Thursday, December 30, 2010

If We Build It...

Post and photo by Kathy Whaley

If we build it, will they come? We hope so! The Hagerman Refuge/Ducks Unlimited wetlands restoration project has started. In mid-December, Refuge employees Jay and Rusty set elevation posts and began using heavy equipment to move dirt to elevations that will allow us to manage the water level in MSU 10.

This is the first of three impoundments that will eventually be restored to provide emergent wetlands for ducks. When completed, the three wetland areas (surrounded by dikes) on the northwest side of Wildlife Drive will be floodable to 12” - 18” deep and have gently sloping bottoms and properly placed water control structures. Our goal is to attract dabbling ducks such as mallards, pintail, teal, shovelers, and gadwall who paddle around in shallow water searching for seeds, insects, and small aquatic invertebrates to eat.

Once completed, a new pump (recently ordered by Ducks Unlimited) located on Big Mineral Creek will provide a reliable water source through underground pipe that will allow flooding of all wetlands on both sides of Wildlife Drive for almost a mile. This will ensure that ducks arriving for the winter have shallow water to land on. Our hope is that - long term - more ducks will find Hagerman a good place to spend the winter and the numbers will increase.

Note: Free pamphlets on wildlife including the wintering ducks and geese are available at Refuge Headquarters during office hours. For more information about Hagerman NWR please see and for information about acitivities and events of the Friends of Hagerman, visit

Kathy Whaley is the Refuge Manager at Hagerman NWR.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Twelve Days of Winter at the Refuge

On the first day of winter, at Hagerman we see - a Cardinal in an oak tree.

On the second day of winter, at Hagerman we see - two eagles soaring and a cardinal in an oak tree.

On the third day of winter, at Hagerman we see - three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a cardinal in an oak tree.

On the fourth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - four leaping deer, three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a cardinal in an oak tree.

On the fifth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - five hiking trails, four leaping deer, three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a cardinal in an oak tree.

On the sixth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - six winter wrens, five hiking trails, four leaping deer, three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a cardinal in an oak tree

On the seventh day of winter, at Hagerman we see - seven shovelers shoveling, six winter wrens, five hiking trails, four leaping deer, three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a cardinal in an oak tree.

On the eighth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - eight birders watching, seven shovelers shoveling, six winter wrens, five hiking trails, four leaping deer, three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a cardinal in an oak tree.

On the ninth day of winter, at Hagerman we see- nine sparrows “chipping”, eight birders watching, seven shovelers shoveling, six winter wrens, five hiking trails, four leaping deer, three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a cardinal in an oak tree.

On the tenth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - ten pintails dabbling, nine sparrows “chipping”, eight birders watching, seven shovelers shoveling, six winter wrens, five hiking trails, four leaping deer, three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a cardinal in an oak tree.

On the eleventh day of winter, at Hagerman we see - eleven vultures waiting, ten pintails dabbling, nine sparrows “chipping”, eight birders watching, seven shovelers shoveling, six winter wrens, five hiking trails, four leaping deer, three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a cardinal in an oak tree.

On the twelfth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - twelve geese a-browsing, eleven vultures waiting, ten pintails dabbling, nine sparrows “chipping”, eight birders watching, seven shovelers shoveling, six winter wrens, five hiking trails, four leaping deer, three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a cardinal in an oak tree.

The holidays are a perfect time to visit the Refuge, where you can see all this and more. The official Refuge website, and give directions to the Refuge and information on activities there.

Best wishes to all for a very happy holiday season, from the Friends of Hagerman NWR.

Post by blog editor, Sue Malnory; photo collage by Sue and Dick Malnory.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Add a New Dimension to Your Visit to Hagerman NWR

By Kathy Whaley, Refuge Manager, with photo by Chris Jennings

Calling all nature explorers! Ever see an animal track and wonder what made it? Do you like to look at birds, but don’t have a pair of binoculars? What kind of snake is that lying across the trail? Would a field guide to birds help you determine if you are looking at a Snow Goose or Ross’s Goose?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, or just enjoy digging a little deeper into the great outdoors than a ride down the wildlife drive, the Friends of Hagerman have a new tool to help you. Four backpacks have been stuffed with items including (1) field guides to birds and other species such as trees, reptiles, or amphibians, (2) laminated photos with tracks of a few species of common Refuge wildlife, (3) a note pad and pencil to write down what you found on your visit, (4) binoculars, and (5) even a hand-held, Earthmate GPS to help you find your way to new places on the Refuge!

The best part is….. these backpacks are available for you to check-out and take with you for the day FREE OF CHARGE. All you have to do is stop by the headquarters to pick it up. The only think you will need to provide is a copy of the driver’s license for the person driving the car, and a contact phone number. Come on out and explore Hagerman! There’s a whole natural world out there just waiting on you.

