Bird’s-eye View: Audubon Texas Quarterly Newsletter April 2022
Audubon Texas
Bird's-eye View Quarterly Newsletter April 2022
pelicans
View from the Flyway
Dear friends of Audubon,

Happy Earth Week and Happy Earth Day! The spring season brings us many reasons to celebrate and be grateful for the natural spaces around us. I'm still beaming from the inspiring Texas Women in Conservation luncheon in San Antonio this week, honoring our friends and partners,  Betty Bueché and Jeanette Honermann. 

We are very grateful for our generous sponsors and supporters. Without you, this event would not be possible! Our Texas Women in Conservation luncheon supports Audubon’s Conservation Leaders Program for Young Women, focusing on career-focused conservation science and service for high school students. One of our young women, Jordan, shared her inspiring words with the audience. And what an audience it was! My sincere thanks to our elected officials and National Audubon Society President & CEO, Dr. Elizabeth Gray, for joining this week. I hope you take a moment to enjoy the beautiful photos and videos shared below. 

There are many birding festivals, events, and tours happening across Texas and at our three Audubon Centers and Sanctuaries. We look forward to seeing you there!

Warmly,

Lisa Gonzalez
Vice President & Executive Director, Audubon Texas
Pelicans nesting. Photo: Peggy Wilkinson
TWIC event
Member Updates

Celebrating Our 2022 Texas Women in Conservation Honorees!

The Mays Family Center at San Antonio's Witte Museum was buzzing as nearly 200 guests gathered to celebrate Audubon Texas’s 2022 Texas Women in Conservation Luncheon.

We were excited to be back together, for the first time since 2019, with partners from across Texas celebrating the 2022 Terry Hershey Award honorees Jeanette Honermann, REI, and Betty Bueché, retired Bexar Heritage and Parks.

Among the honorees' friends, family, and colleagues were the Honorable Hope Andrade, former Texas Secretary of State, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, Bexar County Commissioners Rebeca Clay-Flores and Tommy Calvert, San Antonio Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran, and representatives from Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s office and Councilman Mario Bravo’s office.  

Lisa Gonzalez, Vice President and Executive Director of Audubon Texas, emceed the event. Special guest speakers included Dr. Elizabeth Gray, National Audubon Society Chief Executive Officer, and Jordan Strait, senior in the Audubon Conservation Leaders Program for Young Women.

The inspiring program spotlighted the integral roles Jeanette and Betty have played in ensuring the preservation of San Antonio's heritage and the equity and inclusivity of its conservation space.

Proceeds from the event, both via sponsorship and funds raised at the event itself (including a $5,000 match by Tito's Handmade Vodka), benefit Audubon Texas youth education, notably the Conservation Leaders Program for high school girls. 

Thank you to all of our partners, sponsors, supporters, and staff who made this year’s event a rousing success! 
Honorees Betty Bueche & Jeanette Honermann, the Audubon Conservation Leadership Program students with Lisa Gonzalez and Dr. Elizabeth Gray, CEO, National Audubon Society at the Texas Women in Conservation event on April 19, 2022.
beak
It's All About the Birds

It’s Peak Migration – Dim the Light for Birds at Night

This year’s peak spring migration season begins this Friday, April 22nd and runs through May 12th. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology department developed BirdCast as a tool for predicting and monitoring annual bird migration. As you know, one-third of birds migrating through the United States pass through Texas each year. Birds tell us the effects of land use, pollution, climate change, and weather trends. But they need our help!

Migratory birds face a number of challenges during their spring and fall migration windows, and it’s critical we work with our communities to reduce the millions of annual bird fatalities. Many species are attracted to the lights on tall buildings and are confused by the glass façade within our urban landscape. During peak migration periods, Audubon Texas encourages everyone to turn off as many lights as possible in rural, residential, and commercial areas, reducing overall light emissions. All nonessential and decorative lighting near the tops of buildings should be prioritized to be turned off during this peak period. You can learn more about best practices and share your efforts on social media through the Lights Out Texas program, co-managed by Audubon Texas and Texan by Nature. Additionally, the American Bird Conservancy has developed a suite of resources to reduce glass collisions by creating bird friendly buildings.

