PBS SHOW – Grassland Sparrows, Fort Boggy Fun, Wildlife Selfies, #2818
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PBS SHOW – Grassland Sparrows, Fort Boggy Fun, Wildlife Selfies, #2818

– NARRATOR: Coming up on
Texas Parks and Wildlife…
– Their declines are
indicating to us that something’s going on
in our grassland systems that isn’t healthy. – Not many people know about
this park because they hear about the bigger parks. – As far as jobs go, this is
pretty amazing, I mean getting to work out
here in these mountains. It’s all very beautiful. [theme music] ♪ ♪– NARRATOR: Texas Parks
and Wildlife,
a television series
for all outdoors.
[wind blowing] – SEBASTIAN ORUE: We’re ready. Ok, let’s go. Go! – RUSSELL MARTIN: We are at the
Mimms Ranch in Marfa, Texas. – SEBASTIAN: Let’s spread out
a little bit more over here. – RUSSELL: We’re studying
the wintering survival of grassland birds in the
Chihuahuan Desert. [meadowlark call] We’ve seen a decline in
grassland birds across the continent as a whole. – FABIOLA: Bird! Bird! – RUSSELL: The grassland birds
that winter in the Chihuahuan Desert,
have seen a 70% decline, so they’re declining
at a faster rate than the other grassland
obligate birds. – SEBASTIAN: This is a
grasshopper sparrow. Very yellow shoulders, and
a yellow, like eyebrow right in front of the eye. – This project is trying to
help us understand where in the bird’s life their
numbers are falling off. – They’re really cryptic. They’re very difficult to see,
so, actually for a long time nobody realized that
they were declining. I don’t know, I think it’s just
kind of sad that they would disappear just because we never
knew that they were out there.– NARRATOR: The Mimms Ranch is
11,000 acres of prime rangeland
and healthy grasslands.This Chihuahuan Desert
landscape provides a home
for several declining
bird species,
like the grasshopper sparrow,and the Baird’s sparrow.[Baird’s sparrow calls] – RUSSELL: They summer up in
Canada and in the Dakotas, Montana, in the grasslands
up there, and then they’re migrating
from there down to the Chihuahuan Desert which
crosses into Texas and all the way down
into central Mexico and there’s pockets of
grasslands all scattered around the wintering grounds
where these birds are found. – Ok, so everyone’s ready? – We’re ready. – Ok, let’s go!– NARRATOR: It’s late December
as this team of biologists,
students and volunteers set
out across the Mimms Ranch.
[hammer tapping]They know there are sparrows
in these grasses,
they just have to find them,
and catch them.
– Pat, Matt! Go closer to the net please! – MIEKE: The idea is to
drive the birds to the net. They prefer to walk,
instead of flying, that’s their way to hide
from predators and us. So, we kind of tap the grass
to try to flush them out. – SEBASTIAN: Bird, bird, bird! – and then if a bird starts
flying, we wave our arms and the sticks in the air. – SEBASTIAN: Bird, bird, bird! Two! – We’re trying to keep the birds
from going above the net, so this is supposed to make
them think it’s a predator. – MIEKE: Throw it! – FABIOLA: We throw it above
them, they go down and they fall in the net. – Down, perfect! – MIEKE: So, this is
a Baird’s sparrow. It’s a little bit different
than the grasshopper sparrow.– NARRATOR: In a week’s time,
the team will capture
about 40 birds.– MIEKE: So, this is a
grasshopper sparrow.– NARRATOR: They’ll
weigh them…
– Two.– NARRATOR: measure them…– MIEKE: Forty-one.– NARRATOR: band them…– 14.– NARRATOR: …and outfit them
with tiny radio transmitters.
– MIEKE: All right, he’s done.– NARRATOR: Then
they let them go.
