Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 - Almost a Wrap! January through June

Let's take a look back at the first half of 2017 at Hagerman NWR,  as we prepare to start a new calendar year:

January - We welcomed new Deputy Refuge Manager, Paul Balkenbush, shown below,
and Visitor Services/Youth Program Biologist, Courtney Anderson, and said farewell to Raye Nilius, who retired from her position as Oklahoma/North Texas Refuge supervisor for USFWS.

On Second Saturday we "traveled" to Peru with Dr. Wayne Meyer and learned about squirrels at  The Refuge Rocks, initiated in January by moving the program for children ages 4 - 12 from the first Saturday each month to the third Saturday.

The Nature Photography Club was off to a great start for the year with a program by Trey Neal, Photographing Owls at HNWR.

February -  Alex Ocanas shared her experiences volunteering with a Community Based Elephant Conservation program in Thailand, for Second Saturday, and youngsters learned about backyard birds at The Refuge Rocks, as we participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Courtney Anderson with a new microscope.
Thanks to a grant from Prairie and Timbers Audubon Society, eight additional butterfly binoculars and five microscopes have been purchased for the educational program at HNWR (see photos below and at right).

Education program in the Butterfly Garden using new equipment from PTAS, May 2017

Refuge staff were monitoring a Bald Eagles' nest at HNWR, with the eagles believed to be incubating eggs.

School field trips began early in the year, scheduled by Courtney Anderson with educational activities led by volunteers and wildlife pros.

March -  Led by FOH Committee Chair Larry Vargus and Courtney Anderson, staff,  the new Outdoor Crew is working on improving trails, habitat and more at the Refuge, on the first Tuesdays and fourth Saturdays each month.

Dr. Jessica Healy educated and entertained us with "Otter Nonsense" on Second Saturday, and the youngsters were "Wild about Wildflowers" at The Refuge Rocks.

Nature Rocked also for Spring Break at HNWR, with crafts, hikes and more.  The Nature Photography Club held a Signs of Spring photo shoot, and enjoyed a program this month on Bird Photography for Beginners by Dr. Mike Keck.

Paul Balkenbush, Deputy Manager at HNWR was the featured speaker at the FOH Annual Meeting. New Life Members recognized were Wes and Teresa Crawford, shown below, honored with a gift to FOH from Exxon Mobil for volunteer service, and Derek Miller, not pictured, honored with a gift to FOH from Texas Instruments Foundation for volunteer service.

Walt Davis returned to lead a second workshop on drawing and nature journaling.

April - Regular Butterfly Garden walks began April 1, along with regularly scheduled garden workdays.  Docents benefitted from a  program on Native Bees given by Carol Clark and the Butterbike Lady stopped by at the Refuge on April 15, shown in photo below, by Melinda Hill.

Dr. Wayne Meyers spoke on Warblers at HNWR for Second Saturday, following a guided bird walk led by Jack Chiles,  and children attended The Refuge Rocks program, "Eggzactly!" shown below, in photo by Cindy Steele.

FOH provided free Save the Earth Coloring Books for Earth Day 2017.

Courtney Anderson and the Bluestem Master Naturalists held a night program, Hagerman's Enchanted Skies this month.

The Federal Junior Duck Stamp traveling exhibit of winners was on display at HNWR April  - May.

May -  A volunteer appreciation event was hosted by the Refuge staff on May 6, noting that more than 8000 hours of service had been given by volunteers in 2016.

We had a great turnout for Mother's Day in the Garden, with punch and cookies in the Butterfly Garden and lots of photo taking of moms and families.

Mother's Day in the Garden, 2017
For Second Saturday, a guided bird walk with Jack Chiles and "Weather Facts and Fiction", with Wava Denito, KXII, plus a Pollinator Photo Shoot in the Butterfly Garden.

Wava Denito, with Junior Duck Stamp exhibit in background

Youngsters learned about turtles at The Refuge Rocks.

Jimmy Thomas spoke on "Wildlife Photography in Africa", for the FOH Nature Photography Club.

June -  Dr. Wayne Meyer led the early bird walk for Second Saturday, followed by a program on Dragonflies presented by USFWS Endangered Species Specialist, Omar Bocanegra, shown at left.

