Monday, May 31, 2010

A Day at the Refuge

By Nancy Miller

I go to the refuge almost every weekend to take pictures, because that is what I like to do. I know there have been many times I have said or thought, “I haven’t seen much today”, and a Saturday a couple of weeks ago was one of those days. So I made my rounds to head home. As I was going up and down the roads, I realized how wrong I was. I may not have seen some of the new species of birds that have arrived at the refuge, but I had seen a lot.

First of all, I saw friends I have made coming to the refuge. I went on a hike toward Deaver Pond with a friend, and I saw several species of butterflies, dragonflies, and even some damselflies. Another thing that caught my eye was a spider crawling around on the web it had woven around some flowers. I took several pictures of this, I find it fascinating - their webs are like a piece of art. The web was woven completely around a batch of flowers.

I mustn’t leave out all the different varieties of wildflowers growing everywhere! All the colors are just beautiful. One of my favorites is Indian Blanket or “Firewheel”. The vibrant orange/red center with yellow tips, I can’t resist getting a picture of one or two every time I get out. The Bee Balms are also beautiful, along with the bright yellow Cone Flowers that are very plentiful. There are all kinds of little insects enjoying these flowers, if you really look at them as you pass by.

The baby geese have really grown in the last few weeks. I watched them as they crossed the road, all in a row. I pulled in the middle of the road to make sure no one came around me and hit any of them. Of course I saw Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and a Great Blue Heron, which are always fun to watch. Even though I have dozens of pictures of them, it is always a pleasure to see them. I saw sparrows and other small birds. I saw Red-wing Blackbirds chasing after some Crows, which was pretty amusing to watch the bigger bird trying to get away from the smaller birds. You see some pretty amazing things at the refuge if you take the time to look.

Ed. Note: Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is open daily from dawn to dusk. There is no charge for admission. The Refuge Headquarters is open for business Monday - Friday, 7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m., holidays excepted. The Headquarters is also open to visitors, thanks to volunteers, on Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., and Sundays 1 - 4 p.m., and reduced hours on holidays other than Thanksgiving and Christmas. For more Refuge information, see see

Monday, May 24, 2010

Super Saturday III May 29

There are many ways that folks can spend the Memorial Day weekend - picnics, boating and fishing, reunions, golf, graduation ceremonies, shopping, attending Memorial Day services and parades, and more. Three years ago the Friends of Hagerman decided to add to the menu by offering a day of fun on Memorial weekend Saturday, a day that would be filled with FREE activities, outdoor activities focused on nature, to be held at the Refuge. Super Saturday 2008 got off to a great start - the 2009 edition sagged a little due to flooding from Lake Texoma in May and the closure of Refuge Road for highway construction. This year the planets are all lined up for a great event! No flooding. all roads lead to the Refuge! Now, barring rain, Hagerman NWR and the Friends are set for record attendance for 2010, and what a line-up of activities - events for kids, events for adults and events for ALL! We have nature talks, nature walks and nature fun! FREE! AND we have added a service project, creating hair booms to help collect oil from the Gulf spill, that you can help with, from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. ! So check out the complete schedule on the website below and come on out to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge - for all day or part of the day - and GO WILD on SUPER SATURDAY!

Click this link for Schedule of Events:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Region 2 Friends

Friends of Hagerman representatives met with Friends from around US FWS Region 2 - including Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas - for a whirlwind session of talks, idea sharing and fellowship this weekend, on South Padre. It was inspiring to hear story after story of efforts to acquire and preserve habitat, to educate folks about the importance of the environment, and to make it possible for the public to enjoy nature at the various Refuges represented.

One highlight of our visit was a trip to Laguna Atascosa NWR, just outside Port Isabel, Texas, home to the endangered ocelot. No, we did not see one! Just the “Ocelot Crossing” sign pictured here. But we did see the Green Jay and the Caracara, and a thriving butterfly garden. We also learned a lesson about shooting photos from an air-conditioned car in the high humidity of the coast! Don’t! After missing a great photo-op of a pair of White Ibis because the camera lens clouded up as soon as we stuck it out the window, we traveled the remainder of the Wildlife Loop sans air conditioning.

