Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Headlines & Highlights at Hagerman NWR

As we approach the last days of 2011, it's time to look back on what has been a very good year at the Refuge.

Hagerman NWR turned 65 on Feb 9, 2011.

Rick Cantu named Grand Prize Winner in the 2010 USFWS Employee Photo Contest.

24 nest boxes adopted and three bluebird trails set up and monitored throughout the season.

New electric vehicle, the Bluebird Buggy, dedicated to monitoring Harris Creek Trail.

Kids Fishing event held March 19.

Friends participated in Texoma Earth Day, April 16.

Grayson-Collin Electric Coop provided poles and installed eight owl boxes at the Refuge.

Environmental Day, held May 6, for Pottsboro 4th graders.

Refuge staff began move to new building in late June.

New Friends of Hagerman NWR website online, July, 2011.

New signage added throughout Refuge.

Red River Valley Tourism Association met in new Visitor Center August 3.

First Second Saturday program held in new building, August 13.

Grand Opening, September 8, Deputy Director of Region 2, USFWS, Joy Nicholopoulos headlined event, Refuge Manager Kathy Whaley recognized Jay Noel as Refuge liaison for construction.

Super Second Saturday held September 10.

Native Plant Garden established by Grayson County Master Gardeners.

Nature Nook books and gifts opens along with new Visitor Center.

Youth program moves to Audio Visual Classroom; building dedicated to Friends use.

Refuge Manager Kathy Whaley was selected to attend USFWS Advance Refuge Management Academy.

October 8, winners of second annual Hagerman NWR Photo Contest announced; activity sponsored by FOH.

Photo safaris organized by FOH Nature Photo Club held April 30 and October 15.

Doug Raasch honored in October, with trail renamed Raasch Trail.

Elevation for Lake Texoma level low for the year – 609.78’. The lowest level ever recorded was 599.94’ on March 20, 1957.

Two life members for Friends of Hagerman NWR added in 2011: Carlos and Eulalia Araoz and Jetta Operating Company, Inc.

Pair of whooping cranes visited Refuge briefly on November 17.

High on the Hawg, BBQ Dinner series, held in conjunction with the three Archery Deer Hunt weekends at Refuge.

Species reported at the 2011 Christmas Bird Count: 119 species, representing the 5th highest count ever.

Wetlands restoration and management project completed by Refuge staff.

A big thank you to Kathy and Rick and the staff at Hagerman NWR, and to all who support and enjoy the Refuge. Happy New Year, from the Friends of Hagerman

Photo - Great Blue Heron, by Sandy Boltman

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Twelve Days of Winter at Hagerman NWR

On the first day of winter, at Hagerman we see - a Golden-crowned Kinglet perched in a tree.

On the second day of winter, at Hagerman we see - two eagles soaring and a Golden-crowned Kinglet perched in a tree.

On the third day of winter, at Hagerman we see - three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet perched in a tree.

On the fourth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - four leaping deer, three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet perched in a 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 Golden-crowned Kinglet perched in a 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 Golden-crowned Kinglet perched in a 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 Golden-crowned Kinglet perched in a 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 Golden-crowned Kinglet perched in a tree.

On the ninth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - nine cameras clicking, eight birders watching, seven shovelers shoveling, six winter wrens, five hiking trails, four leaping deer, three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet perched in a tree.

On the tenth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - ten pintails dabbling, nine cameras clicking, eight birders watching, seven shovelers shoveling, six winter wrens, five hiking trails, four leaping deer, three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet perched in a tree.

On the eleventh day of winter, at Hagerman we see - eleven geese-a-browsing, ten pintails dabbling, nine cameras clicking, eight birders watching, seven shovelers shoveling, six winter wrens, five hiking trails, four leaping deer, three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet perched in a tree.

On the twelfth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - twelve bluebird boxes, eleven geese-a-browsing, ten pintails dabbling, nine cameras clicking, eight birders watching, seven shovelers shoveling, six winter wrens, five hiking trails, four leaping deer, three anglers angling, two eagles soaring, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet perched in a tree.

For more information about Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, see and

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Audubon’s 112th Christmas Bird Count Is Model for “Crowd Science”

The Christmas Bird Count at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge will take place on Saturday, December 17. To participate, contact the Friends of Hagerman. For the post this week we have a press release from the national Audubon Society about the annual event:

The longest running Citizen Science survey in the world, Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) will take place from December 14, 2011 to January 5, 2012. Tens of thousands of volunteers throughout North America will brave winter weather to add a new layer to over a century of data.

“Audubon was a social network before the world ever heard the term,” notes David Yarnold, Audubon President & CEO. “Each December the buzz from our social network goes up a few decibels, as people with the knowledge and the passion for birds provide what no organization alone can.”

“It’s a globally recognized example of crowd-science,” says Gary Langham, Audubon’s Chief Scientist, who took his young daughter and wife on last year’s CBC. “Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count is also a tradition that does good things for families, communities, and the conservation movement.”

Scientists rely on the remarkable trend data of Audubon’s CBC to better understand how birds are faring in North America and beyond our borders. “Data from Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count are at the heart of hundreds peer-reviewed scientific studies,” adds Dr. Langham; “CBC data have informed the U. S. State of the Birds Report, issued by the Department of the Interior, and modeled after Audubon’s annual reports begun in 2004. For example, in 2009, CBC analyses revealed the dramatic impact Climate Change is already having on birds across the continent."

“Everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird Count plays a critical role in helping us focus attention and conservation where it is most needed.” said Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count Director, Geoff LeBaron. “In addition to Audubon’s reports on the impacts of Climate Change on birds and our analysis of Common Birds in Decline, it is the foundation for Audubon’s WatchList, which most identified species in dire need of conservation help.”

