Post and photos by Skip Hill
It was a typical Thursday morning at Hagerman and my day to monitor the Bluebird houses on the Harris Creek Trail. I arrived around 9:30 and went into the Visitor Center to get the bucket of goodies we use for monitoring the trails. I had a relaxed and enjoyable time driving the golf cart along the trails while checking out the 35 boxes along the way. Finally I finished up and headed back to the Visitor Center to return the bucket and cool off.
It was now around 12:30 and hot outside, and I was getting very hungry. It felt very good inside the Visitor Center. I washed up and while I was enjoying the coolness of the air-conditioning I was visiting with Lee Hatfield, the Nature Nook volunteer for the day. She had a really nice camera sitting under the counter and being a fellow photographer I asked her about it. She told me a little about the camera and said she had gotten to the Refuge early to drive around and take some photos. Lee said she had gotten some shots of the Bar-Headed Goose. I told her I had never heard of that Goose and she said she had looked it up in the reference manual we keep on the counter and discovered that it was from India. No idea how it got here but here it was. We talked about it for awhile then she got busy with visitors and I was really getting hungry so I headed back to town. I had an errand to run in Denison before going home to eat and it was already 1:00. I was almost all the way to Hwy 289 when I talked myself into
putting the errand off until tomorrow, holding off on lunch a little longer and going back to
Hagerman to find that Bar-Headed Goose.
I was driving down Wildlife drive at 1:30 thinking how I never see the good stuff this time of the day and maybe I was wasting my time. Lee told me she had photographed the goose on Egret Drive so that’s where I turned. Way up ahead of me I saw, what looked like a Coyote ambling down the middle of the road. As I got closer it dove into the brush along the shore. I lost him but stopped where he went in and since it was a pad road I knew he couldn't go far. I looked along the shore and then out in the water and found him. The coyote had jumped into the pond and swum the short distance to the shallows on the other side. He looked like he was enjoying to coolness of the water but a little perturbed at me for being there.
I was very excited since I had never seen a coyote out on the pads. I took a few more photos before he got in the tall grass on the other side and I could no longer see him. I continued on with my “Quest for the Bar-head” but got to the end of the road with no luck and headed back towards Wildlife Drive. As I got closer to the end of Egret Drive I noticed something in the road again and thought the coyote had returned but soon discovered it was a raccoon. It was digging in the gravel and eating something and not very interested in me so I was able to get some good shots of him.
I have been coming to Hagerman for a long time and this was the first Raccoon I have seen here. He finally got leery of my lurking around and jumped into the thick grass and scurried out of site. I had not found the Goose but had lots of new experiences so I was thinking it was time to call it a day. By this time it was pushing 2:00 and I had to get home. I quickly drove to Plover Drive in a last ditch effort to find him but no luck there either.
I headed up the road towards the Visitor Center and was just getting ready to leave when I decided to try Egret Drive one more time. I turned around and as I drove up the road, this one last time, a group of Cormorants drew my attention because they were doing the thing where they were all perched on a fallen tree out in the water and they looked like they were on bleachers watching a sporting event.
As I was photographing them something flew by that caught my eye. Oh my gosh! It was the Bar-Headed Goose! I looked up and saw it flying in a holding pattern over a group of Canada Geese in the pond near me and the Cormorants. The Cormorants looked as surprised as I was. I was able to get some quick shots of him in the air and then some more when he landed among the Canada Geese. I probably got 20 photos of him but couldn't tear myself away. I finally stopped photographing and just sat there and watch as he dipped his head in the water and groomed himself along with all the Canada Geese. He looked like he was having a good time and I was getting tired of hearing my stomach growling at me so I headed home.
My family and I have been visiting and photographing Hagerman for many years and most times, just when you think there is nothing special going on and the wildlife is kind of slow, out pops something that makes it all worthwhile.
Always something at Hagerman!