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.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Deer at Hagerman NWR

White-tailed Fawn at HNWR, by Skeeter Lasuzzo
Recently a number of photos of deer photos  have been posted to the Friends of Hagerman Facebook Page, so we know that the fawns will soon be old enough to begin traveling about  with the does at Hagerman NWR. Many visitors to the Refuge ask about the possibility of seeing deer and sightings are always a great experience, especially for youngsters.  Late each summer, Refuge staff conduct a deer count; in 2015 the count was 764.

According to National Geographic, white-tailed deer are the smallest member of the North American deer family. They are found from southern Canada to South America. Their preferred habitat is forest in winter and meadow in summer, with small areas of trees for shade.

Visitors to the Refuge who want to see deer should time their trip for early morning or late day, as the deer are  primarily nocturnal or crepuscular, browsing mainly at dawn and dusk. They are herbivorous and as ruminants, have special four-chambered stomachs that can digest a variety of plant foods, from leaves to twigs and acorns.   Each chamber has a different and specific function that allows the deer to eat a variety of different foods, digesting it at a later time in a safe area of cover.

White-tailed Buck at HNWR, by Larry Paar
Visitors will note that the deer appear to be different colors from season to season. Adult white-tails have reddish-brown coats in summer which fade to a duller grayish-brown in winter, and  can be differentiated from other deer  by the characteristic white underside to its tail.  Male deer, called bucks, are easily recognizable in the summer and fall by their prominent set of antlers, which are grown annually and fall off in the winter. Only the bucks grow antlers, which bear a number of tines, or sharp points. During the mating season, also called the rut, bucks fight over territory by using their antlers in sparring matches.

Summer doe at HNWR, by Joe Blackburn
Female deer, called does, give birth to one to three young at a time, usually in May or June and after a gestation period of seven months. Young deer, called fawns, wear a reddish-brown coat with white spots that helps them blend in with the forest.  Fawns take their first steps within half an hour of their birth, and  will usually stay with their mother for around a year. For the first four weeks, fawns mostly lie still and hide in vegetation while their mothers forage. They are then able to follow their mothers on foraging trips.

Visitors who find a fawn in hiding should not assume it is abandoned and should not attempt to touch or "rescue" it.  The photo below was taken at Hagerman and posted by Steve Harbula, who says, "Wonderful treat by Derby Ponds on Thursday afternoon -- a White-tailed Deer fawn who was trying to follow her mother but got confused and started heading right towards me! She soon realized that I did not, in fact, look like a deer and dove back into the undergrowth, where she lay down to camouflage herself and wait for mom's return." (See Steve's blog for more about his day at HNWR.)

Fawn at HNWR by Steve Harbula
Deer communicate through a variety of actions:

Alarm Signal, by Marilyn Pickens
  • Fawns release a high-pitched squeal, known as a bleat, to call out to their mothers.
  • Mature deer make a guttural sound that attracts the attention of any other deer in the area.
  • Both does and bucks also snort, a sound that often signals an imminent threat. 
  • Use of their white tail. When spooked, it will raise its tail to warn the other deer in the immediate area.
  • Scent from the forehead is deposited on tree branches.
  • Scent from glands on the legs and hooves signify bucks passing through an area or signal danger.
  • Scraping bark and earth, and urine combined with deposits from other glands all mark territory.

National Geographic reports that "In the wild, white-tails, particularly the young, are preyed upon by bobcats, mountain lions, and coyotes. They use speed and agility to outrun predators, sprinting up to 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour and leaping as high as 10 feet (3 meters) and as far as 30 feet (9 meters) in a single bound." And not only can they run and jump, they are also excellent swimmers.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks

On Sunday, July 24, Invasive Species will be the topic for a special presentation by Pathways Summer Intern at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, Daniel Jackson.  The program will begin at 3 pm in the Meeting Room of the Refuge Visitor Center and will be open to the public, free of charge. Jackson says, 

"Invasive species have been trying to get a foothold in many areas of Texas as well as across the U.S., some have been very successful in transforming the landscape, others have wiped out native species. Learn what we have near/on the refuge, native vs. non-native species, what FWS is currently fighting against and what can be done to help at the individual level."

Everybody has a role to play in stopping the advance of invasive species – those plants, animals and microorganisms that are not native to a particular area and wreak havoc outside their normal range.

A new campaign called PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks is a clear call to action to people who are regularly outdoors, whether working or recreating. PlayCleanGo complements the ongoing Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers campaign.

Whether walking, hiking, running, biking, or riding your horse or OHV, it's important to make sure you don't accidently move invasive species from place to place. Here are a few steps you can take to help prevent the spread of invasive species.

1. Come clean

Before leaving home, take a little time to inspect and remove dirt, plants, and bugs from clothing, boots, gear, pets, and vehicles.

2. Use only local or certified firewood when camping

Whether you use a tent, RV, or nothing but the clear blue sky, it's important to not accidently move invasive species from place to place, particularly in firewood. Before camping, check for any firewood restrictions at your intended campsite. Shop ahead of time to locate a source of firewood near your campsite. Burn all of the wood you bring or leave it with the campsite host.

3. Use weed-free or certified hay

When horseback riding, use weed-free or certified hay. When using hay for other purposes and weed-free hay is not available, use straw because it is less likely to carry weed seeds.

4. Stay on designated trails

Stay on the designated trail when walking, hiking, running, biking, or riding your horse or OHV.

5. Leave clean

Before leaving, inspect your belongings and remove any dirt, plants, or bugs. Invasive plant seeds can be stuck on you, your pets, or equipment. Likewise, pests that attack trees can hide in firewood that you bring home. Weed seeds in infested hay can be blown offsite as you move down the road or left behind in animal waste.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Cool It!