Nest Box Monitors conducted weekly checks on the two Bluebird Trails at the Refuge and kept those who had adopted boxes informed of nesting activity throughout the season via  emailed reports and photos like the one below.

The Bluestem Master Naturalists sponsored Nature O'Logy, outdoor experience for youngsters ages10 -11.

Who Has Seen the Wind? was the topic for The Refuge Rocks in June, shown below.

Next week, July through December.  AND - want to know what's coming up for 2018?  See our Activities Calendar, and Happy New Year from the Friends of Hagerman!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

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:
Hagerman School - stood near the grove of trees just north of the present-day Visitor Center

… “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.”

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 classic, “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, described in 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 25.5 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. Cornmeal 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?

There might have been fresh citrus from the Texas Valley in time for the holidays (In 1919 The California Fruit Growers Exchange began burning 'Sunkist' on their oranges - the first trademarked fresh fruit - Food  

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.

Eerily predictive of the online shopping boom of our times, “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 at the intersection of Refuge Road and Terry Lane, and has since been replaced by a newer structure. The original Presbyterian church building was later 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

NOTE; This blog has been updated from the original, posted  December 24, 2015.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Truly Amazing Plant, Switchgrass - December Plant of the Month

By Linn Cates. Texas Master Naturalist, Bluestem Chapter

Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum, is a fast-growing, tall, warm weather perennial grass. It forms large, open, feathery looking, finely textured seed heads that transform it from a pleasing, but plainer look, (while the nearby spring and summer flowers demand the limelight) to an impressive, dressy fall showing. This continues, though somewhat subdued, right through the winter, until mid-spring when things warm up and a whole new chorus of green leaves emerge from the switchgrass crown to begin the show anew.

Switchgrass “Heavy Metal” through the Seasons
Native to the North American prairie, switchgrass’s large range is east of the Rocky Mountains (south of latitude 55°N,) from Canada south through the United States and into Mexico. In Texas, it grows in all regions but is rare in the Trans-Pecos area of west Texas.

Prairie with switchgrass near Comfort TX. March 2011
 In our part of Texas, North Central, you can see it at Clymer Meadow, a large prairie remnant nearby in Hunt County,
Clymer Meadow. Sept. 23, 2017
in native haying meadows near St. Jo in Montague County, at Austin College’s Sneed property in Grayson County, and at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge among other places. But you could see it easily and up close by driving out to Hagerman NWR Visitor Center and taking a look in the Butterfly Garden right behind the parking area. You won’t miss it; one of the garden’s switchgrass specimens has a plaque hanging in front of it, identifying it as “Switchgrass, Plant of the Month.”

Hagerman NWR Butterfly Garden. Switchgrass. Dec. 2, 2017


The repertoire of this performer, Panicum virgatum, is extensive.

Switchgrass is used today in many ways. Conservationists use it in prairie restoration and erosion prevention. Farmers and ranchers use it in forage production, haying operations, and establishing game cover. Landscapers and gardeners use ornamental switchgrass cultivars appropriate for those settings. Agricultural research institutions have studied switchgrass for decades and developed commercial agricultural applications. Further study has included phytoremediation projects, fiber manufacture, electricity production, biofuel production, and biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Could switchgrass help halt global warming?! I see all this as an amazing repertoire for a plant that grows all around us, one which I have enjoyed seeing in prairies I’ve visited and in gardens I’ve worked in, but I’m increasingly awed by Switchgrass as I learn more about it.

Grow it, but do your homework first!

Switchgrass has two growth forms: upland switchgrass and lowland switchgrass, varying from one another in several significant ways. The taller (6’+) lowland type requires more moisture, has a more extensive root, and has a more aggressive growth pattern than the shorter (waist high) not so aggressive upland switchgrass with a different root system. Some lowland varieties, such as “Alamo,” are so aggressive that they can grow to be a virtual monoculture (Wasowski 1999: 135) when you may have the goal of a lovely diversified prairie. George Cates, prairie plant expert of Native American Seed, Inc., cautioned, “Know your purpose. Match your goals and objectives to the seed or plants you buy or acquire for your project.” Do you want to stabilize soil to prevent erosion or grow good forage for cattle? Are you doing a prairie restoration or diversification in existing acreage and want additional food and cover for birds and other wildlife? Are you growing biomass for market? Or are you working on public, commercial or personal landscaping? Cates summarizes his advice, “Do your homework before buying your plants or seeds!

