Searching for Desert Sparrows -Texas Parks & Wildlife [Official] - Lake Harding Association

Searching for Desert Sparrows -Texas Parks & Wildlife [Official]

Searching for Desert Sparrows -Texas Parks & Wildlife [Official]

By Micah Moen 1 Comment February 11, 2020


[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 rangelandand healthy grasslands.This Chihuahuan Desert
landscape provides a homefor 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 captureabout 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 willtrack 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 trackinginformation together,
the team can map outwhere 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 understandingof 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 theloss of native grasslands.But here at the Mimms Ranch
the owners know thatprotecting 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 helplandowners manage these vital
grasslands in a way that isboth 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]

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