Thursday, February 25, 2016


Carolina Wren eggs in nest box at Hagerman NWR, 2013

Oology – Wikipedia defines oology as “a branch of ornithology studying bird eggsnests, and breeding behavior. The word is derived from the Greek "oion", meaning egg. Oology can also refer to the hobby of collecting wild birds' eggs, sometimes called egg collecting, birdnesting or egging, which is now illegal in many jurisdictions."

I had not heard of “oology” until recently, when I read that one of the National Wildlife Refuges that has a book group, is reading Oology and Ralph’s Talking Eggs, by Carrol L. Henderson, published by the  University of Texas Press   

I have just begun reading, but I can tell you that the book covers what might be called pre-modern birding, before quality optics and camera were available for the viewing and study of birds in the wild.  Life lists of those days often consisted of carefully documented eggs collected from various species, whether in person or by means of trading and purchase.

Bluebird eggs in nestbox at Hagerman NWR
Ralph Handsaker, named in the title, acquired eggs of nearly 500 species at a time when collecting involved treks over farm, field and forest, not to mention wetlands, and including exploits such as climbing tall trees or traveling by boat to retrieve eggs.  Since 1918, it has been illegal to  sell or trade wild bird eggs; Handsaker's collection has been donated by the family to the Peabody Museum of Yale University.

The author, Carrol Henderson, not only describes the world of egg collectors but the culture that developed along with it, for example, the publication of bird trading cards and the production of books featuring eggs and nests.  In addition, he details the conservation history of a number of species  and the evolution of conservation laws.

Bluebird egg from nestbox at Hagerman NWR, 2015

Finally, from the book:
“In 1863, T. W. Higginson wrote, “I think that, if required on pain of death to name instantly the most perfect thing in the universe, I should risk my fate on a bird’s egg.”

And the author adds:
"...the real value of the egg is the miracle that lies within."

Current Law:
In the United States, the collection and possession of wild bird eggs is also restricted, and in some cases is a criminal act. Depending on the species, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Lacey Act, the Endangered Species Act or other laws may apply.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hagerman 70th Birthday Celebration

     By Helen Vargus

Barred Owl on sentinel duty in this photo by Buddy Viers 

Come join the party at the Visitor Center to celebrate Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge’s 70th Birthday on Sunday, February 21 from 2-4 pm.   Cake and coffee or punch will be provided by the Friends of Hagerman.  Visitors will be able to view a continuous slide show depicting the Refuge through the years.  A memory book will also be available for people to add their reminiscences about Hagerman. 

Hagerman NWR came into being as a result of the Denison Dam construction.  The Dam was championed by Sam Rayburn in an effort to alleviate flooding along the Red River and to have the ability to generate hydroelectric power and provide electricity to rural Grayson County.  The dam bill was passed by Congress in 1938 and in 1944 the reservoir was filled.  It took several years and many steps to the birth of the11,320 acre Hagerman Refuge. 

In 1941 the Katy and Frisco railroads began moving miles of tracks from the area.  Some of those track areas are now Wildlife Drive, Meadow Pond Trail and Raasch Trail.  In November, 1941, Postmaster R.L. Sweeney, was required to move the Hagerman post office to the Grayson County Air School site at Perrin Field.

By August, 1942, Hagerman town lots were being condemned in anticipation of the flooding of its low-lying valley.  The U.S. government appraised the properties and paid the citizens for their property based on these appraisals. The town would be inundated by 10-20 feet of water once the dam’s reservoir was filled.  Most residents found farms in drier locations or moved to the thriving towns of Denison, Sherman and other smaller communities in Grayson County. A few left the Texoma area for distant places.  Reluctant to give up their homes, some of the Hagerman residents moved their houses to nearby towns; others had them dismantled and moved elsewhere in the area, where they were then rebuilt. 

Historic marker tells the town story
In 1944 with the reservoir full the little town of Hagerman was only a memory for the families that had developed and cared for this piece of Texas.  The government now owned the land and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began looking into the possibility of using the flooded Hagerman town area for a wildlife preserve for migratory birds. 

Nothing is ever simple when it comes to dealing with a government entity.  First, studies needed to be done on the feasibility of the area as a refuge.  Next, an agreement between the Texas game service and the federal service was made to establish a refuge.  Hagerman was officially designated a refuge by the Fish and Wildlife Service in September, 1945.  Then, a presidential executive order was signed to establish the area as a federal refuge of the Fish and Wildlife Service in February of 1946.  It was also at that time the Refuge agreement was made with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  In April, 1946, the Secretary of the Interior approved the refuge.
A report in February, 1947, said the outlook for the Hagerman Wildlife Game Refuge was deemed to be excellent.  The population for wildlife was declared satisfactory and it compared favorably with other United States preserves.  At that time the building program at the refuge was on hold because initial bids were too high for additional structures. 

