Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Train

By Marolyn and Skeeter Lasuzzo, Photo by Skeeter Lasuzzo

Marolyn and I like to hike at Hagerman Wildlife Refuge. One of our favorite hikes is the trail along Deaver Pond, Meadow Pond and on to a train trestle at the end of the trail. This hike is a little over 5 miles round trip. One can usually see shorebirds along the ponds and numerous songbirds in the trees along the trail. On a number of occasions, we have seen deer, turkeys and wild hogs. The trail is wide and flat and makes for a nice stroll. One of the things you will see is the train that comes along periodically. The train tracks run along the south side of both ponds. The trail and the tracks intersect at the end of the trail near the trestle. While not wildlife, the train does make for an interesting image, especially in black and white.

Ed Note: Additional information, from the "Guide to the Hiking Trails at Hagerman NWR", by Doug Raasch: [To reach Meadow Pond Trail] From the visitor center go south along the lake, about two miles, until the road makes a “T.” You will be looking straight down Meadow Pond trail as you approach the “T.” You can park at the trail head or in the day use area on the right. A restroom is available. (ED: PLEASE do not block the gate!)

After passing through the turnstile… The trail is perfectly flat … because we are following the rail bed that once was the lifeblood of the village of Hagerman. The berms that occasionally shelter the trail are left over from rail bed construction.

(ED: The track now in use belongs to the Union Pacific Railroad, and was previously part of the M-K-T or “Katy” Railroad lines; the track was relocated from the original route through the town of Hagerman when Lake Texoma was built.)


For more railroad history, see and

The official Refuge website is

And for information about the activities of the Friends of Hagerman, please see

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Join the 2011 Great Backyard Bird Count

(Information in this post is from Cornell Lab of Ornithology,

You can help count the birds! February 18 - 21 are the dates for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count this year. The count is coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada, and all interested persons - people of all ages and skill levels - can help by counting birds in their yards, neighborhoods, or other locations across the U. S. and Canada.

Cornell’s instructions are to simply tally birds for at least 15 minutes on any day of the count, then go to and enter the highest number of each species seen at any one time.

Cornell states that numbers submitted to Cornell provide an instantaneous snapshot of birdlife across the continent for all to see, and that you can watch as the tallies come in at

“Whether people observe birds in backyards, parks, or wilderness areas, the Great Backyard Bird Count is an opportunity to share their results at,” said Judy Braus, Audubon’s vice president of Education and Centers. “It’s fun and rewarding for people of all ages and skill levels--and it gets people outside!”

“When thousands of people all tell us what they’re seeing, we can detect changes in birds’ numbers and locations from year to year,” said Dr. Janis Dickinson, director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Information, including bird-ID tips, instructions, and past results, is available at For photographers, the count also includes a photo contest.

For more information about birds at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, please see the official Refuge website, and for information about events and activities of the Friends of Hagerman, as well as many bird photos, visit

Photo, Female Red-winged Blackbird, by Donna Niemann.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Happy Birthday, Hagerman NWR

Hagerman National Wildlife has a birthday today, February 9! The Refuge is now 65 years old. Hagerman NWR was established in 1946 by agreement with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, following the construction of Lake Texoma. Hagerman NWR is within what was historically the hunting territory of several Native American tribes including the Caddo, Wichita, Comanche, and Kiowas. There is limited evidence of their temporary and recurrent or seasonal use of the area, but no permanent settlements have been noted.

In 1873, the MKT Railroad (Missouri, Kansas and Texas) known locally as “the KATY” crossed directly through lands that would become part of the Refuge. This brought many people and new beginnings, including farming, to the north Texas area. In 1910, a 10 acre area adjacent to the rail bed and underneath a portion of what is now Lake Texoma was plotted and streets were named. Previously a farming community known as Steedman as far back as the 1880's, the new town was named Hagerman after an attorney for the MKT Railroad who was instrumental in getting approval for the railway to be constructed through Indian Territory. The town had about 250 residents with churches, stores, a cotton gin and most everything one could need at that time. The town site was abandoned in 1943 to prepare for flooding of Lake Texoma. Today, the Wildlife Drive and Meadow Pond Trail exist on that same railroad bed.

Prior to the building of the lake, the land now encompassed by the Refuge included not only the town of Hagerman but outlying farms. Names of area families such as Goode, Terry, Dunning, Steedman, Harris and Meyers still designate roads, administrative or geographic features in and around the Refuge, and Hagerman NWR, established as an overlay of a portion of the Big Mineral arm of Lake Texoma consisting of nearly 12,000 acres, provides a variety of habitats for birds and wildlife.

The first Refuge Manager was Marcus Nelson, who served in that capacity until 1951. On a visit to Hagerman NWR in 2007, Nelson said that the first two buildings at the Refuge were boxes that heavy equipment came in. He talked about building the first service building and equipment building for only $12,000. Nelson retired in 1980, as the Chief of National Wildlife Refuges, in Washington DC.

Hagerman is one of over 500 national wildlife refuges across the United States, and one of 21 here in Texas. Happy Birthday, Hagerman NWR, and many happy returns!

For more information about Hagerman NWR, please visit the official Refuge website, and for information about activities and events, see

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Pileated Woodpecker

By Skeeter & Marolyn Lasuzzo

The Pileated Woodpecker is a very conspicuous bird when seen flying through the woods. They are "crow size", around 16 to 20 inches long, with a wingspan of 27 to 30 inches. In flight, they show large white underwing patches with black overall markings. They do have a "call", but most often the sound you will hear from a Pileated Woodpecker is the drumming on a tree that sounds like the tree is being hit with a wooden mallet. The flaming red crest is also very noticeable. The male has a red crest that comes all the way down to its beak and under its chin. The female crest is red only on the top of its head. The image I have included is of a female Pileated.

While it's very difficult to get close to these elusive birds, we have had a pair frequent our back yard this year. I was able to photograph this bird by opening our sliding glass door and shooting from inside the house. This worked out great since it was snowing very heavily with a very low wind chill.

Ed. Note: The Hagerman NWR Bird Check List indicates that while the Pileated Woodpecker is present at the Refuge, it is unlikely to be seen. Birders have very occasionally spotted or heard them in the picnic area of the Goode Unit, near Dead Woman Pond, in the Big Mineral picnic area, along Meadow Pond trail and Oil Field Road. For more information, the official website for the Refuge is and for the Friends of Hagerman,