Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reminder About Firearm Regulations at Hagerman NWR

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is an overlay of Lake Texoma lands owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Laws and regulations governing Corps lands are in effect on the Refuge.

Firearms are regulated on Corps of Engineers property by Title 36 of the CFR which governs public use of Corps' water resources development projects (attached). The applicable section is 327.13 which states:
(a) The possession of loaded firearms, ammunition, loaded projectile firing devices, bows and arrows, crossbows, or other weapons is prohibited unless:

(1) In the possession of a Federal, state, or local law enforcement officer;

(2) Being used for hunting or fishing as permitted under 327.8, with devices being unloaded when transported to, from or between hunting and fishing sites;

(3) Being used at authorized shooting ranges; or

(4) Written permission has been received from the District Commander.

With this existing law in place, all firearms including those carried either openly or concealed with a concealed weapons permit, are prohibited on Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge lands and in the Visitor Center.  With the new Texas open carry law going into effect on January 1, 2016, it is important that everyone be aware of this law.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

O Little Town of Hagerman

The holidays can be a time for nostalgia and we have been thinking about an old-time Christmas in Hagerman, imagining what it might have been like, in the  town of Hagerman, Texas, the little town that was cleared away for the building of Lake Texoma.

School Christmas Pageant

From “Hagerman Schools”, by Gwen Morrison Swadlenak, reprinted in the Herald Democrat column “Other Voices”, July 13, 2008:
… “in about 1920, the school was moved to a two story brick building…”, “built with three rooms downstairs and an auditorium on the second floor, later doubling as a classroom”.  The Hagerman school was used as a cultural center for the community.  

“the auditorium of the brick building was the scene of the last closing [other farewells had been held] program with the Christmas tree in 1942.”

Hagerman School - stood near the grove of trees just north of the present-day Visitor Center
Was the program   a traditional school Christmas pageant, combining the secular and sacred aspects of the occasion? By the 1930s, secular tunes like “Jingle Bells,” “Up on the Housetop,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” were already becoming holiday favorites.  In addition to “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” which was written in 1934, the 1930s produced this holiday classics “Winter Wonderland” (1934).  


In the South, firecrackers were long used to celebrate Christmas. However, this tradition led to a loss in the town of Hagerman, according to Donna Hunt’s column in the Herald Democrat for July 11, 2012:

“Just before Christmas in 1926, three stores on the east side of the street burned. Exploding fireworks set off by the flames announced the holiday a little prematurely. Children stood by and watched the exploding fireworks that they had thought would be brought to them by Santa Claus.”

According to the article, those stores never re-opened and with the bank’s closing in 1927, the town’s decline began.


For kids who earned a little, perhaps picking cotton (A Brief History of Hagerman, "A Pioneer Texas Town” by Annette Morrison Catts), the stores might have offered these treats:  Candy from the 1920s includes candy delights such as Candy Cigarettes (before they realized ‘real’ cigarettes are bad for us!), Caramel Creams, Chiclets, Clark Bars, Tootsie Rolls, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and more.   

Smith Cash Grocery Store, Hagerman, Texas
Christmas Cards

By 1920, Hagerman was a thriving community with a railroad depot, cotton gin, brick bank, a restaurant, post office (established in a home and later moved to a store), a school, a church, an ice-house and two grocery stores. 

Did the grocery store offer holiday merchandise such as cards, or were they homemade?    According to Wikipedia, during the Victorian era, holiday postcards had been in favor, but by the 1920’s cards with envelopes were again used. First class postage in 1920 was two cents, which would be 23.5 cents adjusted to today’s prices. 

Holiday Treats

From A Brief History of Hagerman, compiled by Dr. Jerry Lincecum:

There was … a large hardware store well-stocked with Daisy Mae butter churns, since many people kept a milk-cow in their own backyards.  Corn meal was another staple, so Hagerman had an old-fashioned noisy mill where corn was crushed and ground.  An ice-house presented the means for safe storage of meat and dairy products.

Eggs for Eggnog?
Mail Order Gifts

(Also from Dr. Lincecum) For the founding Smith brothers, the name of the town was a foregone conclusion, since the MKT Railroad switch there was already named the Hagerman Switch (after an official of the railroad).  It was a favorite stop for the train because of good water from the springs nearby. Mail would have come in by train to be distributed through the local post office.

