Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Let's Talk Turkey

By Kathy Whaley

One rainy morning last spring on my way to work I suddenly found myself slamming on the brakes. There, out of the wet, misty brush, came one, then two, then three, four, five, six…in all 52 wild turkeys strutting their way across the road in front of me. Mouth dropped and eyes widened, I could only stare. I had ever seen this many turkeys at once!

This was one of the many flocks of Rio Grande wild turkeys (named for the general area in which they are found –the central plains states) we now have at Hagerman Refuge. But, this has not always been the case. By the late 1800’s, turkeys throughout Texas had been hunted to very low numbers. Since then hunting regulations and better habitat management practices have allowed turkey populations to steadily increase in most areas. 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.

Female turkeys weigh about 10 pounds while males tip the scales at closer to 20. 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. 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. Young turkeys (poults) are up and running behind the hen within the first 24hours. Being generally ground dwellers, there is a high mortality rate on poults by critters including bobcats, foxes, snakes, raccoons, and hogs. Safe night roosting sites are critical to turkey survival. They typically seek trees that are 40 feet or taller and tend to roost in groups.

Although you can see turkeys any time of year, spring is an especially fun 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 Refuge, 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.

For information on activities at Hagerman NWR, please visit http://www.friendsofhagerman.com/.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

One Very Large Bird Feeder

Do you feed the birds who come to your backyard? What if your backyard was over 11,000 acres and full of hungry birds!
The mission of Hagerman NWR is to provide for migratory waterfowl, so each fall crops are planted to meet the needs of thousands of geese who will winter at the Refuge. The geese will browse on the tender green shoots of wheat and the goal in planting is to have a more than ample supply so that the geese stay on the Refuge rather than visit nearby farms! Other crops such as corn and soybeans are planted for both visiting and resident wildlife.
The Refuge wetlands are managed to provide for the ducks and other waterfowl. In the spring and summer marshes are drained and native vegetation allowed to grow; then each fall the marshes are flooded, creating an ideal “soup” for the ducks.
Periodic controlled “burns” are conducted to keep unwanted vegetation such as cedars and honey locust from taking over the prairie landscape, helping to maintain a habitat for the many seed- and bug-eating birds.
The next time you shop for birdseed or a new feeder for your backyard, think about stocking over 600 acres “for the birds”.

BIRD SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS FROM NOVEMBER 17TH - 72 species seen: 1,300 snow geese, 700 Ross' geese, 125 white fronted geese, 300 pintail, 120 white pelicans, 1,200 Franklin's gull, 75 green winged teal, 70 mallard, 50 shoveler, 35 gadwall, 27 great egret, 60 meadowlark, 25 junco, and 15 bluebirds.

For more information about activities at Hagerman NWR, please see http://www.friendsofhagerman.com/

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Get the Picture? Photography at Hagerman NWR

Hagerman NWR is a magnet for photographers – there is always something different to see and to photograph, depending on the season, the time of day, and the weather.

In addition to the wildlife and the landscape, the Refuge and the Friends of Hagerman offer a number of special activities for photographers. There are periodic programs on photography as part of the Second Saturday Nature Program Series. The Photographer of the Month program features an album of twelve photos taken at the Refuge, on the Friends of Hagerman website. Shown above are some photos by the November, 2009, Photographer of the Month, Chris Jennings.

Photographers who are on Facebook are invited to become fans of the Friends of Hagerman Facebook page and post photos taken at the Refuge, as well as comments on their visit.

The Refuge and the Friends have also sponsored two Photo Safaris this year. Small groups, led by experienced photographers have gone out to “shoot” and then turned in the resulting pix for inclusion in a power point “virtual gallery”. The most recent Photo Safari was held October 24, and the show will be presented at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, December 12, in the Audio Visual Classroom at the Refuge, 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, Texas.

Finally, entries in the first Annual Hagerman NWR Photo Contest will be accepted from January 3 – March 1, 2010. Rules and entry forms are available at the Visitor Center at the Refuge, or on-line at www.friendsofHagerman.com (see the NEWS page for Photography at Hagerman NWR).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Second Saturday Nature Program Set for November 14, 2010

Tom Miller, KXII Meteorologist, will present The Weather Report at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, Nov. 14, at 10 a.m. Speaking at the Second Saturday Nature Program, Miller will explain how to interpret television weather reports, weather trends and current methodology of weather reporting.

Tom's presentation will be held in the Audio Visual Classroom at the Refuge, 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, and there will be time for questions. Miller graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Meteorology. Since February of 1988, Tom has been doing morning and noon weather for KXII-TV.

At 8 a.m. on Nov. 14, a free van tour of the Refuge will be available, conducted by a knowledgeable guide. The tour, which will last approximately one hour, is free but limited to twelve participants. In addition, weather permitting, there will be a one hour long guided nature hike, also starting at 8 a.m. Both of these activities will depart from the Visitor Center at the Refuge.

Second Saturday Nature Programs are sponsored by Hagerman NWR and the Friends of Hagerman. The programs are free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Refuge, 903 786 2826, or see www.friendsofhagerman.com.