Thursday, December 27, 2012

BirdFest Texoma Registration Begins January 1

Registration for BirdFest Texoma will begin on January 1, 2013 for events set to take place at Hagerman NWR May 3 -5, 2013.  The birding and nature festival will feature nationally known author/illustrator/birding expert, David Allen Sibley, as well as Jonathan Wood’s Raptor Project, photography workshops, three days of field trips, nature walks and talks, programs for children and more.  Descriptions of all events can be found on the Friends website.

Both online and standard registration forms will be available.  For online registration or to download forms, see; registration forms will also be available in the Nature Nook at the Refuge.  There is a fee for field trips, the photography events and Sibley’s keynote presentation; however many events are free of charge, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors.  Members of the Friends of Hagerman will note special member pricing on paid events.  Most events have a limited number of spaces available so early registration is advised, for both paid and free events. 

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge offers 11,000 acres of wildlife habitat.  The Refuge is located at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, Texas.  For more information, use CONTACT or call the Refuge, 903 786 2826.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Twelve Days of Winter at the Refuge

Depending on the particular calendar you follow, tomorrow is either the first day of winter or the last day for this world!  In the first case, today's post is a revision of last year's parody on the Twelve Day's of Christmas, with a Hagerman NWR twist.

On the first day of winter, at Hagerman we see - the C&E out touring.
On the second day of winter, at Hagerman we see - two canoeists paddling and the C&E out touring.
On the third day of winter, at Hagerman we see - three eagles soaring, two canoeists paddling and the C&E out touring.
On the fourth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - four anglers angling, three eagles soaring, two canoeists paddling and the C&E out touring.
On the fifth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - five hiking trails, four anglers angling, three eagles soaring, two canoeists paddling and the C&E out touring.
On the sixth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - six leaping deer, five hiking trails, four anglers angling, three eagles soaring, two canoeists paddling and the C&E out touring.
On the seventh day of winter, at Hagerman we see - seven shovelers shoveling, six leaping deer, five hiking trails, four anglers angling, three eagles soaring, two canoeists paddling and the C&E out touring
On the eighth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - eight birders watching, seven shovelers shoveling, six leaping deer, five hiking trails, four anglers angling, three eagles soaring, two canoeists paddling and the C&E out touring.
On the ninth day of winter, at Hagerman we see -  nine sparrows “chipping”, eight birders watching, seven shovelers shoveling, six leaping deer, five hiking trails, four anglers angling, three eagles soaring, two canoeists paddling and the C&E out touring.
On the tenth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - ten pintails dabbling,  nine sparrows “chipping”, eight birders watching, seven shovelers shoveling, six leaping deer, five hiking trails, four anglers angling, three eagles soaring, two canoeists paddling and the C&E out touring.
On the eleventh day of winter, at Hagerman we see - eleven geese-a-browsing, ten pintails dabbling,  nine sparrows “chipping”, eight birders watching, seven shovelers shoveling, six leaping deer, five hiking trails, four anglers angling, three eagles soaring, two canoeists paddling and the C&E out touring.
On the twelfth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - twelve bluebird boxes, eleven geese-a-browsing, ten pintails dabbling,  nine sparrows “chipping”, eight birders watching, seven shovelers shoveling, six leaping deer, five hiking trails, four anglers angling, three eagles soaring, two canoeists paddling and the C&E out touring.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Bird Count at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge

On Saturday, December 15, at Hagerman NWR, volunteers will take part in a 113 year-old tradition established by the Audubon Society that has become known as the Christmas Bird Count.  Now hundreds of such counts, each one based in a 15-mile diameter circle, take place between  December 14  and January 5 each year. 

The task of the counters is to find and identify all the birds they can within the designated circle. The data collected in all these censuses have become one of the world’s most complete and long-term data sets on bird populations.  Most  Christmas counts cover the daylight hours and include a few hours of owl searching at night.

People of all interest levels have an opportunity to contribute to this grand project.  Being a birding expert is not necessary to aiding in the effort, according to Dr. Wayne Meyer, organizer for the Hagerman NWR Count, who says “The Hagerman NWR Christmas count circle is divided into six areas and each area has a designated leader who is skilled in identification.  What each team leader needs most is extra eyes to find the birds.  You don’t even have to commit to an all day search.  Several of our areas are small enough to be covered in half a day.” 

According to Audubon’s annual CBC report, American Birds, the 112th count was a record setter, with a total of 2248 CBC’s held in the US and Canada.  Texas was third in number of CBC’s, behind California and Ontario; there were 109 Texas counts, with Matagorda Island - Mad Island Marsh turning in the highest bird count number of species, 244.  HNWR reported 119 species.  Last year, Austin, Texas set the record for the number of CBC participants, 116! 