Love your garden? – Think about adding switchgrass to it.

Switchgrass will grow in many soil types; it’s not finicky. Sand, loam, clay, caliche all work for it. It likes full sun, but does well in part shade (half day full sun, half day shade.) Switchgrass can grow in medium to moist soils and after establishment does not need watering in addition to rainfall, but also will tolerate poorly drained soils. It can be propagated by root division while dormant if you know someone willing to divide theirs and share. Here is a link to a short video on how to do it. (The Garden Gate. 2016) Susan Mahr recommends that one divide the roots every three years. (Mahr 2015). Ornamental Switchgrass cultivars are not too hard to find in local and nearby nurseries. Twin Oaks on the Sherman/Denison border carried two attractive cultivars last year: “Heavy Metal” and “Shenandoah. “Heavy Metal” is a tightly upright switchgrass with blue-green leaves that turn rich amber in the fall and to lighter tan by winter. See the first photo of this blog. It is 3’ tall with pink toned flower spikes that make it a foot or more taller. The tiny seeds of “Heavy Metal” are a dark burgundy color. “Shenandoah;” grows to 4’ and has variegated leaves with red leaf tips early. In the fall it shows burgundy foliage and a burgundy seed head.
 “Shenandoah” Switchgrass

Ornamental switchgrass cultivars are bred to have properties that work well aesthetically in gardens. They are tall and remain upright; even if knocked over by heavy rain or snowfall they will often stand back up. They have year-round interest, so they function much like an evergreen shrub would. You can use them in attractive ways, in pairs to set off a park bench,

Placement of Switchgrass behind a garden park bench
in groups at the back of deep flower beds or in mixed plantings with other tall or mid-size prairie grasses and spring, summer, or fall flowers.

Butterfly Garden at Hagerman NWR. October 4, 2017

 You can use Switchgrass plants singly or in a row close together (4’) to create a visual barrier

Switchgrass at the edge of my patio. Oct.2017                          

or to hide an unsightly area. The above plant suggestions are all native to our North Central Texas area and will do much to provide nectar and host plants for our region’s butterflies. Switchgrass is the host plant for four Texoma butterflies: the Least Skipper, the Delaware Skipper, the Dotted Skipper and the Broad-wing Skipper. The Delaware Skipper has been sighted at Hagerman by Laurie Shephard who writes the Friends of Hagerman NWR monthly “Beyond the Butterfly Garden,” in which she chronicles her butterfly sightings with photos and observations of what she sees on the Refuge. Planting species native to one’s region, whether trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, flowers or ground covers, will definitely bring more butterflies and birds your way and most importantly you will be playing a positive role in helping nature do its job to provide for us all, all the interconnected web of life of which we are a part.

What’s your favorite prairie plant?

This summer and fall as I worked as a gardener and docent in Hagerman’s Butterfly Garden, I thought my favorite was Gregg’s Mistflower because every time I looked from late spring to late fall (7 +months) I would see many butterflies (Queens, Monarchs, Painted Ladies, Gulf Fritillaries, Variegated Fritillaries, Bordered Patches, ETC!! nectaring on the large clusters of its pretty, fuzzy light purple flowers. But today, I may have a new favorite: Switchgrass! Tell me yours?

A Final Thought: Keep learning! Me learning with my son George.


Cates, George D. 2017. Private communication.
Diggs, George, et al. 1999. Shinners & Mahler’s Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas. Ft. Worth: BRIT and Austin College.
Ecological Solutions: The Grass Issue. Spring 2017. Native American Seed (Catalog). Junction, TX
Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. 2017. “Find Plants.”
Mahr, Susan. 2015. “Switch Grass, Panicum virgatum.”
National Wildlife Foundation. 2017. “Native Plant Finder.”
Sheppard, Laurie. 2017. “Beyond the Butterfly Garden.”
The Garden Gate. June 28, 2016. “Maintaining and Dividing Switchgrass.”
Wasowski, Sally and Andy. 1999. Native Texas Plants. Landscaping Region by Region. Second Edition. Lanham, MD: Lone Star Books.