Headquarters at Hagerman NWR is located in a temporary office/trailer on Refuge Road, and is open Monday - Friday, 7:30 am - 4 pm; Saturday, 9 am - 3 pm, and Sunday, 1 - 4 pm. Holiday hours: open Dec. 24, 10 - Noon; closed Dec. 25. Open Jan. 1, 10 am - 3 pm. Visitors are welcome; please stop and sign in. Free maps, guides and brochures are available in addition to the backpacks.

For more information, please visit the official website for the Refuge, and for the Friends of Hagerman,

Thursday, December 9, 2010

This Recipe is for the Birds

Last week we blogged about the thousands of geese that have arrived at Hagerman NWR to spend the winter. Today we are narrowing the focus to our own backyard, where winter weather is bringing more birds to our feeders; all the songbirds we get love this homemade bird food. The recipe originally came from a co-worker, years ago, who showed me how to take a section of tree branch, 1-1/2 inches or more in diameter, drill some holes in it, add a screw eye on one end, and hang near your other bird feeders. Then you pack the holes with the mix. For a time we also spread it on an old flat plastic grater with a handle for hanging - that worked well until a raccoon or possum departed with it one night. And some people simply slather it on the rough bark of a tree trunk.

The easiest method to make the bird food is to use a food processor, but you can use a mixer or simply work with your hands to blend the ingredients in a large bowl:

Basic ingredients: flour, cornmeal, lard, peanut butter

Optional add-ins - peanuts or other nuts, raisins or other dried fruit (chop these before adding, if not using a food processor)

Start with about 1 cup each of flour and of cornmeal, 1/4 cup each lard and peanut butter and mix well. Add more of the fats if too dry, or more dry ingredients if too soft. Blend in optional add-ins once you have the desired consistency, a "dough" that is not sticky. Store in a sealed container. We use it quickly enough that we have no problems with the mix becoming rancid but you could make smaller batches until your bird visitors get “hooked” on it.

Making the feeder and a batch of the mix for a gift is also a good holiday project for children. Similar feeders and dough can also be purchased ready-to-use in specialty bird retail stores.

Winter birds abound at Hagerman NWR, witness the bird survey highlights posted each week on the Friends Facebook page and website. The annual Christmas Bird Count for Hagerman NWR will be held Saturday, December 18; for details and to participate, see the December edition of the Featherless Flyer,

The official site for Hagerman NWR is ; for information about activities and programs of the Friends, please visit .

This week's post contributed by blog editor, Sue Malnory. Photo of Carolina Wren at feeder, by Dick Malnory

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Name That Goose

Ten thousand or so geese spend the winter at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and are a popular sight for visitors to the refuge. Here are two questions frequently asked by visitors, related to the geese, and answers to help identify the various species.

“What do you mean, Snow Goose or Ross’s Goose? They all look the same to me!”

That’s true, until you start looking more closely. Ross’s Geese are smaller than Snow Geese, but the relative size can be hard to distinguish when you are looking at a flock of a thousand or more white geese. Instead, look at the shape of the head and bill.

The Ross’s head is more rounded, with a stubby bill which appears thicker at the base. The border at the base of the bill is straight and vertical.

The head of the Snow Goose is more wedge-shaped, with a longer appearing bill. There is a black line between the upper and lower mandibles, or bill, known as a “grin patch”; the base of the bill is more curved that on the Ross’s.

“Okay, but what are those dark colored geese in with ‘Snow Geese’”?

The dark colored geese with white heads are dark phase Snow Geese. These were once called the Blue Goose. They will not become white over time, but are a variation. Dark phase is rare with Ross’s Geese.

Next time you go out to see the geese, take your binoculars, or borrow some from the Refuge Headquarters, so that you can take a close look at the head and bill shape and you will find that you can identify the different species!

This week's post written by Dick Malnory.

AND - on Saturday, December 11, Dr. Wayne Meyer and Rick Cantu will give a presentation for Second Saturday on Wintering Waterfowl at Hagerman, then accompany you on a guided tour, aboard a TAPS bus, along Wildlife Drive. The bus will hold 29 passengers, so for those who are awaiting their turn, a special slide presentation of pix from the Fall 2010 Photo Safari will be shown and Derek Miller will demo use of the new handheld GPS that can be checked out at Refuge HQ for use on the Refuge.

For more information about activities at the Refuge, please check our website, . The official site for Hagerman NWR is

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Message to Friends of Wildlife Refuges

Planning for the "Conserving the Future, Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation" conference is underway. The National Wildlife Refuge Association has stepped up and created a web site and social network to help get everyone actively engaged in this effort.

