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PJC instructor keeps his eyes on the skies

Published or Revised March 09, 2006

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Matt White recently made the news talking about birds. He also writes about birds and blackland prairies, and teaches history at Paris Junior College campuses in Greenville and Sulphur Springs.

Matt White writes about birds and prairies of Northeast Texas. He also teaches history to students attending Paris Junior College at the Greenville and Sulphur Springs campuses.

The versatile teacher, author and birder receives occasional exposure on television because of his extensive knowledge of birds and nature and things in the Northeast Texas area. White was one of the experts talking about birds and about the Rains County Eagle Fest on Channel 4’s “Lone Star Adventures.”

The casual observer might wonder how this native Texan and resident of Campbell can have such multiple interests. Well, the one thing that weaves a common thread through all that he does in the classroom and on the prairies is history. “It’s all about history,” White says.

Serving as one of the guides and authorities at the Eagle Fest, White provided expertise on the smaller Loons and Longspurs, and presented lectures on, “Birds of Northeast Texas,” which just happens to be the title of his book published by Texas A&M University Press in 2002.

On the television program that talked about the 11th annual Eagle Fest that celebrates Emory and Rains County as the “Eagle Capital of Texas,” White tells host Richard Ray about the smaller birds and how to get a look at some that are only in the area for a short time each year.

White should know. He has studied birds in the region since childhood. His, “Birds of Northeast Texas,” is an annotated guide, for both novice and experienced birders, to the 390 species that have been reliably recorded in the 22 counties of Northeast Texas. A vibrant color section highlights the region’s “specialty” birds, as well as rare finds.

In his foreword to White’s book, Greg W. Lasley writes: “Northeast Texas is a popular destination for many people seeking various types of outdoor recreation, such as fishing, hunting, hiking, and camping. As the area becomes better known for its surprisingly rich number of species, serious birders from around the country will want to add this region’s specialties and migrants to their bird lists.”

Today, White is awaiting the publication of his latest book, “Prairie Time; a Blackland Portrait” which is also being published by Texas A&M University Press and is due to be released in May of this year.

White, whose knowledge of the birds, the prairie plants and the prairie land has become extensive over years of living in it and studying it, tells stories about people who wrestled out a living on the blackland prairie years ago.

The Texas Blackland Prairie cut a swath of 12 million acres across the state from near San Antonio north to the Red River. Perhaps less than one-tenth of 1 percent of this vast prairie remains.

In his book, White helps his readers understand what a prairie is and how to appreciate its beauty and importance. He also increases our awareness of prairies, past and present, so that we might champion their survival in whatever small plots remain.

To remain current on all prairie life, White studies and grows prairie plants on his land hear Campbell. He also writes occasional columns on nature and birds for various publications.

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