Thursday, December 18, 2014
Thursday, December 11, 2014
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 friendsofhagerman.com/.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
|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
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
Did you know that Benjamin Franklin nominated the turkey to be the national bird for the United States of America?
And that President Abraham Lincoln started the tradition of a White House pardon for a turkey on Thanksgiving – the impetus? His son Tad made friends with the turkey that was to be on the Thanksgiving menu (later named Jack!)
The domestic turkey we are familiar with is descended from a subspecies that is now extinct. There are five subspecies of the wild turkey: Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande (shown below), Merriam’s and Gould’s.
|Wild turkeys at HNWR, by Jack Chiles|
The wild turkeys at Hagerman NWR are Rio Grande (named for the general area in which they are found –the central plains states) and there are a number of flocks at the Refuge. But, this has not always been the case. By the late 1800’s, turkeys throughout Texas had been hunted to very low numbers. Then hunters stepped in to support conservation and restoration, and now thanks to individuals, to legislation and to organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, hunting regulations and better habitat management practices have allowed turkey populations to steadily increase in most areas. Now more than seven million wild turkeys roam America’s woodlands.
Several flocks of 100+ turkeys use habitat on and adjacent to the Refuge including brushy areas next to streams and the lake, or mixed oak forests near the creeks. At Hagerman, turkeys are sometimes visible along field edges or roadsides with trees and like to forage for insects and seeds in wooded areas.
An adult female turkey is called a hen. Hens generally weigh between 8 and 11 pounds. Female turkeys less than one year old are called a jenny. Like many other birds, the females’ feathers are more subdued in color than the males’, allowing them to better blend in with their surroundings.
Female turkeys weigh about 10 pounds while males tip the scales at closer to 20. An adult male turkey is called a gobbler. The name comes from the sound they make in spring, to attract the hens during the mating season. Their iridescent feathers have a green-coppery sheen to them with the tips of the tail and lower back feathers being light tan. Male turkeys are known for their “beards” which are actually bristly tassels rather than feathers and grow for life instead of molting. A male under one year in age is called a jake.
Wild turkeys can run or fly. They can run up to 19 mph for short distances. They usually fly only short distances but at speeds of up to 55 mph. They prefer the borders between woodlands and field, which provide low cover for nesting, trees for roosting and for their food source. Wild turkeys prefer to nest in grass or brush at least 18 inches tall and usually lay 10-11 eggs that hatch in 28 days. The young turkeys (poults) are up and running behind the hen within the first 24 hours. Generally ground dwellers, there is a high mortality rate on poults by critters including bobcats, foxes, snakes, raccoons, and hogs, so safe night roosting sites are critical to turkey survival. Turkeys typically seek trees that are 40 feet or taller and tend to roost in groups.
Young turkeys favor insects for their diet. As they mature, mast such as acorns, pecans and berries, along with various seeds and grains, becomes the primary diet for the wild turkey.
Although you may see turkeys any time of year, spring is an especially good time to look for these unique birds. Males can often be seen strutting around and fanning their tail feathers in hopes of impressing the ladies. When you visit Hagerman, keep an eye out for signs of wild turkeys by looking for scratching in the dirt or leaves, spotting their large three-toed foot print, or listen for gobbling sounds coming from the woods.
Wild turkeys are not migratory and often live out their life span within five miles of their hatching site.
Happy Turkey Day!
This post was originally published November 21, 2013
Thursday, November 13, 2014
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
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.
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.
|Photo by Kathy Whaley|
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 http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Hagerman and the website for the Friends of Hagerman is http://www.friendsofhagerman.com.