Photo Credits
01: Susan Mahr
02: T Cates
03: T Cates
04: L Cates
O5: Susan Mahr
O6: Susan Mahr
07: L Cates
08: L Cates

09: T Cates

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Beyond the Butterfly Garden at Year End, Part II

By Laurie Sheppard

Butterflies can be found at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge during any month or season, and throughout the year, visitors are encouraged to look beyond the Butterfly Garden to find them. As 2017 draws to a close, 89 species of butterflies have been documented by citizen scientists in Grayson County and of those, 84 have been found and verified on the refuge. In a blog last month, six new species found on the refuge this year were described. Here are seven more. 

Perhaps the most unexpected butterfly found this spring is the Frosted Elfin. This butterfly has a conservation status of G3 which means it is localized and threatened throughout its range. The larval host of the Frosted Elfin is Wild Indigo or Lupine which grows throughout the large open area bordering Sandy Point Road. This species flies only in spring, timed to coincide with the blooms of the host plants where it lays its eggs. Frosted Elfin caterpillars feed on the lupine’s blooms and seed pods, and their chrysalids hibernate in the litter beneath the plant awaiting the next spring.

Frosted Elfin by Laurie Sheppard

The Hoary Edge is typically found from Central Texas to the Atlantic coast. It is a dark butterfly of open woodland and brushy areas and was likely overlooked before at the refuge. Adult males perch on branches about 3-6 feet off the ground and may fly out repeatedly, then return to the same perch. Hoary Edge butterflies are known to frequent Oak woods with sandy soil such as the area between Oil Field Road and Sandy Point Road.  Larval hosts are all in the pea family, but adults will nectar on milkweed and buttonbush, among other flowers.

Hoary Edge by Laurie Sheppard
Two very similar species of small, dark brown skippers have been identified on the refuge. Called “Cloudywings”, they are often difficult to differentiate.  The Confused Cloudywing has more prominent glassy spots than the more common Northern Cloudywing and its spots may not be aligned. Confused Cloudywings are most easily found in open areas and at the edge of woods, nectaring on low flowers in early to mid-spring, although they do produce multiple broods.

Confused Cloudywing by Laurie Sheppard

Eastern Comma is another “look-alike” butterfly and is difficult to differentiate from the familiar Question Mark. While their territories overlap, the Comma prefers moist woods and riparian edges; the Question Mark is often found in open areas, backyards, parks, and streamsides. Eastern Comma lacks two distinguishing marks seen on the Question Mark. On the forewing, both have a row of three dots extending out from the butterfly’s body, but the Question Mark has a “dash” after the dots. The Eastern Comma lacks the dash. Underneath, both have a curved white line resembling a comma, but the Question Mark also has a white dot, like the punctuation mark for which it’s named.

Eastern Comma by Laurie Sheppard

Dion Skipper is an orange-brown grass skipper that is reportedly found in scattered populations along the east coast and infrequently from Kansas City to Dallas. Its distinguishing characteristic is a pair of pale rays extending from its body toward the tip of its hindwing. Like many other skippers, Dion Skipper adults feed on Thistle and Buttonbush but their larval hosts are various sedges. Adults fly only in late spring through summer. Their third-stage caterpillars hibernate in winter, emerging in spring to finish feeding and pupate.

Dion Skipper by Laurie Sheppard

In late summer, some butterflies of south Texas stray northward and find our Butterfly Garden. This year one such visitor was the Long-tailed Skipper. Striking first because of its long brown tails, it also exposes a blue-green iridescence on its upper surface when it perches with its wings open. Adults feed on Bougainvillea in the south, but also on Lantana which blooms late in the season in our garden.

Long-tailed Skipper by Dale Clark

Another exciting garden visitor this fall was the Theona Checkerspot. This butterfly is native to Central America, Mexico, and the foothills and canyons of southern Texas and New Mexico. In size and coloring, the Theona Checkerspot is similar to the Phaon Crescent but the wide pattern of cream-colored spots and lack of a hindwing border that includes black dots is very different. The underside, if you are lucky enough to see it, is a striking pattern of orange and white stripes. This butterfly is only a temporary stray and may not be found every year.