This is an opportunity for members of the Friends of Hagerman NWR to get involved by creating an account and joining in the conversations taking place. The collective vision for the future of the NWRS will only be as good as the effort we all put into it. . Some folks may be a little hesitant to use social media and some of the other media tools but it really is simple. Just go to and on the right side of the home page you can create an account and start getting involved. If you are already on Facebook you can log in with that account as well. Thank you for all your efforts and best wishes for a very happy Thanksgiving. .

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Adopt-a-Nest-Box at Refuge

How would you like to help expand the Bluebird Trail at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge? The Friends of Hagerman NWR are offering the opportunity to adopt a nest box at the Refuge for one nesting season, for a donation of $25. to the Friends. There are currently three Bluebird trails at the refuge and more boxes being added. All the boxes will be monitored weekly by volunteers once nesting begins for the season. These boxes may host Bluebirds, Warblers, Chickadees or Titmice.

To adopt a box for yourself or as a gift for others, go to When your adoption form is received, you will receive an acknowledgement, and if the adoption is made as a gift, the recipient will also receive notification. Before the 2011 nesting season begins, a box will be tagged with your name or that of the gift recipient. Those with e-mail will be notified of the box location, and regular updates, including photos, will be sent about nesting activity in your box. If you do not have e-mail, you will receive a letter summarizing nesting activity for your box, at the end of the season.

The adoption period for 2011 begins November 1, 2010, and ends February 1, 2011.

For more information, please send a request by way of the Comment page at To view the official Hagerman NWR website, go to

Photo by Grace Haight.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tale of a White-tailed and a Bob-tail

By Kathy Whaley

This is one of those stories where you would almost have to had been there to believe it… so I will understand if you’re skeptical.

The first Friday morning in November I was riding north on Oil Field Road when ahead of me I saw the bright flash of a white tail swishing profoundly back and forth, back and forth. As I got closer, I could see that the bushy tail was attached to a very alert deer. Ignoring me, she jumped around, up and down, back and forth, into the weeds, and back out to the road for about 30 seconds. I was quite amused at her antics then came the real surprise: she had a playmate. Out of the weeds beside the road popped a young bobcat. It looked to be about 15-20 pounds and probably a 2010 model. The deer lunged playfully at the bobcat, tail still swishing, and the bobcat just watched as if to say “oh yeah? Well now what cha' gonna do?” They stopped in their tracks about 10 feet apart and stared at each other for about 7-8 seconds before the bobkitty darted back into the weeds…then out again… then in again. The doe looked my direction briefly, then bolted into the woods where her buddy had gone. I thought to myself how cool it was to see such an interesting mixed-species, herbivore/carnivore encounter. When you visit Hagerman, keep your eyes open! You never know what might just be around the next bend.

For more information about what to see and do at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, the official website, including a species list, is and the website for the Friends of Hagerman is

Photo by Kathy Whaley

Editor's Note: Want to share your "tales" of adventure at Hagerman NWR? Email to There is no renumeration for any submissions.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Winter Van Tours at Refuge Begin November 17

Here is your opportunity to tour Hagerman NWR with the experts! Huge flocks of geese will soon be arriving to spend the winter at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, and, starting this month, visitors to the Refuge can take a free van tour to view the geese as well as other wildlife at the Refuge . This will be the second year for this popular program. Two-hour tours will be conducted by Refuge staff every Wednesday from November 17, 2010, through January 12, 2011.

During the tour, you will learn the process of creating and maintaining the more than 11,000 acre habitat for resident and migratory wildlife, particularly birds. Visitors can expect to see pelicans, numerous species of ducks, four species of geese, several species of sparrows, as well as white-tailed deer and wild turkeys.

Each trip will be limited to twelve people, so reservations are necessary for the tours. Simply call the Refuge, 903 786 2826. The tours will depart from the temporary Refuge Headquarters at Hagerman at 9 a.m. on the designated days. Binoculars will be available on a free loan-basis.

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is located at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, on the Big Mineral Arm of Lake Texoma. A map and additional information about activities at the Refuge are available at The official Refuge website is

Make it a tradition to enjoy nature by taking the Winter Van Tour at Hagerman!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Woo-Hoo - Housing Project at Refuge - Part II

Byron Rushing and a Techline crew, subcontractors with Grayson Collin Electric Co-op, “light” -ened the task of installing owl nest boxes at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge this week. This summer, a Friends of Hagerman volunteer built nest boxes for Screech Owls, Barn Owls and Barred Owls with materials provided by the Refuge. Four Screech Owl boxes and four Barn/Barred Owl boxes were built. Now, thanks to GCEC, all the owl boxes have been placed from 12’ to 14’ off the ground, to meet the owls' nesting needs and allow for monitoring. On Monday of this week, Bryan Fish, Bryan Fish, Jr., Dwyane (Hoot) Jones, Jr., and Ron Griffin from Techline moved poles taken down in the process of re-routing power lines for the new Visitor Center/Administration complex at the Refuge, drilled holes and set the poles in place with the owl nest boxes attached (shown in photo), at the recommended heights.

