Moonlight helps white barn owls stun their prey

Moonlight helps white barn owls stun their prey

Barn owls are skilled nocturnal hunters, swooping across open landscapes to scout out small rodents that scurry below. But scientists have long been puzzled by a trait that seems like it would work against the birds during their nighttime prowls. Some barn owls boast a brilliant white plumage—an unusual feature for an animal that should, in theory, need to remain inconspicuous against the darkened sky. The bellies of Tyto alba, as the common barn owl is formally known, can range…

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The butterfly effect: Native milkweed can save monarchs – if you know how to grow it

The butterfly effect: Native milkweed can save monarchs – if you know how to grow it

Barbara Keller-Willy remembers her reaction when fellow Texas gardeners told her that native milkweed, a plant essential for the survival of the monarch butterfly, was nearly impossible to grow: How hard could it be? It was 2009, and Keller-Willy had just quit her job as an engineering executive. She was spending her time volunteering for local nature and prairie restoration projects. Keller-Willy had been a corporate problem-solver for most of her professional career. Learning that milkweed was resistant to even…

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Creatures of the deep karst

Creatures of the deep karst

Groundwater—the water that is stored beneath the Earth’s surface in soil and rock—makes up more than 95 percent of the Earth’s liquid fresh water. The subsurface aquatic realm is also the world’s largest freshwater habitat. Although organisms that live only in subterranean aquifers make up a relatively small fraction of the total number of freshwater species, they are an important component of biodiversity. They are poorly understood, however, because they are to a large extent inaccessible and are difficult or…

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IN DEPTH: Hays County, Travis Audubon demand full, public environmental review in legal challenge to Permian Highway Pipeline

IN DEPTH: Hays County, Travis Audubon demand full, public environmental review in legal challenge to Permian Highway Pipeline

Local opponents of the Permian Highway pipeline have taken a second major legal action to try to push the company developing the project into conducting a full and public environmental review. Hays County, Travis Audubon Society and several private plaintiffs filed a notice of intent July 17 to sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Kinder Morgan. The challenge follows months of discussion among elected officials and residents over the impact that the…

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Hill Country caves reveal secrets to the biology of cave-dwelling animals

Hill Country caves reveal secrets to the biology of cave-dwelling animals

Along U.S. Highway 281 headed north to the Comal County line, drivers can see shopping centers and housing developments that look indistinguishable from suburbia elsewhere in the country. But hundreds of feet below the highway, inside the Edwards Aquifer and some local caves, new species of salamanders, crustaceans, and other creatures are being discovered. Animals that live inside the Edwards aquifer include two species of blind catfishes. A recent report also documents the discovery of several species of crustaceans (shrimp-like…

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Invasive zebra mussels found in Lakes Lyndon B. Johnson, Pflugerville in Central Texas

Invasive zebra mussels found in Lakes Lyndon B. Johnson, Pflugerville in Central Texas

AUSTIN – Established, reproducing populations of invasive zebra mussels have been discovered at two new lakes in Central Texas, Lake Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) in the Colorado River basin northwest of Austin and Lake Pflugerville northeast of Austin. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) biologists confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in Lake LBJ after LCRA staff found about a dozen juvenile and adult zebra mussels near the Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant in…

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What’s in the way of this Texas pipeline? A cute songbird

What’s in the way of this Texas pipeline? A cute songbird

The golden-cheeked warbler, an endangered songbird native to Central Texas, always seems to be flitting around controversy. It proved to be a roadblock derailing the Texas Department of Transportation’s plans to build a toll road in 2016. Prominent politicians in Texas say protections for the bird infringe on property rights. And in the last few years, the diminutive bird has survived multiple attempts to remove it from the federal endangered species list. Now the warbler is at the center of…

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Texas could gain millions in federal funding to help at-risk fish and wildlife

Texas could gain millions in federal funding to help at-risk fish and wildlife

Texas could receive more than $50 million annually to pay for initiatives that support at-risk fish and wildlife populations under a bipartisan bill introduced in Congress. Known as the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), House Resolution 3742 would provide $1.3 billion every year to states and $97.5 million to tribes. The Texas Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife says the funding wouldn’t require new taxes. It would be supported by existing federal revenues. Under the Endangered Species Act, which Congress passed in 1973, species can be listed…

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During a solar eclipse, what are plants doing?

During a solar eclipse, what are plants doing?

  • July 15, 2019
  • News

As the total solar eclipse crosses South America on Tuesday, it won’t just be people oohing and ahhing as the sun is blotted out. Other living things will have their own responses, too — some of which we are just beginning to understand. As some scientists used the Great American Eclipse in August 2017 to watch how bees and birds dealt with sudden midday darkness, researchers in Wyoming investigated big sagebrush, a shaggy, aromatic desert shrub that grows throughout the…

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Proposed pipeline would cut through Golden-cheeked Warbler habitat

Proposed pipeline would cut through Golden-cheeked Warbler habitat

Every March, birders spill into the canyonlands outside of Austin, Texas, to search for Golden-cheeked Warblers. The tiny black-and-white songbird, with vibrant yellow splashed across its face, is the state’s sole endemic bird, and a federally protected species with an estimated population of 27,000. In early spring the birds migrate up from Central America to nest in the Hill Country, a region of limestone hills, caves, clear creeks, and swimming holes in Central Texas. There they construct deep cup nests, weaving strands of ash-juniper…

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