Thursday, August 25, 2016

Keeping a Nature Journal

"A Nature Journal is a place to grow your thoughts, feelings, ideas, activities, observations, and relationship with the natural world. And, it is an opportunity to interpret your inner thoughts out into the natural world and a space where the natural world can flow into you and leave a permanent mark." (Sierra Club)

On Saturday, October 29, the Friends of Hagerman will host a Drawing and Nature Journaling Workshop led by watercolor artist Walt Davis. who says,

"This workshop will focus on seeing (which is more than simply looking at) and recording what is seen in words, drawings and diagrams. It will explore the rich tradition of nature journaling practiced by John Muir, George Bird Grinnell, Thomas Nuttall and Earnest Thompson Seaton. Drawing talent or skill are not required. We will explore the supplies needed, some key observational techniques, several methods for capturing simple images and will practice making records of actual encounters with nature. We will explore the Grinnell journaling technique used widely by professional naturalists as well as several other journaling formats. Weather permitting, our work will be done out of doors."

The Sierra Club site amplifies Davis' comment about John Muir - "We can learn a lot about keeping a Nature Journal from John Muir, the inspiration for, and the first president of the Sierra Club. Muir studied and cared about wilderness. He sought to preserve wild places and is considered one of the founders of the modern environmental movement. Muir wrote in his journals about the beauty he saw in nature. He also drew sketches detailing information about plants, animals, mountains, and landscapes. He used his journals to compose letters to friends, articles, and books to share his love of nature and to enlist people's support to preserve wilderness. Muir's journals gave him a wealth of recorded experience from which ten books and over two hundred articles were published. We continue to gain insight into Nature's beauty and importance in our lives from Muir's writings.

While few of us will have the impact of John Muir, we can enjoy the process of observing and recording. "Journals can include both personal expressions and objective observations. Objective information might include scientific experiments, weather, wildlife behavior, and seasonal changes. Keeping a nature journal can be a powerful experience because it helps the observers slow down, carefully take note of their surroundings, make first-hand, concrete observations of nature, and become better observers. Good science depends upon keen observations, and nature journaling is an effective way to develop that skill." (U. S. Fish & WildlifeService)

For your own journal, you might also choose a theme that captures your interest, bird nests, wildflowers,  or location such as backyard, for example.   The workshop at Hagerman NWR will meet from 10 am - 4 pm. Registration details, Mr. Davis' biography and the supply list for the event can be found on the Friends of Hagerman News Page. Participants may register online or by contacting the Refuge, 903 786 2826, and asking for a call back about the workshop.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Watch for Banded Birds at HNWR

This week a photographer posted a photo of a Piping Plover on the Friends of Hagerman Facebook Page.  The individual who posted noted the presence of two different color leg bands on the bird. Jack Chiles responded with a website especially for reporting banded Piping Plovers.  Visitors at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge may also spot other migratory birds that have been banded.

According to the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory,   bird banding has a long history. “ The first record of a metal band attached to a bird's leg was about 1595 when one of Henry IV's banded Peregrine Falcons was lost in pursuit of a bustard in France. It showed up 24 hours later in Malta, about 1350 miles away, averaging 56 miles an hour!”  Through a banding in about 1669, a Grey Heron was found later to have lived at least 60 years.  Another Grey Heron was found to have traveled more than 1200 miles, from Turkey to Germany.

John James Audubon first reported banding and retrieval  in America in 1803.  In 1899 a bird banding system was developed in Denmark that is the model for modern banding programs.  In 1920 the Bureau of Biological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service took over previous efforts  in the U.S. and Canada and the North American banding program has been a joint effort to oversee the activities of dedicated banders all over the world ever since.

Anyone reporting will be asked to answer multiple choice questions regarding their role (individual, bander, wildlife official), type band, etc., as well as species, if known and other details.  Those reporting will receive a certificate of appreciation.  Reporting bands adds to the ability of scientists to study bird migration, populations, longevity and more.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Watching Hummingbirds

Are you one of the many fans of hummingbirds?  Do you have a feeder near a window at your home?
Hummingbirds are probably some of the most watched birds, according to Hummingbirds of Texas.

The number one hummer we see is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  In the Texas Parks andWildlife Quick Reference to Hummingbirds, the Ruby-throated is described as the only commonly seen hummer in the eastern half of Texas and in the Eastern U. S.

Male Ruby-throated, photographed at Hazel Bazemore by Jesus Moreno
In recent years there have been reports of sightings of Black-chinned Hummingbirds in north Texas. In the Sibley Guide to Birds, the two "species are very similar in all plumages. Males are distinguished by throat color but identification of females requires very close study..." Viewing the throat color is dependent on how light is reflected on the bird, but a behavior check may help distinguish the two, as Sibley states that the Black-chinned pumps its tail frequently when hovering. If you have a photo of a Black-chinned Hummingbird taken in Grayson County, we invite you to post it on the Friends Facebook Page.