Theona Checkerspot by Laurie Sheppard

Thursday, November 30, 2017

When Worlds Collide - A Catch and Release Story

Text and Photos by Laurie Sheppard

Fishing from the lake edge is a popular year-round pastime at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. In good weather and bad, fishermen park on the sides of the road to cast their lines. When the lake is full, it gives them the advantage of being able to keep their equipment and belongings close by in their car. They sit quietly and enjoy the outdoors, while the birds and wildlife grow accustomed to their presence.

In October, Snow and Ross’s Geese begin to arrive and by mid-November, thousands blanket the fields, eating the tender blades of wheat planted by the refuge staff. When the geese are not eating, they rest on the lake, often close to the edges. The geese feel safe on the water and they crowd together, quietly vocalizing.

With the fishermen’s lines sitting just off-shore and the geese floating closer and closer to the lake edge, accidental contact can occur. Such was the case last week when a Ross’s Goose got caught in a fisherman’s line. I had parked nearby to enjoy the sight of so many geese close to Wildlife Road between Goose Point and Plover Road when I saw a fisherman just ahead. He was reeling in what looked like a big fish, judging by the way his rod was bending. In fact, the fisherman confirmed later that he had thought the same thing.

I drove a little closer to watch the action, hoping to get some photos of the fish being caught. The fisherman saw it before I did – he was reeling in a Ross’s Goose, not a fish! Its wing had become severely tangled in the fishing line. He took great care to gently bring the goose closer because if the line broke, he might not be able to save it. When he got the goose close enough, the fisherman gently pulled the exhausted bird out of the water. He laid it in his lap and went about removing the line from its trapped wing.

The fisherman found that his hook had caught the edge of one of the Ross’s Goose’s feathers and its thrashing about had wrapped the line around and around its wing. The more the goose struggled, the more entangled it became. It took a few minutes for the fisherman to remove the line, but the bird’s wing did not appear to be damaged. He carefully picked up the goose and set it into the water at the edge of the lake. I watched as it flapped its wings, running along the water’s surface.

After a few attempts to take off, the goose stopped frantically flapping and began swimming.  Instead of heading toward the flock floating nearby, the goose swam straight out to the center of the lake. I continued to watch as it shook its head a few times and settled its wings while it kept swimming away from the flock. Finally, it turned and headed back toward the other geese but before it got there, I watched it take off and fly. Happily, the goose was unharmed by the encounter.

It’s unfortunate when worlds collide, but this fisherman showed himself to be a kind and conscientious steward of the land and the Ross’s Goose had quite a story to tell his friends.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Turkey On My Mind

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin nominated the turkey to be the national bird of the United States of America?

And that President Abraham Lincoln started the tradition of a White House pardon for a turkey on Thanksgiving – the impetus? His son Tad made friends with the turkey that was to be on the Thanksgiving menu (later named Jack!). Naming "dinner" is never a good idea.

The domestic turkey we are familiar with is descended from a subspecies that is now extinct.  There are five subspecies of the wild turkey: Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande (shown below), Merriam’s and Gould’s.

Photos by Monica Muil

The wild turkeys at Hagerman NWR are Rio Grande (named for the general area in which they are found –the central plains states) and there are a number of flocks at the Refuge.  But this has not always been the case. By the late 1800’s, turkeys throughout Texas had been hunted to very low numbers. Then hunters stepped in to support conservation and restoration, and now thanks to individuals, to legislation and to organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, hunting regulations and better habitat management practices have allowed turkey populations to steadily increase in most areas.    Now more than seven million wild turkeys roam America’s woodlands. 

Several flocks of turkeys use habitat on and adjacent to the Refuge including brushy areas next to streams and the lake, or mixed oak forests near the creeks. At Hagerman, turkeys are sometimes visible along field edges or roadsides with trees and like to forage for insects and seeds in wooded areas.