In the good old summertime - think shade trees, cold drinks, swimming pools, air conditioning, all ways for us to cool it.  But what about the animals?

No Sweat: According to Smithsonian Magazine, humans, higher primates, horses, and some dogs who sweat from their paws, are the only animals who can cool down by means of perspiration.

Straight Poop:  Some species of storks and vultures defecate on their legs, creating a sort of evaporative cooler that carries heat away and lowers their body temperature.

Shake or Bake:  Other birds such as pelicans, herons, doves, owls, quail, and nighthawks vibrate muscles and bones in their throat to increase cooling evaporation through the throat membranes.  This is called ‘gular fluttering.”

The Ears Have It:  Rabbits and elephants regulate temperature with their ears; rabbits can constrict or dilate blood vessels in their ears to encourage heat loss or preserve heat.  Elephants can fan themselves with their large ears, at the same time cooling the blood flowing through the ears.

Spa Treatment:  Wallowing in mud helps cool pigs, hippos, boars, and buffalo; as the mud slowly dries it cools by evaporation.

Sleep It Off:  Animals can slow their metabolism to get through extreme heat and times of scarce food through the process of estivation.

Pant, Pant, Pant:  Not only dogs but also birds may pant to expel hot air and draw cooler air into the lungs as quickly as possible to lower body temperature.

Got It Made in the Shade:  Like humans, animals can avoid overheating by retreating to shady areas.

Shedding:  According to the Illinois Extension Service, in springtime, hormones cause once dense coats to fall out gradually, until a lighter summer coat is in place

Wet 'n’ Wild: All types of animals need water for hydration and many cool off by taking a dip. You can provide ground level water containers for amphibians such as turtles, toads and frogs, and bird baths for your backyard feathered friends.

See how many of these means of cooling it you can observe on your next visit to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Look Up. That Bird Was Probably at a Wildlife Refuge

Owl Walk at HNWR, March, 2015

By Cynthia Martinez
Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System

Well-known birder and author Kenn Kaufman said on Facebook, “National wildlife refuges protect some of the most amazing habitats for birds and other wildlife in the USA. These public lands represent a treasure for all Americans.”

I wholeheartedly agree.
Wintering Geese at HNWR, by Bill Powell

Pick up any birding magazine or guide, and you’re sure to see so many references to wildlife refuges that you will lose count. We all know the story of the brown pelican whose protection launched the National Wildlife Refuge System in 1903 with the establishment in Florida of Pelican Island bird reservation – now known as a national wildlife refuge. More than 200 refuges have been established for migratory birds.

In our 113-year history, the National Wildlife Refuge System has made huge strides on behalf of migratory bird conservation. Not only do millions of migratory birds find homes among the National Wildlife Refuge System’s stunning array of marshes, wetlands, deserts, forests, great rivers and small prairies. But they also find a home in the urban areas served by wildlife refuges. Not enough urban residents know that.

The Urban Bird Treaty program has helped make a difference. Cities today are filled with hawks, osprey, songbirds and more.

Now let’s teach kids and families in big and small cities that when we talk about migratory bird flyways, those are not far off places. Flyways include places where millions of people live, city neighborhoods where people can see a breathtaking variety of birds. With effective communications, city residents will recognize that they can go to a nearby refuge to learn more about helping bird populations.

Feather Facts Booth at Geese By Golly, December, 2015, at HNWR, by Bill Powell
The Refuge System has been crucial in nurturing migratory bird species. State-of-the-art waterfowl management is practiced on thousands of waterfowl protection areas and hundreds of wildlife refuges. We’ve brought birds back to their historic ranges, increased populations, given visitors sights that they’ll travel hundreds of miles to see – and helped sustain the economies of communities where birding is a passion.

Pintails at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, by Dick Malnory
Fewer people know that our federal wildlife officers are among migratory birds’ best friends. They regulate migratory bird take and possession limits under international treaties like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. They regulate hunting license capability to ensure that proper limits are met on particular migratory bird species. And they ensure that migratory birds have safe places to rest during non-hunting seasons as they work closely with sportsmen’s groups, tribal law enforcement, and state agencies.

Americans are learning that when they see birds in their communities, vast flocks on the wing, even some hummingbirds at their feeders, they have national wildlife refuges to thank. So, when you look up and experience the magnificence of a bird in flight, you might wonder which national wildlife refuge provided benefit to that bird.

Painted Bunting at HNWR by Brad Imhoff

From USFWS Refuge Friends Newswire

For more information about birds at Hagerman NWR, see and

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Dickcissel

One of the most photographed birds at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in the past few weeks is the Dickcissel.  As many as 115 were reported on the Tuesday Bird Census at the Refuge, on May 10, 2016.

Photo, Singing Dickcissel by Ken Morton

Here is a description of the bird, from Cornell:    
A sparrow-like bird of the prairie grasslands of the United States, the Dickcissel congregates in huge flocks in migration and on its tropical grassland wintering grounds. The breeding male is colored like a tiny meadowlark, with a black "V" on a yellow chest.

According to Audubon, the Dickcissel is a member of the Cardinal family.  

Dickcissels migrate in large flocks. At Hagerman and other places in the summer breeding range as shown in the map from Cornell,

“…the male Dickcissels sometimes seem to sing their name from every wire, fence post, or weed stalk in prairie or farming country.  Click this link to hear the song:  

The Dickcissel makes a nest in thick grasses or tree saplings, elevated somewhat about ground level.  The female lays 3 -6 pale blue eggs.

Dickcissels are frequently seen perched on a stick to pluck seed, but they also feed on seed on the ground and insects.
Photo by George Cooper