Monday, July 26, 2010

Woo-Hoo - Housing Project at Refuge

By Dick & Sue Malnory

The Friends of Hagerman are building nest boxes for Screech Owls, Barn Owls and Barred Owls at Hagerman NWR, with materials provided by the Refuge. A total of eight boxes will be mounted on poles by Grayson Collin Electric Cooperative, when the time comes to move power poles in the construction process for the new building - the power company will donate and install the poles, as well as hang the boxes.

This is a big deal - well, the next boxes are big! The Audubon design for the Screech Owl nest box ( is approximately 9”x 9” x 20” tall, with a 3” diameter entrance hole. The roof slopes, with an overhang on the front side. For the Barn Owl or the Barred Owl, the box design by Norman Watenpaugh, ( is approximately 17” x 24” x 22” tall, with a sloping roof. The entrance is rectangular, 6” x 8” and there is a perch.

Four Screech Owl boxes and four Barn/Barred Owl boxes are being built. In order for the Barred Owls to use the nest box, those 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 will be 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.

Barn and Barred Owl boxes will be placed from 10’ to 20’ off the ground, while Screech Owl boxes can be situated 5’ to 20’ high.

The other owl seen at Hagerman NWR, the Great Horned Owl, is not a cavity nester, but rather takes over the abandoned nest of other birds such as hawks or crows, or even the nest of squirrels.
Visitors to the Refuge will probably not see the owl boxes as they will be placed away from public use area, but be assured that support for the Refuge and the Friends projects is helping to grow the owl population of the area.

For more information about Hagerman NWR, see and for information about programs and activities, see

Monday, July 19, 2010

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road, Part II

By Johnny Beall - Conclusion to the Essay Posted July 12

Armadillos are armored creatures that have little fear of most predators because, when threatened, they roll into a ball, exposing only their very tough outer shell to attack. The mouths of most predators are too small to get their teeth in position to bite this tough ball and are unsuccessful in their attack. Therefore the armadillo has not developed a strong flight instinct such as soft-bodied animals like rabbits have developed. And, when the huge noisy predator with the bright, shining eyes, comes racing in, they fail to remove themselves from harm’s way, trusting that their armor will protect them.

The other defect in the armadillo’s nature is its second defensive tactic when confronted with an enemy. It jumps about two or three feet straight up into the air. This tactic may work against a dog or other animal but against an 18-wheeler, which would otherwise pass right over the armadillo and not harm it due to high clearance, leads to road pizza when the armadillo jumps.

First recorded in Texas in 1849, the armadillo expanded its range northward and eastward, at times aided by pranksters and animal dealers. In Florida, releases from a zoo in 1924 and a circus truck in 1936 started another migrating population. Now the northern edge of armadillo territory runs through Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Thought this expansion has taken almost 150 years, that’s fast for the mammal that has been chosen the State Small Mammal of Texas.

Brenda Loveless, a winner in the 2010 Refuge Photo Contest, sent the photo shown above, and says, “I was so excited back in May to finally see two live 'dillers’ very close to a little access road near Lake Bardwell (close to Ennis)”. Thanks to Johnny and to Brenda for the saga of the ‘dillo, Part II.

Armadillos are among the array of mammals to be seen at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, including deer, bobcats, coyotes, feral hogs and more. For the official Refuge website, see and for information about the Friends of Hagerman, programs and events, see

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

By Johnny Beall

(Ed. Note: Essay originally published in the Featherless Flyer, Vol I, Issue 4, September 2004)

Why did the chicken cross the road? Of course, it was to prove to the armadillo that it was possible.

In the competition to see who is first in the number of road kills of all vertebrates in the southern United States, it always seems to be a close race between the opossums and the armadillos. It seems the armadillos edge the opossums, but not by much.

Armadillos are a unique species in North America in that they produce one litter per year, and that litter is always identical quadruplets. This means that each of the four is genetically identical to the others, even to all being of the same sex. Armadillos are close kin to anteaters and sloths which occur in South America. Actually the armadillo migrated here from South America and many people can recall when the first ones moved into this area.

Now for the big question, why do so many armadillos become road pizza? A look at their teeth will provide a clue. They have no incisors or canines and their primitive teeth are adapted for eating invertebrates, which include many insects.

Billions of insects are hit by speeding automobile every day and set a gourmet smorgasbord for the insect eating armadillo. But there is always a “catch” in any good deal, and the “catch” in this feast is that the table is set on the highway. Armadillos are nocturnal so they go picking amongst the beetles and butterflies on the highway in the dark. The next vehicle adds the armadillo to the carnage because of two major defects to its nature when faced with modern technology.

Ed: Want to know what those two defects are??? To be continued next week!

See armadillos and more at Hagerman NWR. For activities and programs at the Refuge, visit and for the official Refuge website, go to

Johnny Beall retired as Hagerman NWR Manager in May, 2008, after 35 years with the US FWS including seven years at Hagerman. Photo from Hagerman NWR photo files.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Nest Box Monitors

Would you enjoy watching a bird’s nest, seeing the newly laid eggs and then the tiny baby birds who would soon be ready to fledge? You can do this as a volunteer, but please don’t take a peek unless you are on the monitor team, to avoid disturbing the birds more than once a week.

One of the Friends of Hagerman’s goals for this year was to add more nest boxes at the Refuge, then Sandy Campbell’s Second Saturday program on Bluebirds in March inspired the formation of the Nest Box Monitors Team at Hagerman NWR. The monitors have met, organized and are working to upgrade and add additional nest boxes at the Refuge. In addition, under Derek Miller’s leadership, a web-based data collection system has been developed and the Bluebird boxes are being given a GPS identifier and unique number so that each monitoring team can record data easily.

Originally there was a Bluebird trail along Harris Creek Trail; now Sandy Campbell has added more boxes there, and the team built a dozen new boxes and installed them along that trail as replacements for deteriorating boxes. A second trail has been added by Sandy along Haller Haven Trail and more boxes placed near Meadow Pond Trail.

The houses are monitored weekly by rotating pairs of monitors from the team and reports made. For last week Mike Chiles and Sandy reported that along the Meadow Pond Trail they found that a Titmouse and a Prothonotary Warbler had eggs; on Harris Creek they found three nest boxes with Bluebirds about to fledge, and one box with four eggs.

Currently the active team members are Sandy Campbell, Jack Chiles, Mike Chiles, Dianne Connery, Dick Malnory, Derek Miller, Andre Pease, Mike Pease, and Roger Peckinpaugh. There is room for more!! Just contact the Refuge to join up, 903 786 2826. Kathy Whaley is the Refuge liaison.

For more info, see the official Refuge website, and/or the Friends website,

Photo by Dick Malnory