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 when Frank Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore (which evolved into Audubon magazine) suggested an alternative to the “side hunt,” in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most game, including birds. Chapman proposed that people “hunt” birds only to count them. Chapman’s initiative was described by British actor John Cleese in this video clip from The Big Year.

Last year’s count shattered records. A total of 2,215 counts and 62,624 people tallied over 60 million birds. Counts took place in all 50 states, all Canadian provinces, plus 107 count circles in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands. The first ever CBC tally was submitted from Haiti, where the count circle is located at Les Cayes, the birthplace of John James Audubon. In Colombia, the Audubon count is a crucially important monitoring system of biodiversity in the country. More about last year’s results here.

Audubon CBC data not only helps identify birds in most urgent need of conservation action; it reveals success stories. The Christmas Bird Count helped document the comeback of the previously endangered Bald Eagle, and significant increases in waterfowl populations, both the result of conservation efforts.

Counts are often family or community traditions that make for fascinating stories. Accuracy is assured by having new participants join an established group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher. Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile (24-km) diameter circle or can arrange in advance to count the birds at home feeders inside the circle and submit the results to a designated compiler. All individual Christmas Bird Counts are conducted between December 14 and January 5 (inclusive) each season, with each individual count occupying a single calendar day.

The journal Nature issued an editorial citing CBC as a "model" for Citizen Science.

A New York Times opinion piece captured the pleasure and precision of counting: “The personal joy they experience from patiently spotting and jotting down each flitting fellow creature, exotic or not, is balanced by a strong pragmatic factor in the management of the census by the National Audubon Society.”

Photo of Geese at Hagerman NWR by Robert Cummings

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Geese at Hagerman NWR

Geese and ducks are now at the Refuge in huge numbers, so we decided to re-print this article by Helen Petre that originally appeared in the Featherless Flyer, November, 2009, edition.

Great flocks of waterfowl arrive at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge every fall from the Central Fly-way to find food, shelter and protection for the winter. Waterfowl are the Order Anderiformes, Family Anatidae. Geese are the Subfamily Anserinae. Geese are heavier and have longer necks than ducks. Their short legs are farther forward than those of ducks; an adaptation for more efficient grazing since they are terrestrial feeders. Geese have broad, round tipped bills and feed on grains, seeds, aquatic plants and young grasses. They thrive in the grain fields over the winter at Hagerman. The geese migration is best known for the large number of birds migrating and for the loud, noisy communities that spend the winter here.

Male and female geese look identical. They fly with deep, powerful wing beats. In November at Hagerman, listen for the noisy birds migrating and look for the V formations and long undulating lines.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) are the most widespread geese in North America with a black head and neck, white breast and chin strap and characteristic honk, bark or cackle. Historically, Hagerman has had more Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens) than Canada Geese , but both species spend the entire winter on the Mineral Arm of Lake Texoma, arriving in late fall and staying until March. Hagerman also has some Greater White Fronted Geese (Anser albifrons), a fairly common brownish goose with a white face and orange legs. Some 10,000 geese winter on the refuge feeding on grain and aquatic plants. Rested and refueled, they return north along the Central Fly-way to nest in the Arctic again next summer.

It is the Snow Geese that are the most abundant Hagerman winter residents. Snow Geese are smaller than Canada Geese and migrate in to Hagerman in great numbers along with smaller Ross’s Geese (Chen rossii), the rarest goose in North America. Snow Geese are white with black wing tips and have a heavier bill than Ross’s Geese. Ross’s Geese look like miniature Snow Geese. Look for the smaller birds which lack dark streaks on the bill.

Snow and Canada Geese are common in Oklahoma at Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge, but Ross’s Geese are uncommon north of Texas. Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge seems to be the place to go for the winter for Ross’s Geese. They are becoming increasing more common winter residents and mix well with Snow Geese.

Hagerman provides food, rest and shelter for the migrating geese that now depend on the 400 acres of planted wheat for energy to keep warm and build up reserves for the return trip north. Providing food also keeps the birds from foraging in farmer’s fields. Historically, waste grain from agricultural fields was the primary food source for migratory geese, but more efficient harvesting leaves less food available in the field. Without Hagerman management, there would not be enough food energy to sustain the numbers of geese over wintering here in north Texas.

Editor's Note: Second Saturday, December 10, will feature programs on the winter waterfowl at the Refuge. There will be a talk by Dr.Wayne Meyer at 10 am, followed by a field trip along Wildlife Drive aboard TAPS buses, with a guide on each bus. The youth program will also take a tour to see the geese; reservations required for the youth program, call the Refuge, 903 786 2826. Programs are free and open to public, sponsored by the Refuge and the Friends of Hagerman.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


"The Gray Ghost" is a term used to describe a male Northern Harrier. Relatively few adult males are seen and photographed. They seem to just appear out of nowhere and for this reason, mature males have long been referred to as “The Gray Ghosts”. The adult male is gray on its head, wings, and back with a gray tail banded with a number of darker gray bars. The male has white underparts, black wingtips, and a brilliant yellow eye. The Northern Harrier is one of the few raptors where the plumage of the male and female is very different. Since juvenile Northern Harriers resemble the adult female in plumage color, there appears to be more female harriers than males. Female and immature Northern Harriers are primarily brown overall with a lighter breast with dark streaks. Both the male and female have a very diagnostic white patch at the base of their tail. The Northern Harrier has a wingspan of 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 feet, with the female being quite a bit larger than the male.

Harriers are considered one of the most acrobatic raptors. They can be seen "hunting on the wing" flying low and slow over the fields as they hunt. When hunting, harriers use their hearing more than other hawks, with the help of their owl-like facial disks. Their prey consists of small mammals, reptiles, insects, and birds. While harriers fly calmly over a field, they will dramatically alter their direction and plunge onto their prey.

