Our Wild Texas – Spring 2019

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Be a Swift Steward

chimney swift on its nest in a chimney, link to video

Chimney swifts travel from Peru to Texas each spring to raise their young. They normally build nests in the hollows of large trees, but most of those trees have been cut down. Since they can't perch like most birds, building a nest in limbs isn't an option. So, the birds started using chimneys as nest sites. 

If you have swifts in your chimney, be aware they're protected and it's illegal to disturb them or their active nests. The nests aren't a health or fire hazard but should be removed each year, so clean your chimney in fall after the young have left the nest. Read our magazine story Chirrups in the Chimney for more about chimney swifts.

Chimney swift numbers are in steep decline. These aerial acrobats eat tons of mosquitoes, and they can use your help. Become a swift steward by providing them with a nesting site. You can get started with this basic tower design (PDF).

Monarch Numbers Are UP

monarch butterfly and caterpillar, link to video

The monarch butterflies are currently making their way north after wintering in Mexico, and their numbers are up. Texas is in the middle of their migration route, and our wildflowers are having a boom year, so the adults should find plenty of nectar for their journey. 

Monarchs also lay their eggs here and need milkweed to do it. It's been added to many gardens in the past few years (maybe even yours). Hopefully there's enough milkweed out there to support this year's monarch caterpillars – we've already seen quite a few eating the antelope-horns milkweed at our headquarters in Austin! 

Monarch butterflies are a threatened species. To help them, keep growing butterfly gardens that include plants with spring and fall flowers along with native milkweeds. Minimize your use of pesticide, and don't purchase flowering plants already treated with neonicotinoids – ask for plants that are pesticide-free.

Mysterious Monarchs Video 

Wild Lands for Wildlife (and You!)

Mason Mountain WMA, link to video

Wildlife management areas (WMAs) are public lands used for wildlife management and restoration. They aren't developed like parks (no bathrooms, no electricity, natural trails) but they are open to the public for recreational activities like wildlife watching, horseback riding and primitive camping.

We currently manage 47 WMAs. Search them by location or activity. All you need is a $12 Limited Public Use Permit for year-long access to any WMA. 

bald eagle in pine tree, calling

National wildlife refuges (NWRs) are similar to WMAs but owned by the federal government. They allow the same types of activities, and some will let you camp with a permit.

Visit one of the 18 NWRs in Texas. The newest, Neches River NWR, opened this month. Its 7,000 acres of hardwood and pine are adjacent to the river, and it has a variety of wildlife. Millions of birds can stop here during spring migration, which is happening now.

Take an Outdoor Challenge

group taking a selfie, link to video

Explore Texas with us this summer by joining in the Great Outdoor Scavenger Hunt (GOSH). It's free and easy to play: pick from our 30 outdoor activities, take a selfie doing that activity, then post it on your favorite social media outlet with #GOSHTX.

Start today by downloading the free Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine app.

Play GOSH!

illustration of assorted wildlife, link to video

City Nature Challenge is a nature sighting competition between cities around the world. The objective is to photograph the most varieties of wildlife in your city. It takes place April 26-29. 

It's easy to take part, use the free iNaturalist app to submit your photos of wildlife. Join in! Your sharp observations may be just what your city needs to win.

Get Started

Saving the Texas State Bison Herd

baby bison with link to video

In the late 1800s, most of the bison in and around Texas were slaughtered. Mary Goodnight, the wife of rancher Charles Goodnight, could hear the orphaned calves crying at night. She asked her husband to rescue those calves, and he did. They were among the last of the Southern Plains bison, and the beginning of the Texas State Bison Herd

You'll find the herd of about 250 bison at Caprock Canyons State Park, where they have more than 10,000 acres to roam. Each year, they're celebrated with BisonFest, a one-day music festival. This year's event takes place on Sat., Sept. 28, with Kevin Fowler headlining. Proceeds go directly to the restoration of the Texas State Bison Herd. Make your plans now to join us! There's nothing else quite like it. 

Take this Bird Under Your Wing

dicksissel bird, singing

Behold the tiny dickcissel. This migratory bird travels from its wintering grounds in South America each year to Texas and beyond. Its distinctive song sounds like its unusual name, and it is part of the soundtrack of North American prairies and grasslands.

Here in Texas, the Grassland Restoration Incentive Program is helping to restore the habitat dickcissels and other migratory birds need to survive. That’s why Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, TPWD’s nonprofit funding partner, is raising funds to support this effort to protect these birds, along with butterflies and a host of other wildlife species. TPWF membership dollars play a critical role in helping to pay for habitat restoration efforts.

By becoming a TPWF member, you can take this tiny bird under your wing.


Did You Know...

It's nesting season for coastal waterbirds. You should stay at least 50 yards away from nest areas to minimize unintentional (and potentially illegal) disturbances.

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