Two of the Austin counters were participants who counted birds at their home feeders, another way people can contribute.  Any bird feeders within the count circle can be included in the day’s tally.  If you live in the Hagerman Circle but don’t wish to spend part of your day in the field you can be a feeder watcher.  The Hagerman NWR Circle includes the communities of Pottsboro, Sherwood Shores, Cedar Mills, Mill Creek, Locust, Fink, Tanglewood, Georgetown, Preston and Gordonville.

For those unable to make it to Hagerman on December 15, or who do not live in the Hagerman NWR Circle, Audubon offers links to Counts across the country. 

All who want to participate at Hagerman NWR are to meet at the Friends of Hagerman building (formerly known as AV Center) at 7:00 AM to divide into teams.  Anyone interested in searching for owls is welcome to meet Dr. Meyer at the Friends building at 4:45 AM.  The Friends of Hagerman NWR will be hosting a compilation social at 5:00 PM, complete with supper!  All participants are encouraged to attend as the day’s results are added up.  Dr. Meyer says, “If you want to participate you can just show up on count day, but it would help my planning if you let me know you’ll be coming ahead of time.  You can send a message via comments or CONTACT  on the Friends website."
Hagerman NWR is located at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, Texas, 75092, on the Big Mineral Arm of Lake Texoma.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

River Otters at Hagerman NWR

By Skeeter and Marolyn Lasuzzo
Photography by Skeeter Lasuzzo

I packed into the back country at Hagerman Wildlife Refuge, carrying my photo equipment, in an attempt to photograph White-tail deer bucks.  After spending the early morning in a portable blind photographing deer, I made my way to the edge of a creek to look for deer trails and signs.  I noticed some movement in the water which turned out to be River Otters.  As I set up my camera, the otters swam toward me and climbed onto a log to get a better view of me.  After determining that I was harmless, the two otters calmly swam off to the river bank up stream and went about their normal behavior.  I observed the Otters for awhile before I hiked out.  I saw the Otters for the next couple of days before they disappeared.

River Otters, members of the weasel family, have long bodies, with short legs and web feet.  They have long tails, one third the length of the body, which they use to maneuver in the water. They eat mostly fish, but also eat freshwater mussels, crabs, crayfish, amphibians, bird eggs, fish eggs and small mammals.

River Otters use dens for giving birth and protection from the elements.  Den sites are usually located at waters edge, above the normal water level, quite often in the banks of a creek, but sometimes in piles of driftwood or hollow trees.  Otters will usually have two to four pups that are born between March and May.  The basic family unit is a mother with her pups, while the male otters live solitary lives except during mating season.  River Otters are safe in the water, but can fall prey to bobcats, coyotes and cougars while on land.  

Otters spend the day looking for food and engaging in what looks like play.  Otters rely on play to learn survival skills.  "Slides", which are located on river banks, are a common sign of river otter presence and are used by the otters to "slide" into the water. They will also travel on land between creeks and ponds. 

I have been photographing in Hagerman NWR two to four times a week for years and have seen very few River Otters.  In the last couple of years, I have seen otters on three occasions.  Maybe they are becoming more plentiful.  Let's hope so.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Welcome to the Friends of Hagerman Website

·       Would you like to know the current lake level for Lake Texoma?  Or the weather at the Refuge?   Would you like to find other attractions and activities to do while you are visiting the Texoma area?  Links to all this info and more are on the LINKS page of the Friends website.  You will find LINKS grouped with VISITOR INFORMATION, under REFUGE.
·       Want to hike the Refuge trails?  Read or download and print the guide to one or more trails by going to the TRAILS page, under REFUGE tab, and selecting any one of the five trails.
·       Want to know what birds you may see on your next visit?  Highlights of the weekly bird surveys are shown on the BIRD DATA page, where you will also find the Hagerman Bird Check-list and the complete weekly census reports, month by month, for this year.
·       By clicking ACTIVITIES you can see the schedule of upcoming Second Saturdays and other events and activities at the Refuge.
·       Check out HAGERMAN YOUTH under ACTIVITIES tab for activities for youngsters and families to do at home as well as links to approved sites for online educational games and more.
·       Want to be a member of  the Friends of Hagerman?  Click JOIN NOW for information, to download forms or to join or renew membership online.
·       Interested in the Friends PROJECTS? Learn more about the NEST BOX PROGRAM and the NATURE NOOK; look for these tabs under FRIENDS, on the Home Page.
·       If one picture is worth a  thousand words, then there are about a billion words-worth in the GALLERY - virtual albums for current & recent Photographers of the Month,  winning entries in the recent photo contest, birds including waterfowl, songbirds, waders, etc., animals, butterflies,  wildflowers, and  more, ALL taken at the Refuge.
·       AND BIRDFEST TEXOMA is now on the Friends website also!  Here’s your chance to decide which events you will want to sign up for when registration opens in January, 2013, to learn who will be serving as festival faculty and how you can support the event!

