Thursday, December 26, 2013

Twelve Days of Winter at Hagerman NWR

On the first day of winter, at Hagerman we see - one Bald Eagle in a dead tree.

On the second day of winter, at Hagerman we see - two Red-tails soaring and one Bald Eagle in a dead tree.

On the third day of winter, at Hagerman we see - three Harriers harrying, two Red-tails soaring, and one Bald Eagle in a dead tree.

On the fourth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - four leaping Deer, three Harriers harrying, two Red-tails soaring, and one Bald Eagle in a dead tree.

On the fifth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - five Hiking Trails, four leaping Deer, three Harriers harrying, two Red-tails soaring, and one Bald Eagle in a dead tree.

On the sixth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - six Warblers warbling, five Hiking Trails, four leaping Deer, three Harriers harrying, two Red-tails soaring, and one Bald Eagle in a dead tree.

On the seventh day of winter, at Hagerman we see - seven Shovelers shoveling, six Warblers warbling, five Hiking Trails, four leaping Deer, three Harriers harrying, two Red-tails soaring, and one Bald Eagle in a dead tree.

On the eighth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - eight Birders birding, seven Shovelers shoveling, six Warblers warbling, five Hiking Trails, four leaping Deer, three Harriers harrying, two Red-tails soaring, and one Bald Eagle in a dead tree.

On the ninth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - nine Herons fishing, eight Birders birding, seven Shovelers shoveling, six Warblers warbling, five Hiking Trails, four leaping Deer, three Harriers harrying, two Red-tails soaring, and one Bald Eagle in a dead tree.

On the tenth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - ten Pintails dabbling,  nine Herons fishing, eight Birders birding, seven Shovelers shoveling, six Warblers warbling, five Hiking Trails, four leaping Deer, three Harriers harrying, two Red-tails soaring, and one Bald Eagle in a dead tree.

On the eleventh day of winter, at Hagerman we see - eleven Geese-a-browsing, ten Pintails dabbling,  nine Herons fishing, eight Birders birding, seven Shovelers shoveling, six Warblers warbling, five Hiking Trails, four leaping Deer, three Harriers harrying, two Red-tails soaring, and one Bald Eagle in a dead tree.

On the twelfth day of winter, at Hagerman we see - twelve Bluebird boxes, eleven Geese-a-browsing, ten Pintails dabbling,  nine Herons fishing, eight Birders birding, seven Shovelers shoveling, six Warblers warbling, five Hiking Trails, four leaping Deer, three Harriers harrying, two Red-tails soaring, and one Bald Eagle in a dead tree.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Big Chill

Icy Refuge by Skip Hill
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge was iced in much of the first half of December, 2013, and when roads became passable once again, visitors found that the geese had headed for greener fields and the ducks had moved elsewhere also.  The wheat fields were totally frozen over, and there was ice on the marshes.  Even the birders stayed home and there was no Tuesday bird census, for December 10, 2013.

Those attending the Second Saturday program on Winter Waterfowl at Hagerman NWR got a great education from Dr. Wayne Meyer, but did not get to view the expected huge flocks of geese and the many species of ducks normally seen at the Refuge in December.

Then on Sunday afternoon about 3 p.m., voila’ – a large flight of geese soared over the lake and settled back in Big Mineral!  What a thrill to view!  Welcome home to our star winter attraction!  The numbers are not back to pre-ice levels, but on the December 17, 2013 bird census reported by Jack Chiles,  we see:

Snow Goose  1000
Ross's Goose  1000
Snow/Ross's Goose  2200
Gadwall  71
American Wigeon  67
Mallard  66
Northern Shoveler  96
Northern Pintail  145
Green-winged Teal  78
Canvasback  22
Redhead  28
Ring-necked Duck  3
Lesser Scaup  2
Bufflehead  6
Common Goldeneye  1
Hooded Merganser  27
Ruddy Duck  82

Geese in Flight by Johnny Beall
Hopefully the moisture from the melted ice and sleet will get the wheat growing again so that the geese can remain now at the Refuge until time to depart for the nesting season! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Northern Cardinals Cheer the Landscape

Northern Cardinals, or “redbirds”, are flocking to North Texas backyard bird feeders this week, and are an especially cheery sight with their red or reddish brown plumage contrasting so well with the snow and ice covered trees and lawns.  The bright red color makes them a favorite subject for holiday cards  also. 

