas Bird Count works.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Where to see Bald Eagles

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Bald Eagle at Lake Texoma. Image by: Hilary Roberts

This is Passport to Texas

After nearly disappearing from most of the United States decades ago, the bald eagle is now flourishing. It was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007.

The symbol of our nation got its name from an old English word “piebald”—which means white faced.

You’ll find bald eagles in every state but Hawaii; the largest US concentration thrives in Alaska.

These impressive birds also spend time in the Central and East Texas. Want to see one?

You’ll have the best luck finding eagles on lakes and rivers during peak season, which is October through March. Start your search at a Texas State Park.

Visitors to Fairfield Lake State Park, southeast of Dallas consistently spot bald eagles. They’ve also been seen at Martin Creek Lake State Park, near Longview.

There’s a bald eagle nesting site at Lake Texana, 35 mi. northeast of Victoria. Visitors can see them from the viewing stand on the east side of the parking lot.

In Central Texas, folks often spot the birds around Lake Buchanan, which is 70 miles northwest of Austin.

If you see bald eagles this fall or winter, document your observation at the Texas Eagle Nest project on iNaturalist.org.

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

TPW Magazine — Christmas Bird Count

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Having fun during the Christmas Bird Count. Image: Audubon.org

This is Passport to Texas

Mark December 14 through Saturday, January 5, 2019 on your calendar. Those are the dates of the 119th Annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), organized by the National Audubon Society.

In the December issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine, writer, Melissa Gaskill, takes readers to the Texas coast, and Matagorda County, where they become immersed in last year’s counting activities.

Gaskill writes: In the 2017 count, Matagorda County reported 220 species, ranking it number one for total species for the 11th year in a row and 25th time overall.

The article is part of the magazine’s year-long celebration of Epic Texas Challenges. Gaskill says: Between the wildlife, unpredictable weather, occasionally remote locations, and subtle but unmistakable air of competition, the Christmas Bird Count qualifies as bona fide adventure.

Researchers compile the data collected by birders and use it to guide allocation of conservation dollars, land management decisions, and wildlife policy.

To participate in the CBC, visit audubon.org and find a counting circle near you.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Shell Collecting and Wildlife Viewing (You)

Monday, November 12th, 2018

Matagorda Island. Image: USFWS

This is Passport to Texas

A leisurely stroll along one of Texas’ public beaches might include finding a sand dollar or two.

But at Matagorda Island WMA—you can pick up dozens of sand dollars, as well as giant Atlantic cockles and even shark’s teeth.

Shells are abundant on the island. And don’t be surprised if while sifting through the sand, you feel like you’re being watched.

It’s not uncommon to look up from your collecting pursuits to see members of the island’s white-tailed deer population a comfortable distance away, keeping tabs on your every move.

Or perhaps one or more of the 300 species of migratory birds that visit the island will fly in for a closer look, waiting to see what your efforts uncover.

During fall and winter, you might even see endangered whooping cranes.

Be mindful of when you visit, as the island is popular with hunters during whitetail season.

Matagorda Island WMA consists of nearly 57-thousand acres and is an offshore barrier island. All interior access is via hiking, biking, or TPWD vehicles during scheduled hunts or tours. No private motorized vehicles! There’s more information on the TPW website.

Out show receives support from RAM Trucks: Built to Serve.

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