|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2004-03-01                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
March 1, 2004
Blind and Out-of-State Categories Added for '04 Birding Classic
AUSTIN, Texas – Fresh elements for the Great Texas Birding Classic this April 17-25 include what is believed to be the world's first birding competition for blind and visually impaired participants and another new competition category for out-of-state competitors.
The new 'Outta-Sight Song Birder' Tournament developed from the interest of a group of visually-impaired people in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Supported by two Texas Parks and Wildlife Department grants totaling $66,000, this group has been learning birdsongs since last fall and developing their ability to identify birds by sound. The nonprofit Rensselaerville Institute is the conduit for these grants. It supports community volunteers it calls "Sparkplugs" to help schoolchildren, disadvantaged youth, people with visual impairments and other audiences in the Valley learn through nature outings. After they were exposed to birding through this program, 12 visually impaired Valley residents approached Birding Classic staff about creating a new competition category.
"Birding was something that never crossed my mind when I was sighted," said Raul Reyes, who lost his eyesight in middle age as the result of a laser surgery accident in 1989. "We're very excited because for the first time ever, they are going to give us, the blind, a chance to participate in this event, and for many of us this is very exciting, a chance to go out and do something. And birding, it's something that's free because there are all kinds of birds in the Valley, and we have beautiful parks there where we can listen to the birds. Anybody who wants to join can contact us."
Birding Classic organizers say calls and e-mails to major birding institutions such as Cornell University and events such as the World Series of Birding indicate this is likely the world's first birding competition for the blind and visually impaired.
"Although the concept of blind birding may sound unusual, the best birders often first identify the presence of a bird by its call and then look to see the bird," said Shelly Scroggs, Birding Classic coordinator in the TPWD Wildlife Division. "Birding Classic teams often start competing at midnight on a competition day and bird through the night by ear, so what these visually-impaired competitors are doing is building on established practice."
The other new Birding Classic category this year is the Migration Challenge, developed to recognize out-of-state competitors who often travel long distances to participate and are birding in unfamiliar territory.
During the past eight years, the Great Texas Birding Classic has drawn hundreds of birding competitors from across North America. Thousands of birding tourists also come to Texas each April to companion events along the coast.
Organizers say that it is the longest competitive birding event in the United States, with an impact that reaches far beyond Texas. This is because the Texas coast is important stopover habitat for birds that continue up the Central, Mississippi and Atlantic flyways. Species include many neotropical migratory songbirds, among the nation's most colorful and popular species, which migrate huge distances between South and Central America (the neotropics) and North America.
Since TPWD started the Birding Classic in 1997, winning teams have directed $351,000 in prize money to buy, restore or improve Texas coastal bird habitat. This year, winning teams will direct a total of $51,000 to habitat conservation projects they choose. Teams are also eligible for a variety of prizes, such as binoculars, cameras and field guides, donated by event sponsors.
Classic prizes and tournament categories are set up to accommodate birders of all age groups and skill levels. The main Birding Classic for adult and senior participants takes place on three separate days for the upper, central and lower coast. Most teams choose to focus only on one of the three coastal sections. Roughwings (13 and younger) and Gliders (14-18 years old) compete on either Sunday, April 18 or Saturday, April 24. For those with maximum endurance, there is also a five-day Weeklong Tournament covering the entire coast. In 2003, the Big Sit! Tournament was added for birders wanting to stay in one place all day--teams in this category bird from a 17-foot diameter circle. One tournament coordinator called the Big Sit! a "tailgate party for birders." College teams interested the Sectional or Weeklong Tournaments can take part in the College Challenge, giving the top team bragging rights over all other collegiate competitors.
The new Outta-Sight Song Birder Tournament will take place April 18 in all coastal sections. Teams may have a maximum of one sighted person, who must compete blindfolded, although they may have non-competing, sighted drivers and volunteers to help lead them. Teams can be mixed-age and consist of 3-5 people. More detailed rules are available for this new category.
For the new Migration Challenge, the top single day and weeklong out-of-state teams will take home a Migration Challenge prize and top honors for their state. Birding Classic organizers say they hope to see even more out-of-state teams participate this year.
Birding Classic prize money for habitat conservation comes from corporate sponsors, including Reliant Energy, ConocoPhillips and various optics companies, including Swarovski, Eagle Optics, Leica, and Bushnell.
For more information about the Birding Classic, phone toll-free (888) TXBIRDS, Ext. 2, or visit the TPWD Web site (http://tpwd.texas.gov/gtbc/).
For more about opportunities for the visually impaired, including birding, contact Jane Vaninger with the Texas Commission for the Blind at (512) 377-0376.

