Enhance

3. Enhance Native Biodiversity

Convert Bermudagrass and Texas Wintergrass Fields to Native Riparian Forest

Natural encroachment

Natural encroachment is a process where vegetation advances throughout its habitat. By allowing the encroachment of native riparian species, we are naturally allowing the conversion of Texas wintergrass and bermudagrass fields.

Activity

We allow natural encroachment by encouraging and protecting native species. When prescribed burns are conducted, we will protect native species by mowing/weed eating burn lines around them. We also continuously monitor for browsing by deer and use protective measures if necessary

Outcome

Natural encroachment will eventually result in a more historically natural riparian area in the Texas wintergrass and bermudagrass fields

Propagate and transplant native woody species

We will propagate and transplant native woody species into the riparian zone, where natural encroachment is not successfully occurring. The mechanical removal of chinaberry is critical for this activity.

Activity

Surveys allow us to determine what native woody species should be propagated, as well as where they should be established. We plan to begin growing a minimum of 5 woody species, maximum of 10. We will transplant the propagated plants and monitor the progress to determine if additional propagation is necessary.

Outcome

This activity will promote the conversion to native vegetation in areas where natural encroachment is not successfully occurring.

Native prairie seed mix

We planted our wintergrass field in native prairie seed mix. Native seed is essential for native wildlife species, and provides both food and habitat for various mammal, avian and invertebrate species.

Activity

The field was plowed to disrupt and uproot the existing vegetation. We then used a seeder and tractor to seed the field with a native seed mix. We are continuously monitoring growth of the field.

Outcome

If we establish native vegetation, we will be achieving our goal to enhance native biodiversity. This practice will be very beneficial to all aspects of the native ecosystem

Provide Supplemental Habitat for Native Species

Purple Martin houses and gourds

Purple Martin houses and gourds provide habitat for purple martins. We have a set of gourds and a house available on the property, both of which are currently being used by purple martins.

Activity

We followed Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) guidelines for establishing a purple martin colony. We also have and continue to adapt to our own situation while working to establish purple martins.

Outcome

This activity provided purple martins with ideal nesting habitat. We have recorded significant purple martin activity, included nest building activity. We hope to continuously increase the success of this purple martin colony.

Bluebird boxes

Bluebird boxes provide nesting habitat for bluebirds. A student organization at Tarleton State University constructed the boxes.

Activity

We determined that the area could hold 80 bluebird boxes. We have currently constructed and installed 20 bluebird boxes throughout the property. Those boxes will be monitored and maintained. We will add 20 bluebird boxes each year, until we have 80 throughout the property.

Outcome

We will eventually provide nesting habitat for 80 bluebird pairs, or other cavity-nesting songbirds. We hope to observe a continued increase of native birds utilizing the new nesting habitat.

Owl boxes

Owl boxes provide nesting habitat for owl species. They may also give us access to owl pellets we can examine for small mammal surveys.

Activity

Five eastern screech owl nest boxes have been constructed and affixed to trees along in the Bosque River riparian zone. We will continuously maintain and monitor these boxes and hopefully begin collecting owl pellets for mammal surveys.

Outcome

We have provided nesting habitat for Eastern screech owls on the property. Since installing the boxes, we have identified Eastern screech owls in the area. We continue to monitor the boxes and surrounding areas in hopes to utilize pellets to observe mammal species on the ranch.

Chimney swift tower

A chimney swift tower will be constructed on the property to provide habitat for chimney swifts.

Activity

A single chimney swift tower will be constructed and placed in the trap near the house, at least 25’ away from any trees.

Outcome

This activity will provide nesting habitat for chimney swifts, and a roost site for approximately 40 chimney swifts. We hope to maintain a population of chimney swifts.

Snag development and retention

Snag development and retention will be implanted to provide natural habitat to cavity nesting birds.

Activity

We will determine what trees should be developed as snags. We will then identify the best method for developing snags and implement the method / methods of choice. We will continue to monitor the developing snags and determine if additional snags are necessary.

Outcome

Snags are important to many native avian species. Cavity nesting birds can commonly be recorded utilizing snags for nesting habitat. We hope to increase this natural habitat by developing and retaining snags.

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Owl Boxes

The Tarleton Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society built five screech owl boxes that were placed throughout the ranch. After installing our owl boxes, we detected our first Eastern screech owl on the property! We followed the Audubon guidelines to build our owl boxes. Follow this link for the instructions to make your own:  How to Build a Screech-Owl Nest Box

growth of the field

The Texas wintergrass field was tilled and planted with a native seed mix April 2020. A local landowner assisted Tarleton State University’s graduate student with the planting of the native seed. The seed mix planted included Plains Bristlegrass Switchgrass (Blackwell), Green Sprangletop (Van Horn), Little Bluestem, Sideoats Grama (Haskell), Purple Prairie Clover, Sweet Clover (Silver River), Sweet Clover (Yellow Blossom), Maximilian Sunflower, Illinois Bundleflower, Indiangrass (Lometa), Partridge Pea, and Engelmann Daisy. Stay tuned for pictures of the field’s progress!

purple martin activity

Our study site is the proud home to a colony of purple martins. These are migratory songbirds that arrive at the ranch during spring and leave to migrate south in late summer or early fall. Purple martins are cavity nesting birds and can be attracted by providing them with appropriate habitat. These insect-eating birds are a popular species and are well known for their high tolerance of humans. There are multiple housing options for purple martins. Our project site provides both nesting gourds and a compartment condo for the birds. We have also installed predator guards to keep racoons and snakes from predating purple martin eggs and hatchlings. Our martin housing is located in an open field approximately 150 feet away from building structures. House sparrows are problematic to purple martin colonies. House sparrows are an invasive sparrow species that are aggressive and sometimes deadly to native bird species. These birds are notorious for claiming purple martin housing. To prevent these problems, we store our gourds and cover the house entrance after the colony has migrated. We make the housing available when we spot the first purple martin the following spring. We are happy to report that we observed a successful breeding year for our purple martins! Our colony size was approximately 20 individuals at the end of the season. We are looking forward to their return! For more information on purple martins and how to establish a colony of your own, look into these links:

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