Nature: Why Leaves Turn Color in Fall

September 15th, 2014

Trees along a lake, changing color for fall.

Fall foliage at Daingerfield State Park



This is Passport to Texas

‘Tis the season when we see foliage turn colors. If you’re like me, you wonder why, and what purpose it serves.

13— Right. It’s kind of like, why is the sky blue type question. But the interesting thing about fall color is it doesn’t really have a purpose. It’s the result of some chemical processes that occur in the leaf.

Damon Waitt (WAIT) is director and senior botanist at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.

11— When you think about being a leaf during the wintertime… it’s not a good time to be a leaf. Especially if you’re a thin flat one. Because, cold temperatures are going to kill that leaf.

So, these trees cut their losses as seasons change.

21—They want to capture all those good chemicals out of the leaf before winter and put them back in the tree and store them in the roots. And so that’s what they start to do when the nights get longer, which is a signal that winter is coming. A consequence of that is the leaf is no longer making chlorophyll; other pigments start to show up.

Damon Waitt likens this process to recycling.

17—Yes, trees are great recyclers. They don’t want to waste all those great chemical compounds that are out in the leaf that have been doing work all summer long, and in the spring, causing the plant to grow. So, they recycle the chemicals they can, and then dispose of the leftover material that’s in the leaf.

That leftover material is what you rake every fall. More fall foliage tomorrow.

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

Nature: Diversity in the Chihuahuan Desert

September 12th, 2014

The Chihuahuan Desert

The Chihuahuan Desert



This is Passport to Texas

Say the word desert, and –and an image of a bleak and lifeless place may come to mind. That may be true for some deserts – but it’s not true for the Chihuahuan Desert Region.

07—It’s one of the most diverse places for both plants and animals in this country, and frankly, in the world.

That’s not including tropical and subtropical regions, of course. Cynthia Griffin is Executive Director of the
Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, or CDRI, in Fort Davis…located within the 220-thousand acre ecosystem.

29—There are over 3-thousand plant species on the Chihuahuan; it is a center of diversity for cacti. Our cactus greenhouse has some of the most rare and best examples of cactus found in the Chihuahuan Desert. There are more reptiles on the Chihuahuan than there are on the Sonoran. There are more birds on this desert [region] than in the Everglades. And in the Davis Mountains, we have 16 of the 18 species of North American Hummingbirds.

The Chihuahuan Desert Region has an elevation range from 1-thousand to 10 thousand feet above sea level, and it is isolated from other North American deserts.

10—So there’s not the bleeding over. And, so because it’s large, and because of its range of elevation, you will find species here that you will not find anywhere else.

Learning about deserts isn’t as dry as you once thought.

Find out more about the Chihuahuan Desert Region in the Aug/Sept issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine.

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

Nature: Chihuahuan Desert

September 11th, 2014

Chihuahuan Desert

Chihuahuan Desert



This is Passport to Texas

The Chihuahuan Desert Region is the third largest desert region of the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in North America. But many Texans know little about it.

13—I don’t know why they don’t know a lot more about the Chihuahuan Desert [region]. My guess is, when they think of West Texas, they think of Marfa and the art community; they think of McDonald Observatory, they think of Big Bend National Park and the State Park…

…Not realizing those places lie within this unique desert ecosystem. Cynthia Griffin is Executive Director of the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, or CDRI, in Fort Davis.

18—The Chihuahuan Desert [region] encompasses about 220-thousand square miles. Most of it is in North Central Mexico. But it also comes into West Texas basically west of the Pecos River. It’s in South Central New Mexico, and it’s in a small part of Southeastern Arizona.

Griffin says the range of elevations in the Chihuahuan Desert Region make it unique.

23—And it goes anywhere from a thousand feet above sea level up to ten thousand feet. And that large diversity in elevation accounts for the flora and the fauna, and it also accounts for the temperatures. Unlike the other deserts, we have a lot of coolness and we have more rain than they do because of that elevation range.

We’ll have more on the desert tomorrow. Until then read about the Chihuahuan Desert Region in the Aug/Sept
issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine.

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

Hunting: Tips for Hunting Teal

September 10th, 2014

Green Winged Tealcinnamon-tealBlue-Winged-Teal


This is Passport to Texas

Good environmental conditions in teal’s northern nesting areas mean more birds and a 16-day early season in Texas.

16—Blue-wings are the most abundant, and are very common to Texas early and late in the year. Green-wing teal are kind of our winter residents. And Cinnamon Teal, for the most part, are more of a western bird. They’re not real common in Texas, but we do encounter them from time-to-time.

Kevin Kraai (CRY), waterfowl program leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife, says teal do not behave quite like other duck species.

24—One thing I like to tell hunters is these birds are actively migrating this time of year; it’s very dynamic from one day to the next. So, just wake up and go. You never know if today is the day that the migration is going to be strong. You can go out one day and there will be nothing, and go out the next and be covered up in them. So, I just say wake up and go. Find good shallow habitat, shallow water that has abundant food. And there’s a really good chance there’ll be teal there that day.

The season opens Saturday, September 13 and closes Sunday, September 28, with a six bird daily bag limit.

19—We haven’t looked this good in a long time. Right now we have abundant freshwater, from the Texas High Plains in the panhandle, all
the way down to the Texas coast.

Opportunity awaits. Find more hunting information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series.

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

Hunting: Early Teal Season

September 9th, 2014

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal



This is Passport to Texas

Early teal season provides waterfowlers an opportunity to harvest ducks before the regular season opener in November. Whether hunters get a nine day or sixteen day season depends on the birds.

15—If the breeding population is above 4.7 million, you’re allowed a 16 day, 6 bird [daily] bag limit season. If it’s below 4.7 and above 3 million, you have a nine day season. Anything below – I believe it’s 3 million – the season’s closed.

Kevin Kraai (CRY) is waterfowl program leader for the wildlife division of TPW. It’s been a good year for teal.

15—We’ve had a sustained long-term wet period [this year]. Couple that with some timely Farm Bill programs – such as the Conservation Reserve program – that put large amounts of upland grass on the landscape. And the blue wing teal have just responded favorably to that.

A 16 day season opens Saturday, September 13 and closes Sunday, September 28. Kevin Kraai says to make sure you’re prepared.

11—Each hunter has to be certified in the Harvest Information Program. Additionally, they will need to have a migratory game bird stamp, offered by the state of Texas. As well as a [federal] waterfowl duck stamp.

Find hunting information for all game species on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program supports our series… and receives funds from your purchase of fishing and hunting equipment and motorboat fuel.

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