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.