Thursday, August 27, 2015

Stop Invasives in Your Tracks

From Friends NewsWire:

Everybody has a role to play in stopping the advance of invasive species – those plants, animals and microorganisms that are not native to a particular area and wreak havoc outside their normal range.

NOTE: Not all nonnative species are harmful.  Many agricultural crops are non-native. An example is corn - a nonnative whose introduction has been very beneficial. The term "invasive" is reserved for the most aggressive nonnative species capable of changing site or living conditions for the worse where they establish.

According to the PlayCleanGo website,

"Invasive species are found in water and on land. In fact, invasive species can occur in just about every habitat type you can imagine: lakes and streams, cities, fields and farms, all of the native areas of the state. A few of the common species found on land include Canadian thistle, common buckthorn, wild parsnip, and the two fungal species that cause Dutch elm disease and oak wilt. Another one that folks are becoming aware of is the emerald ash borer."

Locally, invasive species such as zebra mussels, feral hogs and Johnson grass come to mind!

The site goes on to say that each species has evolved to have several means of expanding a short distance in its home territory, where plants and animals have come to coexist more or less peaceably.

A problem occurs when humans knowingly or unknowingly assist increase the distance a species is or can spread:

"Long distance spread is almost always human assisted. Because long distance spread takes the species a long way from home, the resident plants and animals are not often prepared to cope with their new neighbor. Natural enemies are missing and host species often lack the natural defenses necessary to survive an attack by the introduced species. Once introduced, aggressive species are free to expand their range using their short distance dispersal mechanisms with a competitive advantage over native plant and animals due to the lack of natural enemies."

A new campaign called PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks is a clear call to action to people who are regularly outdoors, whether working or recreating. PlayCleanGo complements the ongoing Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers campaign.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a partner in PlayCleanGo, along with more than 160 conservation groups nationwide. Together they are calling on the public to:
Be informed, attentive and accountable for preventing the spread of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species.
Arrive to recreational sites with clean gear.
Burn and use local or certified firewood, mulch, decorative rocks and soil.
Use local or weed-free hay.
Stay on the trails.
Clean gear before leaving, including removing mud and seeds.

Homeowners are encouraged to learn about and use native plants in their yards. Workers are advised to burn wood waste that may harbor plant pests from another part of the country or world. Together, we can do it!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Snow on the Prairie

Snow-on-the-Prairie, by Courtney Anderson

It must be August when you see Snow-on-the-Prairie! Driving along Refuge Road, en route to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, this plant with cool appearing green and white leaves actually does look like a light dusting of snow where it is growing en masse. This white flowering plant can blanket a prairie in no time at all, hence the name. Because livestock stay away from the poisonous sap that the plant emits, it doesn't take much for it to cover a field.

There are actually two plants, Euphorbia bicolor Engelm. and A. Gray, and Snow-on- the-Mountain, Euphorbia marginata Pursh; NPIN, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Database, notes that the two are often confused.

As members of the Spurge Family, both plants have a milky sap that is irritating to humans with sensitive skin, as well as to the eyes, and is toxic to cattle.

Poinsettias are members of the same family. Growing 1 - 4 feet tall, in poor soils, the plants multiply by throwing seed, described by Dorothy Thetford in Wildflowers-of-Texas. Thetford says, “This ballistic dispersal of seeds explains the scattered arrangement of plants on the prairie.”

Both plants are annuals in the spurge family. The actual flowers are tiny white blossoms, surrounded by the green and white bracts. The bract of bicolor (in photos) is narrower than that of marginata. According to Texas A & M Agrilife Extension Snow-on-the-Mountain grows mainly in Central Texas, as well as north to Montana and Minnesota and south to Mexico, and Snow-on-the-Prairie mainly in the eastern third of Texas. NPIN shows a range including Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. The bloom time is July – October. We'll take anything that even helps us think "cool" at this time of year!

This blog was originally published August 23, 2012 and again on August 21, 2014; thanks to Courtney Anderson for top photo and additional information in this edition.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

It's All in the Interpretation

By Courtney Anderson

Interpret:  1. Explain the meaning of; 2. Conceive of the meaning of; 3. Represent by means or art or performance; 4. Orally translate for speakers of different languages

In science, an interpreter is a liaison between science and the public, educating on a myriad of subjects by making them exciting and enjoyable.

I have had the pleasure this summer of becoming a National Association for Interpreters (NAI) Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG) through training at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. It was a rigorous one week program that led to many friendships. Everyone I met had bright eyes and was spewing with creativity, and the excitement in the room was tangible. We learned how to craft programs around topics that ranged far and wide - I had the pleasure of listening to a topic all about dung!  Then everyone waited patiently while I gave a talk about my specialty, algae.

Courtney leading  hike at HNWR during Spring Break.

The training was essential for my work every day at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. When I came back, I had a greater understanding of how to reach and entertain a variety of audiences. That was part of the motivation for planning the Hiking for Habitat program every third Saturday, now torpedoed by the flooding! The goal of this program was to educate about the different habitats we have here on the refuge, while being  out in nature. Habitats are dynamic, and ever changing; especially at Hagerman, which is managed in order to provide suitable areas for wildlife. I am still looking forward to leading some hikes at the Refuge once the trails are clear, so stay tuned!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Test Your Wader IQ

"Stop Following Me" by Paul Martin
A look at the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Bird Check List will give you an idea of the many different wading birds that can be seen at the Refuge, at various times of year.  At Second Saturday, on August 8, Dr. Wayne Meyer will give us the complete low down on these birds, and in the meantime you can test your wader IQ:

  1. Largest of the North American herons: ______  _______  ________
  1. The White  __________ has a long down-curved red bill, long red legs and black wing tips.
  1. A ___________  __________, only seen at HNWR every few years,  is a huge, long legged bird with a bald head.
  1. Tall, long legged white birds with black feet, S-curve necks and yellow/orange bills are ________ Egrets.
  1. The _________ Egret sets off immaculate white plumage with black legs and brilliant yellow feet. 
  1.  Early conservationists rallied to protect __________s, nearly driven to extinction by plume hunters by the early twentieth century. 
  1. The _________  __________  _________  is a small, dark heron with  rich purple-maroon head and neck and dark slaty-blue body.          
  1. The __________-_____________  ___________   ___________ is  a nocturnal heron of the southern swamps and coast, has a yellowish crown stripe.
  1. A stocky and well-camouflaged heron of dense reed beds is the American  __________.
  1. A member of the heron family that spends most of its time in fields rather than streams is the __________   _________.

Thanks to Cornell’s All About Bird for bird facts.  To learn more, check out

Answers: 1.  Great Blue Heron; 2.  Ibis; 3.  Wood Stork; 4.  Great; 5.  Snowy; 6.  Egrets; 7.  Little Blue Heron; 8.  Yellow-crowned Night Heron; 9.  Bittern; 10.  Cattle Egret