Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


 Texas river cooters by Chase Fountain / TPWD


Summertime, and the Livin' is Easy

Just like us, some wildlife love the sun while others find ways to cope.

Baskers and bathers, you can come out now. It’s summertime in Texas. No more shivering or starving for our native species that like it hot.

So, what wild things are popping up in your backyard or favorite place to walk? And who’s hiding out like TV bingers in their own dark, cool caves?

 Chihuahuan greater earless lizard by Richard Love / TPWD


Lizards give us that side-eye as they sunbathe on flat rocks to catch the warmth they crave. Many backyard nature watchers marvel at the boldness of the Texas spiny lizard, a fairly common visitor that doesn’t seem to mind pausing for a snapshot. Snakes emerge from winter hibernation to bask on sunny March days; when the weather gets torrid in summer, they confine their activity to early morning, evening and nighttime.

 White ibis by Chase Fountain / TPWD


Hang out at the beach or a secluded little creek, and you’ll see water creatures in their element. Dolphins leap joyfully in the sparkling sunlight to the delight of their human counterparts. Great blue herons wait along the riverbank for a chance at a passing fish or other small creature for their dinner. They’re quite a majestic sight, the largest herons in North America.

 Black-tailed prairie dogs by Earl Nottingham / TPWD


Some of you may resemble the wild creatures that prefer to go deep to stay cool in the summer. Take the prairie dog, living in large colonies in intricate underground tunnels from 12 feet to more than 100 feet in length. During the hottest hours of a summer day, the prairie dogs retire to their cool burrows to nap or carry out other underground activities. When evening cools the sizzle, they return to the surface to feed.

 Queen butterflies by Chase Fountain / TPWD


You can tell it’s summertime in Texas by the noise level, set to 11. From the early morning symphony of trilling songbirds to the cacophony of cicadas every evening, you can hear summer as well as see it. Pollinators are in heaven right now, too. Butterflies flutter ceaselessly from flower to flower while bumblebees roll drunkenly inside cactus blooms and prickly poppies. And don’t forget to look up as raptors catch thermals to soar high into the impossible blue of a Texas summer sky.

 Coreopsis in bloom by Chase Fountain / TPWD


And through it all, thousands of species of native wildflowers add a splash of color to the summer canvas, cycling through seasons from bluebonnets to sunflowers along roadways and fence lines, across fields and neighborhood parks. You can witness the parade of color from the comfort of your car.

How can we help wildlife?

The most important way to help wildlife is to provide some clean, fresh water when the summer heat dries up many of their natural sources. Many Texans hang hummingbird feeders on hot summer days; even watering your garden provides droplets for butterflies. Adding mulch to that garden not only conserves water and keeps roots moist longer, it also provides a habitat for many tiny creatures important to the circle of nature.

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