Visitors to the Refuge will probably not see the owl boxes, as most of them are placed away from public use areas. In order for the Barred Owls to use the nest box, the boxes must be placed at least a mile apart, and in a wooded area. The Barn Owl’s territorial size is just the area around the nest box, and their boxes are placed in open prairie at the Refuge, their preferred habitat. Screech Owls’ habitat is at the edge of woods, and their territory, like that of the Barn Owl, is the area around the nest. Whether the nest boxes are visible to visitors or not, be assured that thanks to GCEC and Techline’s support for the Refuge and the Friends, this project will encourage growth in the owl population of the area.

The official site for information about Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is and for information about activities and events, see

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Trail Signs at Refuge

The next few weeks promise great weather for walking the trails at HagermanNational Wildlife Refuge and the Refuge staff and volunteers are making it easier to enjoy your hike. Workkamper Bill Powell (shown at left in photo), volunteer Barry Bell (shown at right in photo) and Refuge Manager Kathy Whaley just completed installation of three trailhead signs today - at Harris Creek, Crow Hill, and Meadow Pond Trail. Each sign has a map that shows the trail layout and gives general information about that trail. Refuge Manager Whaley stated that the sign for HallersHaven is being fabricated at this time.

In addition, maps showing directions from the Refuge Headquarters to the trailhead have been added to the trail guide series that is available on the Friends website, and in print in the Refuge office. Additional work is being done to increase the information in the trail guides and in the wildlife guides, information about where various wildlife might be seen and when, to help visitors have the best possible experience at the Refuge.

So what are you waiting for, as the US Fish and Wildlife slogan for National Wildlife Refuge Week says, Let's Go Outside!

For more information about Hagerman NWR, the official website is

Photo by Kathy Whaley

Thursday, October 14, 2010

To Green Your Garden, Go Native

From the US FWS Newswire

How ‘green’ is your garden? Well, now may be last chance this year to plant seeds of wildflowers native to your region that will give you low-maintenance blooms next spring and all summer long. Not only will they thrive — they’ll support native birds, insects and other pollinators that depend on familiar, home-grown species for a healthy ecosystem.

“Native species evolved in the local environment and have developed complex interrelationships with other area plant species as well as fine tuning to local climate and soil conditions,” says Kathleen Blair, an ecologist at Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. Exotic plant species — non-natives, including many commercially available garden flowers — haven’t. That means, she says, “If you plant non-native or exotic species, a whole lot of other local species cannot use them.”

It’s possible that going native might help save a local ecosystem, or at least parts of one. That’s what motivates Pauline Drobney, a biologist at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa, where the staff is working to restore the globally threatened tallgrass prairie savannah. Each year, says Drobney, staff and volunteers plant up to 250 species of native plants on the refuge.

Does planting native mean sacrificing flash and drama? No way, says Drobney, who won over a skeptical neighbor by showing him the butterfly milkweed and blazing star in her yard. “It was just knock-your-socks-off color,” she says.

Some non-natives or exotics have become ecological nightmares, escaping backyards to rampage across entire regions, choking out native species as they spread. Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria, native to Europe) is a prime example. “It’s a nightmare of a plant. It’s now clogging up the wetlands of the East Coast,” says Blair.

Beyond that, planting an appropriate species will improve your odds of success. Some wildflowers are highly site-specific in terms of rainfall, elevation and soil type.

Here are just a few examples of some native wildflower favorites by region:

Great Plains/Prairie: blazing star, cream gentian, fall sunflower, prairie phlox, prairie violet, heath aster, bird’s foot violet. (“Not only does it bloom profusely, but it’s the obligate host food for the rare regal fritillary butterfly,” says Drobney about the last plant species.)

Southwest: lupin, beard-tongue (or penstemon; a real hummingbird favorite)

Chesapeake Bay watershed: butterfly weed, Joe-Pye weed (also known as trumpet weed), eastern or willow bluestar

Southeast: bee balm, black-eyed Susan

Pacific Northwest: broad-leaf lupine, spreading phlox

Upper Plains: rigid goldenrod, wild lily

Northeast: blue flag iris, New England aster

For reliable information on plants native to your region, consult your local native plant society. For Texas see Some other good sources are:

ED Note: Source for Texas wildflower seeds: For photos of wildflowers seen at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge see for more infomration about Hagerman NWR, the official site is

Bluebonnet photo by Callie Evans.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Shoot ‘Em Up" at Refuge

With over 8,000 acres of upland at Hagerman NWR, there will be plenty of room to roam for photographers who will be "shooting" away on Saturday, October 23, at the Fall 2010 Photo Safari. Sponsored by the Friends of Hagerman Nature Photo Club, this will be the fourth semi-annual event of this type, with small groups led by experienced photographers spending the morning recording wildlife, autumn landscapes and more.