Northern Cardinals at HNWR by Charlie Hernandez
Cornell’s All About Birds has this to say about Cardinals:  
The male Northern Cardinal is perhaps responsible for getting more people to open up a field guide than any other bird. They’re a perfect combination of familiarity, conspicuousness, and style: a shade of red you can’t take your eyes off. Even the brown females sport a sharp crest and warm red accents.
Northern Cardinals do not migrate and are found primarily in the Eastern half of the United States, as well as in Texas and Arizona, and in Mexico and Central America.   During the 2012 Christmas Bird Count at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge,  213 cardinals were reported.

Cardinals mainly eat seeds and fruit and also insects.  Hands down, sunflower seed are their favorite at the backyard feeder.  While large numbers of cardinals may be seen in flocks much of the year, when breeding season begins they fiercely defend their territory. They will nest in shrubs in residential areas as well as in the wild; cardinals may have one or two broods in a season, with 2 -5 eggs in a clutch.

The cardinal is a popular choice as a mascot for athletic teams and has been chosen as the state bird for seven states.  According to Word IQ  the bird's name comes from the red-robed Roman Catholic Cardinals. Its crested head is also said to resemble a bishop's mitre

These colorful birds were once sold for caged pets but this became illegal  with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

A note about the photo - Hernandez always enjoys photographing the cardinals at the Refuge when he visits, as they are not normally seen in his home state of California.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Art for Wildlife

Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling was a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist who became famous for his witty commentary on the many different subjects that concerned the U.S.   In both 1924 and 1942, Darling won a Pulitzer prize for his work, back in an era when newspapers were the predominant media.

An avid hunter and fisherman, Darling became alarmed at the loss of wildlife habitat and possible extinction of many species, and began working this theme into his cartoons.  In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Darling Director of the U. S. Biological Survey, the forerunner of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  While Director, Darling initiated the Federal Duck Stamp program and vastly increased the acreage of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

First Federal Duck Stamp, designed by J. N. Ding Darling
With the passage of the Migratory Bird Hunting Act, all waterfowl hunters 16 and older are required to buy a Federal Duck Stamp.  Proceeds from sales of these stamps have been used to purchase nearly 5 million acres for the protection of wildlife habitat.

Darling also designed the Blue Goose logo, the national symbol of the refuge system.  Rachel Carson, well-known author and scientist, wrote of the emblem 
“Wherever you meet this sign, respect it. It means that the land behind the sign has been dedicated by the American people to preserving for themselves and their children, as much of our native wildlife as can be retained along with our modern civilization.

The next time you visit Hagerman NWR, look for the  Blue Goose logo, and – if you have children with you – have their photo made with Puddles, in the Visitor Center!

J. N. Darling signed his cartoons with the nickname “Ding” which he created by  combining the first initial of his surname with the last three letters.  J. N. Ding Darling NWR, on Sanibel Island, was established in 1945 and named in his honor in 1947, due to his effort in blocking sale of the valuable habitat to developers.  

For further reading, The Ding Darling foundation recommends the biography, Ding: The Life of Jay Norwood Darlingby David L. Lendt. See also .

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Name That Goose!

Lift-off at Hagerman NWR, by Lee Hatfield
Geese have been arriving over the past few weeks to spend the winter at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and the huge flock, estimated this week at 10,000, is a popular sight for visitors there.   Here are two questions frequently asked, related to the geese, and answers to help identify the various species.

1.  “What do you mean Snow Goose or Ross’s Goose? They all look the same to me!”

That’s true, until you start looking more closely. Ross’s Geese are smaller than Snow Geese, but the relative size can be hard to distinguish when you are looking at a flock of a thousand or more white geese. Instead, look at the shape of the head and bill.

The Ross’s head is more rounded, with a stubby bill which appears thicker at the base. The border at the base of the bill is straight and vertical.  