Guidelines everyone can use:
  • Turn off all non-essential lights from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. each night during migration season.
  • Do not use landscape lighting to light up trees or gardens where birds may be resting.
  • For essential lights (such as security lighting) use the following dark skies-friendly lighting practices:
    • Aim lights down
    • Use lighting shields to direct light downwards and to avoid light shining into the sky or trees
    • Use motion detectors and sensors so lights are only on when you need them
    • Close blinds at night to reduce the amount of light being emitted from windows
    • Share your success on social media and with the press, your commitment to go lights out to save birds is newsworthy.
Full Spring migration runs through June 15, 2022, and National Audubon Society is a proud sponsor of this year’s World Migratory Bird Day on Saturday, May 14th. This year's theme is “Dim the Lights for Birds at Night,” focusing on the impact of light pollution on migratory birds. Learn more about how light pollution affects birds and what Audubon is doing about it. 
Rose-breasted Grosbeak Photo: Kristine Olson / Audubon Photography Awards
nesting birds
Program & Policy Updates

Coastal Conservation

As the waterbird nesting season continues, Audubon Coastal Wardens in Galveston Bay, Matagorda Bay, and the Lower Laguna Madre are out on the water every week checking on colonies and monitoring nesting birds. We have birds nesting on our sanctuary islands all across the coast and are beginning to see American Oystercatcher chicks on some of those islands.

Early last Saturday morning the coastal team and two volunteers boarded our boat and pulled out of Port O’Connor to survey Chester Island by drone. We were joined by our partner from Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program who was scoping out the island for an upcoming research project.

Bird, birds everywhere! Off in the distance, a flock of terns was feeding on a school of fish while pelicans were flying into the island in-formation. Our team was excited to see pelicans and cormorants sitting on eggs, and many other species building their nests. It looks like we are getting back to normal after nesting numbers had dropped last year due to a feral hog on the island.

Looking ahead to the summer, our coastal wardens will work to reduce disturbance on the islands by patrolling the water and encouraging everyone to Share the Shore.
 

Policy Wrap 

Spring is off and running, and things have been busy within Audubon Texas’s policy shop. We are steadfast in our engagement on important water quality issues across the state, focusing on how Texans manage wastewater as part of our larger commitment to one water principles. Which simply means that managing water as a single resource helps us all make better decisions to protect water quality, emphasize water conservation, and promote thoughtful use. 

Audubon Texas has been thoughtful  participants in a contested case hearing around an important seawater desalination permit, which could set important precedents in the state around how we manage our plans for large-scale coastal seawater desalination facilities. These facilities are critical for helping Texas meet long-term water planning goals, providing firm water to communities, and helping relieve pressure on surface waters systems (rivers and streams) that are crucial for maintaining the health of our bays and estuaries with fresh water inflows. While Audubon Texas is supportive of these technologies and the critical need to ensure our economy and communities benefit from firm water, we are also focused on how to ensure that potential impacts to our fisheries and our marine- and estuarine-dependent species, such as birds, might be impacted without sufficient planning and best practices in place. More to come this summer, when a final decision is expected. 

Meanwhile, further down the coast at SpaceX, more decisions are imminent. The FAA is widely expected to issue a decision around a launch permit by the end of April, while the Army Corps of Engineers has elected to table a decision on the SpaceX 404 wetlands permit until more information is made available. Audubon Texas is closely watching these developments and has weighed in on the project in public comments here and here.   