Most recently, a volunteer at Hagerman NWR reported a Rufous Hummingbird at her home feeder in western Grayson County. The Rufous is normally a west Texas migrant and seen occasionally on the Texas Gulf Coast.  According to TPWD, the Rufous is the only hummingbird with a rufous (rusty, reddish-brown) back.

Rufous Hummingbird at left, by Sue Abernathy
In the Native Plant and Pollinator Garden adjacent to the Visitor Center at Hagerman National Wildlife  Refuge, hummingibrds are attracted to the red blossoms of Turk's Cap and to the nectar feeders.  Earlier in the season they were feeding at the coral honeysuckle in the Butterfly Garden.  In past presentations at the Refuge, Mark Klym has stated that given a choice of a nectar feeder or a nectar feeder among a garden of blooms attractive to birds, the humming birds is likely to choose the latter.  The home garden can be designed to provide food, water and shelter for theses birds, keeping mind that red is definitely a key in attracting them.  However, coloring the nectar in your feeder is now a no-no as dyes may be harmful to the birds.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeding  at Turk's Cap, at HNWR, by Dick Malnory
The recommended ratio for making nectar is one part sugar to four parts water. Feeders should be
cleaned every two - three days in this hot weather and refilled.  Hummers also feed on small insects. It is a myth that the presence of feeders will delay or interfere with the fall migration of the hummingbirds.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

7th Annual HNWR Nature Photography Contest

Best in Show and First Place, Wildlife, 2010 - Great Egret by Bill Adams
Have you heard this saying about visiting a refuge or wilderness area, "Leave only footprints, take only memories"?  Well, you can also take away "digitized memories" aka photographs.  And we know that photography at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most popular activities.  Now you have an opportunity to share some of your best efforts and compete for cash, ribbons and recognition as well in the 7th Annual Hagerman NWR Photography Contest.

First Place, Landscape, 2013 - Path, by Bob Brown
Ribbons will be awarded for First, Second, and Third place in each of four categories in 2 divisions. In addition, a cash prize of $50.00 will be awarded for First Place in each category and $100.00 for the single photo judged as Best of Show. Winners will be determined by a panel of judges, who will review the submitted photos without reference to entrant name.

First Place, Flora and Macro, 2012 - Leavenworth Eryngo by Laurie Lawler
The entry period for the contest begins on August 1 and runs through August 31. Photographers can enter photos in one of two divisions - Beginner/Intermediate, and Advanced, and in 4 different categories:

Wildlife – Animals and birds in their natural habitat.

Flora and Macro – Flowers, trees, and shrubs in their natural habitat. This category includes images of insects, plants, and animals taken with specialized macro equipment, settings or close up images taken with a telephoto lens.

Landscape – Expansive and dramatic views of the land and its features. Photographs in this category may include images of people enjoying the Refuge.

Artistic – Artistic compositions in nature, both natural and manipulated in post processing (black and white, infrared, stitched panoramas, multiple-exposure, digital manipulation). Photographs in this category may include images of people enjoying the Refuge.

Best in Show, First Place, Wildlife, 2011 - Great Blue Heron with "The Look"by Grace Haight

Photos entered must have been taken at Hagerman NWR within the past five years.  All entries including those sent by mail must be RECEIVED at Hagerman NWR by 4:00 pm on August 31. THERE WILL BE NO DEADLINE EXTENSION!   Entries can be dropped off or mailed to the Refuge at: 

Hagerman Photo Contest, 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, TX 75092-5817

First Place, Artistic, 2014 - Little Blue Heron by Lee Hatfield
Complete information about the photo contest rules, entry fees, entry form, and contest tips is available online (see sidebar on Club page). If you have questions regarding the photography contest, please contact us.

Best in Show and First Place, Landscape Division, 2015 - Magic Time, by Jesus Moreno

Thursday, July 28, 2016

National Moth Week

The last week of July has been designated as National Moth Week.  According to the National Moth Week website, one of the purposes of the special week is to provide education about the moth.  If you think of moths just as pantry pests or closet villains, read on! 

On the  National Conservancy site, we found  that
Moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth. In fact, scientists estimate there are more than 150,000 moth species worldwide! Move over butterflies, moths come in bright colors and dazzling patterns. Species can take a myriad of shapes and can be as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult’s hand. 

The National Wildlife Federation's website informs us that "In the U.S., more than 11,000 species of moths can be found, compared to about 750 species of North American butterflies."