Ross's Goose, by Rick Cantu
The head of the Snow Goose is more wedge-shaped, with a longer appearing bill. There is a black line between the upper and lower mandibles, or bill, known as a “grin patch”; the base of the bill is more curved that on the Ross’s.

Here are some memory cues – Snow Goose – sloping forehead; Ross’s Goose – round head.

Snow Geese, Blue Phase on left, by Rick Cantu
2.   “Okay, but what are those dark colored geese in with the ‘Snow Geese’”?

The dark colored geese with white heads are dark phase Snow Geese. These were once called the Blue Goose. They will not become white over time, but are a variation.  Dark phase is rare with Ross’s Geese.

A website that is helpful in learning these distinctions is

You may also see a small flock of grayish-brown geese with white foreheads alongside the white Snow and Ross’s geese; these would be the Greater White-fronted Geese shown below.

Photo by Dick Malnory
Next time you go out to see the geese, take your binoculars, or borrow some from the Visitor Center, so that you can take a close look at the head and bill shape and you will find that you can identify the different species!

The winter waterfowl at the Refuge will be the topic for both Youth FIRST, on December 7, and Second Saturday, on December 14, when Dr.  Wayne Meyer will give a presentation.  A guided tour, aboard a TAPS bus, along Wildlife Drive will be offered on both dates as part of the program.

For more information about activities at the Refuge, please check our website, . The official site for Hagerman NWR is

This post includes information from the post of December 2, 2010, by Dick Malnory.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Turkey Time

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin nominated the turkey to be the national bird for the United States of America?

And that President Abraham Lincoln started the tradition of a White House pardon for a turkey on Thanksgiving – the impetus? His son Tad made friends with the turkey that was to be on the Thanksgiving menu (later named Jack!)

The domestic turkey we are familiar with is descended from a subspecies that is now extinct.  There are five subspecies of the wild turkey: Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande (shown below), Merriam’s and Gould’s.

Wild Turkey at HNWR, by Jim Gay
The wild turkeys  at Hagerman NWR are Rio Grande (named for the general area in which they are found –the central plains states) and there are a number of flocks at the Refuge.  But, this has not always been the case. By the late 1800’s, turkeys throughout Texas had been hunted to very low numbers. Then hunters stepped in to support conservation and restoration, and now thanks to individuals, to legislation and to organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, hunting regulations and better habitat management practices have allowed turkey populations to steadily increase in most areas.    Now more than seven million wild turkeys roam America’s woodlands. 

 Several flocks of 100+ turkeys use habitat on and adjacent to the Refuge including brushy areas next to streams and the lake, or mixed oak forests near the creeks. At Hagerman, turkeys are sometimes visible along field edges or roadsides with trees and like to forage for insects and seeds in wooded areas.

An adult female turkey is called a hen. Hens generally weigh between 8 and 11 pounds. Female turkeys less than one year old are called a jenny. Like many other birds, the females’ feathers are more subdued in color than the males’, allowing them to better blend in with their surroundings.

Female turkeys weigh about 10 pounds while males tip the scales at closer to 20.   An adult male turkey is called a gobbler. The name comes from the sound they make in spring, to attract the hens during the mating season. Their iridescent feathers have a green-coppery sheen to them with the tips of the tail and lower back feathers being light tan. Male turkeys are known for their “beards” which are actually bristly tassels rather than feathers and grow for life instead of molting.  A male under one year in age is called a jake.

Wild turkeys can run or fly. They can run up to 19 mph for short distances. They usually fly only short distances but at speeds of  up to 55 mph. They prefer the borders between woodlands and field, which provide low cover for nesting, trees for roosting and for their food source.  Wild turkeys prefer to nest in grass or brush at least 18 inches tall and usually lay 10-11 eggs that hatch in 28 days.  The young turkeys (poults) are up and running behind the hen within the first 24 hours.   Generally ground dwellers, there is a high mortality rate on poults by critters including bobcats, foxes, snakes, raccoons, and hogs, so safe night roosting sites are critical to turkey survival. Turkeys typically seek trees that are 40 feet or taller and tend to roost in groups.

