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moss Brewster Buescher Dickens bird watching horned lizard birding trail river spoonbill

Photos shot for the December 2018 issue






The Year of Epic Texas Challenges

Texas' vast and diverse landscapes and array of outdoor pursuits offer thrills for participants and spectators alike. Each issue of 2018 will feature an event to challenge even the most extreme athletes and sportsmen. We hope you'll enjoy reading it from the comfort of your armchair or perhaps be inspired to try a new pursuit.

Birding by the Numbers

Bird watchers brave the cold to tally species for the Christmas Bird Count.

Oysterman and ecotour guide James Arnold steadied his boat as I boarded with then-Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist Brent Ortego. While Arnold wound through a maze of channels toward East Matagorda Bay, I clutched a clicker counter, tallying brown pelicans. The mild, sunny day turned cold with dark clouds churning overhead as we glided alone in a sea of tall grass and slate-colored water, like explorers of a mysterious new land.

For that Matagorda County Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 19, 2011, other volunteers fanned out across marshes, woods and beaches, and the 244 species they spotted placed Matagorda County No. 1 in the U.S. that year.

More recently, in the 2017 count, Matagorda County reported 220 species, ranking it No. 1 for total species for the 11th year in a row and 25th time overall.

(read more)

The Comeback Kid

Once plentiful pocket pets, ‘horny toads’ are being reared in zoos to release in the wild.

Like a miniature triceratops, the diminutive Texas horned lizard was the perfect pocket
pet of Grandpa’s era, though he called the wild but gentle creatures “horny toads.” Ask anyone of Grandpa’s era about these little reptiles with pancake- shaped bellies, and they’ll lament the horny toad’s disappearance.

“When I was a kid, I’d catch one and keep it in a shoebox at home,” these older Texans confess regularly to biologists. “I feel pretty guilty about it now that they’re gone.”

Horned lizards are not yet an endangered species, but it’s true that they’re not as plentiful in some areas where they once thrived, and they are threatened by loss of habitat. Help for one of Texas’ most iconic and beloved creatures is on the way with new breed-and-release programs involving zoos, private landowners, conservation groups and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

(read more)

Shadows and Light

Photographer Lance Varnell lost his sight but not his artistic vision.

Once he got the idea in his head to fill a giant Texas map with 254 beautiful landscape images, one depicting each county, freelance photographer Lance Varnell worked obsessively to complete the project. He spent all his free time crisscrossing the state to catch the best light at the perfect spot that says, “This is Brazoria County.” Or Fort Bend County. Or Nueces County.

It was almost as if Lance knew his deadline was momentous this time around. Maybe somehow he subconsciously sensed that the shutter of his own visual lens would soon close, leaving him in darkness.

But not in the dark.

(read more)



KTW 2011 coverKTW 2011 cover

Keep Texas Wild

It's not just for kids. If you like nature-related topics in an easy-to-read format, you can find three years of our popular Keep Texas Wild issues and the teacher resources to go along with them.

    Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine