Thursday, March 29, 2012

Great Horned Hoot

Marolyn and I were leaving Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge after an afternoon of photography and a beautiful sunset when we noticed the silhouette of a Great Horned Owl in the top of a tree about 75 yards away, just outside the refuge boundaries.  It was quite dark now but I thought I would attempt a photograph anyway.  To our surprise the owl hooted.  Just for kicks I made an attempt to hoot back.  Again to our surprise, the owl answered me.  We went back and forth for a few hoots when the owl stared right at me and flew right toward our vehicle.   He flew right over our car and landed in the woods behind us.  I hooted again and he hooted back and flew closer.  He didn't seem to be happy with another "owl" in his territory.


This was the first time we had actually seen a Great Horned Owl hoot, although we had heard them on many evenings.  Marolyn and I realized we had never seen a photo of a Great Horned Owl hooting.  

The owl would lean forward, raise its tail, expand its throat, and hoot.  We were amazed at how soft the sound is even though it carries so well in the quiet woods.  The white feathers on its neck are barely visible until it hoots.  I assume it's a display to either attract females or warn other males.

Notice how dilated the owl's eyes are - an indication of just how dark it was. 

This whole experience lasted less than 10 minutes.  As always, our objective is to observe, not disturb, so we drove away suspecting the owl was convinced he had successfully defended his turf.

As much time as Marolyn and I spend in the wild, there are alway new sights and animal behavior to see and experience.

Post by Marolyn & Skeeter Lasuzzo
Photos by Skeeter Lasuzzo

For more photos of wildlife, information about Hagerman NWR and activities there, see

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Get Together with Friends at the Refuge

Make new friends, and keep the old!  That is just what the Friends of Hagerman are hoping to do at the 2012 Annual Meeting, set for 10 am on Saturday, March 24, in the Audio Visual Classroom, FOH Center, at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge

The Annual Meeting is an opportunity for members to celebrate the accomplishments of the organization for the calendar year 2011, the 6th year for the group.  In addition, Kathy Whaley, Refuge Manager, will present “The State of the Refuge” and directors will be elected by the general membership of the Friends.

The Friends were incorporated as a non-profit group in August, 2005; their mission:  to instill reverence, respect and conservation of our wild creatures and habitats through supporting environmental education, recreational activities, and programs of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, Sherman, Texas, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In 2008 the process of updating the bylaws began and in 2009 the board of directors was enlarged to the present 14 directors, with committees organized for programs, fundraising, communication, membership, and more.

Late in 2009 a Nature Photo Club was begun through the auspices of the Friends, and in 2010, the Nest Box Committee was formed and the Nature Nook Committee was added, to begin planning for the future book and gift shop.  

Each of these changes has brought about new opportunities and ways to be involved and increased support for the Refuge and its work.  So whether you are a long-time Friend, a new Friend, or would like to become a Friend, come on out to the Annual Meeting. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Snakes Alive

St. Patrick, whose “holy day” will be celebrated March 17th, was credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland. Recently a gentleman came to the Refuge wanting to release snakes there that he had captured on a golf course. NOT! We began wondering what other rules and laws there are about this type of thing, and asked Hagerman NWR Manager, Kathy Whaley to update us. Here is Kathy’s information:

Snakes are considered non-game wildlife in Texas, and are not protected by law. However, it is unlawful to capture any species of wildlife on public lands without a permit, or along roadways and road edges. In addition, protected species of wildlife may not be captured or possessed without a special permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. On the Refuge, no wildlife may be captured without a Special Use Permit issued by the Refuge Manager. Permits are issued on a very limited basis for scientific research only.

Texas law protects 12 species of snakes which are considered to be threatened with or in imminent danger of extinction of local populations, or of the species as a whole. These threatened and endangered species are protected by law from hunting or harassment. You can find the list at

Since 2008, a permit from Texas Parks and Wildlife has been required for the sale, transport or recreational ownership of exotic snakes ( Exotics include venomous snakes not native to Texas, several species of python, and one species of anaconda. Releasing these snakes into the wild is also prohibited.

Even though they usually get a bad rap, snakes are a very important part of the natural ecosystem and play a critical role in the balance of nature. Small snakes feed on many harmful bugs and insects while larger ones eat rats, mice, and other rodents that can destroy crops or damage property by chewing. Without snakes, the world would literally be completely overrun by rodents! Snakes also serve as a food source for larger predators such as hawks, owls, herons, and carnivores including bobcats and coyotes. On occasion, some snakes will even consume other snakes.

As with any relationship, it’s all about respect. A snake doesn’t want to be any closer to you than you do to it. Learn to identify poisonous snakes and keep your distance – enjoying the view from afar.

National Wildlife Refuges

It is illegal to release any type of wild or domestic animal on a National Wildlife Refuge. The reason for this is to make sure that animals not native to the area are not introduced to possibly start a population (such as what happened in the Florida Everglades with pythons). The other important reason is that wild animals brought in from another location can transmit diseases such as rabies, distemper, or hemorrhagic disease to previously healthy Refuge wildlife.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Photo, Rough Green Snake, by Rick Cantu

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Get Set for Second Saturday at Hagerman NWR - March 10

· 8 am, Nature Walk with Dr. Wayne Meyer on one of the trails at the Refuge, weather permitting. Meet at the FOH Center. You may want to bring binoculars, camera, field guides, and dress for the weather.

· 9:30 am - Noon, Red River Seed Bombs owner Carolyn Grissom will be in the Nature Nook in the Visitor Center to teach you how to “guerilla garden”! Seed bombs will be for sale in the Nature Nook.

· 10 am - Noon, Hummingbirds with Mark Klym, Visitor Center. Mark is the coordinator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife hummingbird programs and can help you get ready for the “jewels of the air”. Mark is co-author of Hummingbirds of Texas and will be selling and signing books following his presentation.

· 10 – 11:30 am, the Second Saturday for Youth topic is also Hummingbirds. Reservations are needed for the children’s program; please call the Refuge, 903 786 2826 to make sure there is still space for your child. For ages 4 – 10, with parents accompanying those 6 and under.

· 12:30 pm – Friends of Hagerman Nature Photo Club meeting, in the Classroom of the FOH Center. There will be a presentation on photographing wildflowers, and photo sharing. Bring a bag lunch and make it a day at the Refuge!

Programs listed are free and open to the public, sponsored by Hagerman NWR and the Friends of Hagerman. There are nominal dues for photo club but no charge for visitors.

AND – we need your help! We are collecting empty (and clean) margarine tubs, yogurt cups and similar containers to use to hold the fish-bait we will be distributing at Fishing with Kids, at the Refuge, 9 am –Noon, March 31. When you visit the Refuge between now and March 31, if you can, please bring these items, even one or two from enough people will do the job, and THANKS!! See you at the Refuge.

Photo: Mark Klym at Hummingbird Festival (courtesy photo).

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Purest Water in the World

This week we take a look back in time, with an article from Cliff Lewis, "The Flowing Well". Mr. Lewis came by the Visitor Center at Hagerman NWR recently and shared his memories about the Hagerman area, including this information which he later wrote up for the history notebook at the Center.

The Flowing Well, by Cliff Lewis

There are many stories about this place. Like other folklore, some are true, some have been enhanced over the years as they have been passed down from person to person. The following is what I have been told and what I have read about THE Flowing Well.

Most, if not all people refer to the well as “flowing wells” – probably because it is in an area where there are many wells that do, or did, flow. Thus the term “wells” came about. In several articles written about the well, the term “big well” is used, and that refers to the “flowing well”.

The origin of the “big well” is a good story. A man was digging for coal when he hit water. That was the artesian well that came to be known and The Flowing Well, northwest of Pottsboro. The well was finished out with a 10-inch pipe about four feet high; water bubbled out at least three inches above the top of the pipe. The pipe was anchored in concrete, and it was said that the well flowed about 20 gallons of water every five seconds.

Many changes were made to the well over the years. To make it easier to get water, a wooden platform was built around the pipe, and a trough placed at the bottom of the well to catch the water, so the horse drawn wagons could be pulled up to fill barrels.

My great-grandfather, C. B. Starnes came to Texas in 1879. In 1884 he bought 138 acres of land that contained the “flowing well”. Some years later, my grandfather, G. M. Lewis, had the first store at the Big Well. It was southeast of the well, near the west bank of Big Mineral Creek. In fact, it was an overflow of the creek that flooded the store and Grandpa was out of business. In 1919 Mr. T. A. Anderson built a new store there, and it did well for some time.

There are newspaper articles about the 4th of July picnics that were held at the Big Well, and weekend camping by “city folks”. There is one story about a summer snowstorm that happened on July 4th. My older brother, sister and cousins tell how they liked to go down to the well when the city folk would come out. The ladies with their pretty dresses and high heel shoes, would step upon the wooden platform around the well – the platform would be wet and slick…they saw many a good fall, pretty dresses and all!

My older brother talked about having to haul water from the well for Grandma and Grandpa Lewis and other family members. This would be an all-day job. Many families in the area also hauled way this way. It has been said that about 150 families depended on water from that first well, which was checked by the state lab and called the “purest water in the world”. Folks would come from miles around to get a drink of the cool clear spring water flowing from about 250 feet below ground. The local gentry tell about how good the water was, some even said it is “mineral” water, as are other wells in the area. My older sister would go to one of the wells near old Hagerman and get her mineral water.

Photo - Flowing Well, from Refuge files

Our thanks to Mr.Lewis and others who have shared information about the history of the area. For additional history, see the "Refuge Page" on the Friends of Hagerman website.