Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day Parade

Watch out Macy's, we have the real deal for our virtual Hagerman NWR Thanksgiving Parade! Who needs inflatables??  Enjoy

Leading off, a pair of White-tail fawns, by Bob Brown

Followed overhead by  a large flock of winter visitors, Snow and Ross's Geese, by Carl Hill

Next up a high-stepping Roadrunner, by Jesus Moreno

And swooping around the corner, some late-flying American White Pelicans by Win Goddard

We mustn't overlook  the  Armadillo dancer straight from Texas, by Mike Keck

Now let's pan the watching crowd, camera man!

Back to the parade, here comes Parade Marshal,  King Bob, by Mike Chiles

Listen to the choristers led by Bill Hurst's  Northern Mockingbird

And not to be left out - they're what it's all about for some folks, the Wild Turkey, by Rick Cantu

Speaking of turkey, it's time to tend ours, and our parade is just ending, somewhat slowly as our last float or Turtle, by Susie Krominga,  seems to have stopped moving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all, from the Friends of Hagerman NWR

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Snow Geese, Ross's Geese and - Sparrows

Snow or Ross's??

By Jack Chiles 

Now that the geese are arriving at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and considering that most of the geese will be white geese, I would like to assist those of you who have problems telling the geese apart. There are two species of white geese at the refuge, Snow Geese and Ross's Geese. At first glance, they look very similar but upon closer examination you will see some distinct differences. Looking at the geese in the photo, the front right-most goose is a Snow Goose and the goose immediately to its left is a Ross's Goose. Comparing the two, notice the larger size of the Snow Goose, longer neck, less rounded head, longer bill and the dark "grinning patch" on the bill. In turn the Ross's Goose is smaller in size, has a shorter neck, more rounded head and a stubby bill. For me the really defining characteristic that separates the two is a more vertical demarcation between the feathering of the head and the base of the bill of the Ross's. Both of these species occur in a dark phase (the dark birds in the photo). The dark phase is much more common in the Snow Goose than in the Ross's. The dark phase is sometimes referred to as Blue Goose. Take time studying these two species and you will soon be amazed at how easy it is to tell them apart. 

Geese at HNWR by Jack Chiles

Now that you know your geese, find out your Sparrow  IQ!

On Saturday, November 14, Dr. Wayne Meyer will speak on Sparrows at Hagerman NWR.  The HNWR Bird Check List shows more than 20 species of Sparrows, Towhees and Allies.  Let’s see how familiar you are with some of these!  (Questions derived from Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds and the Sibley Guide to Birds)

1.             1.  House Sparrows aren’t related to other North American sparrows.

             True       False

 2.    The _ _ _ _ _ - _ _ _ _ _ _ _  Sparrow is a large sparrow with a small pale pink or yellow bill and a long tail and very bold black-and-white stripes on the head.
 3.    The Sparrow with the black eyestripe, the white crown and supercilium, the yellow lores, the white throat bordered by a black whisker, or malar stripe is.  (Choose one)
Song Sparrow              White-throated Sparrow           Harris’s Sparrow
 4.    If you see a rich russet-and-gray sparrow with bold streaks converging in a central breast spot on its white chest, in an open, shrubby, or wet area, it is probably a (Choose one).
Song Sparrow              Vesper Sparrow           Harris Sparrow
  5.     The _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Sparrow takes its name not only from its diet but also from its insect-like song.
  6.     The striking Harris's Sparrow breeds along the edge of boreal forest and tundra in north-central Canada and spends the winter in South America.
True     False
   7.     Dark-eyed Juncos are Sparrows.
True     False
     8.      Sparrows are exclusively seed-eaters.
      True     False
     9.      A white breast with a bold central spot and distinctive outer white tail feathers is: (Choose one)
Lark Bunting    Savannah Sparrow      Lark Sparrow
10.  A small sparrow with a reddish crown, a gray breast and dark eyeline is (Choose one)
Chipping Sparrow        Lincoln’s Sparrow        Field Sparrow

Answers:  1. True; 2. White-crowned; 3. White-throated Sparrow; 4. Song; 5. Grasshopper; 6. False; 7. True; 8. False 9. Lark Sparrow; 10. Chipping Sparrow

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Strengthening and Restoring Latinos’ Historic Connection to the Land

This week's post is from the USFWS.

