Thursday, January 28, 2016

Rain Be Gone!

By Kathy Whaley

As this is being written, the sky is blue and the wind is howling a brisk, cool breeze. Even with the wind, the blue skies are a very welcomed sight! Taking a look back at Hagerman NWR in 2015, the first thing that comes to mind is all of the water we had to endure. In May alone, the refuge recorded 28.51 inches of rain. Compared to all of 2014 (23.56 inches) that was A LOT of rain! Most all roads were closed from early May through mid-August.

June 1, 2015 - Photo from Refuge Files
Then, a couple of days after Thanksgiving, the roads flooded again and have been closed all but a few days since then. 
Flooding approaches accessible loop of Harris Creek Trail, January 6, 2016
The good news is that Lake Texoma will be below 620 msl (mean sea level) soon (the elevation of Wildlife Drive) and is expected to reach its normal winter pool of 617 msl on January 31st.  Click to follow the changing lake level (information from the US Army Corps of Engineers).

What will the rest of winter and this spring look like? We are waiting anxiously to find out. According to (the website used by the Corps of Engineers to obtain weather forecasts), temperatures for the next three months are expected to be near normal while there is a 40% chance of above normal precipitation. Then, according to a January 14th report from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, the strong El NiƱo currently in place is expected to gradually weaken through spring 2016, and to transition to more normal conditions during late spring or early summer. Let’s keep our fingers crossed they are correct!

A few things we know for sure: 1) we can’t control the weather; 2) the Corps does their best to release as much water as possible during periods of flood, but they must take into consideration downstream conditions which sometimes means we are flooded longer than we wish we were; 3) eventually, the water level will return to normal, debris will be removed from refuge roads, and needed repairs will be made. The refuge staff would like everyone to know they have missed having their regular visitors on Wildlife Drive and are happy to have the road cleared and open once again!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Begin to Bird

Most every day I sit at my kitchen table and observe the birds who gather at our backyard feeders.  According to, I am a birdwatcher – a person who identifies and observes birds in their natural habitat as recreation.

In an article about Birdwatching on Wikipedia, we find that

“The term "birdwatching" appeared for the first time as the title of a book "Bird Watching" by Edmund Selous in 1901. In North America, the identification of birds, once thought possible only by shooting was made possible by the emergence of optics and field identification guides. The earliest field guide in the US was Birds through an Opera Glass (1889) by Florence Bailey.”

The article goes on to state that for years birdwatching in America was popular primarily in the eastern seaboard states.   The combination of more readily available binoculars following World War II and automobile helped spread birdwatching and increased travel to view birds.

A study by U.S. Fish & Wildlife  is cited by Wikipedia as estimating that currently 20% of Americans are birdwatchers.

On two Saturdays, January 23 and January 30, you can join the 20%! Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge will offer Begin to Bird.  The first session will cover choosing birdwatching equipment and the second will cover identification keys to birds common in our area.  You can register online, call the Refuge, 903 786 2826,  or just show up at 10 am in the Visitor Center Meeting Room at the Refuge.

Then, on Saturday, February 13, you can practice!  The 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count is set for February 12 - 15 this year, and Hagerman and the Friends  will hold a GBBC Walk, led by Dr. Wayne Meyer, at 8 am on that date, weather permitting.  Participants will meet BY 8 am at the Visitor Center and return in time for the Second Saturday presentation.

In case you are wondering, the term birdwatching can be all inclusive or may be used to describe the casual hobbyist v. “birder”, whose approach is more serious and includes keeping multiple lists, a collection of field guides, the latest optics, and travel to see specific birds. (

Backyard Bird Photos by Dick Malnory

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Get Outdoors More….with help from the Interagency Pass Program

By Jean Flick

During the cold of winter, many of us turn our thoughts to summer travel plans. The Interagency Pass Program enables many US citizens and permanent residents the opportunity to enjoy the natural wonders of a variety of federally managed lands at minimal expense.