Young turkeys favor insects for their diet. As they mature, mast such as acorns, pecans and berries, along with various seeds and grains, becomes the primary diet for the wild turkey.

Although you may see turkeys any time of year, spring is an especially good time to look for these unique birds. Males can often be seen strutting around and fanning their tail feathers in hopes of impressing the ladies. When you visit Hagerman, keep an eye out for signs of wild turkeys by looking for scratching in the dirt or leaves, spotting their large three-toed foot print, or listen for gobbling sounds coming from the woods.

Wild turkeys are not migratory and often live out their life span within five miles of their hatching site.

Happy Turkey Day!

Material in this post has been combined from previously published posts, "Let's Talk Turkey",  by Refuge Manager Kathy Whaley (11-24-2009) and "Turkey Facts from the   National Wild Turkey Federation", (11-23-11).


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Geese at Hagerman NWR

From Jack Chiles' weekly bird census at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge:

Last year on November 6, 2012

Greater White-fronted Goose  115; Snow Goose  200; Ross's Goose  150

And - one year later, on November 5, 2013

Greater White-fronted Goose  50; Snow Goose  150; Ross's Goose  18

Last year, on November 13, 2012

Greater White-fronted Goose  280; Snow Goose  2300; Ross's Goose  2200; Cackling Goose  10;
Canada Goose  2

And, this week, on November 12, 2013

Greater White-fronted Goose  122; Snow Goose  112; Ross's Goose  100; Snow/Ross's Goose  2300;
Canada Goose  2

Finally, the third week of November, last year, on November 20, 2012

Greater White-fronted Goose  65; Snow/Ross's Goose  6000

Geese at HNWR, by Steve Frederickson

The numbers tell the story of what to expect at Hagerman NWR  in late fall.  Now for a few goose facts:

Geese – along with ducks and more – are called waterfowl in the U.S., and wildfowl in the UK, according to The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior.  They belong to the family of Anatidae, which encompasses many and varied species.  Geese are in the subfamily Ansinerae, along with swans.

There are six species of geese that breed in North America.  Summer habitat for the Snow Goose, some Canada Geese, and the Greater-White-fronted Goose is the far–northern .tundra, from the High Arctic to the sub-Arctic.  The smaller Ross’s Goose, which breeds in the Central Arctic, is also seen along with the Snow Geese at the Refuge.

Geese are herbivores, feeding on wetland plants and agricultural crops.  The Refuge prepares for the winter influx of geese by planting several hundred acres of wheat each October, for green browse. According to the Sibley Guide, Canada Geese have a bill that is suitable for clipping grasses and seeds, while the bill of the Snow Goose is for digging and cutting roots and tubers of marsh plants.

When Hagerman and Tishomingo national wildlife refuges were established, in 1946, one news article reported the hope that the new refuges would “hold” the migrating waterfowl and keep them off the Gulf Coast rice crops.
Along with swans and whistling ducks, geese have life-long pair bonds.

Snow Geese and Canada Geese may lay eggs in the nests of other geese or even those of other waterfowl species.  Snow Geese lay two – six eggs, with the female building and tending the nest, guarded by the male.  Families remain together during the young’s first winter.

Nests are built near water; then geese families move inland where grasses are more abundant once the chicks hatch.

High altitude migration, at 1000 – 5000 feet is common for geese and Sibley reports sightings of Snow Geese at 20,000 feet in altitude. Snow Geese migrate both by day and by night.

Snow Geese may be white or grayish brown with white heads (the Blue Goose), they are both the same species.

Hunting of Snow Geese was banned in the eastern US when their numbers declined dangerously, in the early 1900’s; now the number has rebounded and they are said to be in danger of overpopulating their habitat.

The oldest Snow Goose on record was age 27-1/2.

Those who enjoy the thrill of hearing the geese can listen to various calls on this site by All About Birds.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

D is for Deer

Does at HNWR, by Dana Handy

Thanks to Google and the multitude of white-tailed deer sites on the Internet, we were able to compile a Deer Alphabet this week.

A is for antler – and annual – male deer have antlers which are shed annually (only reindeer and caribou females have antlers)

B is for buck – the adult male deer

C is for coat – for the white-tail deer, the species found at Hagerman NWR, the coats are reddish in summer and gray (and heavier) in winter

D is for doe – the adult female deer

E is for ears which the white-tail can rotate 180 degrees

F is for fawn - the young deer stay with their mothers for about two years

G is for grazing – deer eat only plant life - grasses, leaves, twigs, acorns, etc.

H is for hooves – deer are Artiodactyls; they have hooves and an even number of toes.

I is for inches –  racks, or the antlers,  are measured in inches

J is for jumping – deer can leap a barrier up to 10’ high and broad jump up to 30’

K is for kicking very hard with their legs in fight situations

L is for listening – deer have keen ears and can pick up high frequency sounds

M is for [ruminant] mammals, in the family Cervidae

N is for nose – the deer nose is about 100 times more sensitive than the human nose

O is for odor - deer can smell human scent on underbrush for days after the person leaves the area

P is for points on the antlers, also called tines

Q is for quick – deer can sprint up to 30 mph

R is for rut – the mating season which lasts from about October to January

S is for scent glands in the feet and legs of the deer which help communicate with other deer along a trail

T is for territory - a buck will mark his territory by stomping on the ground to make "scrapes" on the land and rubbing his antlers on trees ("buck rub")

U is for United States – white-tailed deer are native to much of the U.S.

V is for vision – with eyes on the sides of their head, deer have a 310 degree view

W is for the white of the White-tailed deer tail, which the deer can raise to signal danger

X is for Deer Crossing (bet you thought we would not get this one!) – deer crossings are hazardous for both deer and drivers - it is estimated that 1.5 million cars collide with deer annually

Y is for young deer – their coat is reddish brown with white spots, for camouflage, which fade as the first winter coat grows

Z is for making deer z’s – often bedding by laying on their right side and facing downwind, in order to  detect danger approaching from any direction

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Owl-o-ween at HNWR

Great Horned Owl at HNWR, by Mike Chiles
Happy Owl-o-ween!  Although 8 species of owls have been seen at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, the most frequently seen owls at Hagerman  are listed in the Bird Checklist only as “Occasional” or seen a few times in a season; they are the Eastern Screech Owl, the Great Horned Owl, and the Barred Owl.  

Interesting facts about owls, from Texas Parks &Wildlife include:
  • Most owls are active primarily at twilight and by night.
  • Owl flight is silent, thanks to the combination of large wings, small bodies and special fringed and velvet textured feathers which deaden sound.
  • Owls have superb eyesight, between 35 and 100 times the sensitivity of the human eye, and excellent night vision.
  • Owl vision is binocular and while, unlike humans, the owl cannot rotate its eyeballs, it can rotate its neck from 180 degrees up to 270 degrees.
  • Owls have excellent hearing, with ear openings concealed behind the edges of the facial eye disks, which can be moved to listen in different directions.  Their hearing is specially tuned to detect high-frequency sounds made by prey.
  • Ear tufts do not play a part in the owl’s hearing; birds do not have protruding external ears.

Owls are credited with possessing great wisdom in myth and folklore, as in this short anonymous poem found on the TPWD site:
A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he saw the less he spoke,
The less he spoke the more he heard,
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird.

Owls have also been traditionally associated with evil spirits and Halloween, perhaps because of their eerie calls and night-time activity.  Have a little Halloween fun with these recorded owl calls from Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

This post was originally published on 10/31/2013.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Celebrating the Refuge

Observation of  National Wildlife Refuge Week – October 13 – 19 – was lost this year in the shutdown, but every day we can celebrate Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and all of the refuge system, which continues to become more and more important to wildlife the more new development takes place.

You could say we owe it all to the Egret! The early 1900’s saw the near-extinction of egrets, valued by hunters who could earn big bucks from the sale of plumes for ladies hats.  An ounce of feathers was said to be worth as much or more than an ounce of gold!

Snowy Egret in Breeding Plumage, by Donna Niemann
Then the Conservationist-in-Chief, President Theodore Roosevelt stepped up to the plate and established the first “bona fide” refuge,  setting aside federal land for the protection of these birds, and Pelican Island was officially termed a Federal Bird Reservation.  During this same period,  the conservation movement was picking up steam with support from groups such as the American Ornithologists Union and the National Association of Audubon Societies for legislation protecting non-game birds.

Today there are over 500 refuges across the US, protecting 150 million acres of land and water.  According to the National Wildlife Refuge System website,
National wildlife refuges provide habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species and more than 1,000 species of fish. More than 380 threatened or endangered plants or animals are protected on wildlife refuges. Each year, millions of migrating birds use refuges as stepping stones while they fly thousands of miles between their summer and winter homes.
In addition, more than 45 million visitors to refuges annually means that refuge are also a ”refuge for people” from everyday hustle and bustle and an opportunity for enriching experiences in a natural environment

Closer to home, Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1946 as an overlay of a portion of the Big Mineral arm of Lake Texoma in north-central Texas. The purpose of the approximately 12,000 acre Refuge is to provide and manage habitat for migratory birds, wildlife, and plants native to this area. A total of 338 species of birds, 36 species of mammals, 60 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 61 species of fish have been documented there, so far. The refuge also offers wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities, including wildlife observation and photography, fishing, hunting, and hiking, and educational programs, all carried out with respect to the goal that wildlife comes first.

Great Blue Silhouette, by Lee Hatfield
We are very thankful for Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and the refuge system!

Resources for  information given here:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Knock, Knock, Who’s There? Part III

Commonly seen year around at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is the Red-bellied Woodpecker.  The name is confusing, as the visible red is on the forehead, cap and nape of the adult male and on the nape and around the bill of the adult female, according to Cornell’s All About Birds, but the female does have a “red belly, usually concealed by surrounding gray feathers”.

Red-bellied Woodpecker at Hagerman NWR, by Miguel Mendoza
Good places to watch for Red-bellied Woodpeckers at the Refuge are Haller’s Haven Trail and the Big Mineral Picnic Area, where they may be found “hitching” along branches and trunks of trees.  Cornell's site notes that they will also visit backyard feeders for suet, peanuts and sometimes sunflower seeds.

In the Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior we find that all woodpeckers are cavity nesters, creating their own cavity in either living or dead wood, and typically lay 4 – 6 white eggs, which hatch in 11 – 14 day.  Most woodpeckers are monogamous and territorial.

Some “COOL FACTS” from Cornell:
You may sometimes see Red-bellied Woodpeckers wedge large nuts into bark crevices, then whack them into manageable pieces using their beaks. They also use cracks in trees and fence posts to store food for later in the year, a habit it shares with other woodpeckers in its genus.
A Red-bellied Woodpecker can stick out its tongue nearly 2 inches past the end of its beak. The tip is barbed and the bird’s spit is sticky, making it easier to snatch prey from deep crevices. Males have longer, wider-tipped tongues than females, possibly allowing a breeding pair to forage in slightly different places on their territory and maximize their use of available food.
The oldest known Red-bellied Woodpecker was 12 years 1 month old.

To learn the calls of the Red-bellied, go to

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Story of SUPER Saturday

SUPER Saturday has been on our minds, first in the planning and then the "un-planning" as the event has been cancelled due to the government shutdown/refuge closing.  So in lieu of an "event", here is a look back at lots of good times at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge:

2008 – Conceived by the Friends of Hagerman as a way to offer a free nature experience to area families on the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the first SUPER Saturday was held May 24, 2008 – 100 attended events including a morning Wildflower Walk led by Jessie Stephens (below), fly-casting demonstrations, nature crafts for children, Birding by Chair, shorebird tours, hot dogs on the grill at both noon and supper-time, and Sun Gazing and of Star Gazing led by the Astronomy Society of North Texas.

