Thursday, November 29, 2012

Welcome to the Friends of Hagerman Website

·       Would you like to know the current lake level for Lake Texoma?  Or the weather at the Refuge?   Would you like to find other attractions and activities to do while you are visiting the Texoma area?  Links to all this info and more are on the LINKS page of the Friends website.  You will find LINKS grouped with VISITOR INFORMATION, under REFUGE.
·       Want to hike the Refuge trails?  Read or download and print the guide to one or more trails by going to the TRAILS page, under REFUGE tab, and selecting any one of the five trails.
·       Want to know what birds you may see on your next visit?  Highlights of the weekly bird surveys are shown on the BIRD DATA page, where you will also find the Hagerman Bird Check-list and the complete weekly census reports, month by month, for this year.
·       By clicking ACTIVITIES you can see the schedule of upcoming Second Saturdays and other events and activities at the Refuge.
·       Check out HAGERMAN YOUTH under ACTIVITIES tab for activities for youngsters and families to do at home as well as links to approved sites for online educational games and more.
·       Want to be a member of  the Friends of Hagerman?  Click JOIN NOW for information, to download forms or to join or renew membership online.
·       Interested in the Friends PROJECTS? Learn more about the NEST BOX PROGRAM and the NATURE NOOK; look for these tabs under FRIENDS, on the Home Page.
·       If one picture is worth a  thousand words, then there are about a billion words-worth in the GALLERY - virtual albums for current & recent Photographers of the Month,  winning entries in the recent photo contest, birds including waterfowl, songbirds, waders, etc., animals, butterflies,  wildflowers, and  more, ALL taken at the Refuge.
·       AND BIRDFEST TEXOMA is now on the Friends website also!  Here’s your chance to decide which events you will want to sign up for when registration opens in January, 2013, to learn who will be serving as festival faculty and how you can support the event!

These are just some highlights from the website; next time you are web-surfing, we invite you to spend some time exploring

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Texas Whooper Watch

Happy Thanksgiving!  While the bird most of us are keeping an eye on today is the turkey that will grace our table, Texas Parks & Wildlife is asking for citizen scientists to keep watch for Whooping Cranes.    Biologists re seeking to learn more about locations along the migration; in addition, in 2011-12 some whoopers decided to join the Keep Austin Weird movement by spending the winter near there!

The photo below, taken by Bill Powell,  shows two Whooping Cranes who paid a brief visit to Hagerman NWR on 11-16-2011.

TPWD has a webpage devoted to whooping crane information to help those interested in the project make a good identification and report to the proper authorities.  Just click Whooping Cranes for the webpage.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Story of a Book

Scanning the newspaper listing of events in Dallas this summer, one item caught my attention; the Dallas chapter of the Audubon Society and the Dallas Museum of Art were sponsoring a lecture by Joy M. Kiser.  I wondered what the connection was between the two groups and read on to learn that  Kiser is the author of a wonderful new book, America's Other Audubon.

Actually, her book is a wonderful book ABOUT another wonderful book.  America's Other Audubon is the story of the creation of Illustrations of the Birds and Nests of Ohio.  The book “within the book” was the work of Genevieve Estelle Jones, amateur ornithologist, who at age 29,  set out to document the nests in the style of John James Audubon, inspired by an exhibit of his paintings from Birds of America  at the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia.

America's Other Audubon details the steps involved in collecting and portraying the nests, a project that came to involve all of Jones’ family as well as her friend Eliza J. Schulze.  Segments of the book, each consisting of three illustrations and text, were sold by subscription, $5.00 for copies with hand colored lithographs and $2.50, uncolored.  The original plan, to depict nest and eggs for the 130 birds that nested in Ohio, was not to be fulfilled, due to Genevieve’s death from typhoid at age 32; Genevieve’s mother completed the portion of the project that was already underway.  Illustrations of the Birds and Nests of Ohio won favorable notice from Theodore Roosevelt, among others. 

As a new assistant librarian at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, author Kiser became intrigued with an exhibit of Illustrations of the Birds and Nests of Ohio, and went on to learn the story behind the story.  America's Other Audubon includes reproductions of illustrations and is beautifully bound.  A copy will be on loan for viewing in the Multi-purpose Meeting Room of the Visitor Center at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge from November 18 – December 8, 2012.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Attracting Backyard Birds

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is certainly full of birds. You can attract many of these kinds of birds to your backyard if you mimic the “character” of the habitats at Hagerman. (Of course, forget about birds that need lots of space.)

Look around. There’s water, forest, meadows (to be sure, on a grand scale). These are all things you can have in your yard (on a far smaller scale than Hagerman).  These habitats attract birds because they provide food – the center of every bird’s universe. Clearly, birds come to forests, shrubs and meadows because there’s fresh food there. Birds visit birdfeeders for the same reason.
Birdwatching in your backyard differs in that it’s your world, while, at Hagerman, you are in the birds’ world. Food is still king, however. The fresher the food, the more birds will want it. At Hagerman, the birds have totally fresh food – from the plant. In your backyard feeder, however, they depend on you for the freshest food possible. If it’s stale or dried out, birds will go elsewhere.

