Thursday, March 28, 2013

Reserve Your Spot NOW for Evening with David Allen Sibley

Join us at BirdFest Texoma for this marvelous opportunity to observe the creative process at work, at Evening with David Allen Sibley, on Saturday, May 4.  David Sibley, America’s leading ornithologist/artist/author will create a painting as we watch,  just as he does for the illustrations in his popular field guides. Everyone will have a great view, thanks to state of the art video equipment, and comfortable  auditorium seating, and  Sibley has promised to portray the much-loved Painted Bunting in the art-piece, which will be up for auction at the end of the evening.

David Allen Sibley (Photo by Erinn Hartman)

Sibley began painting birds when he was seven years old and has continued painting them for over three decades - The Sibley Guide to Birds, with over 6,600 original illustrations by Sibley, was published in the year 2000, and was the realization of a lifelong dream for him.

According to Random House Inc., The Sibley Guide to Birds became the fastest selling bird book in history, earning author Sibley the moniker the Beatle of birding among the press. Stories about Sibley have run in The New York Times, Audubon, Time, and Science, and the author has appeared on ABC World News Tonight and on NPR’s Science Friday and The Connection. David Allen Sibley has been called the heir apparent to John James Audubon and Roger Tory Peterson, and his long awaited guidebook immediately became the gold standard for bird identification when it was published.

Other Sibley books include The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior (2009),The Sibley Guide to Trees (2009),  Sibley Field Guide:  Birds West (2003), The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America (2003),  and  Sibley's Birding Basics (2002).

Evening with David Allen Sibley will begin at 6:30 pm, and will be preceded by a wine social at 6 pm,  all in the  Workforce Auditorium, Grayson College.  Don’t miss out!  Advance reservations are required for Evening with David Sibley and for the  social (registrants for the social must be age 21 or older); registration is available online at or in person at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman.  There will be a book signing following Sibley’s presentation.

For more information about events at BirdFest Texoma, sponsored by the Friends of Hagerman and Hagerman NWR, please see

Thursday, March 21, 2013

FOH Receives First Southwest Region Friends Award

The Friends of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge have received the U. S. Fish and Wildlife's first Southwest Region's Friends Award.  Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director for the Southwest Region, recognized the Friends for their significant contribution to environmental education and outreach benefiting Hagerman NWR, and said "At a time when partnerships are paramount, organizations like the Friends of Hagerman are one of the most important allies in the National Wildlife Refuge System's conservation effort."

The all-volunteer organization was recognized for significant accomplishments in the past year including:
  • Providing environmental education programs for more that 1000 children and 400 adults. 
  • Conducting free tram tours at the Refuge giving visitors an opportunity to see and identify wildlife.
  • Aiding in the establishment of  Bluestem Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists. 
  • Managing the Nature Nook book and gift shop in the Visitor Center, with proceeds going to refuge activities and projects.
  • Staffing the Visitor Center year around with volunteers.
  • Hosting a Nature Photography Club which offers numerous programs and opportunities for photographers.
  • Creating BirdFest Texoma, set for May 3 -5, 2013.

The Friends of Hagerman are just one of several Friends organizations established to support the 22 national wildlife refuges of the Southwest Region, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona.

All Friends members and those interested in membership are invited to celebrate these achievements and to learn more about the Friends of Hagerman at the Annual Meeting set for 10 am, Saturday,March 23, in the Audio/Visual Classroom, FOH Center, at the Refuge.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Bad Boys of the Owl World

Post by Skeeter & Marolyn Lasuzzo
Photography by Skeeter Lasuzzo

The Great Horned Owl is more elusive than both the Barred and Great Gray Owl.  The Great Horned usually hunts at night and is usually only visible after sunset.  You will understand my surprise when I called a Great Horned Owl to a tree just a few minutes before sunset and he called back to me.


Marolyn and I had gone to an area of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge where last year a pair of Great Horned Owls had raised two owlets in a nest near the road.  If you remember from my blog last year, one of these adults was killed by a car.  We first pulled off the road behind an oil lease installation across the road from the old nest site and decided to try my imitation of a Great Horned Owl.  After my first attempt, I heard an owl answer me.  Within seconds the owl flew to a nearby tree to check me out and exchange hoots with me.  Notice the white feathers on the neck of the Great Horned owl.  These feather are only visible when the owl is hooting.  I guess my imitation is better than I thought.  We hooted back and forth a few times as the owl moved from one tree to another before he figured out I was not a threat and flew back into the woods.  

We then looked for the old nest site.  We were surprised to see a second Great Horned Owl checking out the old nest.  The nest had been  mostly destroyed by winter storms.  After determining the nest was unusable, the owl flew off in the direction of its mate.  It was good to see that the surviving owl from last year had found another mate and was back in the same area looking for a nest site.  Great Horned Owls do not build their own nest.  They either use an old hawk nest, find a usable cavity in a tree or steal a nest from a hawk.

The Great Horned Owl is the bad boy of the owl world.  They are the only animal that will regularly feed on skunks.  They are known to kill and eat other owls and birds of prey, like hawks, and will also attack Osprey nestlings.  While rabbits are its preferred prey, the Great Horned Owl will kill squirrels, raccoons, armadillos, porcupines, Great Blue Herons, ducks, swans, and even baby alligators.  They have also been know to attack small domestic dogs and cats.  They are strong enough to carry off prey that is 2 to 3 times their size.

We have since "talked" to this Great Horned Owl on a couple of occasions.  Great Horned Owls live a solitary life except during mating season and raising their young.  Even after the adults separate, they usually stay within a one square mile home area and live around 13 years in the wild.

It is always a pleasure to see and photograph these magnificent owls - the bad boys of the owl world.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Birds in Velvet

Post by Skeeter & Marolyn Lasuzzo
Photography by Skeeter Lasuzzo

Cedar Waxwings are Marolyn's favorite bird.  They have a silky texture to their feathers giving them the look of velvet.  They get their name from the touch of red feathers on their wings resembling drips of red wax.  The red feather tips increase in size and number as the bird matures.  The flight image shows how these tiny feathers look in flight.  Waxwings eat berries such as cedar, holly, mulberry, privet and cherry.  Sometimes, they can be observed passing the berries down to other Waxwings.  They have also been known to eat so many fermented berries that they get drunk and fall out of the tree. 

Waxwings are very social birds and are almost always seen in flocks.  During courtship, males and females hop back and forth from each other, sometimes touching their bills together.  Males will attempt to feed the female fruit, insects or flower petals.  After taking the gift, the female usually hops away, then returns to give the gift back to the male.  This ritual is repeated until the female accepts the gift.  After the pairs form, the female chooses the nest site.  The nest consists of a cup-shaped bundle of moss, twigs and grass.  The nest is usually made in a conifer tree.  Cedar Waxwings are among the latest nesting birds in North America which enables them to take advantage of the abundance of fruit in late summer and early fall.

The highest concentration of wintering Cedar Waxwings occurs in central Texas, Alabama and eastern Mississippi.  The Cedar Waxwing's politeness when feeding and watering is legendary.  Cooperation is amazing for a bird that gathers in flocks.  They eat in shifts, one group feeds first then moves out of the way as the next group comes in.  When watering on a bird bath or small water source, they wait their turn, never crowding in.  They will sometimes hover over a crowded water source, waiting for an opening to land.

Photographing Waxwings can be challenging.  At Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, the Cedar Waxwings are usually seen in groups at the top of many of the fruit bearing trees.  Since these birds are small, getting close is critical.  Finding a small, low berry bush or a water source will give the photographer an opportunity to photograph these beautiful birds up close.