2009 – SUPER Saturday II was held May 23, despite the fact that the record lake level and construction on FM 1417 closed most roads to Visitor Center.   The day began with a Pancake Breakfast served in the “Highwater CafĂ©”, under the supervision of “Captain” Dan Dinkler (photo below).  Events added this year included a Fledgling Birder class and field trip for the youngsters and their families, led by Susan Knowles, nature talks by Cliff Moore and Donna Cole; youngsters assembled bluebird boxes and learned origami. Hayrides were planned but cancelled due to high water on many Refuge roads.

2010 – SUPER Saturday III added the Boom Boom Room – where hair collected from area salons was stuffed into stockings to make booms to help prevent spread of the Gulf oil spill -  this activity under the leadership of Refuge Manager, Kathy Whaley, was set up in the soon to be demolished Visitor Center.  An Info Tent set up outside the newly installed temporary Refuge Office trailer served as event headquarters. Darryl Odom supervised the Pancake Breakfast, Big Ed (Supina) was the chef of the day at the grill, and Super Spuds were available for the evening meal. Events added included Fly-tying demos, Kids Fishing at Picnic Pond (photo below), hayrides on the Refuge, and an Owl Walk led by Dr. Wayne Meyer.  The l-o-n-g day ended about 11 pm with Star Gazing led by the Dallas Astronomy Society.

2011 -  Renamed SUPER Second Saturday, the event was moved to September 10,  to be held in conjunction with the Grand Opening of the new Refuge Office/Visitor Center.  In addition to the excitement created by the new building (photo below), events added in 2011 included the hosting Blackland Prairie Raptors, a how-to program by the FOH Nature Photography Club, nature talks by Dr. Wayne Meyer, Kay Karns and Don Lawrence, bird carving demo by Dick Malnory, and a “Green Tour” of the new building, led by Rick Cantu, Assistant Refuge Manager.  Visitors enjoyed browsing the new Nature Nook book and gift shop. Over 300 attended.

2012 – Named SUPER Saturday once again, the event was held October 13, this year, to kick off National Wildlife Refuge Week. A highlight of the event was the introduction of the new open air, all-electric tram – the C and E Cardinal Express, donated by Dr. Carlos and Eulalia Araoz.  The Sherman Noon Lions set up shop to offer a hot dog lunch.   Among the events added this year were Digital Birding by Jack Chiles, Rainwater Harvesting by Steve Fleming,  making Wildflower Seed Bombs, a butterfly walk led by Laurie Sheppard, Wildlife Bingo, and Canoeing 101, a dry-land program on canoeing, by Aris Tsamis of Mariner Sails, Dallas.

2013 SUPER Saturday Maybe!  Turned out to be SUPER Saturday NOT.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tree Trivia

The topic for Youth FIRST for October 5 at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge  was to be Learn About Trees; however due to the lapse in funding, the Refuge is closed, and the program is cancelled.'s your opportunity to shine!  And no, this quiz was not intended for the children!


1.  A branch from the _ _ _ _ _  tree is a symbol of peace.

2.  The Treaty _ _ _ in Austin was poisoned by vandals in 1989.

3.  Salicin, a precursor of aspirin was found in the bark of the
   _ _ _ _ _ _ tree.

4.   _ _ _ _s for wine account for two-thirds of the revenue from the harvest from Quercus suber. 

5. The endangered Golden-cheeked warbler uses the bark of mature 
 j _ n _ _ _ _ s  to build its nest.

6. The bristlecone _ _ _ _ is the oldest living tree. (One specimen is 4,600 years old!)

7. The naval vessel, U.S.S .Constitution, contains timbers from the 
 _ _ _ _   _ _ _ tree.

8.  A tree _ _ _ _ _ y refers to the space that is covered by the spread or “crown” of trees.

9.  Trees are beneficial to us in many ways. They improve our health by cleaning the air we _ _ _ _ _ _.

10.  The _ _ _ _ _ tree is the State Tree of Texas.

11.  The _ _ _ _ _ Woods is a temperate coniferous forest terrestrial ecoregion in the U. S. covering parts of  East Texas, southern Arkansas, western Louisiana, and southeastern Oklahoma.

12.  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ is the process by which leaves produce food.

