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