Archive for the 'Texas Nature Trackers' Category

Tracking Wildlife Beyond Footprints

Friday, June 23rd, 2017
TPWD Wildlife Biologist, Jonah Evans trains fellow biologists on the art and science of tracking Texas wildlife.

TPWD Wildlife Biologist, Jonah Evans trains fellow biologists on the art and science of tracking Texas wildlife. Photo by Albert Halpren, Texas Coop Magazine.

This is Passport to Texas

A lot of us, when tracking wildlife, search for footprints only.

You know, the tracks, themselves, are the easy part as far as determining something’s been there.

East Texas wildlife biologist, Heidi Baily says the tracks alone tell only part of the story.

In my experience, one of the toughest things for a tracker to learn, is to just take a step back and look at the scene as a whole rather than zooming in on one or two tracks. Sometimes it really helps to step back and look at where the animal’s been going, and what he’s been doing. You get a whole lot bigger picture as opposed to just kind of a snapshot and being able to say, ‘Okay. That’s a raccoon.’

Heidi says when people start opening themselves to fully tracking wildlife—and not just the footprints—they begin to experience the outdoors in new ways.

A lot of times, you may not see wildlife, but tracking just puts it in your mind that you’re surrounded by wildlife whether you see it or not. And, it really gets your brain to churning trying to put yourself in the mind of that animal. It’s a real treat, and a good time to get outside and enjoy it to the fullest.

Enrich your outdoor experience with wildlife tracking. Find more information at

The Wildlife Restoration Program Supports our series.

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

The Lives and Loves of Frogs

Monday, June 5th, 2017
Houston Toad singing a song for the ladies.

Houston Toad singing a song for the ladies.

This is Passport to Texas

Amphibians are a remarkably unique life form.

Texas State University Biologist Dr. Mike Forstner says in case you ever wondered how amphibians, romance one another, he can help.

Amphibian or amphibios is a two-stage life. Those dual lives reflect water and land. When we think about the mating process or the management of the toad we have to take both in account the water and the land. All frogs and toads call. They make a unique advertisement call.

You have probably heard male leopard frogs and bullfrogs advertising their interest in meeting members of the opposite sex without even realizing it. And if you were to find yourself in Central Texas, traveling through Bastrop…

… further into the forest in Bastrop, we begin to hear a high-pitched trills that lasts a long time, up to 15 seconds for the Houston toad.

Those calls allow the females to recognize the correct male for their species, and since the fire, we are beginning to hear a few more of these calls.

And the females will hop toward the male call that they think is the most attractive. So there is female choice- not very different from what happened in the human world.

Find more information about amphibians on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

That’s our show…Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

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

Milkweed for Monarchs

Thursday, August 25th, 2016
Milkweed for monarchs

Milkweed for monarchs

This is Passport to Texas

More than seventy species of milkweed have been recorded nationwide; over half of those are native to Texas. Including two that are endemic.

These are species that are found nowhere else but within the Texas border. One of them is called Texas Milkweed, which is found in canyons in Central Texas. And then we have a species called Coastal Milkweed that occurs roughly from the Houston area to just north of Brownsville.

Jason Singhurst, a botanist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, says milkweeds provide sustenance to the iconic monarch butterfly during its migration.

So, here in Texas, we know certain species like green milkweed, antelope horns, broadleaf milkweed, and zizotes are some of our most abundant species that we’re seeing monarch larvae and adults visit.

Because milkweed species vary, do monarchs use each species in the same or different ways?

That’s a really good question. That’s something we’re trying to figure out in Texas. And that’s why we started this mapping project called Texas Milkweeds and Monarchs project—using iNaturalist. It’s an app that you can download on your smartphone. We’re using that project to help us identify different species of milkweeds across the state, and then also which species that larvae, or adult monarch butterflies are visiting.

Find a link to the Milkweeds and Monarchs project on iNaturalist at

Find an article about milkweeds by Jason Singhurst in the August/September issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Getting to Know Native Amphibians

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016
American bullfrogs

Photo of young American Bullfrogs in a pond at Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, courtesy of the site’s Facebook page.

This is Passport to Texas

Did you know Texas is home more than 40 different frog species, and other myriad other amphibians?

Scott Kiester, Texas Amphibian Watch volunteer, says you don’t have to travel far to find a frog or toad. In fact, he says they may be closer than you think.

The Gulf Coast Toad you’ll find anywhere where he’s got a moist place he can hide in the daytime and come out at night and hunt bugs. The Rio Grande Chirping Frog is endemic to the southern valley. They’re about as big as the joint on your little finger and they hang out in plants. They like particularly Bromeliads.

Not only can we identify these creatures by their habitats, we can also identify them by their distinct calls.

Different frogs and toads call at different times of the year. There are some that are year-round: the Bullfrog, [bullfrog sfx] the Southern Leopard Frog, and the Northern Cricket Frog. They may not breed year-round, but you can hear them. There are other species, like the Spring Peeper, [spring peeper sfx] and the Upland and Spotted Chorus Frogs; you will only hear when the weather is cool. Their idea of a perfect day is fifties and rainy. Frogs mostly call to attract mates. In fact, only really male frogs call.

If you’re interested in the education and conservation of indigenous amphibians, consider becoming a Texas Amphibian Watch volunteer. Find details on the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.

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

Texas Nature Trackers Amphibian Watch

Monday, March 28th, 2016
American Bullfrog

An American Bullfrog just minding his own business.

This is Passport to Texas

Texas Amphibian Watch is a statewide volunteer program in which citizen scientists monitor frogs and toads to help prevent the extinction of species currently in decline. Here are some ways you can help:

There are different levels of monitoring. The easiest of which is whenever you see an amphibian, you write down the time of day, the weather, the rough location, and then once a year you send that in to Parks and Wildlife and they’ll add that into one database.

Scott Kiester is a Texas Amphibian Watch volunteer.

There’s a program called ‘Adopt a [Frog] Pond,’ where you agree to go and listen and record the species you hear at a specific location. [start sfx] Once a month, sometimes more often than that, I’ll take 15 minutes and go out in the evening and listen to who’s out in the neighborhood croaking away. Frogs are a lot more active and do a lot more calling in that period of time after a rain, particularly if you can do it the day after a rain or if you get a rain in the afternoon go out and do it that evening. They just croak away.

Hop over to the calendar section of the Texas Parks & Wildlife website where you can find upcoming Amphibian Watch workshops.

That’s our show… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti