Thursday, December 18, 2014

Migratory Bird Conservation Commission Champion Retires

From the National Wildlife Refuge Association e-Newsletter, December 2014
This month, Refuge System champion and conservation hero, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) participated in his last meeting of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission as he is retiring in January. He is the longest serving member of the Commission, having begun his tenure 45 years ago in 1969.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission authorizes and approves areas of land and/or water recommended by the Secretary of the Interior for purchase or easement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They also fix the price or prices at which such areas may be acquired. Most importantly for conservation, the Commission considers the establishment of new waterfowl refuges.
Congressman Dingell enjoying his cake | Desiree Sorenson-Groves
Congressman Dingell enjoying his cake | Desiree Sorenson-Groves
Established on February 18, 1929 by the passage of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, the Commission typically convenes three times per year in March, June, and September, as needed, or in this case November. The Division of Realty within the Service produces an annual report that summarizes the operations of the Commission.
Since the Commission was established, over 5.5 million acres have been acquired by the Service via fee purchase, easement, or lease. These purchases are funded by the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund which draws funds mostly from the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (also known as the Duck Stamp), but also from appropriations authorized by the Wetlands Loan Act of October 4, 1961 as amended, important duties collected on arms and ammunition, and receipts from the sale of refuge admission permits as provided for by the Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986. The Fund is further supplemented by receipts from the sale of products from rights-of-way across national wildlife refuges, disposals of refuge land, and reverted Federal Aid funds.
In 1989, the Commission earned the additional responsibility to approve project funding under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). The North American Wetlands Conservation Council, which was created by NAWCA, submits project recommendations to the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission for funding approval, and thus far all have been approved for funding representing $1 billion for the protection of wetland habitat.
This particular meeting was particularly meaningful because two of the Congressional members of the Committee will not be back in 2015.  Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) was defeated in his re-election bid and Congressman Dingell is retiring. As the longest serving member of the Commission, and indeed, the longest serving member of either the House or Senate in our country’s history, Representative Dingell has been a longtime champion of the National Wildlife Refuge System and talked about the importance of the System in remarks to the Committee. Dingell established the first International Wildlife Refuge and endorsed the development of many others protecting critical breeding and wintering habitat for hundreds of species of fish and wildlife. Since he came on the Commission in 1969, 3300 tracts of land totalling over 700,000 acres have been added to the Refuge System.  As his long time former staffer, and now Director of Government Affairs for Ducks Unlimited remarked, “Congressman Dingell is second only to Theodore Roosevelt when it comes to conservation in America.”
Below is the list of approved projects for national wildlife refuges. NAWCA projects were approved, but await funding from the Fiscal Year 2015 spending bill currently being debated by Congress:
Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, Texas – 475.93 acres for $606,800
Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana – 804 acres for $2,010,350
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland – 153.6 acres for $490,000
Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, Washington – 303 acres for $455,000

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bobwhite Quail

Jason Hardin, Upland Game Bird Specialist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, will be the presenter for Second Saturday at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, on December 13, at 10 am. 
Hardin's topic will be "The Bobwhite Quail".

Hardin, who earned his undergraduate in Forest Wildlife Management at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, and master’s degree in Range and Wildlife Management at Texas A&M University – Kingsville, has also worked as Coordinator for the Audubon Texas Quail and Grassland Birds Initiative.  His graduate work focused on empirical testing of Dr. Fred Guthery’s “Hunter-Covey Interface Theory”, and he served as Coordinator of the Quail Associates Program for the first two years of the project.   

According to state biologists, the Bobwhite Quail population has decreased 75% over the past 30 years, due to disappearing grasslands across Texas.  Last year Texas lawmakers earmarked funds for restoring prime quail habitat, and expanding research and education about the species.  Hardin will address the present status of quail and restoration efforts in his talk.

Second Saturday programs are open to the public, free of charge, and are held in the Visitor Center Meeting Room.  Hagerman NWR is located at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, 75092.  For more information, contact the Refuge, 903 786 2826, or see

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Waterfowl Trivia

Youth FIRST goose-craft!

Youth FIRST will meet at 10 am, Saturday, December 6, at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, to learn about the geese that are wintering at the Refuge.  Here are some fast facts about geese for our readers.

Why do geese fly in a “V” formation? It would be too hard to fly in an “S”... Actually, it conserves energy and makes it easier to keep track of each other.

What is a gaggle? A group of geese on the ground is called a gaggle or flock. A skein is a group in flight, and if flying in a “V” formation, they are called a wedge.

A nickname for the Canada goose is “the honker”.

A Blue Goose is a dark morph Snow Goose, with a white face, dark brown body, and white under the tail.    The Blue Goose mascot for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife is named Puddles and is bright blue!

Love to hear the geese call?  Listen here.  

Have your ducks in a row? You might have a

Brace of ducks - a pair; Flock of ducks – on the ground; Flush of ducks – taking flight; Paddling of ducks or raft of ducks - group swimming; Team of ducks – group in flight

If you've heard one quack…you haven’t heard them all – most species have their own quack and male and females may have different quacks.

A goose or duck by any other name:   Baby ducks - ducklings; Baby geese - goslings; Male ducks - drakes; Male geese - ganders

Eggs laid are called a clutch – there may be 10 – 20 in a clutch

Certified swimmers – goslings and ducklings can swim as soon as they ready to fledge.

Diving ducks are found on oceans, seas and inland water; dabblers are found on creeks and inland pools.

The lowdown on “down” – the small, soft feathers that provide insulation for birds, and when collected, for man. Down from Eider ducks is believed to be superior.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

This Count Is for the Birds

Who wants to join in the 2014 Christmas Bird Count at Hagerman NWR

Dr. Wayne Meyer is taking names of those interested, and you can sign up online  or by calling the Refuge, 903 786 2826.  Dr. Meyer says you don't have to be an experienced birder to participate, because spotters are needed for each team, as well as those who can ID the birds seen.

The count at Hagerman, set for Saturday, December 20, is just one of hundreds of counts planned across the Northern Hemisphere that will make up the 115th Audubon Christmas Bird Count.   Last year some 70,000 volunteers participated in the count, which has an interesting history.

During the nineteenth century  sportsmen of the eastern U.S. would  compete on Christmas day to see who could shoot the most birds, so just over one hundred years ago Frank Chapman and members of the early Audubon Society decided that there should be a new tradition that did not take such a toll on birds, and that new tradition became  the Christmas Bird Count.   The data collected in all these censuses have become one of the world’s most complete and long-term data sets on bird populations.

According to Audubon, "The long term perspective made possible by the Christmas Bird Count is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat - and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. For example, local trends in bird populations can indicate habitat fragmentation or signal an immediate environmental threat, such as groundwater contamination or poisoning from improper use of pesticides."

Each count is based on a circle with a fifteen-mile diameter.  The task of the counters is to find and identify all the birds they can within that circle.  They can take a maximum of 24 hours to do this, all within one calendar day, between December 14, 2014, and January 5, 2015; however, most Christmas counts don’t last that long -  the National Audubon Society encourages Christmas counts to cover the daylight hours and most counts include a few hours of owl searching at night.

The Hagerman NWR Christmas count circle is divided into six areas and each area has a designated leader who is skilled in identification.  Volunteers can participate in an all day search or register for a half day, as several  areas are small enough to be covered in half a day.  The owl count will begin at 4 am and the main count will begin at 7 am, and will conclude at 5  pm on  December 20.

There is another way people can contribute.  Any bird feeders within the count circle can be included in the day’s tally.  If you prefer,  you can register to be a feeder watcher if you live in one of these communities within the Hagerman NWR circle: Pottsboro, Sherwood Shores, Cedar Mills, Mill Creek, Locust, Fink, Tanglewood, Georgetown, Preston and Gordonville.

