OUR Public Lands

I have very strong opinions on public lands and the takeover of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by Bundy and his bunch has me foaming at the mouth.  As I write this, I am a guest on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and I’ll focus on my observations here.  Aransas is a special place to me for so many reasons.  This February will be the 21st anniversary of me leading my first college field trip here.  The marshes and swamps and many of the species remind me of my childhood home in Florida.

I had the opportunity to see parts of the Refuge from the water, launching out of Goose Island State Park and heading up the coast to the boundary of the Refuge.  The classic refuge boundary signs are not necessary to know when you have crossed onto refuge land.  Here the marsh reaches the edge of the Intercoastal Waterway and water birds of all kinds are abundant, including the majestic whooping crane.  

In the absence of the Refuge’s protection, huge homes painted in costal pastels push out into the water and over the marshes on mounds of fill.  Areas once used by anglers, human and otherwise, are under million dollar homes.  Their docks jut hundreds of feet into the shallows and are clearly marked no trespassing.  Areas that served as nurseries for fish, crabs and other wildlife are gone.  It’s the American Dream, at least for the lucky few.  The rest of us are crowded into ever-shrinking areas of access to the water and its resources and recreation.  

Our destination was Matagorda Island, one of only two Texas barrier islands not connected to the mainland by roads.  The island has a long history of use but remains relatively wild.  We landed on the southern end of the island in the protection of a bayou but in sight of the surf of the Gulf.  I saw more avocets in one place then ever before.  There were no buildings in sight and were it not for a sign or two and tracks of previous visitors we could have imagined we discovered the island.  Our knowledgeable local guide Ron Smudy, however, explained all the changes that had occurred in the recent past.  

The Gulf’s waters were not so kind to the island, depositing trash along the sandy beach.  I tried but failed to look past the plastic bottles, pieces of ropes and nets, styrofoam floats from crab traps and more.  Combating this mess will have to fall to others, I try to stay focused, as much as possible, on wildlife.

Time and strong winds prevented us from visiting the island’s wetlands and other habitats.  I know they are there and will be when I return again, thanks to the protection of the Refuge.  The same can be said for the other 500+ National Wildlife Refuges (minus 1 that has been stolen temporarily from all of us), National Parks, Wilderness Areas, BLM and Forest Service Lands.  

These lands are OURS and I will not easily relinquish my hold on my 1/319,000,000 share and neither should you.  I bet Teddy Roosevelt is turning in his grave at the events in Oregon.  He started the National Wildlife Refuge System with the protection of Pelican Island in Florida.  Roosevelt was no fool, he knew the importance of wild places and wildlife and set them aside for responsible use by future generations.  I’ll take it a step further, I believe access for every human to wild areas is an inalienable right.  

Categories: conservation, nature writing, wildlife | Tags: , | Leave a comment

No one has ever seen this….Texas Wild Exclusive

Jessie and I were out looking for critters after dark last March and came across toads we discovered to be Houston Toads (thanks for the ID Greg).  The Houston toad was rare to begin with but 5 years of drought and an epic wildfire left its existence in Bastrop State Park in question.  We got lucky and hit the mother load, Houston toads were calling from all directions and we filmed them in several ponds.  THIS IS THE ONLY HD VIDEO OF THIS SPECIES IN EXISTENCE.  Oh, we have much more-but this is all for now.  The video is a bit long and the edit rough in places but we were excited to share.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Collared Lizard Courtship


Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Collard Lizard Courtship


Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A series of interesting events…and a cave!

Texas Wild filmed this last night, Oct 6th, at a cave in Edwards County.  This video begins with swarms of cave swallows outside and then swirling inside the cave as a rainstorm passes.  The swallows nest inside the caves with large numbers of free-tailed bats.   Then you will see swirls of Brazilian free-tailed bats followed by a weak exit flight. The strongest cold front of the year accompanied us from Canyon to near Sonora and, along with the rain, likely slowed the emergence.  We use ir lights to film the bats because visible light disturbs bats.  This series of events occurs at caves across south Texas from April-October.  Both species are excellent at insect control.