“By the early part of the twentieth century, the mail-order retailing business had become a major sector of the American economy, through which millions of rural consumers purchased a variety of goods. By 1919, Americans were buying over $500 million worth of goods a year from mail-order companies (roughly half of this business went to Wards and Sears alone). The millions of bulky mail-order catalogs sent from Chicago to points around the country had become important cultural documents, with significance that went beyond the purely economic. Particularly in rural areas, which were still home to half of the American population as late as 1920, the catalogs served not only as a marketing tool, but also as school readers, almanacs, symbols of abundance and progress, and objects of fantasy and desire.  

Church Services

Originally meeting in a school or in homes, members of Hagerman Presbyterian Church moved into their first building in 1905 (see photo below). The church building was shared with both the Methodist and the Baptist congregations and for years was considered the community, or “union” church. In 1922, the Hagerman Baptist Church congregation moved to their own building, which was later moved to the present day site and has since been replaced by a newer structure.  The original church building was moved to Denison by the Hyde Park Presbyterian congregation. ("A Brief History of Hagerman, A Pioneer Texas Town” by Annette Morrison Catts)

Season's Greetings, from the Friends of Hagerman NWR

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Red Red Robin

Our most abundant songbird is described by Cornell’s All About Birds:

The quintessential early bird, American Robins are common sights on lawns across North America, where you often see them tugging earthworms out of the ground. Robins are popular birds for their warm orange breast, cheery song, and early appearance at the end of winter. Though they’re familiar town and city birds, American Robins are at home in wilder areas, too, including mountain forests and Alaskan wilderness.

American Robin at Hagerman NWR, by Lee Hatfield

Robins were named by homesick European settlers for their beloved and familiar little Robin Red-breast, which has a color pattern brighter but somewhat similar to our robin, though the two species are not closely related. 

Connecticut, Michigan and Wisconsin all have named the robin their state bird.

If Robins are a ”sign of Spring”, why are we seeing them now?  From Cornell's Project Feeder Watch:

As with many birds, the wintering range of American Robins is affected by weather and natural food supply, but as long as food is available, these birds are able to withstand quite severe cold.
American Robins do migrate, but their year-round range covers nearly all of the continental United States. Only the very northern edges of the central and eastern states that border Canada fall north of the American Robin’s winter range.
In winter robins form nomadic flocks, which can range in size from anywhere between 50 birds in the north to thousands in the south. The flocks break up in the day while foraging and then gather up again at night to roost in trees. 

According to the Audubon 's Guide to North American Birds, 

Robins do much foraging on the ground, running and pausing on open lawns; apparently locating earthworms by sight (not, as had been suggested, by hearing them move underground). When  they are not nesting, usually forage in flocks.  Robins forage for worms in warm weather and eat fruit and berries in cold weather

If you want to feed American Robins in your backyard, they prefer fruit, mealworms, hulled sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, and suet in a ground or platform feeder; you will want to provide a water source also.

Most people are familiar with the color "robin’s egg blue”.  The Audubon site describes breeding and nesting:
Robin nest - vintage art
Males choose a territory and pursue a mate.  The female does most of the nest building, then lays 3 – 7 pale blue eggs. Incubation takes about two weeks and fledging slightly more than two week later.  Both parents fed the young.  Robins may have 2- 3 broods per season.

Wikipedia reports that

"The Robin is a figure in poems about spring and in American popular music such as "When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along)", written by Harry M. Woods, and for comic fans, we learned that although the comic-book superhero Robin was inspired by an N. C. Wyeth illustration of Robin Hood, a later version had his mother nicknaming him Robin because he was born on the first day of spring; his red shirt suggests the bird's red breast."

Robins are often portrayed as industrious, "can-do" birds, who are frequently rewarded for their work ethic.
In some tribes, the bright red color of a robin's breast is associated with fire, and robins feature in legends as either guardian or thief of fire.
In other legends, the caring parental behavior of robins is noted, and in some tribes, it is considered good luck for a pregnant woman to see robins feeding their young.
In the Blackfoot tribe, robins are a symbol of peace and the presence of robins was said to be a sign that a camp or village would be safe from attack.
The Hopi see the robin as a directional guardian, associated with the south.  

