Thursday, January 29, 2015

February for the Birds

Brown Thrasher at backyard feeder.

Did you know?  The month of February is specially designated for observing, among other topics:

·         Bird Feeding Month
·         Cat Health Month
·         Responsible Pet Owners Month

And these three - of the many special occasions and causes for the month, go quite well together.  

According to a report from U. S. Fish and Wildlife,  over 65 million American have tried feeding birds.  The report gives some basic tips for feeding:

Considerations for feeder location - convenience for watching and filling; where discarded seeds and hulls will not be a problem; avoiding squirrels by placement 10 -15 feet from tree limbs or using baffles; distance from shrubs that provide cover for predators, but also safety from hawks, etc. for birds seeking cover  -  15’ is recommended; distance from window glass – either within 3 feet of a window or  well away from window, especially large plate glass, to reduce bird strikes on windows by bird flying away from feeders.

Choosing a feeder – durability, ease of cleaning, will it keep feed dry, which species will use the feeder.

The most effective way to attract the largest variety of birds to your yard is to put out separate feeders for each food: 
  • starling-resistant suet feeder
  • a house feeder for sunflower
  • a bluebird feeder
  • a wire mesh cage feeder for peanuts
  • a nectar feeder
  • a tube feeder for thistle
  • a stationary or tray fruit feeder
  • a house or platform feeder for millet
Tips for choosing feed:
  • Be selective in your choice of seeds.  If you use more than one type of seed, put them in separate feeders. This will reduce wasted seeds, as birds will toss unwanted seeds out of a feeder to get to their favorites.
  • Birds that visit your feeder have very specific preferences, most prefer sunflower. Some prefer millet. A few prefer peanuts. None seem to prefer the other grains used in the mixes: corn, milo, red millet, oats, wheat and canary seed.
  • If you want to feed only cardinals, doves and white-throated sparrows, switch from black oil sunflower to safflower. If you want only finches and an occasional dove and white-throated sparrow, try niger thistle. If you want only jays, titmice and white-throated sparrows, try peanuts.
  • You can virtually eliminate unwanted birds at your feeders through your choice of seed.

Here is a tip for homemade bird treats from Birdwatcher’s Digest:   
You can come up with your own recipes for winter bird treats. Some suggestions are - smear peanut butter on a tree trunk, and poke some peanut bits into it. Melt suet in your microwave, and pour it into an ice-cube tray to harden. Before it solidifies, add peanut bits, raisins, apple bits, or other bird foods. Put the tray in your freezer to harden. Once it does, you've got cubed bird treats—easy to make and easy to use!

And don’t forget to add a birdbath!

Finally, a word about Cat Health Month and Responsible Pet Owners Month.  Cats kill millions of songbirds each year.  The American Humane Society Keeping says that cats indoors serves two purposes, providing safety from cats for birds attracted to backyards and keeping cats healthy and safe from exposure to disease, parasites and injury they face outdoors.

If you love to  bird watch but don't have a suitable place for feeding at home, come on out to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge to watch the birds!

Thursday, January 22, 2015


                A Visitor Center Volunteer Orientation is set for Sunday afternoon, January 25 at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, from 2 – 4 pm and will be an opportunity to learn more about volunteering in the Visitor Center.   Visitor Center volunteers greet visitors, hand out literature and answer questions about the Refuge, book tram reservations and make gift shop sales using a computer sales system.  Volunteers work one or more shifts each month – 9 am – 12:30 pm and/or 12:30 – 4 pm, Monday through Saturday, and 1 - 5 pm Sundays.  The schedule is flexible, and couples may work together.  Training is provided and extensive reference materials and support are available to volunteers.  Volunteers must be 18, or 16 if accompanied by a parent/volunteer.

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, located at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, offers a number of other volunteer opportunities, including the following:

 Nature Walk Leaders – lead small groups on guided walk on one of the Refuge trails.  Need good general knowledge of birds, other wildlife, as well as plants at Hagerman NWR.  Join on our call team for school and other group visits by adults or youngsters, volunteers may be needed weekdays or weekends, so you can specify when you could be available.

 Youth Program Assistant – join the Youth FIRST team!  Programs are for ages 4 -7 and 8 – 12, on the first Saturday of each month.  Sign up to attend the next team meeting and you can choose to read a story, lead a game or a craft for one or more sessions, or just provide general help!  Must be 16.

 Nest Box Monitor – Nest box trails at Refuge are monitored weekly, March through August; schedule depends on how many teams we have for the season; generally a team of 2 -3 monitors once each month, plus work days at the beginning and end of each season.  Number of volunteers needed is limited. Must be available on a Thursday or Friday, have completed safe driving course, and able to record data accurately. Age 18 or older.