Categories: nature writing, video, wildlife | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A day in the life: Jessie

It has been a very productive week in the office, at least for me it has. The week kicked off with sheer panic to finish deadlines and to place orders that were need yesterday.  Many people are currently playing musical offices with recent changes in our large lab. A new project is in good hands and underway, and a new grant has come our way. Money and research is all this assistant knows.  Meanwhile back at the Texas Wild office things are in full swing. In my dead time (yes finally I had some) I decided to buy several plants for décor both inside and outside of the office.  I did so without asking the other employees of any allergy histories. The plants look good and seemed to be office favorites.  The petting zoo that is our office has expanded in population from last week. We now are accompanied by yet another opossum, Henry II as we like to call him. Henry the first is still MIA. I personally feel that Henry 1st has hit the road, at some point making a great escape out the back door to the garden. Henry II managed to bust out of his cage and roam the same corridors that Henry 1st once did late at night.  Four traps and a can of sardines later Henry II was soon in custody.  At this point, I would like to say, I love the smell of opossum in the morning, the lingering stench of sardines smells like victory.

Due to the large population of animals we have in our office it is a nature progression for the neighborhood kids to view our office as a source of daily entertainment.  Numerous kids fall upon our office to enjoy candy, critters, tales of escaped opossums and the occasional ice cream. The opportunity to educate these kids is not lost upon me. Just yesterday I taught a girl who had urine from one of our toads on her hand to high five Sparky, Sparky being an employee who was trying to enjoy his dinner.  Another grand opportunity presented itself to me when I was given a red stretchy “friendship bracelet.” I accepted the gift, which now made us sisters, and then proceeded to teach this earthling the ways of my people. I showed her how to make an Eiffel tower out of the band which she thought was way cool, but not nearly as cool as holding the Eiffel tower then releasing it upon other people’s unsuspecting forearms. The kids really seem to enjoy their weekly educational sessions with me.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Henry II, Woodhouse Toads and Other Educational Opporitunites

Educational opportunities have come in droves to the Texas Wild office. Being a part of Texas Wild has its perks such as getting to travel to River Road Middle School to do outreach for the day. The students enjoyed seeing and handling a Great Plains Rat Snake and a Hognose Snake. We also showed them Henry II (our second opossum), a Woodhouse toad (used to show a predator and prey relationship between toads and Hognose snakes), Tiger salamanders in the adult stage and aquatic stage (thanks Jim Ray), Black Widows, Brown Recluses, and a centipede. Each group of students seemed to have a crowd favorite, the students were thrilled to get to learn and interact with all of the animals. Each class brought tons of energy into the room as well as  Henry II with his  drool and fecal matter display!  We enjoyed seeing all the kids, especially we loved seeing how excited they were. The students at River Road are very sharp kids; they couldn’t have been more respectful of us, our time and our animals. They had a ton of good stories to share as well as great questions. Getting to interact with students likes these, helps us appreciate the opportunity we have been given, a job that allows us to combine both of our loves, film and wildlife. Many students were interested in our place of work, WTAMU, focusing their questions on how to attend WT, and whether opportunities such as the ones Ray Matlack and I have, are available to them. The answer being yes, conservation, education and progression into the Wildlife field await students’ at WT and students like those at RRIS make WT and a successful program like the Wildlife program possible. Thanks guys for having us out and giving us your time, we hope to return soon.

-Jessie Storyee RR (2)

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Chickpeas & Coffee: Texas Wild Style


It’s a great day here in the home office of Texas Wild. Fall breeze is coming in through the windows; the day so far has consisted of roasted chickpeas, hot tea in mason jars and long coffee breaks in the garden.  Coffee breaks in the garden area are common; some form of wildlife always turns up in the garden which has hosted almost 70 species of birds.  There is also an abundance of life found by the pond and in and out of the native scrubs and grasses found throughout garden turning it into a wildlife haven.  The garden is the hotspot for late night breaks from editing to forage for crickets used to feed the seven tiger salamanders we are filming through their metamorphosis. The salamanders share the office with not only each other but with Henry and several other animals being featured in our series.

“Henry the opossum” is one of many animals that hold claim to the office, Henry as of late has taken it upon himself to be a free roamer, and has done so throughout the office for the past 3 days. Henry’s existence is verified by the amount of food left over in his bowl the next morning and the displacement of objects I find when I return to the office the next day.

