Thursday, May 28, 2015

Texoma Flooding

Water, water everywhere at Hagerman NWR. as Lake Texoma topped the spillway last weekend and the lake level continues to rise as more rain falls.  Today's blog is a reprise of past information about Lake Texoma, the Denison Dam and the Refuge.

For June 28, 2012:
"....July 7, 2007, Lake Texoma topped the spillway, 640’ and areas around the lake, including much of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, remained flooded for several months. According to the US Army Corps of Engineers, the lake's highest elevation was recorded on May 6, 1990 at 644.76’. The top of Denison Dam is at 670’ elevation. The photo of Dead Woman's Pond, below,  was taken in August, 2007:

For July 4, 2014, we wrote:
"...we thought a little history might be in order - locally, the Herald Democrat reported that 70 years ago this week the newly completed Denison Dam was dedicated. You can learn more by clicking Herald Democrat.

Hagerman NWR and sister refuge Tishomingo were established in 1946, following completion of the lake. Visitors to the refuge enjoy perusing the exhibit and scrapbook of photos and clippings about the town of Hagerman, removed to make way for Lake Texoma, and the early days of the refuge.

From "A History of Hagerman by Dr. Jerry Lincecum", quoted in the blog August 28, 2014:
Despite the ill effects of the Great Depression, the town prospered until 1940. When the U.S. government announced it was going to buy up the land adjacent to Big Mineral Creek for the reservoir which would become Lake Texoma, some of the Hagerman citizens began moving out. Gradually, this island of activity began to break apart and drift away. The cotton gin was sold and moved to Tioga. The moving of houses from Hagerman to other locations soon gave the town a half-empty look.

In 1939 the clearing of land for this flood control project on Red River started, though the actual construction of the dam did not begin until 1940. The Hagerman Presbyterian Church (below) had its building reinforced in 1942, so it could be moved to the Denison area to become Hyde Park Presbyterian.

The Hagerman Baptist Church was moved eastward about two miles, where today a more modern building houses the congregation.
 After the Denison Dam was completed in late December of 1943, the waters of Lake Texoma rose rapidly to cover most of the buildings that remained. The two-story school, (shown below) which stood on higher ground, was soon razed to reclaim the bricks. Thus the town of Hagerman died only about 40 years after it was founded.

The next photo shows the area where the school once stood, now flooded by the swollen lake waters. The Visitor Center/Refuge Office sits at 649' above sea level.

More history is available in Gene Lenore's  DVD, Denison Dam - Taming the Raging Red, which can be purchased from the Nature Nook, once flooding recedes and the Visitor Center re-opens!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

And the Rains Came….

The rain that has been looked for, hoped for, and  prayed for has come and stayed and stayed  and now Lake Texoma is approaching a level of 637 feet above sea level,  At 640’ water will go over the spillway.  This week the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers was able to begin releasing some water as downstream flooding lessened, but water is coming into the lake faster than it is going out.

Meadow Pond Trail, taken this week by Courtney Anderson
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is flooded, as are many areas around the lake.  Refuge Manager Kathy Whaley says that prolonged high water will result in not only loss of wildlife but long-term habitat loss and change.  For example, many trees already stressed by drought will die from standing in water and invasive seeds will be spread by water.  In the past the big Mineral Picnic Area was a shady spot with many large trees, see Refuge file photo below, which were later lost due to flooding and prolonged standing in water.

Damage assessment, clean-up and repair cannot begin until the water recedes to normal levels.

The Visitor Center closed to the public on May 15, and will not re-open until access is clear.  The Refuge Office is open regular hours this week, for phone calls and mail only.

Trail Closed, photo from Refuge files, taken 5 - 15 - 2015
The Butterfly Symposium with Dale Clark, sponsored by the Bluestem Master Naturalists, has a new location, the Grayson County Courthouse.  There is no change in the meeting date or time; the program is still set for 9 am – 3:30 pm, Saturday, May 30. 

Youth FIRST is canceled for the  June 6  program, “Ants In Your Pants”, and will not meet again until August 1.  Reservations for that program, “Clean Green Algae Machine” will open July 6.

At this time, there is no plan to cancel Second Saturday, June 13, “Prairie Restoration”.