These are just some highlights from the website; next time you are web-surfing, we invite you to spend some time exploring

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Texas Whooper Watch

Happy Thanksgiving!  While the bird most of us are keeping an eye on today is the turkey that will grace our table, Texas Parks & Wildlife is asking for citizen scientists to keep watch for Whooping Cranes.    Biologists re seeking to learn more about locations along the migration; in addition, in 2011-12 some whoopers decided to join the Keep Austin Weird movement by spending the winter near there!

The photo below, taken by Bill Powell,  shows two Whooping Cranes who paid a brief visit to Hagerman NWR on 11-16-2011.

TPWD has a webpage devoted to whooping crane information to help those interested in the project make a good identification and report to the proper authorities.  Just click Whooping Cranes for the webpage.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Story of a Book

Scanning the newspaper listing of events in Dallas this summer, one item caught my attention; the Dallas chapter of the Audubon Society and the Dallas Museum of Art were sponsoring a lecture by Joy M. Kiser.  I wondered what the connection was between the two groups and read on to learn that  Kiser is the author of a wonderful new book, America's Other Audubon.

Actually, her book is a wonderful book ABOUT another wonderful book.  America's Other Audubon is the story of the creation of Illustrations of the Birds and Nests of Ohio.  The book “within the book” was the work of Genevieve Estelle Jones, amateur ornithologist, who at age 29,  set out to document the nests in the style of John James Audubon, inspired by an exhibit of his paintings from Birds of America  at the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia.

America's Other Audubon details the steps involved in collecting and portraying the nests, a project that came to involve all of Jones’ family as well as her friend Eliza J. Schulze.  Segments of the book, each consisting of three illustrations and text, were sold by subscription, $5.00 for copies with hand colored lithographs and $2.50, uncolored.  The original plan, to depict nest and eggs for the 130 birds that nested in Ohio, was not to be fulfilled, due to Genevieve’s death from typhoid at age 32; Genevieve’s mother completed the portion of the project that was already underway.  Illustrations of the Birds and Nests of Ohio won favorable notice from Theodore Roosevelt, among others. 

As a new assistant librarian at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, author Kiser became intrigued with an exhibit of Illustrations of the Birds and Nests of Ohio, and went on to learn the story behind the story.  America's Other Audubon includes reproductions of illustrations and is beautifully bound.  A copy will be on loan for viewing in the Multi-purpose Meeting Room of the Visitor Center at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge from November 18 – December 8, 2012.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Attracting Backyard Birds

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is certainly full of birds. You can attract many of these kinds of birds to your backyard if you mimic the “character” of the habitats at Hagerman. (Of course, forget about birds that need lots of space.)

Look around. There’s water, forest, meadows (to be sure, on a grand scale). These are all things you can have in your yard (on a far smaller scale than Hagerman).  These habitats attract birds because they provide food – the center of every bird’s universe. Clearly, birds come to forests, shrubs and meadows because there’s fresh food there. Birds visit birdfeeders for the same reason.
Birdwatching in your backyard differs in that it’s your world, while, at Hagerman, you are in the birds’ world. Food is still king, however. The fresher the food, the more birds will want it. At Hagerman, the birds have totally fresh food – from the plant. In your backyard feeder, however, they depend on you for the freshest food possible. If it’s stale or dried out, birds will go elsewhere.

At Hagerman you certainly see lots of water. Some birds need a lot of water, but for other birds you can mimic this with a birdbath. Yes, it’s only a tiny fraction of the water that’s at Hagerman, but many land birds are attracted by birdbaths full of clean water. What’s more, they need it. Because birds need to keep their feathers clean to fly well, find food and escape predators. Even in winter!

If you’re serious about attracting birds, your yard should have an abundance of native plants – plants that grow naturally here.  Many generations of birds have looked to natives for safe cover and nesting locations. Hybrids, or plants whose ancestors are from elsewhere, are used by birds only as a last resort.

   Now is an excellent time to attract birds to your yard. The odds are much better, since there are many more birds around here in the fall & winter than in spring & summer. After all we’re where many birds migrate to - the south !

Post adapted from article by Nancy Collins, originally published in the Featherless Flyer, January, 2011.  Nancy is a Texas Master Naturalist and was co-owner of the Wild Bird Center in Denton, Texas for a number of years.

ED Note:  Here are some additional tips from the “Backyard Birds in the Fall” presentation at Super Saturday:

Feeders near windows should within 3 feet from the window or fastened to the window or window frame to avoid birds’ striking windows.