Pseudo scorpions, black widows, a Great Plains rat snake, a western hognose snake and a brown recluse are also in the office, which is why I am so excited to come to work in the morning. As a co-founder of Texas Wild, I enjoy the fact that the office could double as a petting zoo on most nights depending on what has been brought in or has crawled through the door.

Our submission to Wild to Inspire, the upcoming National Geographic film competition is well underway as well as our series Texas Wild to be featured on PBS.  This weekend we received our budget for the series, an event that was more than inspiring.  Words cannot describe how it feels to see your hard work come together. We worked for over a year chasing this dream.

It is unfathomable that a year’s worth of work, tears and sweat can simply be summed up in a 10 sec introduction. That introduction was the beginning score for our PBS series Texas Wild. When I viewed our opening introduction to our series in the PBS office, and I could not help but realize that the introduction summarized the year and half hard effort we put in chasing our dream.

Despite the long road ahead of us, we have worked to achieve so much and have surpassed so many obstacles and opinions of others, our confidence is now, dare I say, solid? Texas Wild is growing each day as new equipment and collaboration with outside sources work into our lives. We are looking forward to what lays ahead, including the premier of our series, new film locations and any setbacks, all of which will be handled with confidence and perseverance, Texas Wild style.


– Jessie Story

Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Will Trade Nutritious Brain for Sex

This mantis, believed to be a Carolina Mantis, is one of the most common Mantis species seen in North America. The praying mantis are incredible creatures in many ways, most noticeably in their anatomy. Equipped with five eyes, two compound and 3 simple, they have excellent vision with the ability to rotate their heads 180 degrees.  They feed on a variety of insects, which are grasped with claw like forelegs, which are often held in a praying position, lending to the mantis name. As the mantis grows in size so does the size of prey captured up to and including small birds like hummingbirds.

Egg cases often appearing as a brown rectangle found on plants or on the side of buildings are capable of hatching over one hundred offspring. After emergence hatchlings dry and then disperse.   At one time or another most people have seen a mantis, and have heard stories of their behaviors, most notorious is the behavior of cannibalistic mating.

The Carolina Mantis, pictured above is just one species of mantis documented exhibiting the display of such behavior. This bizarre behavior is one that catches the attentions of many viewers and is hard to at times fathom.  Segmental ganglions are located throughout the praying mantis, each ganglion acts as a control center for functions, and each ganglion cluster communicates with other clusters.  Signals are sent, received and blocked by one command center to another. Communication is transmitted in an orderly fashion, the brain still being the overall control center. When connection between the brain  and segmental ganglions is severed, say by the female consuming the male’s head during mating, the ability to send, receive and block signals is lost. Until the entire head is removed, the ganglion will still exhibit behavior previously blocked by the brain. During mating in which the male is consumed,  the behavior  this can be seen; the male mantis jerking his body side to side in a circular motion with movement in the abdomen. Because some movement is still allowed despite being consumed, mating can still precede and complete mating under these conditions.  The nerve ganglia are in charge of mating once the brain is consumed!

-Jessie Story

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It ain’t easy being Jessie!

“It ain’t easy being Jessie”, is a tribute to my partner in film making, Jessie Story.  We enjoy the best working relationship but it tents toward more of a sibling like relationship at times and especially when we are tired (which is always).

The main clip will show me hitting Jessie IN THE FACE!  Watch and tell me if it wasn’t in self defense.  The whole incident took place as we were preparing to leave town for a field trip and she wanted a smoothie.  Jessie’s main concern in the airing of this clip is for me to make the record straight; she lands more punches by far then I do, I just got this one on video.  She is also proud to state that she has kicked me in the chin and I have come just short of kidney damage from many nicely aimed and delivered sucker punches.

Also in this video, Jessie, catches an American alligator by hand (and it is pretty large) then trips on its tail, she models the alligator, she shares an emotional connection with a porcupine, she gets pelted with hail and she has to let a toad go, but only under protest.

It ain’t easy being Jessie, she works long hours and is fearless and hardworking in the field.  Above all, she is hilarious and a blast to work with.  But if it isn’t easy being Jessie, it is down right tough being Ray!

Categories: education, nature writing, Uncategorized, video, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,408 other followers

%d bloggers like this: