Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Leaves of three, let them be!"

High summer – and summer activities such as camping, gardening, hiking, and more – can all expose us to the dreaded rash from poison ivy.   Exposure can come from direct contact with the plant oil – urushiol - or from the plant oil on clothing, shoes, pets’ coats, etc. that have come in contact with the plant.  (Other plants offering the same miserable outcome are poison oak and poison sumac.)

Words of warning such as these are taught to individuals and to Scouts and other outdoor groups:
"Leaves of three, let them be!" or "Leaflets three, leave them be!"

Poison Ivy at Entrance to Meadow Pond Trail
at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
We found an excellent tool for recognizing poison ivy and related plants as well as learning prevention and recommended treatment in this quiz on About.Com Pediatrics…not that the malady is limited to children, by any means!  Also, the Friends' Nature Nook at Hagerman NWR  now has Poison Ivy Soap in stock.

Poison ivy, oak and sumac plants are spread by birds dispersing the seeds.  A Texas State Dept. of Insurance publication provides comprehensive information on not only prevention and treatment of the rash but also recommendations for controlling the spread of plants.  

One interesting bit of historical trivia is that America’s “first botanist”, John Bartram, reportedly sent poison ivy from colonial America to gardens in England, where its brilliant red fall foliage was much admired.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

When Visiting the Refuge

By Donna Niemann

Our National Wildlife Refuge system consists of over 530 wildlife refuges.  These refuges are home to more than 700 types of birds, 220 varieties of mammals, 250 kinds of reptiles and amphibians, 1,000 species of fish and countless invertebrates and plants. They provide havens for some 280 endangered species, from the Florida panther to the polar bear. While some are in remote areas, others are within an hour’s drive of many major cities. And - they attract approximately 45 million visitors each year, offering activities such as wildlife-watching, hunting, fishing, photography, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and environmental education.

45 million visitors…  That is a lot of people on lands set aside for wildlife. That’s right. It is their land, and we are merely visitors in their home. Wildlife refuges are not zoos. The animals are not caged in and on display for the enjoyment of visitors. They are in their homes. For some, it is merely a stopover spot on the way to their summer or winter homes, a sort of motel for many avian travelers. Human visitors need to remember a few important things. Some we will simply say are wildlife viewing tips.  Some are ethical points, things that people may not realize can actually disturb and or harm the wildlife that we are trying to help.

#1 - Remember that the animals you are looking at are WILD animals and this is their home, not a petting zoo.
#2 - Respect the environment. Follow the mottos,”Leave No Trace” or “
Take Nothing But Pictures & Leave Only Footprints”. 
#3 -
"Wake up with the birds." Arriving in the early morning (or late afternoon) when wildlife is most active and will allow you to see much more. Animals tend to rest in the heat of the day.
#4 - Wildlife viewing from your vehicle, or a blind when possible, usually results in a closer experience.
#5 – Do nothing that can be considered “Harassing the Wildlife”- do not chase or allow your children or pets to chase wildlife or try to approach them, for their peace of mind and your safety.
#6 – Speed Limits are in place and radar enforced for your safety as well as the wildlife. The speed limit through along Refuge Road and Wildlife Drive is 20 miles per hour. (Law Enforcement)
#8 – Be aware of the Refuge rules and regulations (Hagerman NWR Rules) and permits that are required (Hagerman NWR Requirements)

To read more on the tips and ethics of wildlife/bird viewing and photography see these links;

Texas Parks and Wildlife – Wildlife Viewing Tips

American Birding Association (ABA) - Code of Ethics
*Note – While the ABA states the following in section 1(b) of the code of ethics: “Limit the use of recordings and other methods of attracting birds, and never use such methods in heavily birded areas, or for attracting any species that is Threatened, Endangered, or of Special Concern, or is rare in your local area”, most national parks (not to mention state parks and National Wildlife Refuges) do indeed regard recordings of birds and playback as harassment of wildlife, thereby prohibiting it.

USDA Forests Service - Fishing Leave No Trace  - in particular please note “Dispose of Waste Properly, If you pack it in… Pack it out! If you see garbage, please carry it out, too. Monofilament fishing line can tangle and kill birds and small animals”, and it happens too often.