 Gardener – work in the new Butterfly Garden at the Refuge; this spring we will be adding new plants, weeding and mulching.  Join team that is on call for workdays, both weekdays and weekends.  Volunteers provide own hand tools and gloves.  Minimum age 18, or 16 if accompanied by parent/volunteer.

 Tram Tour Driver/Guides - Drive all electric open air tram on 4 mile tour route (1.5 hours) at Hagerman NWR; must have safe driving record, complete approved driver safety program and be knowledgeable about wildlife and willing to learn Refuge history and operations to share with visitors on tour.  Drive one or more times monthly, Wednesday at 10 am, Sundays at 2 pm; Saturdays either 10 am or 2 pm, depending on season.   Tours go, weather permitting.

 Tram Maintenance - need individual, minimum age 18, or 16 if accompanied by parent/volunteer, or team to service twelve 6-volt batteries twice monthly; maintain water level and keep terminals clean and  terminal connections tight.  Choose your own schedule for this volunteer service.

 For more information or to volunteer, call the Refuge, 903 786 2826 or send us a comment.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Where Are the Geese?

The most frequently asked question at the Hagerman NWR Visitor Center these days is “Where are the geese?”

Each winter the Refuge is known for huge flocks of Snow and Ross’s geese who come thousands of miles to enjoy warmer weather and abundant food.  However, taking center stage for the past several years is drought, and in 2013, adding insult to injury, a week of ice in early December.

Snow Geese in Flight, by Rick Cantu

In the fall, the Refuge planted 300 acres of wheat for green browse for the geese; as soon as they arrived they literally “mowed” it down and with little to no fall rain, the wheat did not continue growing.

According to data from eBird, the all-time high reported number of Snow geese was 10,000, on November 15, 1994.  For Ross’s, 5,000 were reported on December 15, 2009, for the all-time high.

These days visitors are most likely to see the geese flying in or out of the Refuge or resting in the lake between forays to area farms; they return to the lake each evening to spend the night, safe from predators.

These numbers from Jack Chiles’ Weekly Bird Survey tell the story for the 2014-15 winter:

Large numbers of geese first showed up for last fall on November 11, 2014:
Snow Goose  1
Ross's Goose  1
Snow/Ross's Goose  1500
November 18, 2014
Snow Goose  200
Ross's Goose  200
Snow/Ross's Goose  5000
November 25, 2014
Snow Goose  200
Ross's Goose  200
Snow/Ross's Goose  4600
December 2, 2014
Snow Goose  200
Ross's Goose  200
Snow/Ross's Goose  5000
December 9, 2014
Snow Goose  150
Ross's Goose  2200
Snow/Ross's Goose  2650
December 16, 2014
Snow Goose  450
Ross's Goose  450
Snow/Ross's Goose  4100
December 23, 2014
Snow Goose  50
Ross's Goose  40
Snow/Ross's Goose  3000
December 30, 2014
Snow Goose  142
Ross's Goose  135
Snow/Ross's Goose  7
January 6, 2015
Snow Goose  1
Ross's Goose  1
Snow/Ross's Goose  60
January 13, 2015
There were about 3500 white geese on the lake at noon.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Friends Look Back at 2014, Part II

Continued from January 1, 2015

In July Omar Bocanegra presented for Second Saturday, on Dragonflies and Damselflies.  Jim Varnum led a driving tour of the Refuge following the program.  Later in July Aaron Blount gave a program on Snakes of Hagerman.   Work got underway on the new Butterfly Garden at the Refuge, and the entry period for the 5th annual HNWR Nature Photography Contest opened.  Laura Cooper was July Photographer of the Month.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, by Laura Cooper
“Along Came a Spider”, for Youth FIRST, and "ABC's of Bats", with Dr. Bryon Clark, for Second Saturday in August.   Jesus Moreno, graphics artist, designed and contributed a new logo for the Friends use.  The list of sponsors for the new Butterfly Garden was growing rapidly.  The Bluestem Chapter, Texas Master Naturalist, began a series of fall classes for new candidates.  Photographer of the Month was Holly Cantu.

Reflections, by Holly Cantu
in September, Bert Garcia, Chair for the Nest Box Monitors reported an 82% success rate for the 2014 season.  Nature Nook Chairs Roger and Sally Peckenpaugh announced that Ducks Unlimited had donated a series of waterfowl prints to the Friends to sold in the book and gift shop.  Youth FIRST topic for the month was "Who Lives in a Pond", and following a guided bird walk led by Jack Chiles, Dr. Wayne Meyer, in memory of Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon, spoke on “Extinct Birds”.  Photographer of the Month for September was Randy Conaway.