By Dan Ashe
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The history of the United States, and the relationship of its people to the land, cannot be told without recognizing the influence and contributions of men and women of Hispanic descent. In the decades to come, the descendants of the Hispanics and Latinos who settled much of our nation will play an even greater role in shaping its future as citizens and leaders.

That’s why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [was] proud to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month in October by honoring the historic contributions of Hispanics and Latinos to the United States – and by working to forge and strengthen the connection Americans of Hispanic and Latino descent have with their natural heritage.

I signed a Memorandum of Understanding on October 2 on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the League of United Latin American Citizens, (LULAC), the nation’s oldest Latino advocacy group. Together, we will work to increase participation by Latino families and kids in fishing and other outdoor recreation, and engage Latinos in monarch butterfly conservation.

This new partnership is more than just a piece of paper – it’s a shared statement of our values, and an expression of our joint determination to strengthen the relationship of the Latino community in the United States to its natural heritage. Most of all, it is a recognition of the historic role of Latinos in protecting and preserving the land, water and wildlife of our nation – and in shaping our economic and cultural identity.

And what a heritage it is! A century before the 1607 founding of the first English Colony at Jamestown in Virginia, Spanish and Portuguese adventurers began exploring North America – ranging as far as Greenland and across the American West to California. In the centuries to come, Hispanics settled much of the American West and intermarried with the Native Americans who lived there. They also settled in Florida, founding what is now the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement in North America – St. Augustine.

From the Californios of Alta California, to the Hispanos of New Mexico and Tejanos of Texas, to the Borinquén of Puerto Rico, Latinos have a historic and cultural connection that in many cases predates that of the descendants of those who sailed on the Mayflower. These pioneers built acequias – communal irrigation systems – to sustain agriculture, and to maintain the delicate balance with the wildlife in their surroundings. They fished and hunted across the West, and introduced the horse to North America, forever changing the culture of Plains Indians.

Wildlife is also woven into Latino culture.  The coquí has been a cultural symbol of Puerto Rican history for centuries. Monarch butterflies, which migrate between Mexico and the U.S., have a historic connection to pre-Hispanic times. The monarch’s migration was historically connected to the harvesting of maíz and celebrations of the Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). Today, organizations like HECHO - Hispanics Enjoying Camping Hunting and Outdoors  are leading efforts to increase the participation of Latinos in outdoor recreation.

In the 21st Century, increasing urbanization is making it harder and harder for Americans of all backgrounds and cultures to spend time in nature. This increasing disconnection has profound implications for the future health and well-being of millions of Americans, including members of the Latino community. And it threatens the progress we’ve made as a nation to protect and sustain our natural heritage for future generations.

Latinos represent a vibrant and growing segment of the U.S. population. In the future, they will have an enormous influence on the decisions we make as a society regarding the future allocation and management of natural resources, including wildlife. We want to make sure that we welcome Latino families and kids to the National Wildlife Refuge System, and that they can connect with nature no matter where they live. The health and well-being of these children will benefit immeasurably from the experiences they have in the natural world, away from the noise and distraction of modern life.

We also want to help Latino children explore careers in wildlife conservation – and to recruit young adults from the Latino community to join the Fish and Wildlife Service. We’re working to create a professional workforce for the future that reflects our nation’s growing diversity – one that can help Americans of all backgrounds connect with nature. As part of this partnership, the Service will participate in LULAC’s Federal Training Institute, which will help identify and connect promising young people with career development opportunities and job openings in our agency.

Together, we will strengthen the historic bond Latinos have with the land and wildlife of our nation – and in doing so, strengthen our ability to carry out our agency’s mission and sustain our shared natural heritage for all Americans.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Owl-o-ween at HNWR

Great Horned Owl at HNWR, by Mike Chiles
Happy Owl-o-ween!  Although 8 species of owls have been seen at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, the most frequently seen owls at Hagerman  are listed in the Bird Checklist only as “Occasional” or seen a few times in a season; they are the Eastern Screech Owl, the Great Horned Owl, and the Barred Owl.  

Interesting facts about owls, from Texas Parks &Wildlife include:
  • Most owls are active primarily at twilight and by night.
  • Owl flight is silent, thanks to the combination of large wings, small bodies and special fringed and velvet textured feathers which deaden sound.
  • Owls have superb eyesight, between 35 and 100 times the sensitivity of the human eye, and excellent night vision.
  • Owl vision is binocular and while, unlike humans, the owl cannot rotate its eyeballs, it can rotate its neck from 180 degrees up to 270 degrees.
  • Owls have excellent hearing, with ear openings concealed behind the edges of the facial eye disks, which can be moved to listen in different directions.  Their hearing is specially tuned to detect high-frequency sounds made by prey.
  • Ear tufts do not play a part in the owl’s hearing; birds do not have protruding external ears.

Owls are credited with possessing great wisdom in myth and folklore, as in this short anonymous poem found on the TPWD site:
A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he saw the less he spoke,
The less he spoke the more he heard,
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird.

Owls have also been traditionally associated with evil spirits and Halloween, perhaps because of their eerie calls and night-time activity.  Have a little Halloween fun with these recorded owl calls from Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

This post was originally published on 10/31/2013.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Golden Fields

Fence rows  and fields in North Texas and at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge have been glowing with “gold” at this time of year.  Several wildflower favorites are contributing to this fall palette.

Maximilian sunflower is a cheery yellow wildflower that blooms   from August to October and provides food for livestock, as a range plant, and seed and cover for wildlife. Helianthus maximiliani Schrad., called Maximilian sunflower, Max sunflower and Michaelmas-daisy, was named for the German explorer and naturalist, Prince Maximilian, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center native plant database.  Maximilian explored the Great Plains of the U.S. in 1832.

Maximilian sunflower, by Sue Malnory
Max sunflower is a prairie perennial native to the eastern U.S. and grows throughout the U. S. as an introduced species and ornamental.  Recognizable by multiple blooms along the unbranched, upright stalk It grows from 24” to 10’ tall, and reproduces by seed and by sprouting from the rhizome, which is edible.  In addition to seed, it also provides nectar for bees and butterflies.

Also in the aster family is Gutierrezia sarothrae, with common names that include Broom snakeweed, Kindlingweed, Matchbrush, Texas snakeweed, Broomweed, Turpentine weed.  Growing from 1 – 3’ tall, it is a small shrub-like plant covered in tiny yellow flowers.  By bloom time the lower leaves have dropped off, giving it a delicate appearance. 

Broomweed, by Dick Malnory
Broomweed is native throughout much of the western U.S. and blooms from August – November.  It reproduces by seed and provides nectar for bees and butterflies and seed for birds.  Dried plants can be tied together to fashion a “broom”.

Another yellow autumn wildflower, one that is considered a “bad actor” by many, is Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis L., also called Canada goldenrod, Canadian goldenrod, Tall goldenrod, or Giant goldenrod.  Goldenrod is blamed for causing allergic reactions each fall, but according to NPIN, the reactions are caused mainly by pollen from the ragweed plant that blooms at the same time.

Goldenrod, by Dick Malnory
Goldenrod grows 3 – 6’ tall, and like the Maximilian sunflower, is perennial.  It provides nectar for bees and butterflies and produces seeds.  It will grow in most any soil and is tolerant of dry or moist conditions,   Goldenrod is  a native plant found  in Canada and across the U. S. and blooms September – November.

So, using the phrase in a different context, "Go for the Gold"  and enjoy the view.

"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house.  So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air."
-  Nathaniel Hawthorne

This post was originally published on October 4, 2012.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


Ran across a new-to-me word – “phenology”. When I looked it up I learned that we talk about phenomena of phenology all the time at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. According to the National Wildlife Federation,

“The study of how the biological world times natural events is called phenology. Scientists now understand that plants and animals take their cues from their local climate. Climate (long-term weather patterns) is impacted by non-biological factors--temperature, precipitation, and available sunlight. Species use the predictable yearly changes in the climate to determine when they start natural events such as breeding or flowering.
Snow Geese at HNWR, by Keith Crabtree
Visitors want to know, “When will the geese be here?’ “When can I see the Painted Bunting?” and so on. We have all been watching the monarch migration this month. Soon we may see some fall color in the leaves of deciduous trees.