At Hagerman you certainly see lots of water. Some birds need a lot of water, but for other birds you can mimic this with a birdbath. Yes, it’s only a tiny fraction of the water that’s at Hagerman, but many land birds are attracted by birdbaths full of clean water. What’s more, they need it. Because birds need to keep their feathers clean to fly well, find food and escape predators. Even in winter!

If you’re serious about attracting birds, your yard should have an abundance of native plants – plants that grow naturally here.  Many generations of birds have looked to natives for safe cover and nesting locations. Hybrids, or plants whose ancestors are from elsewhere, are used by birds only as a last resort.

   Now is an excellent time to attract birds to your yard. The odds are much better, since there are many more birds around here in the fall & winter than in spring & summer. After all we’re where many birds migrate to - the south !

Post adapted from article by Nancy Collins, originally published in the Featherless Flyer, January, 2011.  Nancy is a Texas Master Naturalist and was co-owner of the Wild Bird Center in Denton, Texas for a number of years.

ED Note:  Here are some additional tips from the “Backyard Birds in the Fall” presentation at Super Saturday:

Feeders near windows should within 3 feet from the window or fastened to the window or window frame to avoid birds’ striking windows.

Clean bird feeders regularly, immersing in a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water for several minutes, brushing to remove old seed and allowing feeder to dry completely before refilling.

Change water in birdbaths frequently to avoid algae build-up, mosquito larvae in warm weather, and general accumulation of filth from regular use.

Keep pet cats indoors  for their health and safety and the safety of the backyard birds.

Photo:  Northern Cardinal, by Dick Malnory

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Coming Soon: Geese at Hagerman NWR

Great flocks of waterfowl arrive at Hagerman Wildlife Refuge every fall from the Central Fly-way to find food, shelter and protection for the winter. Waterfowl are the Order Anderiformes, Family Anatidae. Geese are the Subfamily Anserinae. Geese are heavier and have longer necks than ducks. Their short legs are farther forward than those of ducks; an adaptation for more efficient grazing since they are terrestrial feeders.

Gaggle of Geese, by Ron M. Varley
Geese have broad, round tipped bills and feed on grains, seeds, aquatic plants and young grasses. They thrive in the wheat fields over the winter at Hagerman. The geese migration is best known for the large number of birds migrating and for the loud, noisy communities that spend the winter here.

Male and female geese look identical. They fly with deep, powerful wing beats. In November at Hagerman, listen for the noisy birds migrating and look for the V formations and long undulating lines. Some 7,500 - 10,000 geese will winter on the refuge feeding on green wheat shoots and aquatic plants. Rested and refueled, they return north along the Central Flyway to nest in the Arctic again next summer.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) are the most widespread geese in North America with a black head and neck, white breast and chin strap and characteristic honk, bark or cackle, but the Snow Geese are the most abundant Hagerman winter residents.  Snow Geese are smaller than Canada Geese and migrate in to Hagerman in great numbers along with even smaller Ross’s Geese (Chen rossii).  Hagerman also has some Greater White Fronted Geese (Anser albifrons),  brownish geese with  white faces and orange legs.

Greater White-fronted Geese, Ross's Goose, by Carl Hill
 Snow Geese are white with black wing tips.  Ross’s Geese, also white, and Snows are difficult to distinguish by size when in a large mixed flock.   Distinguishing marks are on the head.  Look for the shape of the head and length of the bill.  Snow Geese have a long tapered bill, with a dark line between the upper and lower bill, called a “grin patch”, and sloping foreheads.  The bill of the Ross’s  is shorter or stubbier and lacks the “grin patch”; the head is more round, with a steeper forehead.  Ross’s are becoming increasing more common winter residents and mix well with Snow Geese.

Perfect Two-point, by Bert Garcia
Hagerman provides food, rest and shelter for the migrating geese that now depend on the 300 acres of planted wheat for energy to keep warm and build up reserves for the return trip north. Providing food also keeps the birds from foraging in farmer’s fields. Historically, waste grain from agricultural fields was the primary food source for migratory geese, but more efficient harvesting leaves less food available in the field. Without Hagerman management, there would not be enough food energy to sustain the numbers of geese over wintering here in north Texas.

ED Note: Adapted from an article prepared by Helen Petre that appeared in the Featherless Flyer, November, 2009.

On December 8, 2012, Dr. Wayne Meyer's Second Saturday topic will be Winter Waterfowl, and Geese, Geese, Geese will be the topic for Second Saturday for Youth.  Both programs will include a guided trip along Wildlife Drive aboard TAPS to see the winter waterfowl at the Refuge.

AND!  Book a seat for a tour aboard the new C&E Express, on Wednesday and weekends.  Call the Refuge for reservations.