Curious Bobcat, by Randy Conaway
Youth FIRST enjoyed “Owls- they’re a Hoot” in October, and Second Saturday featured Dr. George Diggs, on “Ferns of Texas”, following a guided bird walk led by Jack Chiles.  Workampers Bill and Carol Powell, and Barry and Lynn Burkhardt shared their experiences and wisdom at FAQ’s about Workamping.    Butterfly Garden sponsors enjoyed a preview party celebrating progress on the new garden.  George Cooper was named October photographer of the month.

Greater Roadrunner, by George Cooper
For November, Youth First learned about “Animals – Masters of Disguise”.  Jack Chiles led the year’s last bird walk and Jessica Healy presented “what About the Bobcat” for Second Saturday.  Photo contest winners were announced; sweeping the field were Jesus Moreno, Lee Hatfield, Randy Conaway and Bob Brown.  Record numbers turned out to hear The Country Roads Band and enjoy High on the Hawg, chaired by Ron Varley, on November 15.  Hannah Frosch was Photographer of the Month. 

Follow the Signs, by Hannah Frosch
And – December – Honk, Honk – Geese at Hagerman was the youth topic, while “Bobwhite Quail”, presented by Jason Hardin, TPWD, was featured for Second Saturday.  The Christmas Bird Count attracted a record number of participants and found 104 species, plus 11 more during “Count Week.” Amanda Burns was Photographer of the Month.  Volunteers finished up the first phase of planting in the new garden and attended the first in a series of Monarch Conservation webinars.

On the Beach, by Amanda Burns
Now we are one week into 2015 and plans are afoot for another great year, thanks to all the Friends, volunteers and Refuge staff!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Friends Look Back at 2014, Part I

The Friends of Hagerman kicked off 2014 with Friday Fun Day, inviting area youth to visit the Refuge and create nature crafts on January 3.  Thanks to the volunteers who manned stations for the various crafts!   Next up, for Second Saturday, Dr. Mike Keck presented “Snakes of North Texas”.  Dr. Bill Hughes presented a Nature Writing Workshop in January and Jillian M. Duquaine Watson was Photographer of the Month.

The Majestic Fisherman, by Jillian M. Duquaine-Watson
The birds took over in February:  for Youth FIRST – Backyard Birds; for Second Saturday, Refuge Manager Kathy Whaley presented “Bluebirds” and Begin to Bird Classes led by Dick Malnory were held on two Saturdays, along with a Guided Bird Walk led by Dr. Wayne Meyer, with sightings reported to the Great Backyard Bird Count.  Photographer of the Month was Jesus Moreno.  New workampers Bob and Fran King were welcomed.

Great Egret, by Jesus Moreno
March was chock-full of activity.  For Youth FIRST, Let’s Learn About Trees” while popular speaker Mark Klym, TPWD, presented on “Hummingbirds”.  Youngsters and their families flocked to the Refuge for Spring Break Family Fun with tram tours, guided walks and nature crafts.  Jack Chiles led a guided bird walk in March, and volunteers enjoyed a recognition luncheon hosted by the Friends following the Annual Meeting of the Friends of Hagerman.  March Photographer of the Month was Michael Keck.

Geese Fly to the Moon, by Michael Keck
Youth FIRST looked for April showers with a weather program, “My Head Is in the Clouds”, with KTEN Meteorologist Cathy Evans Corbett.  Dr. Wayne Meyer led a guided bird walk followed by “Birding by Ear,” for Second Saturday. Nest Box monitoring was underway on the Bluebird Trails at the Refuge, chaired by Bert Garcia.  Allen Rich was Photographer of the Month for April.

Wild Turkey in Flight, by Allen Rich
“Nature and Your Five Senses” was the topic for Youth FIRST, and Second Saturday was devoted to “Butterflies of North Texas, with speaker Dale Clark.  Professional photographer Trey Neal lead a Photography Workshop and Terri Barnett was named Photographer of the Month.  School zone – various area school groups came to the Refuge for field trips once or twice each week in late April and during May.

White-tailed Deer by Terri Barnett
The Refuge observed National Trails Day with a Grand Slam Hike weekend June 7 -8.  Youth FIRST studied “The Wonderful World of Insects” and participants at Second Saturday heard Kim Snipes present on “Sharks!”.  Dr. Wayne Meyer led a bird walk prior to the program.  New at the Refuge - Pathways summer intern, Aaron Blount.  And – first ever known at Hagerman, Bald Eagle nest produced two young.  June Photographer of the Month was Tom Crews.

Five Star Lunch, by Tom Crews

To be continued next week.