– One, two, three. Yeah. [laughs] [tracker beeping]– NARRATOR: Over the next three
months, researchers will
track the birds, every day.– SEBASTIAN: We do track
every bird every day. Some birds get lost. Sometimes we walk up to like, I don’t know, 15, 20
kilometers a day. The grasslands are like
really nice to walk on. You know, they’re flat, I mean,
you get like a nice breeze. To me this is like beautiful. It’s like going on a hike, just
looking for birds, you know. – MIEKE: So, the different
colors are different birds.– NARRATOR: Once they have
all the tagging and tracking
information together,
the team can map out
where each bird has been.– MIEKE: The bird was caught
there, and it moved around a little bit and then it
finally went there, and it stayed there for
the rest of the winter.– NARRATOR: All this work will
lead to a better understanding
of what kind of habitat
the birds like,
and don’t like.– RUSSELL: All of these
grassland birds are really an indicator of ecosystem health. Their declines are indicating
to us that something’s going on in our grassland systems
that isn’t healthy. – MIEKE: Shrub encroachment
is a big problem. The main predator for these
birds is the loggerhead shrike. They perch on shrubs, to look
for their prey and we know the survival
is lower when shrub cover is higher.– NARRATOR: Improper
livestock grazing,
suppression of natural fire,increasing non-native
plant cover,
and habitat fragmentation
have all contributed to the
loss of native grasslands.But here at the Mimms Ranch
the owners know that
protecting the watershed,improving the grasses,and raising cattle,all go hand in hand.– What’s easy to happen in
these drier environments is that you lose your
ground cover. And so, what we’ve been
able to achieve out here with our grazing system, is
getting the ground covered with these good lower grasses. It allows the water to
absorb better, you get better wildlife habitat. It even goes on and creates
better forage for the cattle. – These grasslands here are
grazed and they look great and there can be cattle and
birds at the same time. You can have both, cattle
and grassland birds.– NARRATOR: What these
researchers learn will help
landowners manage these vital
grasslands in a way that is
both sustainable
and profitable.
And that’s good for wildlife,and the bottom line.– MIEKE: The main problem for
these birds is that their habitat is disappearing. There’s not enough
grass cover for them. Mimms is a really good,
high-quality grassland, so we get a lot of these
birds here. They’re telling us this is
good management what they are doing here, that this is good. – Here we go, right now. [gentle music] Flew right over there and lit. That was a transmittered Baird’s
Sparrow that we just released. My first one, never seen a
Baird’s Sparrow till I came here. So that’s kind of fun. [Baird’s sparrow chirping] [wind] [wind] – J.D. MILLER: It’s a very,
very beautiful park. Very small, quaint. Unknown to a point. We most definitely
are a hidden gem. Not many people know
about this park because they hear about
the bigger parks. Once they find out
about this park, we see them coming back
again and again. [bird call] [gentle music] – TOMMY NEYLAND: There’s woods,
there’s open space. Every bit of it just
real picturesque and something that you
won’t forget. [upbeat music] [calm music] – I’m J.D. Miller, I’m the superintendent of
Fort Boggy State Park. We consider
ourselves East Texas. We’re about 45 minutes
north of Huntsville, about two hours north
of Houston. [woodpecker pecking] Tree-lined terrain. We have the oak trees, we have the bois d’arcs, we have hickory, uh, just about every imaginable
tree, really. I consider it more of
a true forest area. A hilly country as well. [birds calling] Back in the 1800s, there was
an actual fort here named Fort Boggy after Boggy Creek. Our little 12-acre lake is
pretty much what everybody comes out to enjoy. It is spring fed, so it’s
actually cooler than the actual creek itself. It is a no-wake lake. They can get out
and swim and fish. [fly casting whooshes] We do have a one-mile
hiking and biking trail that goes around our lake. We do have the two-mile
hiking trail and biking trail that encompass our
primitive campsites. They are spaced out. No electricity,
no running water, it’s true roughing it. It’s a hike in and enjoy
actual nature. We do have an actual
pavilion for the rental. It will hold up to 40 to
50 guests at one time. Pretty much used every weekend. Our cabins seem to be
our main attraction. It is glamping. The cabins are very,
very beautiful. You have your
queen-sized bed, bunk bed with an
actual trundle. It is heated and
air-conditioned. A little bit more home comforts. [gentle music] [fire crackles] – We could not do a short trip
if we had to bring it all. It’s just not worth it. – We like the amenities that
the cabin brings as far as a nice cushy bed. – If you’re not into bugs
and things as much, you can escape that. [laughs] Having a bed and not having to
worry about the shelter aspect is good, and it’s good
for any kind of weather. – At the same time, you know,