Vacation time for families with children is right around the corner, and right here in Texas we have 21 National Wildlife Refuges, with nearly all open at least in part, to the public - a great opportunity to let the youngsters Go Wild! For more information about Region 2 see

And right in the backyard of North Texan, be sure to check out Hagerman NWR, open dawn to dusk, seven days a week, with no charge for admission. Refuge information is available at and information about programs and activities at the Refuge can be found at

(Photo by Dick Malnory)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sora Rail Sighting at Hagerman NWR

By Helen Petre

Photo by Michael Haight

On April 27, 2010, Grace and Michael Haight, volunteers at Hagerman Natural Wildlife Refuge, spotted a sora rail, Porzana carolina, a seldom seen bird on the refuge. Soras are small water birds, about 8 inches long, with a blue gray face. They have a short, yellow bill, perfect for seed eating, with black markings at the base of the bill. Sora Rails breed in freshwater marshes throughout much of North America, but typically north of Texas and Oklahoma.

Although they are common, Sora Rails are secretive birds that are more often heard than seen. Their call, a distinctive whinny, is often heard among the marsh grasses but the bird is seldom seen.

These birds are the explanation for the saying, “skinny as a rail”. Although the Sora Michael captured looks fat and round that is an illusion. Soras have collapsible rib cages and can squeeze to about the diameter of one inch to fit between the marsh grasses and thus forage without coming out into the open. Soras are the smallest rails in North America and only weigh about two ounces.

According to the Hagerman NWR Bird Check List, the Sora is "Occasional" (may be seen a few times during the season) in Spring and Fall, rarely seen (every 2 - 5 years) in Summer, and not listed for Winter. Hagerman has recorded 338 species of birds since its establishment in 1946; of these 292 are abundant to rare in occurrence, and are listed by season. Another 46 species are considered accidental, having been seen only once or twice.

For more information abouot Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, see, and for information about programs and activities at the Refuge, see

Monday, May 3, 2010

Canada Goose Population Explosion

By Laurie Sheppard

When spring arrived last month, it signaled the end of a southern vacation for most of the geese on the refuge. All but a handful of Snow and Ross’ Geese, Greater White Fronted Geese, Canada and Cackling Geese answered nature’s call to return north to their traditional breeding grounds. We watched them go, flying in their huge V formations to cooler climates.

The Canada goose (Branta Canadensis) can be found throughout most of North America at any time during the year, although many do migrate with the seasons. Canada Geese frequent lakes, rivers, ponds, or other large and small bodies of water, as well as yards, park lawns and farm fields. In short, the refuge provides the ideal habitat and some choose to stick around in Texas year-round. A few have been spotted each week by the Tuesday bird counters.

On land, the Canada goose eats a wide variety of grasses and leaves. Its black bill, which it uses to yank grass out of the ground, has lamellae, or teeth, around the outside edges. The lamellae are used as a cutting tool. In the water, the Canada goose sticks its head and upper body under the water, stretches its neck out and uses its bill to scoop up food from the mud and silt.

Breeding typically takes place in the northern states and Canada, but that is not a hard and fast rule. The female goose selects a site for the nest and does much of the construction, creating a large open cup on the ground using dry grasses, lichens, mosses and other plant material. She lays between 2 and 10 eggs and adds down feathers and body feathers to the nest as the eggs are laid. The female does all of the incubation but the male is usually not far off, guarding and protecting his mate. Careful observers identified at least one nest at the refuge, located on the edge of a pad near the water.

The mother goose incubates the eggs, turning them to ensure even warmth, for 25-28 days. This week the first new crop of hatchlings were sighted in the sheltered water along the auto road. The tiny goslings are covered with yellowish down and have their eyes open when they hatch. They leave the nest when one to two days old, and can walk, swim, feed and even dive, although they cannot fly until they are between 40-70 days old.

Both parents teach and care for the young. For the next few weeks it will be a common sight to see two adult geese with a gaggle of smaller ones lined up in between. One parent frequently leads the group, dipping its head almost as if to say, “Follow me” while the other parent makes sure none of the offspring stray. Come visit the refuge soon to catch the babies at their cutest!

For more information on Hagerman NWR, please see
and for information about activities and programs at the Refuge, see

Photos by Laurie Sheppard