Thursday, July 23, 2015

I Found it on the Web



In times of drought and flood lots of folks are interested in learning the current lake level for Lake Texoma - did you know that links for all this info as well as for other attractions and activities for visitors to the Texoma area are on the LINKS page of the Friends of Hagerman website. You will find LINKS grouped with VISITOR INFORMATION, under REFUGE. Links to the official Hagerman NWR website and the lake level webpage of the US Army Corps of Engineers are also in the sidebar on the VISITOR INFORMATION page.



Want to hike the Refuge trails? Read or download and print a map and descriptions to one or more trails by going to the TRAILS page, under REFUGE tab.



Want to know what birds you may see on your next visit? Highlights of the weekly bird surveys are shown on the BIRD DATA page, where you will also find the Hagerman Bird Check-list and the complete weekly census reports, month by month, for this year.



By clicking ACTIVITIES you can see the schedule of upcoming Second Saturdays and other events and activities at the Refuge.



Check out HAGERMAN YOUTH under ACTIVITIES tab for activities for youngsters and families to do at home as well as links to approved sites for online educational games and more.



Want to be a member of the Friends of Hagerman? Click JOIN NOW for information, to download forms or to join or renew membership online.



Interested in the Friends PROJECTS? Learn more about the NEST BOX PROGRAM and the NATURE NOOK; look for these tabs under FRIENDS, on the Home Page.



If one picture is worth a thousand words, then there are about a billion words-worth in the GALLERY - virtual albums for current and recent Photographers of the Month, birds including waterfowl, songbirds, waders, etc., animals, butterflies, wildflowers, and more, ALL taken at the Refuge. and coming in mid-September, winning entries in the 2015 Nature Photography Contest will be on display.



Watch the development of the Butterfly Garden at the Refuge and learn more about butterflies and other pollinators and how you can help.




Want a memento of the Refuge. Shop online for pins, patches and hiking stick medallions.




You can check the NEWS page for the latest edition of the Friends newsletter, Featherless Flyer as well as other Refuge news!




And - you are most welcome to CONTACT us with questions, comments and to volunteer!!



These are just some highlights from the website; next time you are web-surfing, we invite you to spend some time exploring friendsofhagerman.com.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sowing the Seeds on the Wings of the Future


By Student Conservation Association Interns

For the past couple of weeks the green milkweed, abundant  at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, has been producing large green pods stacked with rows of seeds. In an effort to save the monarchs, both interns at the refuge, Alex OcaƱas and Courtney Anderson, have been making trips to different non-flooded units for collection. The goal of this project is to help create a seed bank that can be used to increase milkweed for “way stations” as a source of pollen, nectar, and egg-laying space for not only monarchs, but pollinators alike!


We have spent a lot of long, hot hours in the sun. Between startling encounters with snakes and pricking our fingers with thistle, this job is no easy task. Collection of these seed pods is an extremely delicate task and requires knowledge on the part of the harvester. 
  • First, not all pods are the same. The shade of the pod or proximity of other viable pods is not always a sure-footed indicator of preparedness; meaning that even if one pod on the same plant is ready the other one may not be. 
  • Second, the pod should pop open along the seam with little effort. If you are struggling to get it open, chances are it is not ready. 
  • Third, the seeds should be dark brown. If they are white, green, or light brown, then the nutrients have not made their way from the plant to the seeds to give them the best chance at germinating – and once you pluck the pod from its plant, the seeds will not develop any further. 
  • Fourth, any milkweed beetles (orange and black insects) seen on the pod are an indication of poor pod quality. These insects actually pierce through the pod and poke holes in the seed! 

With all of this in mind we have collected nearly half a pound of seeds and plan to use them in the future. Beyond the collection process, there is delicate and precise procedure for handling and storing the seeds afterwards as you prepare them to be planted. How the seeds are processed and stored depends on what time of year you plan to sow them. To help with future seed collections or to get some of your own call, or for detailed information on processing seeds, call us at the Refuge,  (903) 786-2826 or use Contact to email us. You may also want to visit http://www.monarchwatch.org/milkweed/prop.htm,

Thursday, July 9, 2015

National Campaign to Save Beleaguered Monarch Butterfly

From The Friends Newswire:

This spring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched a major campaign aimed at saving the declining monarch butterfly.

The Service signed a cooperative agreement with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), announced a major new funding initiative with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and pledged $2 million in immediate funding for on-the-ground conservation projects around the country.

Introducing the new initiatives at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. were Service Director Dan Ashe, U.S. Senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar, NWF President and CEO Collin O’Mara, and NFWF representatives.

Monarch at HNWR, by Laurie Lawler
Monarchs are found across the United States. While they numbered some 1 billion in 1996, their numbers have declined by approximately 90 percent in recent years. The decline is the result of numerous threats, particularly loss of habitat due to agricultural practices, development and cropland conversion. Degradation of wintering habitat in Mexico and California has also had a negative impact on the species.

 “We can save the monarch butterfly in North America, but only if we act quickly and together,” said Ashe. “And that is why we are excited to be working with the National Wildlife Federation and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to engage Americans everywhere, from schools and community groups to corporations and governments, in protecting and restoring habitat. Together we can create oases for monarchs in communities across the country.”

The memorandum of understanding between NWF and the Service will serve as a catalyst for national collaboration on monarch conservation, particularly in planting native milkweed and nectar plants, the primary food sources in breeding and migration habitats for the butterfly.