The leaders are volunteers who are familiar with both the Refuge and cameras used by the participants. When asked, they can give tips on camera settings, setting up shots and more.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 8 a.m., and end between 11 - 11:30 a.m. Participants are invited to bring a brown bag and stay for a post-shoot discussion. Dessert will be provided.

To register for the photo safar, please send your name, contact information and camera make and model to You will receive confirmation of your registration.

Those participating will want to bring all their camera gear including fresh batteries, insect repellent and drinking water, and dress for walking through grass that may be wet with dew.

Participants will be informed as to the process for sharing photos for a special virtual gallery showing after the event. For more information about Hagerman National wildlife Refuge, the official website is, and for Friends events and activities, see

Photo - Playful Pelican, by Grace Haight, taken at the Fall 2009 Photo Safari at Hagerman NWR

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tall Grass

By Pat Rowland (Orginally published in the Featherless Flyer , September, 2007)

During the late summer and early fall one can observe some of our most magnificent prairie plants in bloom. Big Bluestem and Indiangrass are a few of the most prominent seen at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.

Big Bluestem commonly called “turkey foot” because the seed head usually branches into three parts, is one of the most impressive native grasses flowering in late summer. Growing up to eight feet tall, it would make a man on a horse barely visible riding through a tall grass prairie in frontier days. Few, if any, grasses can equal Big Bluestem in quality or quantity of forage production. Since 1885, through overuse and abuse, this native grass has been killed out or greatly reduced in most of its original area.

Indiangrass (shown in photo) is one of the most attractive native grasses. Indiangrass is found growing throughout the bluestem belt of the United States. It is very nutritious and is also a high forage producer.

Both grasses are known as sod formers with short scaly underground stems and roots that saturate the top two feet of the soil and may even reach as deep as seven feet. Until the invention of the steel plow, farmers were unable to penetrate this thick mass of fibrous roots. All can be found on the native prairie area located on Hagerman NWR.

ED Note: According to Refuge staff,Native prairie restoration is one of the ongoing projects on the refuge. It is estimated that close to 4,000 acres of the refuge were once native prairie. It is our goal to remove the current vegetative invaders and restore selected areas to native grasses and wildflowers."

Preparation has been underway for over a year along Bennett Lane and later this fall more grass and wildflower seeds will be planted. “The native grass mix includes the following species: Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Buffalograss (Buchloe dactylodies), Eastern Gamagrass (Tripsacum dactylodies), Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis), Sideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), Green Sprangletop (Leptochloa dubia) and Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum).”

For more information about Hagerman NWR, the official website is For information about programs and activities of the Friends of Hagerman, please see

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Migratory Birds Protected by Boating and Fishing Rules

By Ken Carr

All boating activity in the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge will end on September 30 and will not be permitted again until March 15, 2011. The ban covers not only boats launched from Refuge ramps but anywhere on the lake. The ban also includes not only motorized watercraft but also oar propelled craft such as jon boats, canoes and kayaks as well as foot propelled gear such as inner tubes.

The reason for the ban is to allow the huge incoming flights of migratory birds during the fall and winter months to be able to roost, feed and rest with a minimum amount of disturbance.

Fishing is also banned for the same period of the Refuge's four hundred acres of ponds, but bank fishing in the lake and creeks is allowed year round. There is no night fishing at the Refuge, which closes at dusk.

Prior to 2010, the boating ban was not lifted until April 1, but it was moved up to March 15 this year, allowing earlier boat access to the myriads of springtime crappie anglers.

During the boating season, watercraft must be confined to only the waters of Big Mineral Creek and its associated creeks. Water skiing, jet skis and nighttime boating are not allowed.

Outside of springtime, catfishing seems to be the most popular angling choice the rest of the year. the Refuge provides miles of bank fishing opportunities including the oilfield pads.

When the first Northers of the season bring in the waterfowl, they also bring in additional catfish and catfish anglers. The whiskered fish move in, both in numbers and increasing size as water temperatures cool.

Unlike striped bass, catfish prefer turbid or discolored water that can usually be found in the Refuge. The two most popular species for Refuge anglers are blue and channel catfish, which feed primarily by smell. Stink baits, dough baits, cut shad and shad gizzards are some of the favored baits. A live shad will also do the trick with the added bonus of picking up an occasional striper or sand bass.

On January 16, 2004, Cody Mullenix of Howe, Texas, was fishing with a three-inch dead shad on his 14-foot surf rod in the Refuge, just north of oilfield pad A when he landed what was then a world record blue catfish weighing 121 pounds and 8 ounces. The world and U. S. records since then have been broken but Mullenix's giant still ranks number one in Texas and Lake Texoma.