a little bit of rustic with the environment and the fire
that we can still have, so it’s just right. – JENNIFER: Just a
little escape. [upbeat music] – We hear it all the time,
“We never knew y’all were here,” “We never heard of Fort Boggy,” “Man, y’all have a
beautiful park.” If you don’t want the
big park experience, most definitely come
to Fort Boggy, the small park experience
that you will never forget. [gentle music] [calm music] – WILL RHODES: It’s quite
amazing to see the sun peaking up over the mountain
like that. – TRAVIS SMITH: You know the way
the sun hits the mountains and shades part of them,
and that changes you know as the sunrise comes up. It’s very majestic. [foot steps] – WILL: As far as jobs go this
is pretty amazing, I mean getting to work out here
in these canyons and mountains. It’s all very beautiful the
way it all comes together; the varied topography of the
area is quite amazing. – My name is Travis Smith. – My name is Will Rhodes. I used to live in the city and
got tired of that pretty quick. Found that this is just
really where I fit in. – TRAVIS: Just a different way
of life out here, and I love it. [truck passing by] – WILL: This is Black Gap
Wildlife Management Area. We’re in southern Brewster
County which is in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas. – TRAVIS: We’re in the
Chihuahuan Desert Ecosystem. The area is 103,000 acres
or a little over. Black Gap is kind of in
the middle of nowhere. You know it’s 55 miles
from the closest town. There are only four individuals
who live on the area. – To the nearest Walmart is
110 miles and even there, there’s not many people there. At night, you know, you get the full stars,
everything. You see the entire Milky Way. Where as in the city you
might be able to see a couple of stars. – My wife is a very
understanding woman, she actually loves it just
as much as I do out here. [truck on gravel] – WILL: Just by its definition,
this a Wildlife Management Area so we have to manage and
maintain the wildlife for the people of Texas. We have close to 300 miles
of roads that all need to be maintained. – TRAVIS: With just the two
of us, there is very little down-time. We don’t get bored very often. [truck stopping] As we all know,
animals need water. Our annual rainfall is only
around 11 inches a year. So we’re trying to supplement
that water during dry periods. A guzzler is a rain catchment. Water will be collected,
funneled into a tank, which then feeds a water
trough for wildlife. We have 45 guzzlers on the area
that we maintain. We like to periodically check
them to make sure everything is in working order. [drill whirs] Make sure the wind or animals
haven’t walked on the catchment and bent it, or
the wind has loosened it. Just make sure everything
is in good working order to provide water for wildlife. – WILL: With it being just me
and Travis out here it would be nearly impossible to get all
this work done without the support and funds from the
Mule Deer Foundation, Texas Bighorn Society, and Wildlife and Sport Fish
Restoration Fund. So this catchment consist of
R-Panel in 12 foot lengths, which is connected to these
6-inch C-Purlings (audio speeds up)
by a 5/16 inch bolt head with a 14 x 7/8 pitch
thread, (faster audio, high pitch voice)
which is then welded onto the 2″ square tubing. This all leads to a
4-inch gutter into a 4-inch (faster, higher pitch)
drainage pipe, which leads into a 2,500 storage tank. A 1″ rain should, in theory,
catch 400 gallons of water. (normal voice) And that right
there is a rain guzzler. [metal banging] – TRAVIS: We have a lot of tools
as biologist but one of the most unique ones are game cameras. A game camera is a camera we can
set over basically anywhere. We like to focus on water
sources since that’s where animals come to congregate. – WILL: On these game cameras,
it’s triggered by motion. Usually that’s going to be
wildlife coming in to get water from the guzzlers here. And game cameras also have
infrared illuminators so we can get video and photographs
even in pitch black. We wait two weeks before
collecting images from the cameras, so we
just have to be patient. [gate closes] – TRAVIS: It’s a very relaxing
commute to the office in the mornings. It’s just a stone’s throw away
from my house. There’s no fighting traffic
or road rage. – WILL: All right these are
the ones we pulled from the camera today. Should be about two weeks
worth of data. – TRAVIS: All right, now we’re
getting some deer. Four does and that’s one
collared one, or an ear tagged. Yeah, there’s the ear tags. They look very healthy,
good shape. – WILL: Buck here. – TRAVIS: Decent little buck. If you go back, you can
get kind of an age. He’s not too young, he’s got a
little bit of Roman nose there. I’d say that’s a typical buck
that you’d find on Black Gap. – WILL: Oh, we got a
little coyote. A young one. We’re seeing what you’d expect
out here, coyotes and mule deer. A lot of javelina,
that’s probably your most common thing on the camera. – TRAVIS: Some collared mule
deer going to these waters, and that helps with determining