On Entomology Today we read that:
National Moth Week (NMW) shines a much-needed spotlight on moths and their ecological importance, as well as their incredible biodiversity. While moths often have taken a back seat to their Lepidoptera kin, the butterflies, there is growing interest in their role as pollinators and as a food source for other animals. Scientists also look for the impact of climate change on their numbers and distribution. With possibly as many as 500,000 species, moths can provide an endless opportunity for exploration.
 Studying moths can be as easy as turning on a porch light and waiting for them to come, or shining a light on a white sheet in a backyard or park. Special blacklights or mercury vapor lights are often used to attract the widest suite of species and ambitious moth-ers also coat tree trunks with a sticky, sweet mixture of fruit and stale beer that is very attractive to many species of moths. However, mothing isn’t only for those with poor sleeping habitats or the inclination to be outside at ridiculous hours of the night. Searching for caterpillars and day-flying moths is a good activity for daytime and a perfect opportunity to explore other aspects of moth ecology.
Luna Moth at Hagerman NWR

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Master Naturalist Training Offered

Master Naturalists provide education and information at events.
Since 1997, the Texas Master Naturalist™ program has grown to include 46 chapters and more than 9,600 volunteers serving Texas communities throughout 76 percent of the state’s counties. The mission of the program is to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the state of Texas. (

Master Naturalist Larry Vargus leading youth program at HNWR on endangered species.

Anyone interested in plants, animals, weather, geology and preserving our natural systems can join in this effort; registration is now open for the fall session of training as a Texas Master Naturalist, Bluestem Chapter, serving Grayson County. Classes will meet on the Saturdays as shown in the schedule below, and this year the training venues vary from week to week covering a larger portion of Grayson County.

Master Naturalists on field trip. (photo courtesy Ginger Mynatt)

Tuesday, August 23,  Grayson County Courthouse, second-floor meeting room

6:00 – 9:00 p.m. Orientation

Saturday classes meet from 9:00 – 4:00 on the following dates:

August 27, Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge

Ornithology with focus on Shorebirds, History of Hagerman; Wetland Ecology and Management, History and Archaeology of Hagerman, Reporting System

September 10, Eisenhower State Park,
Prairies, Entomology, Forestry

September 24, Austin College IDEA Center (Science Bldg)
Herpetology, Ecological systems, Mammalogy,

October 1, Grayson College Science Lab
Geology and Regions of Texas, Gems and Minerals, Advanced Training, Nature of Naming

October 22, Gardenland Nursery, Sherman
Urban Systems, Aquatic Systems, Ichthyology

October 29, HNWR
Weather, Interpretative Teaching, Class Project.

All classes are taught by qualified presenters, experts in their field, many of them in the field as well as the classroom. Click Presenters to learn more about the faculty for the Fall Training.  Registration closes August 18, 2016. The cost of classes is $100. Interested people may contact the chapter through Scroll down the web page to "Contact Bluestem Master Naturalists".

Master Naturalists Dave Parsons, Ginger Mynatt, at "Art in Nature" youth program at HNWR.

Master Naturalist Roxie Wilson volunteers as tram driver/guide at HNWR.

Master Naturalists (shown here - Pat Crone) lead Butterfly Garden programs at HNWR for youth and adults.

Master Naturalists organized and staffed Nature O'logy 2016, outdoor experience at HNWR for 10 year-olds. (photo courtesy Bluestem Chapter)

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Frogfruit...hmm - is this an edible fruit like apples or bananas?? Or maybe a little more exotic like mango or Kiwi?? No, it is a plant found growing at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and across much of Texas.  According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center site, the Latin name is Phyla nodiflora, and the plant is a member of the Verbena family.
Frogfruit by Sally and Andy Wasowski, from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
You can find Frogfruit, also know as Texas Frogfruit and Turkey Tangle Fogfruit,  growing around the bridge in the Butterfly Garden at HNWR, as well as along roadsides around the Refuge.  It is an excellent ground cover for sun or part shade, and semi-evergreen. During hard winters it will go dormant.

The plant was selected for the Butterfly Garden as meeting three criteria: a Texas native plant that is a butterfly host and also provides nectar.

Frogfruit is a host for the Phaon Crescent, shown above. Look closely when you visit and you may see these tiny butterflies flitting about the mass of blooming Frogfruit.   The plant has small white blooms from May - October and is tolerant of a wide variety of growing conditions.  In addition to Texas, it grows throughout the southern US and down to the tropics.

Frogfruit is just one of the many native Texas plants you can view in the Butterfly Garden; most are labelled but garden docents will be on hand this Saturday and on the third Saturdays of August, September, and October, from 9:30 - 11:30 am, to answer questions about plants and help identify visiting butterflies.  Come on out for a garden stroll!  These events are organized by the Friends of Hagerman and are free, no reservation needed, and you may come and go or come and stay.