13.  Over the past 50 years, millions of stately trees shading the streets of the American landscape have been lost to Dutch _ _ _ disease 

14.  The Pacific _ _ _ tree, which grows in northern Idaho, produces a cancer-fighting agent called "taxol”.

15.  _ _ _ _ _  foot- a piece of wood measuring 1 foot x 1 foot x 1 inch. The term is commonly used to measure the amount of wood in trees, sawlogs or boards.

16.  A _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ tree is one  that loses all its leaves at some time during the year.  

17.  The seventh President of the U.S., Andrew Jackson, was nicknamed  Old  _ _ _ _ _ _ _.

18.  Dendrochronology is the study of growth _ _ _ _ _  in trees and aged woods; the science of dating events and variations in the environment in former periods by comparing growth _ _ _ _ _.

19.  The  tree of  _ _ _ _ _ _ _  is the best known tree at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.

20.  As of 2004, the United States has an official National Tree, the _ _ _.  No species is designated.  

A resource for more information is

1.Olive   2.Oak   3.Willow   4.Cork   5.Junipers   6.Pine   7.Live oak   8. Canopy   9.Breathe   10.Pecan   11.Piney   12.Photosynthesis   13.Elm   14.Yew   15.Board   16.Deciduous   17.Hickory   18.Rings, rings   19.Lebanon   20. Oak


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Native Plant - Late Boneset

An attractive flowering plant is growing in an unlikely spot at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.  It came up as a volunteer is a small untended bed outside the FOH Center, which was at one time filled with rock and also more recently, a variety of weeds.  The plant is about 2-1/2 feet tall and has been in bloom since around the first of September, after bearing tight white buds for several weeks.  The photo shown was sent to Texas Master Naturalist Jim Varnum, who replied, “It is Boneset (Late boneset, White boneset).  Scientific name is Eupatorium serotinum.  Right now it's one of the most prolific bloomers just about everywhere,  Look at the flowers with a magnifier... they are cool.  Related: blue mistflower or blue ageratum is a common fall nectar plant for migrating Monarch butterflies.” (Other names found include Late-flowering thoroughwort and Late-flowering boneset.)

On NPIN we found several relatives of this perennial shrub in the Aster family, Ageratina wrightii, White mistflower, Wright's snakeroot, White boneset, White ageratum; Ageratina havanensis, Havana snakeroot, Mistflower, Shrubby boneset, White mistflower, White shrub mistflower, and Eupatorium perfoliatum, Common Boneset.

The bloom season is September - November and the plant is attractive to not only butterflies, but also birds and bees.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Knock, Knock, Who's There? Part II

Continuing the Knock Knock, Who’s There series, today we look at the Red-headed Woodpecker.   Of the eight species of woodpeckers on the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Bird Check List, the Red-bellied and the Downy, covered in a previous post, are listed as likely to be seen, in suitable habitats, all year around at the Refuge.

The preferred habitat for the Red-headed Woodpecker is deciduous woods and areas of dead trees, with cavities for nesting.  They are found in the Northern and Eastern quadrants of Texas, across the lower Mid-west and the South, to the Atlantic coast, and their breeding grounds cover the upper Mid-west.    At the Refuge, they are often observed at Dead Woman Pond, where they were reported this week, as well as Big Mineral Picnic area.

Both the male and female work at excavating a nesting space; the clutch size is 3 – 10 eggs, and they may have a second brood.

A ”Cool Fact” from All About Birds about Red-headed Woodpeckers, who are about the same size as the Hairy Woodpecker, 7.5” – 9”,  is:
The Red-headed Woodpecker is one of only four North American woodpeckers known to store food, and it is the only one known to cover the stored food with wood or bark. It hides insects and seeds in cracks in wood, under bark, in fence posts, and under roof shingles. Grasshoppers are regularly stored alive, but wedged into crevices so tightly that they cannot escape.

Note that the diet of the Red-headed Woodpecker, unlike that of other woodpeckers, includes insects,  which they can catch in the air.  They will visit backyard feeders for seed, nuts, suet and fruit.

Photos for this post taken at Hagerman NWR by Dick Malnory