Going in Circles is for the Birds

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

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.

TPW TV — Fishing Hall of Fame

December 7th, 2018

The man. The legend: Shannon Tompkins

This is Passport to Texas

You never know where a shared family experience will lead down the road. In Shannon Tompkins case, it lead him to a love of fishing, avocation as a conservationist and a career as an outdoor writer.

Ya know, I’m lucky I grew up in a family that loved to fish. The memories I have is of me and my brother fishing in farm ponds of east Texas. It’s just always been a part of my life. This is the same country my great, great, great grandfather saw. I’m looking at the same water, catching the same fish that he caught. I write about issues related to fisheries and water; the environment. Because without a healthy environment, we don’t have fish. And so people don’t care about something that they don’t feel a connection to. If they don’t know about this place, they don’t know what’s at stake, they don’t care that they’ve lost it. That’s really been my goal is to let folks know what’s going on out there.

For his dedication to conservation issues, Tompkins, who writes for the Houston Chronicle, was inducted into the Texas freshwater fishing hall of fame. Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive director, Carter Smith.

He brings a very thoughtful, objective voice, of fish and wildlife management or conservation and outdoor recreation in Texas, and Shannon Tompkins is there to tell that story.

Learn more about Tompkins from the people who know him the week of December 9th on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS.

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

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

TPW Magazine — Texas Horned Lizard

December 6th, 2018
Texas Horned Lizard

Texas Horned Lizard

This is Passport to Texas

With a flat, spiky body, the Horned Lizard has captivated the generations of Texans.

Everyone you meet, if you just mention horny toad, or horned lizard, they say” “Oh, I used to see those all the time when I was a kid; I would pick them up and put them into my pocket. But now I never see them. What happened to them”?

That’s a question editor Louie Bond addresses in an article for the December issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. To get answers, she travelled to the San Antonio Zoo to meet with director of conservation, Andy Gluesenkamp.

And he is raising horned lizards in hope of having babies in a few months, and putting them back into their historic habitats.

Which includes arid and semiarid habitats in open areas with sparse plant cover. This habitat’s been fragmented by development. But it still exists.

We’re actually tying into a whole other program at the agency, which comes from the mapping department. And we have this incredible interactive vegetative map of the whole state, broken into pretty small parcels of land. The biologists can look at the map and judge the habitat by a variety of criteria. So, they actually can rate each piece of land and make sure that it actually does have all the things that are needed there.

The horned lizard article by Louie Bond is as fascinating as the animal itself. Read this in-depth feature in the December issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. On newsstands now.

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

Christmas in Texas State Parks

December 5th, 2018

Christmas at Sauer Beckman Farm.

This is Passport to Texas

The holiday season is a special time to visit your state parks. Parks throughout Texas offer festive activities that could cause even old Scrooge, himself, to crack a smile.

Check out the calendar section of the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for a complete listing of holiday events in parks. Until you do, here are a few of our favorites for your consideration.

December seventh, join rangers and visitors at Tyler State Park for a stroll around the lake as the sun goes down… and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of winter.

December eight, Fort Richardson SP & HS—a half hour south of Jacksboro—invites visitors to observe ‘ghosts’ of cavalry soldiers and their families as they celebrate Christmas in an 1870’s U.S military post.

On the 12th through the 15th of December, Daingerfield SP in Daingerfield invites visitors to drive through the park, which will be lit up like Santa Land and meet Santa himself on Friday and Saturday!

And, on December sixteenth, head over to Johnson City for the 49th Annual tree lighting at LBJ State Park and Historic Site. Join the Texas Hill Country Community in this special tradition started 49 years ago by President and Mrs. Johnson.

Enjoy carolers, a live nativity, Santa Claus, refreshments and of course, the spectacular tree lighting. Then revisit the past at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm

Find more holiday events at state parks in the calendar section of the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

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