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Texas’ Fourth Annual Pollinator BioBlitz

Monarch Butterfly

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department | Austin Texas

For the next two weeks, Texans are invited to take part in the fourth statewide Pollinator BioBlitz. The goal of the BioBlitz, which runs from Oct. 4-20, is to raise awareness of the diversity and importance of pollinators while bringing greater attention to the critical habitat needs of monarchs and native pollinators across the state.

In support of the event, organizations and sites around the state will be hosting a variety of events to get people outdoors to observe pollinators of all types in yards, natural areas, gardens, parks and community centers. Of course, you don’t have to visit a particular site to participate; your very own yard or green space will do.

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge will be holding Butterfly Garden Walks on October 5th and October 19th. Butterflies and all Texas pollinators have suffered during this hot summer. Now that the weather has begun to cool a bit, the pollinators are out feeding on fall blooming flowers.

“Documented declines in insect populations, particularly pollinators, have brought to the forefront the need to better understand these species and the support they provide Texas rangelands, agriculture and native ecosystems,” says Ross Winton, invertebrate biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Texas is home to thousands of pollinator species from the iconic monarch down to the smallest solitary bee.”

Citizen scientists involved in projects like this help us gather data on Texas species and the plant communities they are connected to, Winton adds. This helps us learn not only what we have in our great state but also what we need to strive to protect.

The BioBlitz is designed to be fun for all ages, with no experience required. Participants are simply asked to look for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and moths, as well as nectar-producing plants; photograph or take video of them; and share their discoveries online via Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #TXPollinators. Plant and insect species may be difficult to identify, so observers are encouraged to post what they know. For example, “Striped bee on Turk’s cap in Mission, Texas” is fine.

Participants are encouraged to take it a step further and help increase the amount of data collected during the peak of fall migration by becoming a citizen scientist. Anyone can sign up and record their observations through the iNaturalist application on their phones or home computers. All pollinators and flowering plants posted between Oct. 4-20 will automatically be included in the 2019 Texas Pollinator BioBlitz Project at https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/2019-texas-pollinator-bioblitz.  There is no cost to participate and the only tools needed are a camera or smartphone and internet access.

In addition to the monarch, 30 species of pollinators have been designated as “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” by TPWD. Native butterflies, bees, moths, bats, hummingbirds, wasps, flies and beetles are essential to healthy ecosystems and sustain native plant species, human food crops and crops for livestock.

To learn more about the importance of pollinators, sign up to be counted, and locate events across the state, visit the Texas Pollinator BioBlitz website at www.tpwd.texas.gov/pollinators.

Participants can also sign up for weekly email updates during the event that will add to the excitement as everyone works together to increase awareness of our pollinators and the availability of their habitat.

Join event partners TPWD, National Butterfly Center, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, National Wildlife Federation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as we celebrate the importance of pollinators.

It’s easy to get involved. Individuals and families, schools and clubs are all asked to join, observe, identify and share. At this time of year, cooler temperatures across the state also alert bees to eat as much as they can before hibernation begins, so it’s the perfect time to photograph, post and record the insects you see while enjoying the great outdoors.

To view a video news report about the Pollinator BioBlitz, visit https://youtu.be/IamRvnr7218.

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Fall Equinox at Austin College Idea Center

Texoma News Fall Equinox at Austin College

Fall Equinox to Arrive with Movement of Sun

A carefully designed but ancient feature of Austin College’s IDEA Center will be “in action” Monday, September 23, as the precise arrival of the Fall Equinox is marked. The IDEA Center itself serves as a large astronomical observatory that displays the movement of the Sun through the gnomon hole in the roof across the building’s Oscar C. Page Atrium to mark the winter and summer solstices and the vernal and autumnal equinoxes along a meridian line built into the floor.

The public is invited to join the gathering of students and faculty from 1 to 1:25 p.m. to watch the progress of the Sun as it casts an image on the atrium floor and aligns with the equinox marker at exactly “solar noon,” (1:18 p.m. CDT). The IDEA Center is located on the Austin College campus at 1108 E. Richards Street in Sherman. The event is free and open to the public, weather and sunlight permitting. Sunlight is required for the event.

The annual fall and spring equinoxes are the two days when the sun shines directly on the equator and provides nearly equal daylight and night hours. A gnomon hole is an ancient device originally used to compute time.

Dr. David Baker, professor of physics, director of the Adams Observatory, and author of the award-winning book The 50 Most Extreme Places in the Solar System, will provide comments and instruction during the event.

“Watching the sunbeam march across the floor of the Page Atrium and arrive at the equinox marker is magical,” said Baker. “It marks a significant moment in time, one that has been observed by many civilizations throughout history. The solar observatory at Austin College does it in a special way. It’s worth seeing.”