Northern Harriers nest on the ground in piles of sticks and leaves. A male harrier will mate with multiple females and can be seen flying a series of barrel rolls during their courtship display.

There are numerous Northern Harriers at Hagerman Wildlife Refuge right now. Mostly females and juveniles, but we have seen males on a few occasions. Getting close enough to a Northern Harrier to get a good photo is difficult. Trying to chase or follow them with a vehicle usually does not result in a close image. Studying a harrier's flight habits and patterns over a few days can give the photographer an idea of where to park and wait for the harrier to come to them. Harriers tend to fly regular routes along ditches, hedgerows, fencelines and road margins. I have had some luck using this technique resulting in a number of flight and portrait images of both the female and male Northern Harrier.

Written by: Skeeter & Marolyn Lasuzzo
Photography by: Skeeter Lasuzzo

For more raptor photos see the Friends of Hagerman Gallery and Friends of Hagerman Facebook Page.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey Facts from NWTF

The Friends of Hagerman recently held a program for children at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, “Talking Turkey” with classroom materials provided by the National Wild Turkey Federation.

By sitting in with the youngsters, Blogger learned that:

Benjamin Franklin nominated the turkey to be the national bird for the United States of America.

President Abraham Lincoln started the tradition of a White House pardon for a turkey on Thanksgiving – the impetus? His son Tad made friends with the turkey that was to be on the Thanksgiving menu (later named Jack!)

There are five subspecies of the wild turkey: Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande, Merriam’s and Gould’s. The wild turkeys at Hagerman NWR are Rio Grande. The domestic turkey we are familiar with is descended from a subspecies that is now extinct.

An adult female turkey is called a hen. Hens generally weigh between 8 and 11 pounds. Female turkeys less than one year old are called a jenny. Like many other birds, the females’ feathers are more subdued in color than the males’, allowing them to better blend in with their surroundings.

An adult male turkey is called a gobbler. The name comes from the sound they make in spring, to attract the hens during the mating season. Gobblers weigh about 21 pounds, but the birds’ weight varies by region of their habitat. A male under one year in age is called a jake. Hatchlings of both genders are called poults.

Young turkeys favor insects for their diet. As they mature, mast such as acorns, pecans and berries, along with various seeds and grains, becomes the primary diet for the wild turkey.

Wild turkeys can run or fly. They can run up to 19 mph for short distances. They usually fly only short distances but can fly up to 55 mph. They prefer the borders between woodlands and field…low cover for nesting, trees for roosting and for their food source.

Wild turkeys are not migratory and often live out their life span within five miles of their hatching site.

Unregulated hunting had nearly pushed the wild turkey to extinction by the 1930’s. Then hunters stepped in to support conservation and restoration, and now thanks to individuals, to legislation and to organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, more than seven million wild turkeys roam America’s woodlands.

Happy Turkey Day!

Photo by Dick Malnory

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Colors of Autumn at Hagerman NWR

By Helen Petre

Every autumn, usually in November, nature puts on a brilliant show of color at Hagerman NWR. This is attributed to mild autumn days coupled with cold, but not freezing nights. Each autumn the amount of sunlight decreases as the days grow shorter. This is the signal for the leaves to stop making chlorophyll. When the leaves stop making chlorophyll, the other pigments become visible.

Leaves produce food by photosynthesis. They use the sun’s energy, water and carbon dioxide to produce carbohydrates. Leaves produce carbohydrates for the tree or shrub all during the spring and summer. They do this so well, that by autumn, the tree or shrub has enough food stored in the trunk and roots that it can live through the whole long winter without making any more food.

The sun’s light is actually white light and consists of all the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Most leaves have lots of chlorophyll and some carotenoids. Some leaves also have anthocyanin, tannin and flavones. Chlorophyll absorbs all of the colors of light in sunlight except green. Green light is reflected, so a leaf that has mostly chlorophyll looks green.

Carotenoids are carotene and xanthophylls. Carotenes are similar to vitamin A and they look orange, like pumpkins, carrots and sweet potatoes. Xanthophylls are the pigment in sunflowers, dandelions, corn and egg yolks.

Some leaves also have anthocyanin, which can be red or blue. If the plant is acidic, the color is red. If the plant is basic, the color is blue. Tannins are the brown color in tea, bark and blackjack oak leaves in the fall. Flavones are the yellow in horse chestnut and onions.

Autumn leaf color is due to newly made red pigments as well as yellow and orange carotenoids that were already present in the leaf and are rendered visible because the leaf is no longer making the dark green chlorophyll in autumn. . Each species of deciduous tree and shrub has its own unique colors. Red oak and winged shining sumac leaves turn bright shades of red in autumn. This is because as the amount of sunlight decreases, a layer of cells develops at the point where the leaf joins the stem. This blocks carbohydrates from moving out of the leaf and the increased amount of carbohydrate is used to make anthocyanin, the red color. Female shining sumac trees also produce red fruits that stay on the tree until frost. Anthocyanin production is inhibited by frost, so when it freezes the leaves can no longer make the red pigment and they turn brown from tannin. If the day time temperatures are too warm, the colors will be less intense because the chlorophyll will still be masking the other colors.

Besides trees, poison ivy abounds at Hagerman NWR and it is one of the most beautiful plants in the fall. Be careful not to touch it. Many people mistake poison ivy for harmless foliage and gather it to use in decorations. The red, yellow and orange color is due to the anthocyanins.