Photo by Dick Malnory

An adult female turkey is called a hen. Hens generally weigh between 8 and 11 pounds. Female turkeys less than one-year-old are called a jenny. Like many other birds, the females’ feathers are more subdued in color than the males’, allowing them to better blend in with their surroundings.

Female turkeys weigh about 10 pounds while males tip the scales at closer to 20.   An adult male turkey is called a gobbler. The name comes from the sound they make in spring, to attract the hens during the mating season. Their iridescent feathers have a green-coppery sheen to them with the tips of the tail and lower back feathers being light tan. Male turkeys are known for their “beards” which are actually bristly tassels rather than feathers and grow for life instead of molting.  A male under one year of age is called a jake.

Wild turkeys can run or fly. They can run up to 19 mph for short distances. They usually fly only short distances but at speeds of up to 55 mph. They prefer the borders between woodlands and field, which provide low cover for nesting, trees for roosting and for their food source.  Wild turkeys prefer to nest in grass or brush at least 18 inches tall and usually lay 10-11 eggs that hatch in 28 days.  The young turkeys (poults) are up and running behind the hen within the first 24 hours.   Generally ground dwellers, there is a high mortality rate on poults by critters including bobcats, foxes, snakes, raccoons, and hogs, so safe night roosting sites are critical to turkey survival. Turkeys typically seek trees that are 40 feet or taller and tend to roost in groups.

Young turkeys favor insects for their diet. As they mature, mast such as acorns, pecans, and berries, along with various seeds and grains, becomes the primary diet for the wild turkey.

Although you may see turkeys any time of year, spring is an especially good time to look for these unique birds. Males can often be seen strutting around and fanning their tail feathers in hopes of impressing the ladies. When you visit Hagerman, keep an eye out for signs of wild turkeys by looking for scratching in the dirt or leaves, spotting their large three-toed footprint, or listen for gobbling sounds coming from the woods.

Wild turkeys are not migratory and often live out their lifespan within five miles of their hatching site.

Happy Turkey Day from the Friends of Hagerman!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Beyond the Butterfly Garden at Year-end

Text and Photos by Laurie Sheppard

Butterflies can be found at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge during any month or season, and throughout the year, visitors are encouraged to look beyond the Butterfly Garden to find them. Now that fall has arrived, butterfly migrants are moving on and each species’ wintering form is preparing for the approaching cold. Some lingering adults will still be around until the first hard freeze but the season is virtually over. This month we’ll look back at the new species identified on the refuge in 2017.

As 2017 draws to a close, 89 species of butterflies have been documented by citizen scientists in Grayson County and of those, 84 have been found and verified on the refuge. In the spring, three butterflies previously documented in the county were photographed on the refuge. Those were Hayhurst’s Scallopwing (pictured below), Southern Broken-dash, and Dun Skipper. The Hayhurst Scallopwing is tiny, dark, and found in or very close to wooded areas, such as near the end of Oil Field Road. They fly spring through fall, but are most easily found in spring.

Hayhurst's Scallopwing

The Southern Broken-dash and Dun Skipper are also very small and like most grass skippers, they are usually found with wings closed. The Southern Broken-dash is red-orange with a gray fringe on the forewing. The hindwing has a pale spotband which sometimes resembles the number 3. They are not common in north Texas, but as shown below, may be found nectaring on late spring flowers such as Prairie Verbena.

Southern Broken-dash

The Dun Skipper, below, is one of the most widespread brown skippers but typically they are found well north of the Red River. Their wings most often are kept closed and the undersides are unmarked. They usually can be distinguished from other brown skippers by their contrasting gold head.

Dun Skipper

Each spring, Redbud blooming in the woods off of Oil Field Road attracts many pollinators, including several species of butterflies. This year, the butterflies included a pair of Silver-spotted Skippers. These are common in the east, but unusual in north Texas. Although they usually perch with their wings closed, they may open them to bask in the sun. Among their larval hosts is the Honey Locust, so perhaps a new colony will establish itself at Hagerman NWR.

Silver-spotted Skipper

Another tree with attractive blooms in early spring is Eve’s Necklace. Found at the edges of the woods along Oil Field Road, these trees attracted a Bell’s Roadside-skipper on several occasions. This tiny dark skipper inhabits moist woods and streambeds in north Texas, Oklahoma, and eastern central states. They fly from spring to fall, with three broods, but are infrequently seen.