Clean bird feeders regularly, immersing in a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water for several minutes, brushing to remove old seed and allowing feeder to dry completely before refilling.

Change water in birdbaths frequently to avoid algae build-up, mosquito larvae in warm weather, and general accumulation of filth from regular use.

Keep pet cats indoors  for their health and safety and the safety of the backyard birds.

Photo:  Northern Cardinal, by Dick Malnory

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Coming Soon: Geese at Hagerman NWR

Great flocks of waterfowl arrive at Hagerman 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.

Gaggle of Geese, by Ron M. Varley
Geese have broad, round tipped bills and feed on grains, seeds, aquatic plants and young grasses. They thrive in the wheat 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. Some 7,500 - 10,000 geese will winter on the refuge feeding on green wheat shoots and aquatic plants. Rested and refueled, they return north along the Central Flyway to nest in the Arctic again next summer.

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, but the Snow Geese are the most abundant Hagerman winter residents.  Snow Geese are smaller than Canada Geese and migrate in to Hagerman in great numbers along with even smaller Ross’s Geese (Chen rossii).  Hagerman also has some Greater White Fronted Geese (Anser albifrons),  brownish geese with  white faces and orange legs.

Greater White-fronted Geese, Ross's Goose, by Carl Hill
 Snow Geese are white with black wing tips.  Ross’s Geese, also white, and Snows are difficult to distinguish by size when in a large mixed flock.   Distinguishing marks are on the head.  Look for the shape of the head and length of the bill.  Snow Geese have a long tapered bill, with a dark line between the upper and lower bill, called a “grin patch”, and sloping foreheads.  The bill of the Ross’s  is shorter or stubbier and lacks the “grin patch”; the head is more round, with a steeper forehead.  Ross’s are becoming increasing more common winter residents and mix well with Snow Geese.

Perfect Two-point, by Bert Garcia
Hagerman provides food, rest and shelter for the migrating geese that now depend on the 300 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.

ED Note: Adapted from an article prepared by Helen Petre that appeared in the Featherless Flyer, November, 2009.

On December 8, 2012, Dr. Wayne Meyer's Second Saturday topic will be Winter Waterfowl, and Geese, Geese, Geese will be the topic for Second Saturday for Youth.  Both programs will include a guided trip along Wildlife Drive aboard TAPS to see the winter waterfowl at the Refuge.

AND!  Book a seat for a tour aboard the new C&E Express, on Wednesday and weekends.  Call the Refuge for reservations.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Owl Facts and Folklore

    By William Bond Hughes

Owls are a family of birds known to everyone.  Of the eighteen species of owls that breed in North America, eight species have been recorded at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.  The three species that nest within the refuge, eastern screech, great horned and barred, are the owls most likely to be seen at the refuge.

Barred Owl at Hagerman NWR, by Nancy Miles Miller
Owls are birds of prey but are not closely related to other birds of prey such as hawks, eagles and falcons.  Biochemical evidence shows that the closest relatives of owls are the nighthawks (common nighthawk) and nightjars (chuck-wills-widow and eastern whip-poor-will).  Both owls and nighthawks/nightjars rest during the day and hunt at night.

Owls are superbly adapted for their nocturnal mode of hunting.  Their proportionately large eyes enable them to see under very low light conditions.  The ear openings of many owls are larger than usual among birds, and the opening on one side of the head is higher than on the other side.  Together, these two adaptations enable owls to locate prey by sound even in the dark.  The flight feathers of owls are modified so that the sound of air passing over the feathers during flight is greatly reduced thus allowing a silent, undetected approach to prey.

Populations of many tree cavity-nesting owls declined during the early history of the United States from intensive logging operations that deprived them of their nesting sites.  Fortunately, the ready acceptance of nest boxes as breeding sites has resulted in the rebound of these populations.  I know from personal experience that the eastern screech owl readily accepts a box, and I know of a case where two screech owls occupied boxes within the same yard!  Plans for building owl boxes can easily be found on the internet.

Their distinctive appearance and behavior has led to the creation of many myths and legends regarding owls which fall into two main categories:  owls are associated with wisdom and owls are associated with death. 

An example of the wise owl can be found in the fables of Aesop which originated in the sixth century B.C.  In the fable of the owl and the other birds, the owl advises the other birds that flax seeds should not be allowed to grow as the resulting plants could be made into fibers which could be woven into nets to trap the birds. 

The Greek goddess Athena, patron goddess of Athens and the goddess of wisdom, had the owl as a symbol.  Coins of ancient Athens portrayed Athena on one side and an owl on the other. 

