Thursday, July 28, 2016

National Moth Week

The last week of July has been designated as National Moth Week.  According to the National Moth Week website, one of the purposes of the special week is to provide education about the moth.  If you think of moths just as pantry pests or closet villains, read on! 

On the  National Conservancy site, we found  that
Moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth. In fact, scientists estimate there are more than 150,000 moth species worldwide! Move over butterflies, moths come in bright colors and dazzling patterns. Species can take a myriad of shapes and can be as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult’s hand. 

The National Wildlife Federation's website informs us that "In the U.S., more than 11,000 species of moths can be found, compared to about 750 species of North American butterflies."

On Entomology Today we read that:
National Moth Week (NMW) shines a much-needed spotlight on moths and their ecological importance, as well as their incredible biodiversity. While moths often have taken a back seat to their Lepidoptera kin, the butterflies, there is growing interest in their role as pollinators and as a food source for other animals. Scientists also look for the impact of climate change on their numbers and distribution. With possibly as many as 500,000 species, moths can provide an endless opportunity for exploration.
 Studying moths can be as easy as turning on a porch light and waiting for them to come, or shining a light on a white sheet in a backyard or park. Special blacklights or mercury vapor lights are often used to attract the widest suite of species and ambitious moth-ers also coat tree trunks with a sticky, sweet mixture of fruit and stale beer that is very attractive to many species of moths. However, mothing isn’t only for those with poor sleeping habitats or the inclination to be outside at ridiculous hours of the night. Searching for caterpillars and day-flying moths is a good activity for daytime and a perfect opportunity to explore other aspects of moth ecology.
Luna Moth at Hagerman NWR

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Master Naturalist Training Offered

Master Naturalists provide education and information at events.
Since 1997, the Texas Master Naturalist™ program has grown to include 46 chapters and more than 9,600 volunteers serving Texas communities throughout 76 percent of the state’s counties. The mission of the program is to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the state of Texas. (

Master Naturalist Larry Vargus leading youth program at HNWR on endangered species.

Anyone interested in plants, animals, weather, geology and preserving our natural systems can join in this effort; registration is now open for the fall session of training as a Texas Master Naturalist, Bluestem Chapter, serving Grayson County. Classes will meet on the Saturdays as shown in the schedule below, and this year the training venues vary from week to week covering a larger portion of Grayson County.

Master Naturalists on field trip. (photo courtesy Ginger Mynatt)

Tuesday, August 23,  Grayson County Courthouse, second-floor meeting room

6:00 – 9:00 p.m. Orientation

Saturday classes meet from 9:00 – 4:00 on the following dates:

August 27, Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge

Ornithology with focus on Shorebirds, History of Hagerman; Wetland Ecology and Management, History and Archaeology of Hagerman, Reporting System

September 10, Eisenhower State Park,
Prairies, Entomology, Forestry

September 24, Austin College IDEA Center (Science Bldg)
Herpetology, Ecological systems, Mammalogy,

October 1, Grayson College Science Lab
Geology and Regions of Texas, Gems and Minerals, Advanced Training, Nature of Naming

October 22, Gardenland Nursery, Sherman
Urban Systems, Aquatic Systems, Ichthyology

October 29, HNWR
Weather, Interpretative Teaching, Class Project.

All classes are taught by qualified presenters, experts in their field, many of them in the field as well as the classroom. Click Presenters to learn more about the faculty for the Fall Training.  Registration closes August 18, 2016. The cost of classes is $100. Interested people may contact the chapter through Scroll down the web page to "Contact Bluestem Master Naturalists".

Master Naturalists Dave Parsons, Ginger Mynatt, at "Art in Nature" youth program at HNWR.

Master Naturalist Roxie Wilson volunteers as tram driver/guide at HNWR.

Master Naturalists (shown here - Pat Crone) lead Butterfly Garden programs at HNWR for youth and adults.

Master Naturalists organized and staffed Nature O'logy 2016, outdoor experience at HNWR for 10 year-olds. (photo courtesy Bluestem Chapter)

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Frogfruit...hmm - is this an edible fruit like apples or bananas?? Or maybe a little more exotic like mango or Kiwi?? No, it is a plant found growing at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and across much of Texas.  According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center site, the Latin name is Phyla nodiflora, and the plant is a member of the Verbena family.
Frogfruit by Sally and Andy Wasowski, from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
You can find Frogfruit, also know as Texas Frogfruit and Turkey Tangle Fogfruit,  growing around the bridge in the Butterfly Garden at HNWR, as well as along roadsides around the Refuge.  It is an excellent ground cover for sun or part shade, and semi-evergreen. During hard winters it will go dormant.