Bell's Roadside-skipper

Surprisingly, before this spring the Cabbage White butterfly had never been documented in Grayson County, let alone on the refuge. It is an introduced species, considered to be an agricultural pest of Cabbage, Nasturtium, and cultivated Mustards and is now common throughout the U.S. The Cabbage White is less likely to be found in natural areas but with the proliferation of Bastard Cabbage on the refuge, we may see it more often.

Cabbage White

Several other new butterflies were found in 2017 and will be highlighted in next week’s blog.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Wood Duck

Cornell's All About Birds has this to say about the Wood Duck:

The Wood Duck is one of the most stunningly pretty of all waterfowl. Males are iridescent chestnut and green, with ornate patterns on nearly every feather; the elegant females have a distinctive profile and delicate white pattern around the eye. These birds live in wooded swamps, where they nest in holes in trees or in nest boxes put up around lake margins. They are one of the few duck species equipped with strong claws that can grip bark and perch on branches.

This photo by Laurie Lawler, taken at Hagerman NWR this week, exemplifies the beautiful bird.

An Original Duckumentary, a PBS Nature production, is excerpted on youtube and provides an entertaining view of fledgling Wood Ducks leaving their nest high in a tree.  According to Cornell, the nest may be as high as 50 feet off the ground! There may be anywhere from 6 to 16 chicks in a brood and they are ready to leave the nest the next day after they hatch.

The Wood Duck is the only North American duck that regularly produces two broods in one year.  They are mostly herbivores but will also eat caterpillars, snails, and insects.  Wood Ducks are present year-round at Hagerman but not always seen. These sightings have been reported in the Hagerman NWR Bird Census for 2017, to date,  by Jack Chiles:

March 14 - 3; March 21 - 2; March 28 - 6
May 2 - 2; May 23 - 6
June 13 -2; June 27 - 2
July 11 - 1; July 18 - 3; July 11 - 6
Aug. 8 - 4; Aug. 15 - 7; Aug. 22 -  2; Aug 29 - 3
Sept. 5 - 2; Sept. 12 - 1; Sept. 19 - 9; Sept. 26 - 2
October 3 - 2;  Oct. 17 - 11
Nov. 7 - 3

Thursday, November 2, 2017

November Plant of the Month - Passion Vine

By Judy Wilkins

Passion Vine Flower, by Dana Crites
Passiflora incarnata, commonly known as maypop or purple passion flower, is a fast-growing, woody, perennial vine with unusual blossoms. The maypop is one of the hardiest species of passion flower and is common as a wildflower in the southern United States.

The plants grow in full sun and need direct sunlight for at least half of the day and have a high drought tolerance. The best soils for P. incarnata are well-drained but the plants tolerate occasionally wet and acidic soils. It takes a year or two before maypops begin bearing and each flower has a very short life (about one day) and the fruit ripens in two to three months. The fleshy fruit is an oval yellowish berry about the size of a hen egg. It is green at first, but then becomes orange as it matures. The egg-shaped green fruit ‘may pop’ when stepped on – thus its common name. Seeds can be collected in the fall after the fruit has shriveled.

Maypop and other passion flowers are the exclusive larval host plants for the Gulf Fritillary (photo at left below, by Jim West) and non-exclusive for the Variegated Fritillary ( at right below, photo by Lindsey Hill) and the Zebra Longwing butterflies.

All season long we have been finding Fritillary caterpillars (photo below, by Sue Malnory) on the passion vines in the Butterfly Garden at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.

Image may contain: plant, nature and outdoor

The flowers also seem to be perfectly suitable for bumblebee pollination, shown in photo below, by Mary Karam. As the bees look for nectar the pollen-filled flower anthers brush the back of the bee and when the bee moves to the next flower the pollen is readily transferred.

Native Plant Society of Texas

Texas Native Plant Database

Butterflies and

Note:  Judy Wilkins is a member of the Friends of Hagerman Board of Directors, and serves as Treasurer and Nature Nook chair.  She is a Butterfly Garden Docent and volunteers on the Garden Work Team and for school field trips.