movements of wildlife as well. Even hawks and buzzards
will benefit from these water sources. Really every animal on the
area is going to benefit from this water. [playful music] [buckles releasing] – WILL: This is one of our new
game cameras, this is setup on one of the water troughs
that is on the guzzler here. Get the files off and see what’s
been visiting this guzzler. These are all going
to be videos. From all these videos, we can
see it’s quite impressive the amount of wildlife and the
diversity of the wildlife coming to this new guzzler. [playful music] ♪ ♪ Looks like we have
several mule deer. Along with some of our collared
released does from earlier this year. We’ve got some gray fox, looks
like a whole lot of javelina as was expected. That tells us that it
has been effective and what we wanted it to do. [dramatic music] Time takes on a different
feel out here. I love this area of Texas. I love the mountainous region
mixed in the Chihuahuan Desert. – TRAVIS: Not every person can
be this isolated and this happy. This is God’s country. [drill whirs] – The universe is amazing. The sky is amazing. And seeing the stars as
beautiful as they are and the Milky Way with your
naked eye and then being able to photograph it- it’s just,
it’s mind-blowing and it’s addicting. You can’t see anything like
this in most parts of the state, in most parts of the country. I would much rather be
in a park somewhere, in the mountains or
hiking or exploring than sitting in traffic. We’re out here because it
is one of the- if not the darkest sky in the lower
continental 48 with a workshop group who have all
signed up to come learn how to photography
the night sky. I come out a day early. I come out and scout out
locations to make sure that I know were the Milky Way’s
going to be rising so I can get them a good shot. …and not run over this
little roadrunner here… If we were here and there’s
a giant light right here, obviously that’s not going to
work for our shot but it looks like it’s going to work out
pretty nicely because it’s- no light here, Terlingua’s
back here- that will be minimal light. I’m pretty stoked
about this one. And I haven’t shot it yet
so it will be really fun. It’s always my biggest fear
is to come back and all of a sudden Terlingua’s
like blown-up and you have like this huge city. Some of these students are
brand-spanking new into photography and they’re just
now learning how to turn on their cameras. Some have come from the
film days and now they come to digital and they want to
learn how to shoot digitally. You know, my goal for you
guys is not only to learn but to walk away with at least
one shot from this trip that you’re like “I want to go
print this and hang this up on my wall.” And if you get that one shot,
that’s a good weekend. You know I’ve been on trips
for a week where I’ve….. Sunset approaches. I take them out to our first
area to shoot at, introduce them to their subjects, show
them ideas for compositions, show them where the Milky Way
and the stars will be. The lower, the better. The Milky Way comes
up right here. It’s a really, really
nice composition. And then as we go from
sunset to twilight, they start getting a few hints
of the stars above. And then about a half-hour
after sunset they get a full-blown view of the Milky
Way and we spend the next five, six hours
out here shooting. It’s really cool bringing
students our here because many of them don’t get to
see the stars like this. They’re stuck in cities which-
you know, they see three or four stars and they think
“this is incredible” and when they come out here
their minds are absolutely blown because they can see the night
sky as beautiful as it is. And once they get shooting,
all I ask is no red lights, no cell phones,
no lights at all. That’s going to make the
process go much faster. I teach them how to
light-paint their subjects, how to expose for
the Milky Way… – Oh wow! – MIKE: …how to focus on it,
and really how to take something that is absolutely
majestic in the sky and tell a story with it. So you’re going to cover
basically 180 degrees. You could simply walk outside,
take a picture of the Milky Way in the sky, but I try
to figure out a way to tie that in with a human interest. It’s cool to incorporate
something as simple as, you know, a cactus or
a person or a building or an old abandoned car. You know, tell a story of-
okay, here’s this town that’s 100, 200 years old. You have a city that has come
and gone but yet it still has the same night sky as it
did when it was booming. It’s luck as well as skill
and patience and practice and experience. It’s moments like that, that
make you work for the shot, that make that final shot when
you do get that beautiful Milky Way so, so worth
every once of effort that you put forth. [birds calling] [birds calling] [birds calling] [birds calling] [birds calling] [birds calling] [birds calling] [birds calling] [birds calling] [birds calling] [birds calling] [birds calling] [birds calling] [birds calling]

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