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