The Zuni, a pueblo tribe of the American Southwest, have a story about the wisdom of the burrowing owl which lives in prairie dog towns.  When heavy rainfall threatened to drown their sources of food, the prairie dogs asked the burrowing owl what should be done.  In response, the owl began to beat a bag which contained the foul-smelling secretion of a particular beetle.  At each stroke, the rain clouds moved farther off, and with a final blow the sky became perfectly clear.  The prairie dogs came out of their burrows and loudly praised their “great priest, the grandfather burrowing owl”.

In current usage, a group of owls is called “a wisdom of owls”.

The association of owls with death is very widespread in folklore.  Among the Kikuyu of Kenya it is still widely believed that owls are harbingers of death.  If one sees an owl or hears its hoot, someone was going to die.  An old saying in Mexico still used today is "When the owl cries, the Indian dies".

ED Note:  Woo Hoo for Owls will be the topic at Second Saturday for Youth, led by Katie Palmer,  on November 10, 2012, and Owls will be Dr. Wayne Meyer's topic for Second Saturday, February 9, 2013, at the Refuge.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

All Aboard the C&E Cardinal Express

What is red and tan and rolls along the Auto Tour route?   The C&E Cardinal Express!  The C&E (for donors Carlos and Eulalia Araoz) is the new all electric tram at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.   With maximum seating for 14, the tram was put into operation at Super Saturday, to the enjoyment of all who toured on it.  The tram offers a great view and operates silently for minimum disturbance of wildlife.

Driver training was never this much fun!

Training is now underway for volunteer drivers who will operate the vehicle and be able to help passengers identify wildlife along the way, as well as share the history of the Refuge and information about Refuge operations.  Volunteer applications to become tram drivers are still being accepted; email the Friends  or call the Refuge, 903 786 2826.

Starting in November, regular tours will be scheduled, weather permitting, on Wednesdays and weekends.  Watch for schedule details.   Reservations for the tours, which will be limited initially to 8 adults, with additional room for up to 3 children, will be taken by phone during regular business hours.   Any unreserved seats on the tours may be filled by standbys at tour departure time.  Tours are free, but donations to the Friends of Hagerman Tram Fund will be accepted.

For maximum enjoyment of these tours, which will last approximately one hour, no smoking, no cell phone use, and no food will be allowed aboard.  Passengers will want to dress for the weather as the vehicle is totally open for best viewing!  This means bring a wrap!

Each person who tours on the C&E will say “Thanks, Carlos and Eulalia!”

Thursday, October 11, 2012

S-U-P-E-R S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y October 13

Spend the day, 9 am – 4 pm, October 13 -  or just an hour or two celebrating wildlife and nature at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, with free programs for all ages.  

Take a guided walk – for birds, butterflies or dragonflies 

Hear a nature talk – Shorebirds, Rainwater Harvesting, Using e-bird, Backyard Birds in Fall, Canoeing 101

Watch demos - fly-tying, use and care of binoculars  

Enjoy nature videos       

Craft a nature-themed project – feather guard for your window, wildflower seed bombs, and origami critters  

Learn bird “topography” as you assemble a bird picture

See the Blackland Prairie Raptors  

Kids, check your wingspan, line up at noon for a free butterfly or frog tattoo, while they last, then play Wildlife Bingo  

View the winning entries in this year’s photo contest and meet the photographers.  

Enjoy lunch provided by the Sherman Noon Lions or bring your own picnic.

Rain or shine, come on out to the Refuge this Saturday!

For complete schedule of events, see Activities on the Friends website

AND…  Hats off to the many volunteers and to those who support activities and projects of the Friends at the Refuge through memberships and gifts, and are making Super Saturday happen!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fields of Gold

Roadsides and fields in North Texas and at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge are glowing with “gold” at this time of year.  Several wildflower favorites are contributing to this fall palette.

Maximilian sunflower is a cheery yellow wildflower blooms that  from August to October and provides food for livestock, as a range plant, and seed and cover for wildlife.  Helianthus maximiliani Schrad., called Maximilian sunflower, Max sunflower and Michaelmas-daisy, was named for the German explorer and naturalist, Prince Maximilian, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center native plant data-base.  Maximilian explored the Great Plains of the U.S. in 1832.

Maximilian sunflower, by Sue Malnory
Max sunflower is a prairie perennial native to the eastern U.S. and grows throughout the U. S. as an introduced species and ornamental.  Recognizable by multiple blooms along the unbranched, upright stalk It grows from 24” to 10’ tall, and reproduces by seed and by sprouting from the rhizome, which is edible.  In addition to seed, it also provides nectar for bees and butterflies.

Also in the aster family is Gutierrezia sarothrae (Pursh) Britt. & Rusby, with common names that include Broom snakeweed, Kindlingweed, Matchbrush, Texas snakeweed, Broomweed, Turpentine weed.  Growing from 1 – 3’ tall, it is a small shrub-like plant covered in tiny yellow flowers.  By bloom time the lower leaves have dropped off, giving it a delicate appearance. 