All persons registered for the Hagerman count will be notified by email of count details before the event.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Turkey Day on the Way

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What is Baccharis

Recently there has been lots of conversation at the Refuge about Baccharis, but what is it?   Growing in profusion along many of the Pad roads, this plant provided a roosting spot for many migrating monarchs this fall.   We consulted Dr. George Diggs about which species of Baccharis we are seeing.  Dr. Diggs said that the Baccharis we are seeing is most probably Baccharis neglecta Britton.  He added, “While I haven’t collected B. halimifolia at the refuge, it is definitely in the area (known from both Dallas and Fannin counties) and I suspect it has moved into Grayson County by now.”  Both are native to the lower 48 states.

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, UT, Baccharis neglecta Britton, which is also known as False Willow, Jara dulce, Poverty Weed, Roosevelt Weed, is “A weedy, tall (6 -12’) shrub abundant in fields out of cultivation and on disturbed ground, also in unshaded, low places. With ascending light brown branches and green twigs. Leaves partly evergreen, very narrow, less than 1/4 inch wide and up to 3 inches long. Male and female flowers on separate plants. Female flowers inconspicuous, silky, in small, greenish white heads which appear to be individual flowers, these arranged in large clusters up to 1 foot or more long and 8 inches wide, resembling silky plumes in October and November. Fruit, minute, about 1/16 inch long, borne on the wind by a tuft of hairs."

Baccharis neglecta (Photos by Melody Lytle, from  Wildflower Center Digital Library)
Baccharis, along Pad C at HNWR, by William H. Powell

The website notes that Baccharis is the ancient Greek name (derived from the god Bacchus) of a plant with fragrant roots, and the species name neglecta refers to the prevalence of this plant in neglected or disturbed areas.  The shrub offers a showy profusion of silky silver/white flowers, and is also a good nectar plant for many pollinators including some butterflies.   Luckily for the butterflies, the plant is highly deer resistant, too! 

Alternatively, Baccharis halimifolia, which is also known as  Groundseltree, Sea-myrtle, Consumptionweed, Eastern baccharis, Groundsel, Groundsel bush, Salt marsh-elder, Salt bush, Florida groundsel bush is also a 6 – 12 foot deciduous shrub which is tolerant of salt-water spray.  Its plumes in fall are said to resemble “silvery paintbrushes.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bobkitty Tale

By Kathy Whaley (Originally published Nov. 11, 2010)

This is one of those stories where you would almost have to had been there to believe it… so I will understand if you’re skeptical.

The first Friday morning in November I was riding north on Oil Field Road when ahead of me I saw the bright flash of a white tail swishing profoundly back and forth, back and forth. As I got closer, I could see that the bushy tail was attached to a very alert deer. Ignoring me, she jumped around, up and down, back and forth, into the weeds, and back out to the road for about 30 seconds. I was quite amused at her antics then came the real surprise: she had a playmate. Out of the weeds beside the road popped a young bobcat. It looked to be about 15-20 pounds and probably a 2010 model. 

Photo by Kathy Whaley
The deer lunged playfully at the bobcat, tail still swishing, and the bobcat just watched as if to say “oh yeah? Well now what cha' gonna do?” They stopped in their tracks about 10 feet apart and stared at each other for about 7-8 seconds before the bobkitty darted back into the weeds…then out again… then in again. 

The doe looked my direction briefly, then bolted into the woods where her buddy had gone. I thought to myself how cool it was to see such an interesting mixed-species, herbivore/carnivore encounter. When you visit Hagerman, keep your eyes open! You never know what might just be around the next bend.

For more information about what to see and do at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, the official website, including a species list, is and the website for the Friends of Hagerman is

Editor's Note: Want to share your "tales" of adventure at Hagerman NWR? Email to There is no remuneration for any submissions.