Thursday, July 28, 2011

Crossing Rebuilt

By Kathy Whaley

Sometimes man thinks he has solved a problem, then Mother Nature comes along, and in the blink of an eye, shows him he had better head back to the drawing board. Back to square one we go. This happened with the creek crossing at the end of Meadow Pond Trail. Long years ago, an old iron bridge made it possible to cross the creek and access more remote parts of the Refuge without driving the many extra miles around from the other side. After the bridge washed out, a different type of crossing was installed that allowed vehicles to drive across the creek bed on a firm surface. Unfortunately, this crossing was not adequately stabilized so it, too, washed away. During heavy rain events, this currently dry creek bed becomes a raging torrent of water– moving anything in its way.

This summer, with help from regional USFWS engineers and Refuge staff member Jay Noel, a much better designed and built crossing has been installed. A ramp of concrete with several feet of large rip-rap (stone) on each side now stretches completely across the creek. Even though this section of the Refuge is not open to the public for driving (visitors may, however, hike or bike in this area), it is important to Refuge staff for routine law enforcement patrols, access during prescribed burns, or as an available route for responding to a wildfire. Another positive from this project is that the contractor who installed the crossing for us was kind enough to dig all of the metal from the old bridge out of the creek - even though this was not part of their contract - and it is on its way to being recycled!

We feel confident the new crossing will work perfectly as designed – but are still anxious to see it in action - if it ever rains again!

Photo by Wayne Meyer

To learn more about Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, see the official website or

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New at Refuge - "Bluebird Buggy"

Visitors at Hagerman NWR these days may see a new vehicle rolling quietly along Harris Creek Trail once each week. The vehicle, an E-Z-Go, is dedicated to the monitoring of the Bluebird nest boxes along Harris Creek Trail, and was put into service July 15.

In keeping with the Refuge efforts to go green, the vehicle is electric powered. To charge the battery, an electrical cord is simply plugged into a charger in the Equipment Shed. The vehicle has good power for climbing grades and is simple to operate. There is minimum disturbance to wildlife while the vehicle is running. As a bonus for the monitors, it also fun to drive!

Only one more thing is needed - a name! Bluebird Buggy is under consideration.

Note: Lucky people attending the Grand Opening Ceremony on September 8, 2011, may get a shuttle ride from the parking area to the new Visitor Center in the Bluebird Buggy.

For more information about the nest box monitoring project at the Refuge or other Friends activities, please see, and for complete Refuge information, click Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo by Dick Malnory shows monitor Jack Chiles stopping by nest box, in new vehicle.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New Website for the Friends

Welcome to our newly re-designed website!

New look, same address, and we hope you will easily find information you may be seeking about Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and the Friends of Hagerman, and will enjoy the many photos from the Refuge.

One improvement - rather than having our old-style NEWS page, which was more or less a catch-all for lots of info, we now have a FRIENDS page with information about the Friends, Friends projects, organization, membership and more, we have a REFUGE page with these sections: VISITOR INFORMATION; BIRD DATA, where you can find the Bird Survey Highlights, Bird Check List and other birding information; TRAILS which offers the hiking trails guides, the newest official Refuge guide and related information, and then a section for HUNTING BOATING & FISHING.

Next, we have an ACTIVITIES page, with coming events, and you may also go directly to SECOND SATURDAY and SECOND SATURDAY FOR YOUTH events.

On the NEWS page, you can find the Featherless Flyer and other headline news; in addition you can now view the Friends Facebook page, without having to be “on” Facebook to view the many interesting posts and photos there.

Under GALLERY, you will find many beautiful virtual photo albums, led off by the current Photographer of the Month, as well as top Nature Photo Club news. You may also go directly to NATURE PHOTO CLUB with a listing of events, links to contest forms and more. Also under GALLERY you will find the PHOTO GUIDE, a guide to the Refuge especially for photographers.

And we are not through! Coming soon, you will be able to shop the Nature Nook online, renew your membership and contribute with the addition of a secure section to the site.

We hope each of you will visit the site soon and send us your comments!

A special thanks to all the photographers who have contributed to the wonderful collection of images taken at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, a collection we have drawn on liberally for this site.

AND special thanks to each of you for your support for the Friends and the gifts which have gone toward this project.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Listening to the Painted Bunting

By Wayne Meyer, PhD

The conversations of Painted Buntings at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge have been listened to carefully this summer. Two of my students, Leticia Pilar and Taliesin Kinser, and I have been recording their songs since the first of June and are now playing their songs back to them. The research is intended to determine how Painted Buntings tell each other just how angry they are.

In Song Sparrows and several other songbirds, a bird can register displeasure by singing at a neighbor. If the neighbor matches that song and sings it back at the first bird, this means “I’m mad enough to start a fight”. If he doesn’t feel that angry, he can avoid escalating the conflict by singing another song that he shares with the first bird. This tells the first bird “I recognize your complaint, but don’t want to dispute with you”. A third choice is to sing a song that the first bird can’t match because it isn’t in his repertoire; this stops the conflict.

Painted Buntings, however, don’t share songs, so they can’t use this system of matching to regulate aggression levels. We have been using a wooden decoy atop a speaker to simulate territory intrusions. If we use songs from a neighbor, the response will be muted since the buntings have settled their boundaries and don’t need to react strongly to neighbors who pose no threat. If we use songs from a stranger, however, the response is very aggressive. We record these interactions and compare the response to strangers with the response to neighbors. So far, we have found that Painted Buntings use virtuosity to indicate aggressiveness. They sing more songs, longer songs and use a larger proportion of their repertoire the angrier they get.

Next time you listen to a bird song in your backyard, pay attention and see if the singer changes his tune or if he attracts the attention of another songster. Nearly all of the “songbirds” in North America use some sort of song modulation to communicate with each other.

Photos by Dick Malnory

Want more information? See Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and Friends of Hagerman