Broomweed, by Dick Malnory

Broomweed is native throughout much of the western U.S. and blooms from August – November.  It reproduces by seed, and provides nectar for bees and butterflies and seed for birds.  Dried plants can be tied together to fashion a “broom”.

Another yellow autumn wildflower, one that is considered a “bad actor” by many, is Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis L., also called Canada goldenrod, Canadian goldenrod, Tall goldenrod, or Giant goldenrod.  Goldenrod is blamed for causing allergic reactions each fall, but according to NPIN, the reactions are caused mainly by pollen from the ragweed plant that blooms at the same time.

Goldenrod, by Dick Malnory
Goldenrod grows 3 – 6’ tall, and like the Maximilian sunflower, is perennial.  It provides nectar for bees and butterflies, and produces seeds.  It will grow in most any soil and is tolerant of dry or moist conditions,   Goldenrod is  a native plant found  in Canada and across the U. S. and blooms September – November.

So, using the phrase in a different context, "Go for the Gold"  and enjoy the view.

"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house.  So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air."
-  Nathaniel Hawthorne

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Before the Birds: Family Names at Hagerman NWR

By Doug Raasch
(Originally published in the Featherless Flyer, July, 2009)

When is Goode good ?  Maybe Goode is goody.   No dude, Goode is gewed.  Look at Steedman Marsh, but pronounce Steedman as Steadman.  We have Deaver Pond and Dunning Pond, but don’t forget those Derby Ponds.  OK, enough of that.

The more you use Hagerman Wildlife Refuge, the more you become familiar with the names that define and identify geographic points.  In the early 1940’s, small family farms grew a little cotton, grazed a few cows, fattened a hog, gathered chicken eggs, and most of all, raised children.  Those farmers that tired of the toil, moved to the small but bustling town of Hagerman.  Unfortunately, while this little town was a good place for a railroad switch, it was also a perfect spot to build a lake.

As World War II was expanding, huge Lake Texoma was filling with runoff from 91,430 square miles up the meandering Red River.  When Harold Ickes established a wildlife refuge in February, 1946, it was apparent that the little farms and the little town lost the race for survival.  Migrating waterfowl were the winners and still rule to this day.  Oddly enough, there is nothing bearing the name of Ickes.  Ickes Pond ?? Ickes Marsh ??  Harold’s name is a bummer for titles.

As the local folks abandoned their homesteads, the family names were left behind to become eternal markers on the maps of the refuge.  Area cemeteries hold the familiar names on the grave stones.  The grave of J.P. Smith, the father of Hagerman town, overlooks the Hagerman cemetery.  Georgetown cemetery holds the  long and prosperous line of the Goode family.  The Steedman family has burial plots in Mt. Tabor and West Hill cemeteries. 

Fortunately, a number of descendants of the early settlers still live in the area.  They are a diverse and interesting group, friendly and willing to discuss what they know about families in the area.  Violet Jones Bruce and her brother Herschel Jones remember Hagerman as a near perfect place to grow up.  Their father worked for the KATY railroad and made the decision to move to town in a house across the street from the school.  Since their front yard was a playground,  Vi and Herschel always had ball games available.  Vi rode a goat to school once, but when high school came, brother and sister took the bus to Denison high school.  One of the main events that the people of Hagerman looked forward to was the “hog killin’”. This get-together provided the opportunity for trading, which was Daddy Jones true calling.  Cars, cows, horses, canned food and any other necessity came from his shrewd bargaining.

Dr. Carlos Araoz and his late wife, Eulalia Steedman Araoz, are Life Members of the Friends of Hagerman.  Eulalia’s family history traces back to L.A. Steedman and wife Lilly Jane who left Sherman in 1908 to farm the area around Deaver Switch.  L.A.’s father was a Grayson County judge for eight years beginning in 1888.  The post office at Steedman, Texas was located in the family home.  The year 1907 marked the formation of the Hagerman Independent School District.  In 1920, a two story brick school house was completed to accommodate the three teachers with the names Steedman, Ballard, and Goode.  The upper floor of the school house became a meeting place and a cultural center for the north Texas area, featuring debates, literary societies, music, and plays.  The last program took place in 1942, with Lake Texoma threatening just outside. 

Gerald Payne is a descendant of the Goode Family and has direct connection to the refuge.  Gerald explained that the Goode family lost most of their farm to Hagerman refuge, but his family still owns 97 acres along the boundary near the Refuge Road entrance. 