Marcus Nelson, first Refuge Manager

          The construction of the office and laboratory, located on a bluff overlooking Lake Texoma, was underway in August 1947.  The structure was built of concrete blocks, took about six weeks to erect, and cost about $10,000.  Other buildings to be placed on the site were workshops, tool sheds, residences, and garages.  For all buildings on this site the total estimated costs were to be $100,000 or more.
Photo of original Refuge HQ, taken in 1950

         Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge contains 3,000 acres of marsh and water and 8,000 acres of upland and farmland.  It is an overlay of a portion of the Big Mineral arm of Lake Texoma.  Its purpose is to protect and improve living conditions for all wildlife.  It provides a variety of habitats for birds and other animals and is a prime location for migratory birds and waterfowl.

The Refuge is located at 6465 Refuge Road in Sherman, Texas.  The Refuge Office and Visitor Center are open Monday – Friday, from 7:30 – 4 pm.  The Visitor Center is also open from 9 am – 4 pm on Saturdays, and 1 – 5 pm on Sundays. The Visitor Center and Refuge Office are closed on federal holidays, and no official business is conducted; please note that Senior and Access Passes are not available on weekends and federal holidays.   The grounds are open year-round from sunrise until sunset unless otherwise posted. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Beaver Fill-in-the Blanks

Beaver Fill-in-the-blanks – adapted from National Geographic  
Beavers are famously busy, and they turn their talents to re-engineering the landscape as few other animals can. When sites are available, beavers burrow in the banks of rivers and lakes. But they also transform less suitable habitats by building d _ _ _.
 Felling and gnawing trees with their strong t_ _ _ _ and powerful jaws, they create massive log, branch, and mud structures to block streams and turn fields and forests into the large p_ _ _ _   that beavers love.
Domelike beaver homes, called l_ _ _ _ _, are also constructed of branches and mud. They are often strategically located in the middle of ponds and can only be reached by u_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _   entrances. These dwellings are home to extended families of monogamous parents, young kits, and the yearlings born the previous spring.
Beavers are among the largest of r_ _ _ _ _ _. They are h_ _ _ _v_ _ _ _  and prefer to eat leaves, bark, twigs, roots, and aquatic plants.
These large rodents move with an ungainly waddle on land but are graceful in the water, where they use their large,   _ _ bb_ _ rear feet like swimming fins, and their paddle-shaped tails like rudders. These attributes allow beavers to swim at speeds of up to five miles (eight kilometers) an hour. They can remain underwater for 15 minutes without surfacing, and have a set of transparent eyelids that function much like goggles. Their f_ _ is naturally oily and waterproof.
There are two species of beavers, which are found in the forests of North America, Europe, and Asia. These animals are active all winter, swimming and foraging in their ponds even when a layer of ice covers the surface.

American Indians called the beaver the "sacred center" of the land because this species creates such rich, watery habitat for other mammals, fish, turtles, frogs, birds and ducks. We now know that beaver d_ _ _ _ _ g   provides essential natural services for people too.
Beavers reliably and economically maintain w_ t _ _ _ d _ that sponge up floodwaters, alleviate droughts and floods (because their dams keep water on the land longer), lessen erosion, raise the water table and act as the "earth's kidneys" to purify water. The latter occurs because several feet of silt collect upstream of older beaver dams, and toxics, such as pesticides, are broken down by microbes in the wetlands that beavers create. Thus, w_ _ _ _   downstream of dams is cleaner and requires less treatment for human use.
By the early 1900s, beavers were almost extirpated from North America, Europe and Asia due to t_ _pp_ _ _   and the subsequent dr_ _ _ _ _ _  of lands for agriculture. Estimates of the current North American population are as low as five percent of those present prior to European settlement.
Literary note – In Larry McMurtry’s novel, Buffalo Girls, a trapper from the Old West, traveling with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, goes overseas to  London; his only sightseeing wish is to go to the London Zoo to see a beaver, where:

“…he heard a sound he had not heard in many years, the slap of a beaver’s tail on water. …it was a sound he had first heard on the Platte as a boy of sixteen; it was the sound that had called him on, deeper and deeper in to the west, to the Missouri, and then to the Yellowstone, all the way to the dangerous Bitterroot and the Tongue, then it became a sound he heard less and less often as the beaver vanished…the last time he had heard the beaver’s sound was more than ten years before. He had listened for it in vain ever since – but here it was, at last!”
Beaver by Steve Jordan
Learn more about beavers from Dr. Jessica Healy at her presentation, Leave It to Beaver, for Second Saturday,  February 13, 10 am at Hagerman NWR.