Texas Junior Naturalists, Wildlife Watchers Code of Ethics

NANPA – North American Nature Photography Association – PRINCIPLES OF ETHICAL FIELD PRACTICES

For more information about the Friends of Hagerman NWR and events and activities for learning about wildlife at the Refuge –

Photos are from Refuge files.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Events for Second Saturday, July 13

On Saturday, July 13, the  conversation at Second Saturday will heat up!  Global Warming will be the topic  at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge,  and the speaker, Dr. Keith Kisselle says, “Feel free to bring your questions – skeptical or otherwise.”  Kisselle will explain the greenhouse effect, describe the sources and changing concentrations of greenhouse gases, review the evidence that the climate is actually changing, and discuss projections regarding future change and potential consequences.   The  program will begin at 10 am in the Visitor Center Meeting Room.

Kisselle is Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Science and Chair of the Environmental Studies Academic Program at Austin College. 

At 12:30 pm on Saturday, July 13, the FOH Nature Photo Club will meet in the Audio Visual Classroom at  the Refuge. The club meets bimonthly and is open to all photographers interested in nature photography.   There will be a short program on "White Balance" and photo sharing, plus info about the 4th annual Hagerman NWR Photography Contest  which opens July 26.

If you have not been to the Refuge, Hagerman NWR is located at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, TX, 75092, on the Big Mineral Arm of Lake Texoma.  Second Saturday programs are free and open to the public.  Visitors are welcome, free of charge, at photo club meeting; there are nominal dues for membership.  For more information, see or call the Refuge, 903 786 2826.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Bluebird Nest Box Project at Hagerman NWR

While the Bald Eagle is our national bird and the one we think of in conjunction with patriotic holidays such as July 4th, the Bluebird is an American favorite.  Three years ago several Bluebird trails at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge were established through the efforts of the Friends of Hagerman.
Monitors setting up nest box, 2011.
In the July, 2013, edition of the Featherless Flyer, these numbers were reported for the Nest Box Project at the Refuge, as of June 30, for the current nesting season:

Eastern Bluebirds:  141 fledged from 32 clutches (20 clutches had five or six fledglings)

Young Eastern Bluebirds
Carolina Chickadee: 11 fledged from 2 clutches

Tufted Titmouse: 9 fledged from 2 clutches

Carolina Wren: 16 fledged from 3 clutches

Bewicks Wren: 6 fledged from 1 clutch

Prothonotary Warbler: 5 fledged from 1 clutch

There are a total of 54 Bluebird nest boxes on the trails – approximately half are along Harris Creek Trail and the remainder are divided between Meadow Pond Trail and Raasch Trail.  The boxes are monitored weekly by teams of monitors who take turns on the job, working approximately once each month during the nesting season.
Melinda Hill, recording nest box data. (Photo by Skip Hill)
The monitors check each box to see if there is any activity and record what they find for each box.  These results will be entered in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Nest Watch database at the end of the season.  The monitors look to see if there is a nest, and if so, for what species, are there eggs and how many, live young and the stage of maturity and so on.  Once one or more eggs appear, the monitors calculate the estimated hatch date and then the fledge date.  The latter is important, the boxes are not opened near the fledge date to avoid causing the baby birds to fledge prematurely.
Young Bluebirds, about to fledge!
Additionally, now that the daytime temperatures are getting into the 90’s the monitors will begin recording nest box temperatures for a series of “test” boxes along Raasch Trail.  Earlier in the year, special “space” paint, white with ceramic beads incorporated into it for insulation and reflectivity was applied to the roof of a number of boxes, with nearby box roofs left unpainted.  The hope is that the paint will keep the box interiors a little cooler during the dog days late in the season and increase the number of successful hatches.
Bluebird eggs in nest box on Harris Creek Trail.
Monitors for Harris Creek also photograph nest box activity for the 20 people who have adopted a nest box for the season.  Box maintenance, including removal of wasp nests, etc. is performed as needed.   When a nesting cycle is completed, the box is cleaned and made ready for another family – Bluebirds  typically have two broods and sometimes three each season; Carolina Wrens, Bewick’s Wrens, Prothonotary Warblers  may have 1- 3 broods also, while the CarolinaChickadees, and Tufted Titmice have just one brood per season.
Fully-feathered young Carolina Chickadees.
Just ask the monitors how much fun it is to open a box and find a brood of newly hatched baby birds - or the Nest Box Adopters, when they get “baby” pictures by email, as well as hikers and birders who view the birds on the wing!  Many thanks to all who support this program of providing increased homes for cavity nesting songbirds, especially the Bluebird, at Hagerman NWR!   AND – anyone interested in becoming a nest box monitor for 2014, please contact us through the Friends website.