Our Wild Texas – January 2024

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The Bizarre Lives of Flies

Fly with green eyes

We have more than 5,000 species of flies in Texas. They're pollinators, parasites, pest controllers and a protein source for many other animals. Then there's maggots, the larvae of some fly species. Eewww, right? But maggots do the dirty work of dumpster dining and carrion consumption, so we rely on them to avoid health hazards.

Fascinating fly facts:

  • Flies can have huge multi-faceted eyes in various colors, metallic and iridescent body parts, or sport beards.
  • Male dance flies present silk-wrapped insects to females.
  • Phorid flies are being tested in the control of invasive fire ants, because they have a worthy-of-a-horror-movie habit of decapitating an ant, then pupating in what was the ant's head. 

It's hard to accurately ID flies with photos, but you can still share your shots on iNaturalist, and check out the many faces of Texas flies while you're there. Find out more about the secret lives of flies in the popular Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine story The Flies of Texas

Tips for Building a Toad House

American toad in a stone toad house

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and toads are adorable once you realize they can eat 10,000 insect pests in one summer. Help persuade a toad to live in your garden by making a toad house. 

Toads need a cool place to escape the heat, hide and sleep. You can buy pre-made toad houses, but it's easy to make one from a flowerpot or with stones. Increase the value of your toad home with: 

  • A back exit to escape predators, like cats 
  • Leaves or soil for burrowing
  • A shallow soaking pool – try a pot saucer filled with water
  • A shady location near a water faucet or other damp area

Urban gardens provide much-needed habitat for our wild toads. Report your toad sightings to the Herps of Texas project on iNaturalist. Find out more about toad conservation in our short video Friend of the Toads: Paul Crump.

Roadrunner or rattlesnake license plate, with link

Plant for Wildlife: Frostweed

Ice formed by frostweed stem exploding

You may have seen photos of frostweed ice sculptures in your social feed after our recent freeze. This phenomenon occurs when freezing sap and water expand through cracks in the plant's stem, hardening as it flows out. 

Only a few species of plants are capable of producing these fascinating creations. The frostweed Verbesinia virginica, found in Texas, is one of them. Look for them early in morning – once the sun hits them, they melt.

This native plant also produces clusters of white blooms that appear in autumn, just in time to provide nectar for migrating monarchs and other pollinators. Find out more in the Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine story Flora Fact: Frostweed and Monarchs. Try adding frostweed to your landscape. It grows in most parts of the state, preferring moist semi-shade.

Join Us in These Fun Birding Events

Birdwatching couple, video link

Join us and people around the world in the Great Backyard Bird Count Feb. 16-19. Participating is easy, free and fun. Do it alone or with others anywhere you find birds.

All you have to do is watch birds for at least 15 minutes, identify them, and share your finds. There are different tools at your disposal that make it easy to share your sightings. 

2 boys birdwatching, video link

The Great Texas Birding Classic (GTBC) is the biggest and wildest birdwatching tournament in the U.S.A. Whether you're a beginner or an expert, there's a category for your skill level. 

Follow GTBC on Facebook and check out the photos from last year's event. Be sure and register by April 1, and we'll see you out there!

Volunteer to Help Our Wild Things in 2024

Texas Nature Trackers logo

Texas Nature Trackers (TNT) is a group of citizen scientists that participate in wildlife research projects led by biologists.

Check out the many ways you can participate in the program and contribute to the conservation of wildlife, then follow TNT on Facebook and Instagram

Texas Master Naturalist logo

If you want to commit to volunteering, consider becoming a Texas Master Naturalist (TMN). The program offers training and certification, preparing you for leadership roles in local natural resource conservation efforts. Look for a chapter near you, and follow TMN on Facebook and Instagram

Chill Out Video: Ready to Roost

Red-winged blackbirds with video link

Do you count blackbirds and vultures instead of sheep to fall asleep? Maybe not. But take a couple of minutes to relax and watch flocks of red-winged blackbirds and turkey vultures head to their roosts in the video Bedtime for Birdies. A good thing about winter – with the leaves off the trees you can see more of what the birds are doing! 

Join the Great Texas Birding Classic, with link

Our Wild Texas is made possible in part by the generous support of Toyota.

Toyota Tundra ad with link

Visit Clute, with link

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