Honey Locust trees at Hagerman turn yellow in autumn. They have no anthocyanin, but lots of carotenoids. Other fall plants at Hagerman that turn yellow are: pecan, muscadine grapes, black walnuts and cottonwood. Sycamores turn brownish yellow. Wild plums turn reddish yellow and rough leafed dogwoods turn purplish red. Persimmon turns yellow, orange and reddish purple.

When you come to Hagerman in the fall to view the migrating ducks and geese that come to feed in the fields and marshes for the winter, spend some time noticing the vibrant and beautiful colors of fall. The yellows and oranges were there all along, but they were not visible because of all the green of summer. Now is your chance. Enjoy.

(Photo by Laurie Sheppard)

For more photos of the Refuge as well as information on activities and events of the Friends of Hagerman, see

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

At the Refuge - Week of November 6 – 12, 2011

Beginning this week, all visitors to the Refuge Office, Visitor Center and FOH Center (Audio Visual Classroom, etc.) at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge will enter via the main gateway. The road leading to the FOH Center and maintenance area is being gated off. To reach the FOH Center, just follow the road from the Visitor Center parking on through the maintenance area.

On November 11, Veterans Day, the Refuge Office will be closed and there will be no official business conducted. The Visitor Center and Nature Nook will be open from 10 am – 3 pm that day.

Hagerman NWR and the Friends of Hagerman will offer several programs at the Refuge on Second Saturday, November 12.

Activities will begin with a guided nature walk, led by Dr. Jason Luscier, Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology at Austin College. Participants will note that recent rains have greened up the Refuge, just as of this week there is a little autumn color and the fall migration is still underway. Walkers will meet at 8 am at the Visitor Center and should dress for the weather. Bring your binoculars and field guides or use our loaners. The walk will end in time for the 10 am programs, and will be cancelled in case of rain.

From 9 – 10 am complimentary coffee will be served in the FOH Center.

At 10 am, Ross Anderson will speak on Tree Swallow Reproductive Success and Site Fidelity at Red Slough Wildlife Management Area, Oklahoma, in the meeting room of the Visitor Center. Tree Swallows are a nearctic-nearctic migrant and their range has expanded southward in the last three decades. This swallow is a cavity nester and readily accepted nest boxes placed at Red Slough Wildlife Management Area (WMA). At Red Slough WMA a network of nest boxes was established and the occupying swallows were monitored. Over two field seasons, Anderson banded 346 Tree Swallows and recaptured 40% of the adults and 5% of the previous year’s nestlings.

Anderson is a graduate student from Southeastern Oklahoma State University under the guidance of Dr. Doug Wood. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Conservation at SOSU and has completed the coursework for a Masters in Conservation at Southeastern. He is working on completing his thesis. Anderson currently resides in Tushka, Oklahoma, where he owns an archery shop.

Also at 10 am, the Second Saturday for Youth topic will be “Talking Turkey”, with Katie Palmer. This program is full, for Nov. 12, thanks.

The Friends Nature Photo Club will also meet in the Visitor Center on Nov. 12. A photo presentation from the October photo safari will be shown from noon until 12:30 pm, and then the meeting will begin. For details on sharing photos for the meeting, please contact

All of these activities are free of charge and open to the public. Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is located at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, Texas, 75092. Visitors may enjoy outdoor activities at the Refuge from sunrise until sunset daily, with no admission charge.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New at the Nature Nook

The Nature Nook at Hagerman will soon offer a product direct from the Refuge! Hiking and walking sticks hand-crafted by William H. Powell, from fallen wood found at Hagerman. The blogger had a peek at these on Monday, made from woods like cedar and winged elm.

Bill Powell and his wife Carol are workampers at the Refuge and have a strong connection with Hagerman NWR; since Bill’s retirement, they have given up their home in Pennsylvania and served as workkampers at eight national wildlife refuges across the U.S., spending several months during each of the last two years here at Hagerman in that capacity. A retired cemetery superintendent, Bill is certified to operate maintenance and other equipment at the Refuge, while Carol uses her office skills. In addition Bill was Photographer of the Month for the Friends in February of this year and placed in the recent annual Hagerman NWR photo contest.

The Nature Nook also offers wood carvings by Dick Malnory, matted nature photos by Donna Niemann, and framed photos by Mary Karam. In addition Laurie Lawler’s laminated bookmarks, featuring photos taken at the Refuge, and nature notecards by Sue and Dick Malnory can be found in the gift and book shop.

The Nature Nook is open from 9 am - 4 pm Monday through Saturday and 1 - 5 pm on Sundays. New merchandise is arriving for fall and the holidays. This week packets of Bluebonnet and of Mixed Texas Wildflower seeds arrived, just in time for fall planting. Volunteers staff the operation and are glad to help you choose just the right nature gift from among T-shirts, caps, field guides and more. Most credit cards are accepted, too.

Click to learn more about Hagerman NWR and the Friends of Hagerman.

Photo of Bill Powell taken by Dick Malnory.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Fun at the Refuge

Families can find some “naturally” enjoyable ways to get into Halloween mode at Hagerman NWR. Take a walk along one of the five trails at the Refuge and look for something creepy like a spider web or a tree “skeleton”. You can pick up a printed trail guide at the Visitor Center or download one from the Friends website.

Wait – hush! What was that rustling sound? Was it the wind in the dry grass or did a ghost just brush by? Maybe if you’re lucky you might even spot that Halloween icon, an owl, or hear one hooting.

Other good “I spy” objects are – hollow tree, “faces” in the burl of a tree, animal tracks, leaf skeletons, crows, vultures, worms and beetles. On the way to the Refuge, look through your bird field guide for the birds wearing “masks”!

You can view the “ghost” town of Hagerman that was cleared away when Lake Texoma was built – with the lake level so low, the area where much of the town stood, although normally under water, is currently dry land.