Like many other Texans, we are also taking in the interim charges issued by the House and Senate.  Many of our policy priorities, such as those listed above, are represented in these interim charges. Additional related issues are being considered, including how to strategically and methodically approach legacy infrastructure such as orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells. These pose significant challenges across the state in both critical zones such as the Texas coast as well as our traditional, energy-producing zones that have been part of our state’s energy success for more than a century. 
 
Nesting birds on Chester Island - Photo credit: Peggy Wilkinson
bluebird
View from the birdhouse
By Yvette Stewart, Community Outreach Coordinator

Starting in the last week of March, there’s been a small but perceptible shift happening. Have you noticed? There’s a restlessness stirring in our backyard, in our local park, and it’s creeping along the highways as I drive to different communities for our Bird City Texas program or Audubon’s Conservation Leaders Program for Young Women. What is it? It’s the new leaves on the live oaks, the croak of frogs, the bloom of blue bonnets. In a word: Spring! The native (and non) plants are blooming. The resident birds have been starting their dawn chorus earlier and earlier as the sun creeps back to brighten our days for longer amounts of time. And the fight of the next generation of birds to survive a Texas summer is beginning.

As you read this, the first wave of migrating birds has already infused bright colors back into our yards and lives. For me, I saw my first Painted Bunting on April 10th. Stop and reflect for a moment; what was your first returning migrant bird for 2022? What word would you use to describe yourself in the moment of recognizing the returning harbinger of Spring? For me, that word is joy. Birds bring joy with each appearance, but especially after the quieter, often drab winter months.  

If you are one of the millions of Texas birders who shares this joy, then you probably already know about World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) and some of the various festivals happening around the state to spread the joy of returning warblers, hawks, shorebirds, and all the other returning birds. What you may not know about are the passionate large and small communities which are striving to create, maintain, and improve healthy habitats for both our year-round residents, and the refueling, resting migrants. Bird City Texas communities have all passed resolutions to celebrate WMBD. And this year, the Environment for the Americas has made the celebration more impactful by giving us the theme ‘Dim the Lights for Birds at Night’, which is a beautiful melding of two central themes for our Bird City Texas Communities: celebration of the incredible journeys birds make every year and the powerful ways humans impact birds without even knowing it. Rarely do we imagine the confusion and exhaustion our electric lights cause migrating birds. Unfortunately, Texas is a big culprit of light pollution in the central flyway, and it’s why the certified communities are working so hard to share Lights Out Alerts with their communities. Every light we turn off or redirect at night can save a bird’s life.  

The Bird City Texas communities run the gamut in size, from the diminutive Surfside Beach to midsized Galveston to our largest (Houston) and most populated (Dallas), but each community is engaged in proactive conservation for our feathered friends with the utmost zeal. World Migratory Bird Day is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the work the Bird City Texas communities are doing to educate and activate their residents on the preservation of natural spaces for birds and people. If the vivacity of spring has put some pep in your step you, too can start to take action for the birds. Start by joining the celebration of migration, plant some native plants, or start your community on the path to achieving a Bird City Texas certification!                                                                               
Eastern Bluebird Photo: Thomas Berner / Audubon Photography Awards
SBS
Sabal Palm Sanctuary Update
Cradled in a bend of the Rio Grande River, not far from where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico, thrives a vestige of what was once a vast palm forest.

The 527-acre Sabal Palm Sanctuary is owned by the National Audubon Society and managed by Gorgas Science Foundation. Within the tract stands the historic Rabb Plantation home. Built in 1891, the home is nestled amidst the critically endangered 32-acre legacy of native palm forest that once extended some 80 miles upriver, encompassing approximately 40,000 acres.