Mullenix made a wise choice once he got the fish in shallow water. He kept her alive and contacted the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, Texas, where the fish was given the name "Splash" and placed in a giant aquarium, thrilling visitors for the next two years before dying of an infection. Splash increased attendance at the Center by 43 per cent and was a particularly big hit with children, who were amazed when seeing the five-foot monster being fed raw chicken by divers.

There is no fee charged for fishing in Refuge waters, but a Texas or Lake Texoma license is required. Most of the limits are similar to Texas regulations; one exception is the limit for crappie, which is 37 at the Refuge, compared to 25 for other Texas waters.

Refuge law enforcement officer Kevin Vaughn warns that while the number limit for crappie is more generous than the state's, the same 10 inch limit still applies - any kept crappie less than 10 inches can bring a fine as high as $125 for the infractions, as well as $20 for EACH undersized fish. The fine for fishing without a license is also $125. Texas licenses are good through August of each year, while Lake Texoma licenses expire at the end of the year.

For more information about Refuge rules, the official website is and for programs and activities at the Refuge see

Photo by Ken Carr, Signs such as this posted at the Big Mineral hand boat launch are posted throughout the Refuge. This particular launch is designed for small watercraft such as kayaks and canoes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fall Flowers

By Pat Rowland

(Originally published in the Featherless Flyer, October, 2007)

Spring is when most people think of wildflowers in bloom. As the saying goes, April showers bring May flowers. However, native and restored prairies exhibit an abundance of colorful flowers through three seasons - spring, summer and fall. Two of the most impressive autumn flowers are Dotted Gayfeather and Maximilian Sunflower. Dotted Gayfeather (Liatris punctata, also known as “blazing star”, blooms from August to October, exhibiting a beautiful purple flowered spike and standing 1 to 2 feet high. Dotted Gayfeather has a root system over 21 feet deep and is a palatable and nutritious range plant. The bulb-like root has a carrot flavor in early spring and has been used for food by Native Americans.

Maximilian Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani) is closely associated with the bluestem grasses. It grows upright, singly or in a close cluster from a common rhizome. Maximilian sunflower (shown in photo by Sue Malnory) is palatable, nutritious, and readily eaten by all classes of livestock. It produces a heavy crop of seed that is excellent wildlife food. Both these plants can be found on the tall grass prairies located at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.


Ed: Thanks to grants in 2009 and 2010 from the Prairie and Timbers Audubon Society, McKinney, Texas, prairie restoration work is underway along south Bennett Lane at the Refuge, with extensive planting of native grass and wildflower seeds.

For more information about Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, the official website is and for information about the activities and programs of the Friends of Hagerman,

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Prescribed Burn at Hagerman

By Helen Petre, with contribution from Kathy Whaley

In January, 2011, the topic for Second Saturday will be Controlled Burns, with speaker Richard Baker, Chief Firefighter for the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge (shown in photo by Becky Goodman).

The last weekend of August, 2010, was a little smoky around the Meyers unit at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. Not to worry. This was just another routine prescribed burn. Burns are an integral part of maintaining the grasslands of Hagerman. Historically, approximately 3,750 acres of the 11,320 acres of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge were grasslands. Fires were set either by lightning or intentionally by Native Americans.

Why burn:

Prescribed burns restore habitat in areas where agriculture has changed historic grasslands to different, less wildlife-friendly ecosystems. Common native grasses that grow in Grayson County include big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), switch grass (Panicum virgatum), side oats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) and eastern mock grama grass (Tripsacum dactyloides). Grasslands also support wildflowers, including Maximilian sunflower, heath asters and milkweeds and also those little yellow Huisache daisies (Amblyolepsis steigera) that are everywhere at Hagerman in August.

What happened to these vast grasslands? When farmers settled and began plowing the land, large grazing animals including wapiti (Cervus elaphus) and bison (Bos bison) left the area, and the remaining plant community changed drastically. Farmers suppressed fire, even in areas where they did not plant, and honey locust (Gledistsia triacanthos), juniper (eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana), and other undesirable woody species invaded lands that were once vast prairies.

At Hagerman, winter wheat (Triticum aestivum) and other food plots are still planted for the migrating birds, but the Refuge is working towards restoring several upland areas to their historic vegetative cover - grasslands. Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), dickcissel (Spiza americana), meadowlark (Sturnella magna), and other birds thrive and nest on grasslands, and burning and restoring grasslands should attract them to Hagerman.

Conducting the burn:

Weather is a key factor for prescribed burning and conditions are monitored hourly from the actual fireline. It is imperative to wait for the correct moisture and weather conditions for a prescribed burn, which is why the last weekend of August was just right this year. Relative humidity should be fairly low to allow for a good burn, but the vegetation cannot be too dry/too wet or the burn will not meet the objectives of safely removing unwanted trees, adding nutrients to the soil, and reducing the “fuel load” to lessen the risk of wildfires near homes. The air temperature should also be moderate, not too hot or too cold. Wind speed and direction are critical. The best winds for burning in this area are between 5 and 10 mph. If wind changes speed or direction during a fire, this could cause a dangerous situation.