Painted Bunting, by Phil McGuire

The three main non-biological factors listed by the National Wildlife Federation as playing a part in the timing of natural events are sunlight, temperature, and precipitation.
NWF adds that birds in the Northern Hemisphere are believed to depend on day length for when to begin their spring migration to nesting grounds. Another example given is that of frogs, which depend on temperature and precipitation to determine when to begin breeding, while plants depend on all three factors for bloom time.

Milkweed at HNWR, by Carrie Chambers

“Phenology is an important subject to study, because it helps us understand the health of species and ecosystems. Animals and plants do not live in bubbles--every species has an impact on those in its food chain and community. The timing of one species' phenological events can be very important to the survival of another species.” 

Monarch Caterpillar at HNWR, by Brenda K. Loveless

So as you watch for signs of autumn, remember you are awaiting a phenological event!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

National Wildlife Refuge Week

By Helen Vargus

The week of October 11-19, 2015 has been designated National Wildlife Refuge Week.  There are 562 refuges and 38 wetland management districts in America’s National Wildlife Refuge System.  As the world’s premiere public conservation system, they protect more than 150 million acres of wildlife habitat.  The refuges are home to 700 bird species, 220 mammal species, 250 reptile and amphibian species, over 1000 species of fish, and numerous invertebrates and plants. 

The national wildlife refuge system was born on March 14, 1903,  when President Theodore Roosevelt set aside Pelican Island, a tiny bird rookery of the coast of Florida, as the first refuge.  Today refuges are found from Maine to Alaska, and from the Caribbean to the Pacific.  Refuges cover all the North American ecosystems including boreal forests, wetlands, deserts, grasslands, arctic tundra, and remote islands.  Every state has at least one refuge and a refuge is within driving distance of every major city.  Texas is home to 18 National Wildlife Refuges.

Forty-seven million visitors use the refuges every year.  They add $2.1 billion dollars to local economies and support tens of thousands of local jobs. 

Snow on the Prairie at HNWR, by Lee Hatfield
Grayson County is fortunate to be the home of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, Texas.  Hagerman offers outstanding recreational opportunities for hiking, birding, fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, paddling, photography, and for a place to share the outdoors with friends and families.  Hagerman and the Friends of Hagerman also offer monthly educational opportunities for both youth and adults.

Sunrise Silhouette at HNWR, by Carl Hill
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week with planned activities during the week of October 11-19, 2015.  Enjoy a walk on the wild side this week and connect with nature at Hagerman!

On Sunday, October 11, at 3 pm we will celebrate the Grand Opening of the Butterfly Garden.

Gulf Fritillary on Texas Lantana, by Jesus Moreno
For the rest of the week, with the exception of Monday, all activities during the week will take place from 10 am-12 pm.  The Visitor Center and Refuge offices will be closed on Monday, October 12, in observance of Columbus Day, but the refuge lands will be open from sunrise to sunset.

“Tracking Tuesday” on October 13 will teach you what animals leave behind on the trail. Join us on the trail to test your tracking skills.  

“Wildflower Wednesday” on October 14 will provide lessons about wildflowers and the important roles they play on the prairie and as nectar sources for pollinators.  Look for wildflowers with us in the butterfly garden. 

Come hike with us on Harris Creek Trail on “Trails Thursday” on October 15. Learn about hiking safety and the history of Hagerman.

“Flyaway Friday” on the October 16 will discuss the migration of birds and butterflies. Experience with us the release of our Monarchs for their fall migration to Mexico.

On Saturday, October 17, join us for a docent-led walk in the Butterfly Garden at 10 am.

All activities listed above are free of charge and open to the public.  In case of rain, there will be an indoor program for the Grand Opening of the Butterfly Garden; other outdoor activities will be limited or cancelled. For more information about Hagerman NWR and activities, see or