If the Halloween fun begins to pall, you might want to move into “harvest” mode. At the Refuge, berry, nut, and mushroom picking are allowed without a permit, for personal use only, 5 gallons per person per day. Firewood cutting (from fallen trees) is allowed, with a Special Use Permit, obtainable at the Refuge Office during weekday business hours (7:30 – 4 pm, Monday – Friday).

One last thing - your car will turn into a pumpkin at sunset, if you are not on your way out of the Refuge! Visit the Refuge website and for more information.

Photo by Donna Niemann

Thursday, October 20, 2011

High on the Hawg is Back!

You can do your part to alleviate the wild hog problem at the Refuge!

Attend HIGH on the HAWG for 2011 !!

FUNdraiser event, Back for the second year

The Refuge staff will prepare delicious barbecue and the Friends will supply all the trimmings.

Not only can you help out, you will have three opportunities to do so!

Barbecue will be served from 5:30 – 8 pm on three Saturdays:

November 5, November 19 and December 3.

The Audio Visual Classroom at the Refuge will be transformed into the

"Friends of Hagerman Cafe"

Your waiters will be the Friends board of directors, with the aid of additional volunteers.

On the menu: BBQ pork, potato salad, beans, coleslaw, bread, pickles, onions, &

HOMEBAKED PIE or COBBLER! Plus iced tea or coffee.

All this good food, great service, and fun can be yours for only

$10 per person, and $5 for children aged 12 and under.

No reservations needed, just show up and purchase tickets at the door.

See you there!

For more information about Friends activities, see

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Good Old Days

October is the “Fair” season in N. Texas, when folks gather to enjoy fairs and festivals - today’s post features an excerpt from a “History of Hagerman” written by Annette Morrison Catts, whose family lived there, and generously shared with the Friends of Hagerman NWR:

The town of Hagerman developed several fun traditions which helped its citizens bond in friendship. For one thing, the Merchants Association of Hagerman stimulated their already good business by sponsoring Trades Days. Show windows were given a special shine, and the best merchandise was displayed. A big rodeo was usually the principle feature with local boys roping and riding for prizes offered by the merchants. Also, the Woodman Hall on the second floor of the Bean Brothers General Store was the scene of community gatherings, box suppers, beauty contests, dances and programs. Another big event was Election Day, which was always a red-letter day because the people on the route always came to spend the day, shop and visit with “the folks in town.” The post office and train depot were places for daily visits as well.

It was also exciting when before the 20’s the first automobile came to town. Two gas stations sprung up in response, Otto Dutton’s and Ma & Pa Black’s, which became Moore’s Service Station. Otto also had an Auto Parts and Repair shop. But people had to learn to drive their new horseless carriages. Someone accidentally ran into the vertical pipe that made the Artesian Well flow high enough to drink from and fill a bucket. They broke it off at the ground! That pipe was never replaced. The Artesian Well had been the focal point for many community picnics on the grounds of the Cotton Gin. It makes you wonder how TV and computers could have improved on that! Former residents were coming back for water until about 2005 when it quit flowing.

And, just as the headlines report crimes and wildfires today, Morrison continues:

There were other less pleasant sources of excitement, too. In 1917 bank robbers cut all the phone lines, dynamited the bank and shot up the Hunt Smith home, escaping with $3,000. And in 1926 and 1938 there were fires which destroyed several businesses. But since there was no fire department, the men just had to use a bucket brigade system to put out the fires. Tom Smith died of a heart attack after pumping water from the well and carrying a bucket to fight the last raging fire, when he was 74.

Photo: Main Street, Hagerman, Texas, circa 1910 (from Refuge files).

You can learn more about the town of Hagerman in the new exhibits at Hagerman NWR, and ironically, with the lake level so low, you can now walk about in the area where much of the town was located before Lake Texoma was filled.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

National Wildlife Refuge Week at Hagerman

National Wildlife Refuge Week begins October 9, and with the majority of the visitors at Hagerman coming on the weekend, the Friends will start the celebration one day early, on Second Saturday, October 8. "Prairie Grasses and Fall Wildflowers" will be the topic with Dr. Connie Taylor, Professor Emeritus of Biology, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, as the speaker. Dr. Taylor’s program will begin at 10 am in the Multi-purpose Room of the new Visitor Center at the Refuge.

The Refuge and the Friends are so fortunate to have speakers and program leaders who are experts in their field and Connie Taylor is no exception! Dr. Taylor earned her PhD at the University of Oklahoma, where her major was in Plant Ecology and Plant Taxonomy. Known for her research on Goldenrods and native and introduced plants and their distribution in Oklahoma, she and her late husband, Dr. John Taylor, collected and reported new to Oklahoma over 150 species of plants. Dr. Taylor taught at Southeastern Oklahoma State University for 28 years, offering 17 different courses. She authored a catalogue of all vascular plants growing in Oklahoma and Keys to the Asteraceae of Oklahoma. Currently she is working with the Flora of Oklahoma Group on Keys to the Flora of Oklahoma.

Dr. Taylor plans to take the group outdoors for part of her presentation, weather permitting.

Also on the calendar for October 8, early-birds can meet at 8 am at the FOH Center at the Refuge for a nature walk, led by Dr. Wayne Meyer, weather permitting. The walk will conclude in time for Dr. Taylor’s presentation.

There will be Coffee with Friends from 9 – 10 am in the FOH Center, with complimentary coffee available.

At 9:30 am, in the Multi-purpose Room of the Visitor Center, winners of the 2011 Hagerman NWR Photo Contest will be announced and awards presented.

At 10 am, just prior to Dr. Taylor’s program, a special presentation in honor of a long-time volunteer will be made by the Friends of Hagerman.