E.Y. Goode moved from Kentucky to Grayson County in a covered wagon.  E.Y. eventually bought 2500 acres of land and became the Chisom Trail Cattle Inspector.   He had the power of attorney to confiscate cattle judged to be stolen and return them to their rightful owners.  The Goode family farm eventually covered the area that became Perrin Field.  After building a 14 room house, the farm became the 55 Ranch.  E.Y. was one of the original owners of the M & P Bank.

Other farms that have familiar names are Curtis Terry (Terry Lane);  Wiley Dunning (Dunning Pond); Daucy Harris (Harris Creek);  John Ballard (Cedar of Lebanon);  Richard Meyers (Meyers Creek).  
The next time you plan an outing at Hagerman, look for the ghost of the characters that make up the history of the refuge.

ED Note:  Doug Raasch, long time volunteer at the Refuge and original author of the popular trail guide series now has a trail named in his honor.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

American White Pelicans

The following entries are excerpted from the  Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Weekly Bird Census Highlights for 2011, by Jack Chiles:
  • September 20, 2011

About 300 American White Pelicans on the lake visible from Wildlife Drive.
  • September 27, 2011

2 American White Pelicans on shore of lake
  • October 4, 2011

3000 or so American White Pelicans in the shallows of the lake at least 1/2 mile north of the tip of Plover pad.
  • October 11, 2011

The American White Pelicans are still here in good numbers.
  • October 18, 2011

…Pelicans and American Avocets still hanging around.

  • October 25, 2011

300 American White Pelicans … on the lake.

  • November 1, 2011

2000+ American White Pelicans.
  •  November 8, 2011

250 American White Pelicans.

  • November 15, 2011

Just 1 American White Pelican.

Thanks to Jack’s report we have a picture of the swings in population of the American White Pelican at Hagerman NWR during the fall migration.  Pelicans were sighted and photographed at HNWR last weekend, so the 2012 fall migration is now underway.

American White Pelican, by Dick Malnory
American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) breed in the Northern Plains and in Canada, according to Lives of North American Birds, by Kenn Kaufman, and winter along the  California and US Gulf of Mexico coasts.  Their large size (wingspan is 9’) and distinctive bill make them easy to recognize and the subject of cartoons and parodies such as this one by Dixon Lanier Merritt:

               “A wonderful bird is the pelican, His mouth can hold more than his belly can,
               He can hold in his beak
               Enough food for a week.
               I’m damned if I know how the hell he can!”

That famous bill has some interesting characteristics.  It allows for catching and storing fish and is sufficiently sensitive that the birds can locate fish at night by touch.  The bill allows water to be drained before the fish is swallowed.  According to The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, pelicans exercise the pouch to maintain elasticity.  And during breeding season the pouch become brightly colored.

Pelican "Poucher-cize" by Eileen Sullivan

Another interesting aspect of the American White Pelican is their coordinated fishing.  They can be seen swimming in one or more lines, “herding” fish into the shallows for an easy catch.  Most often found in fresh water, they eat primarily fish and crayfish.

Be sure to visit the Refuge this fall to see the American White Pelican!

You can purchase a copy of the HNWR Weekly Bird Census Highlights for 2011 in the Friends of Hagerman Nature Nook at the Refuge.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Leaving Hagerman

On July 29, Drs. Peggy Redshaw and Jerry Lincecum led History Day at Hagerman NWR, with former town and area residents sharing memories of life in the town that was replaced by Lake Texoma.  Today's post from Peggy and Jerry is one of the History Day  follow-up stories:

          Claud Crook has one of the most interesting stories about leaving Hagerman in 1943, shortly before the waters of Lake Texoma swallowed up the town.  At the age of six in September 1942, Claud entered First Grade in Hagerman School.  He remembers the three-story school building, with an auditorium on the top floor.  Even before he started to school, Claud had occasionally recited a short poem for a PTA meeting held in that auditorium.  He had older siblings in school and they would bring home literary pieces which his mother would help him memorize.

          By the time Claud entered school the enrollment was pretty low, since the completion of Denison Dam and flooding of land around Big Mineral Creek was anticipated.  Claud’s father worked on the MKT section crew which was constructing a new spur line to replace the one running into Hagerman.  He borrowed $100 to buy the rent house his family lived in there in Hagerman and hired a moving company to transport it into Pottsboro, where he had purchased a lot from Austin Harshbarger (with more borrowed money).

          The Hagerman school remained open until Christmas Break in 1942, and Denison Dam was completed about the same time.  So in early January, the Crook’s house was jacked up by the movers, with all their possessions still inside, and they spent one more night in the house there in Hagerman (in the middle of a road).  The next day the house was moved into Pottsboro, but still not placed on the lot.  So the family slept in the house a second night “on the road”.

          There was another complication as the movers started to place the house at its new location in Pottsboro, on what is now East St., not far from the school.  The wheels of the truck hauling the house got stuck in some soft dirt.   Completing the job required help from a man who brought in a county road grader to get the house moving again.