Three of these passes are available at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, including the Senior Pass for those aged 62 or over ($10 for a lifetime pass), the Access Pass for US citizens with permanent disabilities (free), and the Annual 4th grade pass, free for the child and family during the year that each child is in the fourth grade and the following summer. 

Additional passes include the Annual Pass for US military (free) and the Annual Pass for anyone ($80 for one year).

Six agencies participate in the Pass Program, including the National Park Service, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation. Effective January 1, 2016, the US Army to Corps of Engineers was granted the authority to be a full participant. Passes typically allow free admission to federal sites overseen by these agencies and may include substantial discounts on some activities such as camping, boat ramp use, and swimming.

The National Park Service oversees 409 areas, including national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks and sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic trails and rivers, and the White House.

The US Forest Service manages 193 million acres of vast scenic beauty, including national forests and grasslands. These public lands include 10,000 developed recreation sites, as well as alpine ski areas, heritage sites, wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, and more than 150,000 miles of trails.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service preserves habitat and protects wildlife on 150 million acres of national wildlife refuges, as well as more than 418 million acres of national marine monuments.

The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for a variety of national conservation sites, including 223 Wilderness areas with over 8.7 million acres in 10 western states. These areas are “special areas where the earth and its community of life are essentially undisturbed.” Areas are open for certain forms of recreation, but permanent changes to the land are not permitted, to preserve the integrity of the wilderness.

The Bureau of Reclamation is tasked with managing water in the West and has projects in 17 western states. The reclamation work of the Bureau has resulted in the development of 289 areas with developed recreation areas including campgrounds, boat ramps, and opportunities for hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the number one federal provider of recreation in the US, with 400 lake and river projects in 43 states, including our own Lake Texoma.

America the Beautiful awaits...there is something out there for everyone...go to or for more information.

  • There is no charge for admission at Hagerman NWR.   
  • Senior, Access, and Annual 4th Grade Passes are available at the Refuge Office, during regular business hours Monday - Fridays, 7:30 am - 4 pm.  They are not available on weekends or federal holidays.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Resolve to Go Wild at Hagerman NWR

It is not too late for New Year's Resolutions!  And we have some suggestions for you, for 2016, starting in January at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge:


Opportunities in January - Hear Dr. Peter Schulze, Director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Austin College, speak on the importance of prairie and the Prairie Restoration program conducted as Hagerman's neighbor, Sneed Prairie. 10 am, Saturday, January 9, in the Visitor Center at the Refuge. Free nature programs are offered on the Second Saturday of each month; see our calendar for more opportunities.

Take a guided auto birding tour around the Refuge with Texas Master Naturalist Jim Varnum on Saturday, January 23.  Meet Jim at the Visitor Center at 9 am; bring a brown bag lunch and make a day of it, ending at 2 pm.  You will want to bring binoculars, field guide and optional - camera.

OR - learn to identify birds at Begin to Bird, with Dick Malnory.  This two-part class will meet from 10 am - Noon on January 23 and wind up  during the same hours on January 30.  You will learn  keys to bird identification as well as how to choose binoculars, field guides.  Meet in the Refuge Visitor Center.  Please call the Refuge to sign up, 903 786 2826, or register online.

Learn more about native plants and butterflies and train to become a Butterfly Garden Docent. Orientation will be held at 10 am on Thursday, January 28 in the Visitor Center.  Docents help visitors who come for Garden Walks and group tours identify plants and butterflies and explain the mission of the garden and the plant-wildlife connection.


Graphics artist Jesus Moreno will lead a workshop on using Lightroom CC software, from 10 am - 3 pm  on Saturday, January 16.  Seating is limited for this free workshop and Friends of Hagerman Nature Photo Club members get first dibs on registering, but any places open after January 9 are up for grabs.  Eager beavers can join the club and register ASAP! Use CONTACT for workshop details.


The Youth FIRST program at HNWR will resume on February 6, with Who Lives in a Tree.  Registration is open now for this event.

And - you know what - if you also resolved to get your budget in shape for the New Year, all these programs are FREE!

See you there!