The plant was selected for the Butterfly Garden as meeting three criteria: a Texas native plant that is a butterfly host and also provides nectar.

Frogfruit is a host for the Phaon Crescent, shown above. Look closely when you visit and you may see these tiny butterflies flitting about the mass of blooming Frogfruit.   The plant has small white blooms from May - October and is tolerant of a wide variety of growing conditions.  In addition to Texas, it grows throughout the southern US and down to the tropics.

Frogfruit is just one of the many native Texas plants you can view in the Butterfly Garden; most are labelled but garden docents will be on hand this Saturday and on the third Saturdays of August, September, and October, from 9:30 - 11:30 am, to answer questions about plants and help identify visiting butterflies.  Come on out for a garden stroll!  These events are organized by the Friends of Hagerman and are free, no reservation needed, and you may come and go or come and stay.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Deer at Hagerman NWR

White-tailed Fawn at HNWR, by Skeeter Lasuzzo
Recently a number of photos of deer photos  have been posted to the Friends of Hagerman Facebook Page, so we know that the fawns will soon be old enough to begin traveling about  with the does at Hagerman NWR. Many visitors to the Refuge ask about the possibility of seeing deer and sightings are always a great experience, especially for youngsters.  Late each summer, Refuge staff conduct a deer count; in 2015 the count was 764.

According to National Geographic, white-tailed deer are the smallest member of the North American deer family. They are found from southern Canada to South America. Their preferred habitat is forest in winter and meadow in summer, with small areas of trees for shade.

Visitors to the Refuge who want to see deer should time their trip for early morning or late day, as the deer are  primarily nocturnal or crepuscular, browsing mainly at dawn and dusk. They are herbivorous and as ruminants, have special four-chambered stomachs that can digest a variety of plant foods, from leaves to twigs and acorns.   Each chamber has a different and specific function that allows the deer to eat a variety of different foods, digesting it at a later time in a safe area of cover.

White-tailed Buck at HNWR, by Larry Paar
Visitors will note that the deer appear to be different colors from season to season. Adult white-tails have reddish-brown coats in summer which fade to a duller grayish-brown in winter, and  can be differentiated from other deer  by the characteristic white underside to its tail.  Male deer, called bucks, are easily recognizable in the summer and fall by their prominent set of antlers, which are grown annually and fall off in the winter. Only the bucks grow antlers, which bear a number of tines, or sharp points. During the mating season, also called the rut, bucks fight over territory by using their antlers in sparring matches.

Summer doe at HNWR, by Joe Blackburn
Female deer, called does, give birth to one to three young at a time, usually in May or June and after a gestation period of seven months. Young deer, called fawns, wear a reddish-brown coat with white spots that helps them blend in with the forest.  Fawns take their first steps within half an hour of their birth, and  will usually stay with their mother for around a year. For the first four weeks, fawns mostly lie still and hide in vegetation while their mothers forage. They are then able to follow their mothers on foraging trips.

Visitors who find a fawn in hiding should not assume it is abandoned and should not attempt to touch or "rescue" it.  The photo below was taken at Hagerman and posted by Steve Harbula, who says, "Wonderful treat by Derby Ponds on Thursday afternoon -- a White-tailed Deer fawn who was trying to follow her mother but got confused and started heading right towards me! She soon realized that I did not, in fact, look like a deer and dove back into the undergrowth, where she lay down to camouflage herself and wait for mom's return." (See Steve's blog for more about his day at HNWR.)

Fawn at HNWR by Steve Harbula
Deer communicate through a variety of actions:

Alarm Signal, by Marilyn Pickens
  • Fawns release a high-pitched squeal, known as a bleat, to call out to their mothers.
  • Mature deer make a guttural sound that attracts the attention of any other deer in the area.
  • Both does and bucks also snort, a sound that often signals an imminent threat. 
  • Use of their white tail. When spooked, it will raise its tail to warn the other deer in the immediate area.
  • Scent from the forehead is deposited on tree branches.
  • Scent from glands on the legs and hooves signify bucks passing through an area or signal danger.
  • Scraping bark and earth, and urine combined with deposits from other glands all mark territory.

National Geographic reports that "In the wild, white-tails, particularly the young, are preyed upon by bobcats, mountain lions, and coyotes. They use speed and agility to outrun predators, sprinting up to 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour and leaping as high as 10 feet (3 meters) and as far as 30 feet (9 meters) in a single bound." And not only can they run and jump, they are also excellent swimmers.