ANSWERS: dams, teeth, ponds, lodges, underwater, rodents, herbivores, webbed, fur, damming, wetlands, water, trapping, draining

Thursday, February 4, 2016

What's Happening at Hagerman This Month?

By Helen Vargus

Just in time for a busy month,  Kathy Whaley, Refuge Manager of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge  announced last week that Wildlife Drive and the low water crossings are once again open, as the early winter flooding has ended.  All hiking trails are also now open.  Come enjoy the best that nature has to offer!

Home Sweet Home to many critters!
Youth First
Youth First is back for 2016!  On Saturday, February 6, 2016, from 10:00 am – 11:30 am join us as we learn about trees and the critters that make their home in trees. 
Youth First activities are held the first Saturday of every month and are open to children from ages 4-12.  These activities are free and open to the public with advance registration. This assures plenty of supplies will be available for each child.
            You may register as a Friends member, or as a guest. If you choose to become a member, please do so before starting the registration process.  Registration is currently open to Friends of Hagerman members and those who set up a guest account. All registrations must be completed by Thursday, February 4, 2016, at 4:00 pm. You may register online at  If your plans change after you have registered, please let us know.
Our Youth First groups will be held at two different locations at the Refuge,  based on the child’s age. Children ages 4-7 will meet in the Visitor Center Meeting Room and are to be accompanied by an adult. Children ages 8-12 will meet in the Friends of Hagerman Building and may be dropped off and picked up at the start and end of the session or may be accompanied by a parent or other responsible adult.  Look for the signs that will direct you to the FOH Building. 

Photo by Bill Powell
Each year Cornell sponsors the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). This year’s Citizen Science event is set for February 12 - 15, 2016.  Backyard birders can participate by counting birds in their own backyard or you can come to Hagerman NWR and take part in our bird count.
Master birder Dr. Wayne Meyer, Professor of Biology at Austin College, has agreed to lead a Great Backyard Bird Walk at Hagerman NWR from 8 - 9:30 am on Saturday, February 13.  To join the walk, participants must meet Dr. Meyer at the  Refuge Visitor Center  by 8 am.  Come dressed for the weather.  Bring your binoculars or borrow ours at the Nature Nook.  Birds counted during the walk will be reported to GBBC.   In the case of rain, the event will not be held.

Photo by Mary Karam
Second Saturday
            “Leave It to Beaver” will be the topic for Second Saturday on February 13. The program will be from 10-11:30 am at the Visitor Center at Hagerman NWR.
Dr. Jessica Healy, Assistant Professor of Biology at Austin College will give us the facts about this hardworking mammal.  A beaver’s dam in a healthy, freshwater stream helps create wetland habitats that support an array of unique plants and animals.
Each month Second Saturday programs are held at the Visitor Center.  The programs are free and no registration is required.

Hagerman NWR Turns 70 in February - watch for details on the celebration, which is set for 2 - 4 pm, Sunday, February 21.

Color-In for Teens, Grown-ups, at Hagerman NWR
Coloring isn’t just for kids!  Hagerman is sponsoring a Color-In exclusively for Teens and Grown-ups on Sunday, February 28, from 2:30-4:00 pm.  If you love to color or want to reconnect with your inner child, join us for a relaxing afternoon of coloring at Hagerman. Coloring is a great way to be creative and reduce your stress level.
The program is free; no registration is needed. Bring your own supplies or use ours. We have nature-themed pages to color, crayons, and colored pencils. We also have an assortment of nature-themed coloring books for sale in the Nature Nook book and gift shop at the Refuge.

Photo by Tom Judd
Tram Tours
            Hop on the Carlos and Eulalia Cardinal Express for a 60 - 90-minute tour along Wildlife Drive at the Refuge.  Guided tours will be offered in February on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 PM, weather permitting.  This is an open-air tram, so dress for the weather.  The tours are free but donations to the tram maintenance fund are welcome.  
Call 903 786 2826 for reservations as seating is limited.  Volunteers cannot access messages on the Refuge phone system.  To make a reservation, please speak to a volunteer from 9 am-4 pm Monday-Saturday and 1-5 pm on Sundays.  Standbys will be accepted on weekends if space permits.   No dogs other than service animals allowed on board the tram.

            Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is located at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, Texas.  The Visitor Center is open from 7:30 am - 4 pm Monday- Friday, 9 am  -  4 pm on Saturday and from 1-5 on Sunday. The grounds are open year-round from sunrise until sunset unless otherwise posted.  The Refuge Office/Visitor Center is closed on all federal holidays and will be closed on Monday, February 15 for Presidents Day.