Also planned for National Wildlife Refuge Week:

Monday, October 10, is a federal holiday, Columbus Day, and although the Refuge Office will be closed for official business, the Visitor Center will be open to the public from 10 am – 3 pm.

The Fall Photo Safari will be held on Saturday, October 15. To register (advance registration please!!), send your name, contact information, camera make/model, and experience level to

The Refuge is open daily from sunrise to sunset, free of charge. This week will be a great time to visit Hagerman, to walk, bird, picnic, bicycle, take pictures, do the auto tour, see the new Visitor Center or just enjoy the outdoors and some glorious October days.

These programs, sponsored by Hagerman NWR and the Friends of Hagerman, are free and open to the public. The Refuge is located at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, TX, 75092. For more information, call the Refuge, 903 786 2826, or see

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Effects of Drought at Refuge

Photo: Harris Creek bed, looking north from Wildlife Drive at the bridge.

Visitors who have not been to the Refuge recently will be amazed at the changes in the landscape brought about by the drought. We contacted Refuge Manager Kathy Whaley, Dr. Wayne Meyer, and Dr. George Diggs, while doing research for a presentation on the impact of the drought on Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. Here is what we learned.

Whaley told us, "If you walk or drive through Hagerman NWR, it is easy to see that the Texas drought has not bypassed the Refuge. Wetlands are dry. the lake is at a 32-year low. Hiking trails are full of cracks in the soil - some more than two feet deep. Shorebirds passing through this fall will find mudflats, but they will be much farther out than normal, making the birds very difficult to see."

She continued, " The ditch we normally pump water from to fill some impoundments is dry. The Refuge staff is working hard to install the water pipeline from Big Mineral Creek to all water to be pumped into the wetlands along Wildlife Drive, but it is a slow, time-consuming process."

"So far," Whaley reported, "staff has rescued two wading birds and one deer that were stuck in the mud. One of the birds, a Snowy Egret, actually had a turtle hanging onto its right leg. Assistant Refuge Manager Rick Cantu found this out while working to free the bird when he grabbed the turtle that was buried in the mud, trying to free the bird. The good news is that Rick still has all his fingers and we saw both legs and two feet as the Egret flew away. The only loser of the day was the turtle."

Whaley said that the lake level is dropping by as much as one inch per day. Ponds, if not already dry, are also getting drier and wildlife are having to travel to the lakeshore to get water. Feral hogs are creating wallows in creek beds where a few pockets of mud remain. Raccoon, bobcat, coyote, and deer tracks are visible along many areas that have not yet been covered by growing grasses and weeds. Plants are suffering - many trees and shrubs are turning brown and only time will tell if they have simply gone dormant or are dying. Numerous grasses and wildflowers are now dormant also, leaving many shades of tans, grays, and browns throughout the Refuge.

Whaley added, "Rain will come again - but when is anyone's guess. There is no doubt that the lack of precipitation will have a negative impact on some species and their numbers will decline. But native wildlife have evolved to withstand drought, and for the most part, they will survive. With any luck, non-native species such as the feral hog will also be impacted and perhaps reproduce in fewer numbers."

Dr. Wayne Meyer, Associate Professor of Biology at Austin College, added, "Drought has certainly affected the food supply and several summer breeding birds stopped early this year. The lake still provides drinking water for most species, so the real crunch as been the loss of seed crops and fruits, plus the insects that would have been feeding on green plants. Since the drought is not terribly widespread (I know, Texans want everything to be big, but east of north of us there has been excess rain), migratory animals like birds and insects will probably not be too badly affected. I expect their numbers to be near normal next year."

Like Whaley, Meyer says, "I'd like to think that the feral hogs will decline a bit, but I'm not holding my breath. Deer have been more visible lately, presumably because they are having to come to the lake or ponds that still hold water to drink every day. I don't know how their food supply has been affected but I should think they would be able to find sufficient browse around the the water sources. There may be a bigger dip in their numbers just because there is less food scattered across the drier parts of the Refuge.

Meyer added, "By the way, we are expecting a bumper crop of waterfowl this year; the prairie potholes got lots of rain and duck and goose reproduction was high. The question will be whether they will be able to find enough forage to make it through the winter. If Lake Texoma rises over the next few months to inundate all the dry ponds that are now full of smartweed, it will be a fabulous year for waterfowl - but if the lake level does not go back up, the waterfowl will probably have to go elsewhere by the end of December, much as they did last winter."

The third person we contacted, Dr. George Diggs, Professor of Biology at Austin College, pointed out that droughts occur with some frequency on the long term-scale, referring to the Dust Bowl ear and the bad drought of the 1950's. "Plants in this area therefore must have adapted for such occurrences. This adaptation does not rule out tree death or even the elimination of some species from certain areas or a dramatic decrease in animal populations."

Diggs continued, "When this ecosystem was intact ( a couple of hundred years ago) such occurrences would probably not have had significant long-term consequences because the ecosystem had enough resilience to recover over time. However, now, with so little native vegetation left and much of the best habitat converted to a variety of uses by humans, drought damage to the small remnants of native vegetation may have more serious consequences. Most of the habitat at the Refuge is so modified by natural conditions that I simply don't know what effect the drought will have."

On September 18, the elevation for Lake Texoma was 609.95'. Lake level information is available at

For Refuge information see the official website, and for information on the Friends, see

Photo by Dick Malnory

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Curlycup Gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa)

By Nancy Miller

Despite the heat and the drought we have experienced this summer, the Curlycup Gumweed is in full bloom at the refuge right now. Lucky for us, it favors dry soil. It can be found mainly on the end of many pads, and along the Auto Tour route.