The Grand Opening for the Butterfly Garden at HNWR has been postponed until October.

We want to say "Thank You" to visitors for their patience and to all the Refuge volunteers who are standing by during the Great Flood of  '15.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Nestling Bluebird Rescued from Flood at HNWR

By the end of last week, it was apparent that Lake Texoma was starting to flood. The staff at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge began preparing for the changes that floodwaters would bring to the Refuge.  Preparations included: 

-Securing the L-Pad dock to prevent it from floating off.
-Moving the wooden trash can holders out of Day Use Areas.
-Removing the pump from Big Mineral Creek.
-Moving the D7 dozer from MSU 7 to the maintenance shop.
-Removing the traffic counter from Wildlife Drive.
-Checking the tern platform to ensure adequate slack in cables for additional lake level rising.
-Closing gates at each entrance point for Wildlife Drive.

Wildlife Drive, May 11, 3 pm, HNWR Staff Photo

- AND - Checking bird nesting boxes in the expected flood zone.

Box 28, Raasch Trail, HNWR Staff Photo

Refuge Manager Kathy Whaley checked the monitors' notebook for Meadow Pond/Raasch Nest Box Trails and did a run to look for young that needed to be rescued. The only one found that was in a major flood zone was Box 28 on Raasch Trail.  The nest box had two eggs that had failed to hatch and one partially feathered young bluebird, approximately 5-6 days old. Since this box would be inundated within a couple of days, the nest with the bird in it was removed and the young bird was taken to Rogers Wildlife Rehab Center near Dallas.  

Mary Maddux, in boat, preparing to open Nest Box 28, HNWR Staff Photo

Mary Maddux and Rusty Daniel remove the nest from the box. HNWR Staff Photo

Rescued Bluebird Nestling, photo by Laurie Lawler

Thanks to Laurie Lawler for transporting the bird to the rehab facility. 

The other Meadow Pond/Raasch Trail boxes that have birds were on the far east end of Raasch Trail and are outside any potential flood zone. One, Box 58 on Meadow Pond Trail has bluebird eggs, but the flooding is not expected to endanger the nest.  Boxes along the Harris Creek Nest Box Trail are all outside the flood zone.

Daddy Bluebird on Box 28 after baby bird removed.
Photo by Laurie Lawler

On Tuesday, Box 28 was completely submerged.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Butterfly Magic

Laurie Sheppard is a volunteer at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge who loves butterflies; Laurie and garden docents will be on hand at the Refuge from 3 - 4:30 pm on Mother's Day to help visitors identify any butterflies that come into the new Butterfly Garden.   Some folks may not realize the number of butterfly species that might be seen at Hagerman; Laurie is working on a species list for the Refuge and is now up to 63 species confirmed by  Butterfly and Moths of North America.  Here is her account of a recent visit to Hagerman, along with photos.

"I went out to the refuge last weekend to concentrate on butterflies.  The highlight of the visit was that there had been a mass hatch of Question Marks.  There was one spot on Sandy Point Road where it was almost magical, with 30-40 Question Marks flying around me.  

The photos shown below illustrate the differences between a summer hatched Question Mark (center photo) and one that wintered over and is ragged and thin (top photo).  Summer hatch Question Marks have a dark hindwing and more detailed underside (bottom photo) compared to those hatched in the fall.

Here is Laurie's species list for the day. She says, "  I did not count actual numbers of each, but I did try to estimate."
Monarch - 1
Hackberry Emperor - 4
Gray Hairstreak - 1
Eastern Tailed-blue - 1
Orange Sulphur - 50+
Clouded Sulphur - 1
Cloudless Sulphur - 2
Dainty Sulphur - 3
Checkered White - 8
Question Mark - 50
Little Wood-satyr - 10
Funereal Duskywing - 1
Clouded Skipper - 2
Pearl Crescent - 1
Phaon Crescent - 1
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - 3
Black Swallowtail - 6
Variegated Fritillary - 1
Common Buckeye - 2
Viceroy - 1

Guided walks through the Butterfly Garden at the Refuge will be held at 10 am on the third Saturday of each month, May through October, weather permitting.  On June 20, the walk will be held in conjunction with the Grand Opening for the garden.  Get ready for the magic!