Romey Swanson, Director of Conservation Strategy for Audubon Texas, characterizes Sabal Palm as “one of the most wonderful places in Texas. I think of it as a living museum with the relic gallery sabal palm forest,”

Enjoy this video by Richard Moore.
Rabb House at Sabal Palm Sanctuary Photo: Palm forest / unknown & Rabb House Photo: Jennifer Croy
The three centers in Audubon Texas
Songs from Our Centers

Dogwood Canyon
A Taste of Conservation

At Dogwood Canyon we are always ‘wowed’ by the high school juniors at Village Tech School in Duncanville. This admission-free charter school conducts an Odyssey program in which all juniors must complete a two week, full-time internship at a business of their choice, experiencing real world job expectations. This spring, Dogwood Canyon hosted three juniors, all with various talents and interests, but all equally enthusiastic learners. 

Sean, Mackenzie and Aaron showed up each day, ready to tackle the day’s assignment. They did everything from remove invasive plants, care for our reptiles, served as visitor docents, treated fire ant mounds, cleared old woody growth in the prairie, and myriad of organizing and cleaning projects. But their favorite project was hiking 2 miles into the forest to install metal directional arrows to each of our trail posts to help keep visitors on the right path. They did this independently, organizing their supplies and following directions perfectly. Their last day culminated with Dogwood Canyon’s community event, celebrating ten years of connecting people to nature. They helped with set up, checked in visitors, made and served popcorn, and performed animal encounters three times for the guests. The students were a treasure to have at the center, providing needed assistance for Dogwood Canyon while gaining skills and knowledge of environmental conservation. We can’t wait for next year’s interns!


Trinity River Audubon Center
Service Learning for Next Generation Stewards

By definition, Service Learning is an experiential educational approach where learning occurs through instruction, action, and reflection. Trinity River Audubon Center (TRAC) has partnered with University of Texas – Dallas and University of North Texas – Dallas to provide Service Learning opportunities for professors and their students. The partnership has allowed professors to complement their curriculums whereby students gain experience and knowledge in the conservation field. This also allows Trinity River Audubon Center to continue its mission aligned with Audubon’s strategic priorities. Each class period takes place on Trinity River Audubon Center property. Students learn from Jake Poinsett and Marcus Cole to better understand prairie ecology, grassland ecosystem functions, and the unique adaptations prairie plants and animals possess in order to survive and thrive within these imperiled habitats.

Afterwards, students take action and participate in a variety of restoration activities such as invasive/nuisance species removal, plant propagation, native plant installation, and bird surveys. After our time in the field, professors and their students utilize one of our classrooms to take a deeper dive into various topics of sustainability. Guest lecturers are often incorporated into the class discussion, and have presented topics such as historical accounts of Native Americans in North Texas and their relationships with the landscape.

Our very own Marcus Cole presented on environmental justice, using the history of TRAC as a baseline, and our dedicated volunteer Ted Zobeck also presented on soil types found here in the Blackland Prairie ecoregion. Partnering with universities through Service Learning has brought new levels of community involvement to Trinity River Audubon Center. These students have been instrumental in the crucial restoration of an endangered plant community for birds and other wildlife. And equally important, the students are developing as the next generation of environmental stewards who will protect birds and the places they need for today and tomorrow.

Mitchell Lake Audubon Center
2022 Migratory Bird Fest Returns

Mitchell Lake Audubon Center is excited to bring back Migratory Bird Fest in-person as we celebrate spring migration and World Migratory Bird Day with this three-week event. The celebration begins on Earth Day with our community open house and free entry day on April 23, followed by three weeks of virtual and in-person workshops, guest lectures, bird tours, and raffle. The event concludes on May 14 with a free community festival filled with live birds and animals, games, crafts, vendors, native plant sales, food trucks, pollinator walks and exploration stations.  
 
All proceeds from this event support our mission to connect people to nature and protect the places birds - and humans - need, today and tomorrow. For more information, visit our webpage.
Exterior photos of Trinity River Audubon Center, Mitchell Lake Audubon Center, and Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center
Upcoming Events

To view the complete list of events at all 3 of our Centers, visit the Audubon Texas website Events page.


Thank you for your continued support of Audubon. The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. For more information, events, and to find your local chapter visit https://tx.audubon.org/. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


 
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