For the recent burn at Hagerman, there were about 8 crew members working together to conduct the burn. Fire lines around the entire 800 acre Meyers Unit that was burned were mowed and a dirt line was put in the day before the burn to greatly decrease the chances of the fire escaping the designated burn area, or “spotting over”. Using a drip torch, the fire boss starts a test fire along a road or other fire break on the side of the field against the wind to ensure the fire will react as it is expected to. This is the backing fire. If conditions are as expected, the fire boss starts another parallel (flank) fire on the side with the wind while the initial fire burns, and this fire burns towards and joins the backing fire. It is important that firefighters on both the backing and flank fires keep in contact with radios or even cellular telephones.

The Fire Crew follow along the fire break with swatters (flappers), or poles with large, flat rubber pieces that are used to beat out any fire that moves the wrong way. Some firefighters also carry backpack sprayers with water and fire-retardant foam , and some even drive brush trucks (vehicles designed for wildland firefighting) or four-wheelers along the fire line to spray water on any grassy area that might carry fire and in case the wind changes. The fire is monitored for several hours after the burn to make sure there is no chance of fire moving outside of the burn unit. It is also checked for the next several days before it is considered a completed burn.

Bright green of sprouts of grasses and wildflowers are already appearing in the burned area!

For more information about Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, the official website is and for information on programs and activities at the Refuge, see

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Enjoying Egrets

By Nancy Miller

I didn’t want to spend another weekend cooped up under the air conditioning, so I got up early this morning so I could go to the refuge before it got too hot. The sunrise was beautiful! It is always so peaceful early in the morning. The water is smooth as glass, a great time to get pictures with reflections.

I pulled up Egret road and was just amazed at the white I could see scattered about, guess that’s why they named that pad Egret. I counted 80-90 Egrets between Wildlife and the oil rig at the end of the road. That was just on the west side! I wonder if some of the birds up north have already started their journey south for there to be so many at one place?

I parked in the shade and just watched these beautiful creatures. I find it very entertaining to sit and watch the gracefulness of the Great Egret, and what I call “Attitude” of the Snowy Egret. The Snowy seems to be more territorial than the bigger species. Their plumes on the top of their head stick up like they just got electrocuted, as they run off others that try to invade their fishing spot! I once took 100 pictures while watching one of these Snowy with an attitude, of course they didn’t all turn out, but I keep several of them anyway, just to look back and remember the joy I had watching them. They still bring a smile to face when I look at them.

I searched the internet on these birds, and learned that they are a protected species. “Before they were protected by law the birds were nearly exterminated by hunters seeking their beautiful, white, silky plumage called aigrettes, used in millinery. These feathers develop during the breeding season. In the Great Egret the plumes are straight, about 21 in. (52.5 cm) long, growing on the back. The smaller Snowy Egret, the most beautiful and most hunted, has curved plumes on the back, head, and breast”.

(Information found on

We are now at the beginning of September and Fall is less than a month a way. It’s saddening to know they will be migrating south in the next few months, and we won’t see them again till around the Spring. I hope people get out to the Refuge to enjoy the beauty of these birds, and I hope you get some of the enjoyment I do watching them, while they are still here.

For more information about Hagerman NWR, please go to and for information about activities and programs at the Refuge as well as photo albums, go to

(Photo by Nancy Miller)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Now You See It…

Enjoying the late summer butterflies? Soon butterflies like the Black Swallowtail, pictured in the photo by Laurie Sheppard, will not be around. According to How to Spot Butterflies, by Patricia Taylor Sutton and Clay Sutton (Houghton and Mifflin Company, 1999), these butterflies will have mated, produced eggs and died by mid September. Their caterpillars will pupate and winter over until next spring. Over much of the country, Black Swallowtails, as well as other swallowtails, are “double brooders” - in spring the new butterflies will mate, lay eggs and die, with their egg-caterpillar-pupa cycle resulting in a second wave of butterflies from mid to late summer. This second “wave” is what we are seeing now.

Other butterflies go through only one brood cycle - some are long lived, like the Mourning Cloak, but others live only a short time as butterflies, mating and laying eggs. After the larva feed, they go into the pupa stage and remain there until the next spring, in some cases, for almost a year. Some butterfly species have life cycles which last for several years.

Some additional resources about butterflies include, the website for the Dallas Lepidopterists’ Society, maintained by Dale Clark, who was the speaker for Second Saturday at Hagerman NWR in June, and two books recommended by Clark: Field Guide to Butterflies of North America by Jim Brock and Kenn Kaufman, and Butterflies of Oklahoma, Kansas and North Texas by John M. Dole, Walter B. Gerard and John M. Nelson.