The well-known nursery rhyme, Little Robin Redbreast,  is said to have no historical significance, but rather, teaches children about  natural enemies, according to

Little Robin Red Breast

Little Robin Red breast sat upon a tree,
Up went pussy cat and down went he;
Down came pussy, and away Robin ran;
Says little Robin Red breast, "Catch me if you can".
Little Robin Red breast jumped upon a wall,
Pussy cat jumped after him and almost got a fall;
Little Robin chirped and sang, and what did pussy say?
Pussy cat said, "Meeow!" and Robin jumped away.

Vintage greeting incorporating Robin

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Bird Count

Join in the Annual Christmas Bird Count at Hagerman NWR!

This popular yearly event is organized by Austin College Ornithologist Dr. Wayne Meyer for the Hagerman Circle as part of the  annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.  Here is the history behind the modern Christmas Bird Count, according to Audubon:

Prior to the turn of the 20th century, people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas "Side Hunt": They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won.
Conservation was in its beginning stages around in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the then nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition-a "Christmas Bird Census"-that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.
So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Chapman and the enthusiasm of twenty-seven dedicated birders, twenty-five Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. The locations ranged from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove, California with most counts in or near the population centers of northeastern North America. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied around 90 species on all the counts combined. 

The Hagerman Circle count will be held on December 19 from 7 am to 5 pm.  Meet at the Visitor Center at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and each person will be assigned to a team and work for half or all day. Experience is not required! What we need most are eyes to help find the birds for this important data gathering effort. Snacks will be provided by Friends of Hagerman NWR at the close of the count, at the Count Social, 4 - 6 pm. 

In addition Dr. Meyer will be tallying the owl count at 4:00 am for you extra early risers.

There is also another way people can contribute.  Any bird feeders within the count circle can be included in the day’s tally.  If you prefer,  you can be a feeder watcher if you live in one of these communities within the Hagerman NWR circle: Pottsboro, Sherwood Shores, Cedar Mills, Mill Creek, Locust, Fink, Tanglewood, Georgetown, Preston, and Gordonville. Please leave your email when registering so detailed instructions can be sent to you.

You can register for the  Christmas Bird Count by calling the Refuge, 903 786 2826.  

The  116th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count joins thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas from December 14 through January 5. This is the longest-running citizen science census in the world, and is used to assess the health of bird populations.   According to Audubon, 

The data collected by observers over the past century allow Audubon researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent's bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.
The long term perspective is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat - and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. 

There are over 2,300 “circles” including the Hagerman Circle that provide this important information to Audubon. For more information go to:

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Geese By Golly

Are you ready to celebrate the arrival of the winter geese at Hagerman NWR?  

Geese at HNWR by Skip Hill
That's what Geese By Golly is all about.  Spend all or part of the day enjoying the birds from 9 am - 4 pm on Saturday, December 12.  Activities are free and suitable for all ages, thanks to Hagerman NWR, Friends of Hagerman and fabulous volunteers!

11 am - 1 pm -  Enjoy the Blackland Prairie Raptors - live bird display, rehabilitated raptors who could not be released into the wild.  Thanks to the Denison Area Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring the raptors!

Hands-on Learning Stations will be offered:

10 - 11:30 am

Learn Feather Facts with Dr. Wayne Meyer - for example - did you know that each and every bird feather is attached to a separate muscle?? How much does a pound of feathers weigh?? (Excuse us, could not resist the old joke!). Check out "like water off a duck's back" for yourself. What were the "feather wars"?

David Palmer will fill you in on Bird Beaks:

"Did you ever wonder why there are so many types of bird beaks or bills? The most important function of a bird bill is feeding, and it is shaped according to what a bird eats. The bill is one of the characteristics used to identify birds. You can learn about bird behavior by looking at the bill and thinking about what it eats."  And you can try our simulated bird beaks!

And you can Get Ready for Bluebirds with Mr. Bluebird, Don Lawrence. Bluebirds were once in serious decline due to loss of preferred nesting places, but efforts to provide man-made homes have paid off and Don will show you how to join in the effort.

1:30 - 3 pm

Geese Migration - the centerpiece of the geese celebration - imagine traveling 3,000- 4,000 miles twice each year just to be close to the grocery store!  Friends Education Chair Cindy Steele will share amazing migration  facts and some quick and fun geese crafts.  

PS Do you know why do geese fly in a V? Because it would be too hard to fly in an S! Just kidding. Scientists have determined that the V-shaped formation that geese use when migrating serves important purposes, conserving energy and helping them keep track of one another.

Project Feeder Watch, with the Bluestem Chapter, Texas Master Naturalists 

"Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North America. FeederWatchers periodically count the birds they see at their feeders ... and send their counts to Project FeederWatch. FeederWatch data help scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance." 

Learn how to participate in this annual citizen science program and make a bird feeder from recycled materials to take home.

Informal Talks

10:30 am - Winter is the season when we most enjoy watching "our" birds.  Join Larry and Helen Vargus, Master Naturalists, to learn all about Attracting and Feeding Backyard Birds. 

1:30 pm - Christmas Bird Count 101 - Just what is it?  Who can participate?  How do you count 100 or 1000 birds in one minute?  Dr. Wayne Meyer, coordinator for the annual Christmas Bird Count at Hagerman NWR will share the facts on this important citizen science endeavor and how you can join in if you choose.

2:30 pm - Want to take a bird home?  Dr. Michael Keck will show you how to become a "bird collector", at least digitally, in Beginning Bird Photography.  Bird photography is a multi-dimensional effort, a skills challenge and also the means to learning  more about birds, identity, habitat, and behavior.

Geese Tours

We are praying for the lake flooding to subside and roads to dry on this one! Tentatively,

Tram Tours - 9:30, with Dick Malnory and 11 am, 2 pm with Laurie Sheppard 

Van Tours - 10 am, 1 pm and 2:30 pm, with Jack Chiles, Master Naturalist

Your tour guide will help you distinguish Snow from Ross's geese, ID ducks and more.  Limited seating for tours.  No reservations can be made prior to Dec. 12.  Sign up for the tour of choice when you arrive at the Fest, first come first-served.

What else can I do?

Have your photo made with Puddles, the Blue Goose, and our new Monarch!  Free, receive photo by email.  Courtney Anderson, SCA Intern will be our roving photographer for the day.

Nature video at 9 am and 11:30 am

Watch the birds at the Visitor Center feeder and see the geese fly by the big windows  if we are lucky!

Bring a picnic or lunch on a hot dog or pulled pork sandwich, serving from noon - 1 pm, for a small donation, while supplies last.  Enjoy complimentary coffee and hot chocolate all day.

Take a self-guided walk along Harris Creek Trail.  Other trails may/may not be accessible, depending on lake level.

We know the holidays are a busy time!  Take a break from the rush and enjoy winter nature at Hagerman.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day Parade

Watch out Macy's, we have the real deal for our virtual Hagerman NWR Thanksgiving Parade! Who needs inflatables??  Enjoy

Leading off, a pair of White-tail fawns, by Bob Brown

Followed overhead by  a large flock of winter visitors, Snow and Ross's Geese, by Carl Hill

Next up a high-stepping Roadrunner, by Jesus Moreno

And swooping around the corner, some late-flying American White Pelicans by Win Goddard

We mustn't overlook  the  Armadillo dancer straight from Texas, by Mike Keck

Now let's pan the watching crowd, camera man!

Back to the parade, here comes Parade Marshal,  King Bob, by Mike Chiles

Listen to the choristers led by Bill Hurst's  Northern Mockingbird

And not to be left out - they're what it's all about for some folks, the Wild Turkey, by Rick Cantu

Speaking of turkey, it's time to tend ours, and our parade is just ending, somewhat slowly as our last float or Turtle, by Susie Krominga,  seems to have stopped moving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all, from the Friends of Hagerman NWR

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Snow Geese, Ross's Geese and - Sparrows

Snow or Ross's??

By Jack Chiles 

Now that the geese are arriving at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and considering that most of the geese will be white geese, I would like to assist those of you who have problems telling the geese apart. There are two species of white geese at the refuge, Snow Geese and Ross's Geese. At first glance, they look very similar but upon closer examination you will see some distinct differences. Looking at the geese in the photo, the front right-most goose is a Snow Goose and the goose immediately to its left is a Ross's Goose. Comparing the two, notice the larger size of the Snow Goose, longer neck, less rounded head, longer bill and the dark "grinning patch" on the bill. In turn the Ross's Goose is smaller in size, has a shorter neck, more rounded head and a stubby bill. For me the really defining characteristic that separates the two is a more vertical demarcation between the feathering of the head and the base of the bill of the Ross's. Both of these species occur in a dark phase (the dark birds in the photo). The dark phase is much more common in the Snow Goose than in the Ross's. The dark phase is sometimes referred to as Blue Goose. Take time studying these two species and you will soon be amazed at how easy it is to tell them apart. 

Geese at HNWR by Jack Chiles

Now that you know your geese, find out your Sparrow  IQ!

On Saturday, November 14, Dr. Wayne Meyer will speak on Sparrows at Hagerman NWR.  The HNWR Bird Check List shows more than 20 species of Sparrows, Towhees and Allies.  Let’s see how familiar you are with some of these!  (Questions derived from Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds and the Sibley Guide to Birds)

1.             1.  House Sparrows aren’t related to other North American sparrows.

             True       False

 2.    The _ _ _ _ _ - _ _ _ _ _ _ _  Sparrow is a large sparrow with a small pale pink or yellow bill and a long tail and very bold black-and-white stripes on the head.
 3.    The Sparrow with the black eyestripe, the white crown and supercilium, the yellow lores, the white throat bordered by a black whisker, or malar stripe is.  (Choose one)
Song Sparrow              White-throated Sparrow           Harris’s Sparrow
 4.    If you see a rich russet-and-gray sparrow with bold streaks converging in a central breast spot on its white chest, in an open, shrubby, or wet area, it is probably a (Choose one).
Song Sparrow              Vesper Sparrow           Harris Sparrow
  5.     The _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Sparrow takes its name not only from its diet but also from its insect-like song.
  6.     The striking Harris's Sparrow breeds along the edge of boreal forest and tundra in north-central Canada and spends the winter in South America.
True     False
   7.     Dark-eyed Juncos are Sparrows.
True     False
     8.      Sparrows are exclusively seed-eaters.
      True     False
     9.      A white breast with a bold central spot and distinctive outer white tail feathers is: (Choose one)
Lark Bunting    Savannah Sparrow      Lark Sparrow
10.  A small sparrow with a reddish crown, a gray breast and dark eyeline is (Choose one)
Chipping Sparrow        Lincoln’s Sparrow        Field Sparrow

Answers:  1. True; 2. White-crowned; 3. White-throated Sparrow; 4. Song; 5. Grasshopper; 6. False; 7. True; 8. False 9. Lark Sparrow; 10. Chipping Sparrow

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Strengthening and Restoring Latinos’ Historic Connection to the Land

This week's post is from the USFWS.

By Dan Ashe
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The history of the United States, and the relationship of its people to the land, cannot be told without recognizing the influence and contributions of men and women of Hispanic descent. In the decades to come, the descendants of the Hispanics and Latinos who settled much of our nation will play an even greater role in shaping its future as citizens and leaders.

That’s why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [was] proud to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month in October by honoring the historic contributions of Hispanics and Latinos to the United States – and by working to forge and strengthen the connection Americans of Hispanic and Latino descent have with their natural heritage.

I signed a Memorandum of Understanding on October 2 on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the League of United Latin American Citizens, (LULAC), the nation’s oldest Latino advocacy group. Together, we will work to increase participation by Latino families and kids in fishing and other outdoor recreation, and engage Latinos in monarch butterfly conservation.

This new partnership is more than just a piece of paper – it’s a shared statement of our values, and an expression of our joint determination to strengthen the relationship of the Latino community in the United States to its natural heritage. Most of all, it is a recognition of the historic role of Latinos in protecting and preserving the land, water and wildlife of our nation – and in shaping our economic and cultural identity.

And what a heritage it is! A century before the 1607 founding of the first English Colony at Jamestown in Virginia, Spanish and Portuguese adventurers began exploring North America – ranging as far as Greenland and across the American West to California. In the centuries to come, Hispanics settled much of the American West and intermarried with the Native Americans who lived there. They also settled in Florida, founding what is now the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement in North America – St. Augustine.

From the Californios of Alta California, to the Hispanos of New Mexico and Tejanos of Texas, to the Borinquén of Puerto Rico, Latinos have a historic and cultural connection that in many cases predates that of the descendants of those who sailed on the Mayflower. These pioneers built acequias – communal irrigation systems – to sustain agriculture, and to maintain the delicate balance with the wildlife in their surroundings. They fished and hunted across the West, and introduced the horse to North America, forever changing the culture of Plains Indians.