This is one of my favorite flowers. It starts growing in the Spring, blooming late June to early September; however, it seems to bloom in the later months at the refuge. I have seen a few that bloomed earlier along some of the back roads. I have been watching them for several weeks, waiting for the bright yellow blooms to appear. They finally came in full bloom about two weeks ago.

I check out all the wildflowers at the refuge, but this is my favorite, attracting all kinds of cool looking insects as well as the beautiful butterflies. They seem to come at the right time for the butterflies that are starting to migrate to stop and enjoy. I’m hoping to catch a few more butterflies on them since butterflies seemed to be a little scarce this year.

The Curlycup Gumweed is a member of the Aster family. Curlycup Gumweed is unpalatable to cattle, sheep, and horses. Tannins, volatile oils, resins, bitter alkaloids and glucosides give it an unpleasant taste. The fresh or dried leaves of gumweed can be used to make an aromatic bitter tasting tea. The plant was used by the native North American Indians to treat bronchial problems and skin afflictions such as reactions to poison ivy. It is used in modern herbalism for treatment for bronchial asthma. The plant merits investigation as a treatment for asthma.

The dried leaves and flowering tops are anti-asthmatic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, expectorant and sedative. Externally, the plant is used as a poultice to treat burns, poison ivy, dermatitis, eczema and skin eruptions. In early times, the Spanish New Mexicans would drink an extract made from the flower buds and boiling water for kidney problems. The sticky sap was chewed as gum. Leafless stems would be used as brooms.


Photo by Nancy Miller

For more information about what to see and do at Hagerman NWR, see the official Refuge website, and the Friends website.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Choosing, Using Bird Field Guides

By Dick Malnory

There are hundreds of field guides to birds on the market. So – how to select the right one for yourself? Here are some points to consider:

· Choose a guide that covers the geographic region where you plan to bird. There are versions available for Eastern and Western U.S., individual states or regions, as well as for other parts of the world.

· Portability – for true field use, choose a version that easily fits into a pocket or bag to carry in the field.

· Illustrations – some field guides have photos of the birds, others use paintings. With modern photo editing technology, photographs may represent a bird most faithfully; however, paintings offer the ability to highlight field marks, so this decision becomes a matter of personal choice.

· Choose a field guide that includes bird descriptions for different seasons (i.e., spring – breeding), for both genders and for juveniles, along with pictures representing each. It is helpful to have a field guide that points out distinguishing field marks and size by the picture of each bird.

· Some guides include unique feeding behaviors and flight patterns. A few field guides include silhouettes, a great help in bird recognition.

· Bird songs are usually included but may be difficult to interpret. An exception to this are the new electronic field guides with bird calls.

· One of the handiest features is a quick reference index at either the front or back of the field guide. This eliminates going through the entire index for each search. Tabs or color codes for bird families facilitate searching.

· Range maps should appear on the same page as the pictures, for ease in use.

A final point about field guides - any bird guide is worthless unless studied and used regularly! Unfortunately the information is not absorbed by placing the book under your pillow at night.

A large variety of birds will be seen this fall at Hagerman NWR as the fall migration is underway. For your convenience, these field guides and foldout flash guides are now available for sale in the new Nature Nook at the Refuge:

Birds of North Texas laminated field guides, Ducks at a Distance, Birds of North America, Backyard Birds of Texas, Field Guide to Birds: Texas, and Songbirds Pocket Guide.

Binoculars and field guides are also available on a short term loan basis for use at the Refuge during your visit. For more information, see Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge or Friends of Hagerman.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Annual Hagerman Reunion is held each year on Labor Day. After reading about the event in the paper, some Friends decided to visit the reunion earlier this week to meet some of the descendants of those who once lived in the town of Hagerman. It is interesting that the group has remained so connected some 70 years after the town was cleared away to make way for Lake Texoma. We spoke with a number of folks who had brought photos, home movies transferred to current video technology, recordings of oral history, scrapbooks and more.

We heard the sharing of memories such as seeing the German World War II POW’s who were brought to the area to help clear the land of trees and structures, for the lake-to-be, and watching Perrin Field ramp up training for fighter pilots for the war. We learned that one woman, undoubtedly an early feminist, succeeded her husband to become one of the early postmasters of the town. We were shown a sketch map showing the location of the various buildings in the town – including at one time, three grocery stores. The school went through grade eight – for high school, youngsters traveled to Denison or even out of state, to boarding schools. The last graduation took place in 1942. We heard that the final gathering in the town was held under a brush arbor constructed to accommodate the crowd, and one of the town sages proposed the motto, “The Street Where Old Friends Meet”, for the gathering.

We learned that many of these memories and documents have been shared with Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, to aid in the preparation of the recent history of the area for the new exhibits at the Visitor Center, which is having its Grand Opening Sept. 8. We hope that you too will enjoy learning about the history of the town of Hagerman.

In the photo, taken by Dick Malnory, Annette Morrison Catts, of Missouri, who was introduced to us as the historian of the group, is shown holding a scrapbook about the church at Hagerman. To make way for the lake, the wooden church building was moved to Denison, where it became Hyde Park Presbyterian Church.

Please see Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and Friends of Hagerman for more information about the Refuge and activities of the Friends.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lake Texoma Highs and Lows

Yesterday the water level for Lake Texoma as reported by the US Army Corps of Engineers was 611’ above sea level. A record may soon be set for the low water level, for the last twenty years. Yet in 2007, the lake level rose to over 640 feet, going over the spillway, washing out roads and other improvements, altering wildlife habitat and spreading debris over large areas. This also occurred in 1957 and in 1990. Again in May, 2009, the lake level reached 629’, flooding roads at the Refuge, among other places around the lake, just as repairs to the 2007 damage were about to get underway.