Butterflies abound at Hagerman NWR, and a free two page Butterfly Guide is available at Refuge Headquarters. For more information about programs and activities at Hagerman NWR, see, and for the official Refuge website, see

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dog Days

By Laurie Sheppard

The dog days of summer arrived weeks ago and according to the Farmer’s Almanac, are due to depart on August 11th when Sirius, the so-called Dog Star, is no longer visible at dawn. That’s the astrological end of the dog days, but true Texans know that the sultry summer heat will continue into early September.

Let’s face it. It’s hot! Not that I’m complaining – I was the one who couldn’t wait for spring – but it has affected the way I enjoy the refuge. I find that birds and animals are most active in the relative cool of early morning. As the sun climbs, the birds become scarce as they hide in the shade of the trees, returning to feed near sundown. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see, though.

Egrets and Herons manage to stay cool standing in the water along the shore of the lake. You can find them hunting for fish and forage at any time during the day. If you see egrets perching on a tree, take a closer look – you’ll see their throats vibrate as they rapidly pant to keep their body temperature down. Smaller birds also use this technique, sitting open-beaked through the hottest part of the day.

Some birds migrate through the refuge on their way north and will be returning in a few months, but others spend the summer on Lake Texoma. Those can be reclusive, so it’s a challenge and a thrill to see or photograph a Prothonotary Warbler or a Little Green Heron. Still other birds are rare or occasional visitors – some uncommon guests seen recently were a Long-billed Curlew and an Anhinga.

Spring fawns who stayed hidden in early summer are now seen more frequently, as does and their offspring feed on the lush grass available in so many areas on the refuge. Twins seem quite common this summer and all ages of deer have not been frightened away easily, which has led to wonderful photographic opportunities. Raccoons (photo by Laurie Sheppard), squirrels, armadillo and occasional bobcats have been sighted and photographed this summer as well.

The most common wildlife to find this time of year is a wide variety of dragonflies and damselflies. (Pick up a wildlife guide at the Visitors Center to see pictures of some of the more prevalent ones.) It’s impossible to drive on Egret Road without seeing dozens of dragonflies swarming about in the shade of a cottonwood tree or out in the open sun. Look closely and you will see they are hunting and dining on bugs. Dragonflies will also show you how hot it is – when the sun is very strong and high in the sky, instead of perching in a normal straight position, some dragonflies will raise their abdomens to the sun to minimize the surface area exposed to the rays. They do this to maintain a lower body temperature.

Butterflies are also frequent daytime feeders, even on the hottest days. Most species have two or even three broods per year. On any given day you should see several varieties, ranging in size from tiny Dainty Sulphurs to Eastern Tiger Swallowtails the size of a man’s hand, in varying shades of yellow, orange, brown and black. Enjoy their fragile beauty and frenetic flight as they search for nectar and the exact right plant host for their offspring.

Signs of autumn are already showing up as the Buttonbush turns red and leaves begin to yellow. Sunflowers will bloom through fall and Snow On The Prairie is beginning to bloom. Change is inevitable, and isn’t it delightful?

Find out about activities and programs at Hagerman NWR by visiting or visit the official Hagerman NWR website,

Monday, August 2, 2010

Garden spider - Argiope

By Pat Rowland

ED: You may have seen this spider around your house. Today’s blog post is a timely reprint of an essay by Pat Rowland, originally published in the Featherless Flyer in December, 2007, and the photo is by Kay Karns, taken at the Refuge..

One of my favorite spiders is the Garden Spider (Argiope). This past summer one made her home around my house from August until early November. During this time she ate numerous flying insects plus bonus crickets that I provided when mowing the yard. She moved and laid egg sacs at three different locations until early November.

The following information came from an article by Valerie in Garden Bits ( The largest orb weaver in our gardens is the black and yellow Argiope. The female is the large spider seen on the web. The males are much smaller and may be seen hanging out close by. Spiders are capable of creating as many as seven different kinds of silk using several different glands that supply the spinnerets. The silk coming out of the spinnerets can vary from an extremely fine single line sued in creating the web to wide ribbons used for subduing prey or making the central design on the web.

In order to grow, spiders must periodically shed their exoskeletons. This is when they are most vulnerable to predators. Just before laying eggs, the female spider is often quite large and her abdomen distended. Argiopes produce large numbers of young in their egg sacs. A female may lay one or several egg sacs in a season. The young spiders hatch in the fall but overwinter in the egg case. The Argiopes live only one year, expending all their energy producing eggs. Once winter arrives, they die.

ED: Don’t miss Dr. Steve Goldsmith’s presentation on Insects, 10 a.m., Saturday Sept. 11, for Second Saturday at Hagerman NWR. For more information on the programs and activities of Friends of Hagerman, see To visit the official Refuge website, see