The atrium was constructed so that the sunbeams of the fall and spring equinoxes fall on the Chinese symbol for the Sun in recognition of Asian contributions to knowledge of the universe. The summer solstice is marked by the Greek/Macedonian symbol for the Sun to symbolize the contributions of the West in the understanding of the universe, and the winter solstice is marked by the Mayan symbol to recognize Native American contributions.

Austin College, a private national liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas, has earned a reputation for excellence in academic preparation, international study, pre-professional foundations, leadership development, committed faculty, and hands-on, adventurous learning opportunities. One of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change LivesAustin College boasts a welcoming community that embraces diversity and individuality, with more than 50 percent of students identifying as persons of color. The residential student body of approximately 1,300 students and more than 100 expert faculty members allow a 13:1 student-faculty ratio and personalized attention. This year, the campus recognizes 100 years of co-education and has had several opportunities to recognize the history of women and accomplishments of current alumnae. Austin College is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA) and cultivates an inclusive atmosphere that supports students’ faith journeys regardless of religious tradition. Founded in 1849, the College is the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original name and charter.

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Texas Hunters Brace for Hot Teal Season Opener

Teal Season Opening Day

Texas Parks and Wildlife | Austin Texas

This year’s early teal hunting season is expected to be a hot one, both in terms of temperature and prospects. Extended forecasts for Saturday’s opener indicate waves of blue-winged teal headed for Texas, along with daytime highs in the mid to upper 90s.

The 16-day statewide early teal and Eastern Zone Canada goose season in Texas will run Saturday, Sept. 14 through Sunday, Sept. 29. The daily bag on teal is six, with a possession limit of 18. Bag limit for Canada geese will be five and a possession limit of 15 in the Eastern Zone only.

“Literally millions of teal are heading our way and growing numbers are already being reported across the state,” said Kevin Kraai, waterfowl program leader with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “It is looking like the timing of this year’s teal season may be another encouraging point considering the full harvest moon will be on Friday, the day before the season opener. That will trigger mass migration of teal out of the Dakotas.”

While the stars may be aligning for what could be a bountiful teal season, the extended dry weather across much of the state could be a concern. Kraai indicated a lack of water now following the wet spring and early summer that hit much of the eastern half of Texas isn’t necessarily a detriment to hunting.

“Seems we are always in a pattern of too much or too little rainfall here in Texas,” he said. “We have definitely entered a dry spell over the last couple of months, which is not necessarily a terrible thing for many parts of Texas. Typically, when there is less water spread out across the landscape it concentrates birds in areas where hunters tend to be waiting.”

The extremely wet spring and summer in eastern Texas had rivers in flood and lakes way above conservation pool. This unfortunately will impact the amount of terrestrial seed producing vegetation that generates the high energy foods that teal will be seeking. The upper ends of these reservoirs will still be a great place to check for migrating teal despite high waters earlier in the year. Submerged aquatic vegetation should be growing rapidly this time of year and aquatic bugs, essential to migrating and molting teal, will be flourishing in those locations.

As for conditions and prospects for teal season around the state, TPWD waterfowl biologists report:

•             The Gulf Coast is drying out quick but freshwater flows into the bay systems have sparked an above average amount of submerged aquatic vegetation currently growing in places that are typically much more saline.  Marsh complexes up and down the coast should see an increase in teal use this fall.

•             Further inland in the agricultural areas of the Gulf Coast there are a lot of people prepping for the wave of teal coming our way. Pumps are running night and day and canals are open and flowing. These folks will most certainly see incredible teal concentrations enjoying the tables that they set for them.

•             Much like the rest of the state the High Plains playas received substantial rainfall this spring and summer. Very high temperatures and strong dry winds have really wreaked havoc on the standing water across much of the Panhandle the last couple of months. There are still some locations with clusters of wet playas, but they are receding fast. Definitely going to need some replenishing rains soon to carry this important waterfowl area into the winter.

Hunters are reminded to purchase their 2019-20 hunting license before heading afield, available online at www.tpwd.texas.gov/buy, at license retailers or by phone at (800) 895-4248. The online transaction system is available 24/7. Call center hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is a required $5 administrative fee for each phone or online transaction, but unlimited items can be purchased during a single transaction for this $5 fee.

New this year are enhancements to make the licensing process simpler and faster. “Expedited checkout” speeds the process of re-purchasing the same license items bought during the previous three years. TPWD has also made it easier to show proof-of-license. Now hunters and anglers can use an electronic image of their license as proof-of-license and show/display it in any of these ways: (1) an electronic photo of your license, (2) an emailed receipt, (3) via your account within the license point-of-sale system, the Outdoor Annual App or the My Texas Hunt Harvest App (for hunters). You still must have your physical license for any activities requiring tags and the physical federal duck stamp for waterfowl hunting.

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