Lake Texoma, formed by the Denison Dam on the Red River, is one of the largest reservoirs in the US. It is the 12th largest USACE lake and largest in the USACE Tulsa District. The two main sources of water for the lake are the Red and Washita Rivers as well as a number of creeks including Big Mineral where Hagerman NWR is located; the total drainage area for the lake is 39719 square miles. Denison Dam and Lake Texoma were authorized for construction by the Flood Control Act approved June 28, 1938, (Public Law 75-791) for flood control and power generation. Construction was started in August 1939 and completed in February 1944.

Why does the level vary so widely? According to B. J. Parkey, USACE, who spoke on Second Saturday at Hagerman in May, 2010, since the lake was developed for flood control, in anticipation of spring rains, the pool level is allowed to go down to approximately 615’ by spring each year. If spring rains don’t come, the level will continue to decline until sufficient rain occurs over the drainage area for the lake. The second purpose for the lake, power generation, is put on hold except for brief periods, over these dry spells.

Visitors to the Refuge will notice a greatly increased shoreline, with shorebirds on their fall migration clustering in areas where there is still some water. The USACE has issued a health warning re the bloom of blue-green algae in the lake. People and pets are to avoid contact with the water. Let’s all hope for rain soon.

More information about Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge can be found on the official Refuge website, and Friends activities are available at Photo, taken in 2007 by Dick Malnory, shows fishing in a flooded field beside Refuge Road near the former Visitor Center location, and Wildlife Drive inundated except for the bridge.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Picture the Refuge

Photographers can always find something new at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge habitat ranges from wetlands to prairie to woodlands, and seasonal changes add infinite variety to the landscape, flora and fauna to be found there. Another variable is the time of day and weather for a particular visit. Information about the Refuge for photographers can be found on the Friends website, but some may prefer to discover the perfect “shot” for themselves.

This fall there will be a number of opportunities for photographers beyond a solo photo outing.

Entries will be accepted for the 2nd annual Hagerman NWR Photo Contest, through September 15. Rules and entry forms are available online. Winners will be announced on October 8, to kick off National Wildlife Refuge Week.

In continuing celebration of the Grand Opening of the new Refuge Headquarters and Visitor Center, the Blackland Prairie raptors will be shown at the Refuge from 11:30 am - 1:30 pm on Saturday, September 10, as part of Super Second Saturday, a good chance for photographers to get close ups of the birds that will be displayed.

From 12:30 - 1:30 pm that day, the Friends Nature Photo Club will offer a free Photo-How-To. Participants who bring their camera and manual can learn more about the features offered by their particular model; cameras from simple point and shoot to digital SLR’s are welcome. In addition an interactive program will allow the photographer to view changes created by manipulating various camera settings. A photo composition workshop will be offered as well as instruction on downloading, resizing and cropping photos. The session will wrap up with a presentation at 1:30 pm of photos on the theme, “Macro”, shared by club members. The club, which is open to anyone interested in nature photography, meets at the Refuge every other month, from 12:30 - 2 pm.

Also on September 10, families can take the photo scavenger hunt challenge; bring digital camera (any type) and sign in between 8 am and 2 pm at the Info Desk in the new Visitor Center. Photos must be submitted by 2 pm to complete the challenge.

On Saturday, October 15, the Friends Nature Photo Club and the Refuge will sponsor the Autumn Photo Safari, watch for details on this event which will wrap up National Wildlife Refuge Week.

Photographers are also invited to share their photos taken at Hagerman on the Friends Facebook page and through the Photographer of the Month program.

For more information about Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, visit the official Refuge website, and see Friends of Hagerman for more on activities and events.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Federal Duck Stamps

What are Duck Stamps? The US Fish and Wildlife Service Duck Stamp website says that Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as “Duck Stamps,” are pictorial stamps produced by the U.S. Postal Service for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. They are not valid for postage. Originally created in 1934 as the federal licenses required for hunting migratory waterfowl, Federal Duck Stamps have a much larger purpose today.

According to the National Wildlife Refuge Association, “Ever since the first Duck Stamp was issued, the annual Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp has been a popular collector’s item for hunters and non-hunters alike. You can read a brief history of the Federal Duck Stamp at

Federal Duck Stamps are a vital tool for wetland conservation. Ninety-eight cents out of every dollar generated by the sales of Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Understandably, the Federal Duck Stamp Program has been called one of the most successful conservation programs ever initiated and is a highly effective way to conserve America’s natural resources.

Each year a national competition is held for the stamp design. The 2011 - 2012 Duck Stamp was painted by wildlife artist James Hautman of Minnesota

In 1989, the first Junior Duck Stamp was introduced, along with an environmental education program for youth. A nationwide competition is held also, through the schools, for art for the Junior Duck Stamp.

The US FWS lists five reasons to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp:

  1. Hunters over the age of 16 must purchase a Federal Duck Stamp each year if they want to hunt migratory waterfowl.
  2. Birders and other frequenters of National Wildlife Refuges purchase a $15 Federal Duck Stamp each year in order to gain free admission to refuges.
  3. Conservationists buy Federal Duck Stamps because they know that the stamps are, dollar for dollar, one of the best investments one can make in the future of America’s wetlands.
  4. Collectors buy both the Federal and Junior Duck Stamps because the beautiful stamps can gain value over the years and are an important part of America’s outdoor culture.
  5. Finally, educators, conservationists, hunters, parents, and students alike buy $5 Junior Duck Stamps in order to support conservation education programs in the U.S.

Where to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp:

· Many United State Post Offices

· Major sporting goods and outdoor stores that sell hunting licenses

· On the web at

Information in this post is from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is one of over 550 refuges across the U.S. The Friends of Hagerman support conservation and educational programs and activities at the Refuge.