Axios Austin

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It's Friday!

☔️ Today's weather: Chance of showers and thunderstorms throughout the day. Mostly cloudy with a high near 82.

🛒 Situational awareness: Texas will have a sales tax holiday on emergency supplies Saturday through Monday. Here's a list of what qualifies.

Today's newsletter is 904 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: The magic of moths

The arcobara multilineata moth spotted at Pease Park in 2022. Photo: Courtesy of Curtis Eckerman

With just a camera and a UV light, Curtis Eckerman has recorded more than 550 species of moths on the garage door of his South Austin home.

Why it matters: There are nearly 1,400 species of moths in Travis County alone, according to Eckerman, and the bugs can tell us a lot about the biodiversity of our environment.

Driving the news: Eckerman, the Biology Department chair at Austin Community College, will meet students tonight at Pease Park for a mothing expedition.

  • And tonight's event will be the first time Eckerman has made the expedition open to the public.

What they're saying: "If I have a large diversity of moths, that tells me that I have a large diversity of plants in the area," Eckerman tells Axios. "And then, by extension, it tells me I have a wide diversity of potential predators who are going to eat moths and then eat those things that eat moths."

Flashback: Eckerman considers himself a herpetologist — focused on amphibians and reptiles — and didn't pay much attention to the fluttering insects until about seven years ago.

  • He began uploading photos of the moths to iNaturalist, a free app to share observations about bugs, plants and animals.
  • The iNaturalist community helped Eckerman identify the moth species at his home and, "Before I knew it, I was doing it almost every night."

Between the lines: The moths also help us understand how important parks are — not just as a space for community gatherings — but as a place for nature to thrive despite booming urban development, according to Eckerman.

📍 If you go: You don't need a fancy camera to record your own observations. A cellphone will work just fine, Eckerman said.

How it works

2. 🦆 Wildlife refuges expand in Texas

A new slice of Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Central Texas. Photo: Courtesy of USFWS

Hundreds of thousands of acres will be added to wildlife refuges in Texas, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Why it matters: The new acquisitions and conservation areas managed by the National Wildlife Refuge System in Texas aim to conserve the habitats and protect the state's diverse wildlife.

  • The land will also be evaluated for potential recreational opportunities and public access, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced.

Zoom in: In Central Texas, Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge will add 441 acres of priority nesting habitat for grassland birds and the black-capped vireo.

  • The addition will create a 5,000-acre contiguous block of important migratory and songbird habitat, including for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife officials.
  • The new area also contains unique karst sinkholes, springs, and intermittent stream habitats that support numerous species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.

The big picture: The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and the Big Boggy National Wildlife Refuge along the Gulf Coast are expanding by a combined 150,000 acres to protect the whooping crane, Attwater's prairie chicken and the threatened Eastern black rail.

📍 If you go: It's free to visit the Balcones Canylonds National Wildlife Refuge, great for Hill Country hiking, scenic driving and bird watching.

  • Head to Warbler Vista to spot golden-cheeked warblers or Shin Oak Observation Deck to look for black-capped vireos.
  • Take a spin on the lovely Cow Creek Road/County Road 328 from Warbler Vista to Doeskin Ranch, where you can hike the easy 0.4-mile Pond and Prairie trail to look for butterflies and other wildlife.

More acquisitions

3. 🤠 The Roundup: Wrangling the news

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

ğŸŽ“ University of Texas faculty gathered on campus yesterday to condemn UT's response and the presence of armed state troopers during Wednesday's pro-Palestinian protest. (Texas Tribune)

  • Meanwhile, the Texas State Employees Union rescheduled its rally against the state's new law prohibiting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion offices and initiatives at schools. (KVUE)

💰 Local startup HomePoint raised $2 million for its subscription-based luxury home maintenance service. (Austin Inno)

🏈 UT defensive tackle Bryon Murphy II was selected by Seattle and wide receiver Xavier Worthy was picked by Kansas City in the first round of the NFL Draft. (ESPN)

✈️ Southwest Airlines will halt operations from Austin to Cozumel International Airport on Aug. 5. (KXAN)

4. Our Friday news quiz

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Answer these three questions correctly and you may get a much sought-after shoutout in our Monday newsletter.

  • Just hit reply to this email.
  1. Oracle is moving its world headquarters from Austin to which city?
  2. Name the Chicago-based boutique grocer that abruptly shuttered its stores this week — including four in Austin.
  3. Which Austin French restaurant is opening a space at the Blanton Museum next year?

5. 🍸 Cocktail to go: Small Victory

A delicious cocktail and cheese plate from Small Victory. Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios

👋 Nicole here. I recently swung by Small Victory, the cozy cocktail bar just off the second floor of a Seventh Street parking garage.

Catch up quick: The intimate space opened in 2016 by cocktail experts Josh Loving and Brian Stubbs, and it should be on your roster for an excellent post-work cocktail downtown.

To order: There are tons to choose from on their expansive, rotating cocktail menu, which includes classic cocktails, sours, sparkling wine-based drinks, low ABV selections and martinis.

  • It's a great spot to figure out your martini order, and if you can't decide, leave it up to the mixologist with the Bartender's Choice.
  • Plus, you can snack on cheese and charcuterie ($15, $28 or $39, depending on the size).

📍 If you go: Small Victory mostly takes walk-ins, but reservations are available for parties of four or more with a required minimum tab guarantee.

  • They're open from 5pm-1am Tuesday through Saturday.

Thanks to Chloe Gonzales for editing and Kate Sommers-Dawes and Anjelica Tan for copy editing this newsletter.

🍽️ Asher's ready to argue the chipotle pecan pesto at Bouldin Creek Cafe is the best dip in Austin.

🦋 After talking to Curtis Eckerman, Nicole is going to spend more time looking at the moths by her front door rather than running inside as fast as possible.