          Claud and his family were now residents of Pottsboro, and he joined a First Grade class there, with a different teacher and nobody he knew.  It was like starting school all over again.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

For Second Saturday, September 8

In the spring of 2007 a new program was offered at the Refuge, by the Friends of Hagerman – Second Saturday.  Getting the word out was a challenge and for the first year or so attendance did not set any records, to say the least!  But gradually a lot of people found out about this great resource for nature information and you could say that Second Saturday had arrived.

Month by month a wonderful variety of program topics have been presented by interesting and knowledgeable speakers, many willing to come again and again to share their expertise and experiences with us.  Especially heavy hitters have been Dr. Wayne Meyer and his colleagues in the Austin College Biology Department.  And for September, Wayne has been instrumental in arranging for a “homecoming” for Second Saturday.

Dr. Charles R. Brown, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Tulsa, will present Social Behavior of Cliff Swallows: Insights from a 30-Year Study.  Brown is a native of Sherman, and became interested in birds at age 11 when he began studying Purple Martins.  He birded extensively at Hagerman through junior high, high school, and college.  Long-time residents may recall a bird column in the then Sherman Democrat, penned by Brown as a youngster.

Brown received a B.A. in biology from Austin College and a Ph.D. in biology from Princeton University.  He was on the faculty at Yale University before joining the University of Tulsa in 1994.  Brown has been doing a long-term study of cliff swallow social behavior and ecology in western Nebraska since 1982.  He is the recipient of the American Ornithologists’ Union’s Elliot Coues Award in 2009 and the Animal Behavior Society’s Exemplar Award in 2011.

Also set for September 8:

Second Saturday for Youth program, Learn About Fish, for ages 4 – 10, from 10 – 11:30 am, offering hands-on nature crafts and games.  Children under age 6 must be accompanied by a parent or other responsible adult.  Please make a reservation for each child by calling the refuge at 903-786-2826 by 3 pm Friday, September 7, or  by using  Contact on  the Friends website.

The Friends of Hagerman Nature Photography Club will meet at 12:30 pm, Audio/Visual Classroom, FOH Center, with a program by Sally Papin on using layers to create art from photos.  The theme for sharing is “Landscapes,” with the option of using HDR for your image.  

Thanks to our gracious volunteer presenters and to Friends memberships and donations, all Second Saturday activities are free of charge and open to the public.  Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Big Mineral Arm of Lake Texoma. 

For more information, call the refuge or visit

Click Second Saturday to see a complete list of programs through the years.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Purple Prose

Following the theme of last week’s post, let’s look at more late summer wildflowers –  blooms for this group are all  in the purple family, color-wise – Eryngo, Obedient Plant, and Gregg’s Mistflower,

First, Eryngo: Eryngium leavenworthii Torr. & Gray.  As described by Native Plant Information Network, (NPIN),  the Native Plant Database for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Eryngo is a prickly, showy annual with a leafy stem, blue or purple bloom in late summer, in fact almost the whole plant, which stands 1’ – 3’ tall, shows color (photo by Wayne Meyer).  Watch for it now in fields at HagermanNational Wildlife Refuge and along the roadsides in the area, striking against a backdrop of Snow-on-the Prairie or contrasting with Sunflowers. Eryngo looks like a thistle but is not; it is in the Carrot family.  The plants are deer resistant, for those whose gardens have unwanted deer visitors, and provide nectar for insects and seed for birds.

Obedient Plant:  Physostegia virginiana (L.) Benth.  Also called False Dragonhead and Fall Obedient Plant, NPIN says this plant is a perennial, with the typical square stems of the Mint family.  Visitors to the Refuge can see it blooming lavender, in the Native Plant Garden (photo by Sue Malnory).  Blooms may also be white to purple. This is a great plant to interest children in gardening, as the flowers can be turned on the stem and will stay in the new position for some time, hence the name, Obedient plant.  The plants are a nectar source for hummingbirds and butterflies and are deer resistant.

Gregg’s Mistflower:  Conoclinium greggii (Gray) Small.  Also in the Aster family, this plant can be seen in the Native Plant Garden (photo by Becky Goodman) at the Refuge and is a butterfly magnet. It is documented by NPIN as attracting Queen butterflies in Fall and as a larval food source for Rawsons Metalmark.  It has puffy lavender flowers heads, grows from 1’ – 3’ tall, blooms from spring to fall, spreads easily and unlike the others described above, provides deer browse. Mistflower may also be known as Palmleaf thoroughwort, Palm-leaf mistflower, Palm-leaf thoroughwort, Purple palmleaf mistflower, Purple palmleaf eupatorium.