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KE]
March 1, 2004
Pursuit Ends in Seizure of Nearly 2,500 Pounds of Pot
MARFA, Texas – Brewster County Game Warden Ray Spears was on patrol recently in Presidio County when he observed what appeared to be a spotlight out in a pasture at a ranch coming from a Ford Excursion. When he saw the vehicle leave the pasture and take off on Highway 90, he attempted to stop the vehicle, and the chase was on.
The pursuit lasted for approximately 18 miles with the suspect attempting to ram an assisting Marfa Police Department vehicle. Several agencies responded to the pursuit call and set up road spikes. The suspect and Spears lost tires to the spikes, but the pursuit continued. The suspect was still running and about to enter the city of Marfa when the warden shot out one of the tires.
"When he started running from me and I saw what type of vehicle it was, I thought there might be some contraband," Spears said.
And was there ever.
A check of the vehicle revealed 2,460 pounds of marijuana. The suspect and contraband were turned over to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents who will prosecute the case in federal district court. Juan Torres, 22, of 1417 N. Lauderdale, Odessa, was charged with possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and illegal international importation of a controlled substance. These are federal felonies and if convicted, Torres is subject to a 10-year minimum mandatory sentence. He was arraigned in Alpine before a U.S. Magistrate and is being held without bond.
Spears said it is becoming more and more common for wardens to run into drug traffickers because they work a lot on ranches checking hunting licenses and drug smugglers sometimes cut through private ranches to circumvent checkpoints. But folks who are doing this are getting caught, as evidenced by Spears' discovery. The marijuana is being held as evidence by a seized property custodian and will be destroyed after the case is adjudicated.

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
March 1, 2004
Noted Author, Fighter Pilots To Speak About Flying Tigers
FREDERICKSBURG, Texas -- Those interested in World War II and aviation will have an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from three men who made history while flying in the China-Burma-India Campaign.
The program is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. March 6 at the new Hangar Hotel Conference Center at the Gillespie County airport near here. The event is a production of the Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site- National Museum of the Pacific War.
Brig.Gen. David "Tex" Hill of San Antonio will share his recollections of the early period flying under the command of Gen. Claire Chennault.
Donald Lopez, deputy director of the National Air and Space Museum, will show a slide presentation about his experiences flying Curtiss P-40's and North American P-51's earning ace status. He later flew in Korea and then accepted a post at the Pentagon.
Retired Maj. Gen. John R. Alison will share his experiences from the war. Alison served with the Flying Sharks, attached to the 75th Fighter Squadron of the 23rd Fighter Group, where he became a combat ace credited with seven victories. He also served as Deputy Cmdr. of the 1st Air Commando Group, a long-range penetration unit which dropped allied troops, mules, horses and munitions behind enemy lines.
Lopez, Alison and Hill are the recipients of numerous awards and honors. Hill's biography and Lopez's book, "Into the Teeth of the Tiger," and other books and memorabilia will be available on-site.
Tickets are $20 per person for Nimitz Foundation members and $25 for non-members. The Hangar Hotel is offering special rates for those attending the program. Please call (830) 997-9990 for hotel reservations. For tickets or more information, call the museum at (830) 997-8600.

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
March 1, 2004
TPWD Calendar
The following meetings may be of interest to the public.
Private Lands Advisory Board, March 23 at TPWD headquarters from 9 am to 3 pm in the Executive Office Conference Room.
Quail Council, March 30, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Commission Hearing Room, TPWD HQ, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin.
Check the master calendar for all TPWD events.

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
March 1, 2004
TPWD Game Warden Field Notes
The following are excerpts from recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement reports.
"Would You Like Fries with that Ticket?" -- While on his day off and at his residence, a Kenedy County Game Warden heard a vigorous knocking at his back door. Opening the door, he saw a larger brand new red four-wheeler parked at his back door. The person who knocked said he wanted some information about where he could ride his new All-Terrain Vehicle on the creek and go hunting. The warden noticed the person did not have the required safety equipment and asked for his ATV certification. The person advised he had bought two brand new ATVs and was not aware of the rules. When asked where he came from with the ATV, the person advised he rode it over from his girlfriend's house in Sarita. The warden then issued the subject a citation and sent him on his way. The warden said he is now thinking of putting a drive-through citation and confession window at his residence.

[ Note: This item is more than 13 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [KE]
March 1, 2004
Stay Tuned
Information from Texas Parks and Wildlife is available on radio and television, as well as the newsstand.
Passport to Texas, TPWD's radio series of weekday, 90-second stories is broadcast on about 100 Texas stations. Airing the week of March 1-5, we'll tell you how you and a carload of your friends and family can visit all 120 state parks and historic sites and pay only one price. Plus, when it comes to visiting one state park, you can either walk or crawl.
For more information, visit the Web (http://www.passporttotexas.org/).
Video News
TPWD provides video news reports that run in newscasts on numerous Texas stations, as well as on cable and satellite outlets around the nation. This month's stories include: the story of the Buffalo Soldiers, African Americans who helped open the west for settlement; state parks and historic-site destinations for romantic getways; TPWD's game warden academy is seeking Spanish-speaking cadets; and this March 2, celebrate Texas Independence Day by taking a trip down the Texas Independence Trail.
"Texas Parks & Wildlife" is a weekly half-hour television series seen on PBS affiliates around the state. Stories airing the week of Feb. 29-March 7 are: following a fanatical family of birders; go underground at Longhorn Cavern State Park; personal watercraft safety; fishing lure evolution; and all about Cooper Lake.
For more information about this week's programs and where they can be viewed, visit the Web (tpwd.texas.gov/tv).
In the March issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, mountain biker Dan Oko challenges the desert conditions of Franklin Mountains State Park and seasoned hunter Steven R. LaMascus rekindles his love of hunting by going after spring turkeys. Saltwater fishing writer Larry Bozka casts for reds and seatrout in Copano Bay and Mary-Love Bigony reviews the comeback of Kemp's ridley turtle on the Texas coast.
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine is always available on newsstands throughout the state and by subscription for $19.95 a year. To subscribe, call (800) 937-9393 or order online at (http://www.tpwmagazine.com/).