Wildlife is also woven into Latino culture.  The coquí has been a cultural symbol of Puerto Rican history for centuries. Monarch butterflies, which migrate between Mexico and the U.S., have a historic connection to pre-Hispanic times. The monarch’s migration was historically connected to the harvesting of maíz and celebrations of the Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). Today, organizations like HECHO - Hispanics Enjoying Camping Hunting and Outdoors  are leading efforts to increase the participation of Latinos in outdoor recreation.

In the 21st Century, increasing urbanization is making it harder and harder for Americans of all backgrounds and cultures to spend time in nature. This increasing disconnection has profound implications for the future health and well-being of millions of Americans, including members of the Latino community. And it threatens the progress we’ve made as a nation to protect and sustain our natural heritage for future generations.

Latinos represent a vibrant and growing segment of the U.S. population. In the future, they will have an enormous influence on the decisions we make as a society regarding the future allocation and management of natural resources, including wildlife. We want to make sure that we welcome Latino families and kids to the National Wildlife Refuge System, and that they can connect with nature no matter where they live. The health and well-being of these children will benefit immeasurably from the experiences they have in the natural world, away from the noise and distraction of modern life.

We also want to help Latino children explore careers in wildlife conservation – and to recruit young adults from the Latino community to join the Fish and Wildlife Service. We’re working to create a professional workforce for the future that reflects our nation’s growing diversity – one that can help Americans of all backgrounds connect with nature. As part of this partnership, the Service will participate in LULAC’s Federal Training Institute, which will help identify and connect promising young people with career development opportunities and job openings in our agency.

Together, we will strengthen the historic bond Latinos have with the land and wildlife of our nation – and in doing so, strengthen our ability to carry out our agency’s mission and sustain our shared natural heritage for all Americans.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

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 22, 2015

Golden Fields

Fence rows  and fields in North Texas and at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge have been glowing with “gold” at this time of year.  Several wildflower favorites are contributing to this fall palette.

Maximilian sunflower is a cheery yellow wildflower that blooms   from August to October and provides food for livestock, as a range plant, and seed and cover for wildlife. Helianthus maximiliani Schrad., called Maximilian sunflower, Max sunflower and Michaelmas-daisy, was named for the German explorer and naturalist, Prince Maximilian, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center native plant database.  Maximilian explored the Great Plains of the U.S. in 1832.

Maximilian sunflower, by Sue Malnory
Max sunflower is a prairie perennial native to the eastern U.S. and grows throughout the U. S. as an introduced species and ornamental.  Recognizable by multiple blooms along the unbranched, upright stalk It grows from 24” to 10’ tall, and reproduces by seed and by sprouting from the rhizome, which is edible.  In addition to seed, it also provides nectar for bees and butterflies.

Also in the aster family is Gutierrezia sarothrae, with common names that include Broom snakeweed, Kindlingweed, Matchbrush, Texas snakeweed, Broomweed, Turpentine weed.  Growing from 1 – 3’ tall, it is a small shrub-like plant covered in tiny yellow flowers.  By bloom time the lower leaves have dropped off, giving it a delicate appearance. 

Broomweed, by Dick Malnory
Broomweed is native throughout much of the western U.S. and blooms from August – November.  It reproduces by seed and provides nectar for bees and butterflies and seed for birds.  Dried plants can be tied together to fashion a “broom”.

Another yellow autumn wildflower, one that is considered a “bad actor” by many, is Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis L., also called Canada goldenrod, Canadian goldenrod, Tall goldenrod, or Giant goldenrod.  Goldenrod is blamed for causing allergic reactions each fall, but according to NPIN, the reactions are caused mainly by pollen from the ragweed plant that blooms at the same time.

Goldenrod, by Dick Malnory
Goldenrod grows 3 – 6’ tall, and like the Maximilian sunflower, is perennial.  It provides nectar for bees and butterflies and produces seeds.  It will grow in most any soil and is tolerant of dry or moist conditions,   Goldenrod is  a native plant found  in Canada and across the U. S. and blooms September – November.

So, using the phrase in a different context, "Go for the Gold"  and enjoy the view.

"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house.  So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air."
-  Nathaniel Hawthorne

This post was originally published on October 4, 2012.