The new NFWF Monarch Conservation Fund was kick-started by an injection of $1.2 million from the Service that will be matched by private and public donors. The fund will provide the first dedicated source of funding for projects working to conserve monarchs.

From California to the Corn Belt, the Service will also fund numerous conservation projects totaling $2 million this year to restore and enhance more than 200,000 acres of habitat for monarchs while also supporting more than 750 schoolyard habitats and pollinator gardens. Many of the projects will focus on the I-35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota, areas that provide important spring and summer breeding habitats in the eastern population’s central flyway.

The monarch may be the best-known butterfly species in the United States. Every year they undertake one of the world’s most remarkable migrations, traveling thousands of miles over many generations from Mexico, across the United States, to Canada.

The monarch’s exclusive larval host plant and a critical food source is native milkweed, which has been eradicated or severely degraded in many areas across the U.S. The accelerated conversion of the continent’s native short and tallgrass prairie habitat to crop production has also had an adverse impact on the monarch. 
Monarch caterpillar on newly planted milkweed in Butterfly Garden at HNWR
The monarch serves as an indicator of the health of pollinators across the American landscape. Conserving and connecting habitat for monarchs will benefit other plants, animals and important insect and avian pollinators.

A new Web site -- http://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch -- provides information on how Americans can get involved with the campaign.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Once in a Blue Moon

Moon Over HNWR, by Mary Karam

July 2015 has two full moons. That’s somewhat unusual, according to  the website, earthsky.org. Most months only have one. But in cycles of 19 years, or 228 calendar months, seven to eight calendar months will always have two full moons. In other words, there’s a month with two full moons every two to three years. When it happens, the second one is popularly called a Blue Moon.

The first of the two full moons for this month occurred on July 1. The second, or Blue Moon, will occur on July 31.
By recent popular acclaim, the second of two full moons in a single calendar month goes by the name of Blue Moon. A Blue Moon can also be the third of four full moons in a season. But the second-full-moon-in-a-month definition is the easier to remember, and it’s probably what most people think of when they hear Blue Moon. (earthsky.org)

According to Wikipedia, "The phrase has nothing to do with the actual color of the moon, although a literal "blue moon" (the moon appearing with a tinge of blue) may occur in certain atmospheric conditions; e.g., when there are volcanic eruptions or when exceptionally large fires leave particles in the atmosphere. This phenomenon is specific to calendars."  A Google search revealed that actual blue-colored moons may be seen following volcanic eruptions or sometimes forest fires, due to ash in the atmosphere.

The contemporary definition of "blue moon" is more technical than some historical usages, according to an article on the International Planetarium Society website, in which we find that the phrase is well over 400 years old, but with the meaning changing through the years. Earliest folklore references use the term to signify something  "absurd" or that would never happen.  Since actual "blue moons" were sighted during volcanic eruptions the term changed to "once in a blue moon"/infrequent.  "Blue Moon" is also found as a symbol of sadness and loneliness in popular songs.

With the supposedly 100 year flooding of Lake Texoma  and  Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge occurring in 1957, 1990, 2007 and 2015, we would hope that the future occurrences are even  less frequent than "once in a blue moon".


Thursday, June 25, 2015

One Good Tern...

Three pairs of interior least terns were seen on the nesting platforms near the C and D Pad Roads area at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge  this month.  Maybe the courtship behavior (offering a minnow) in one of the photos is a sign of good things to come! 

Last week, Rusty Daniel confirmed at least two nests with one egg each that were being incubated.

Thanks to Rusty  and to Gary Hall for checking on the platforms and getting these  photos to share.





Habitat for the Least Tern, as described by Cornell Lab of Ornithology on All About Birds is “Seacoasts, beaches, bays, estuaries, lagoons, lakes and rivers, breeding on sandy or gravelly beaches and banks of rivers or lakes, rarely on flat rooftops of buildings.” You can add to that the  two artificial nesting platforms at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, especially designed and built by Refuge employees for the Least Tern. Funding for the project was provided by Jetta Operating Company, Inc and the Nancy Ruth Fund.



The first of two artificial nesting platforms (above) was  completed and put in place the summer of 2013.  A second platform was constructed and was to be "launched" in 2014 but those plans were on hold due to drought - there was no water in the area where the platform was to go! And for the record, the one-legged Terns are in this photo from 2013 are decoys!

Tern decoy carved by Dick Malnory


The Least Tern, the smallest American Tern, is an 8 to 9 inch bird, with a black "crown" on the head, a snowy whiter underside and forehead, grayish back and wings, orange legs, and a yellow bill with a black tip. Males and females are similar in their appearance. The name “Interior” is attached to Least Terns who breed in isolated areas along the Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, Red, and Rio Grande river systems. They winter in coastal areas of Central and South America.


Interior Least Terns at HNWR, photographed by Eileen Sullivan in June, 2011

The Interior Least Tern is endangered due to loss of habitat, primarily because of changes in river systems and competition from recreational development. Terns arrive at the breeding ground in late spring – early summer and spend several months there. Nesting in small colonies, Terns scratch out a shallow depression in sand or gravel for a nesting spot. The female lays 2 – 3 eggs in 3 – 5 days. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs for about 3 weeks. Chicks hatch one per day and leave the nest a few days after hatching but continue to be fed and cared for by adults.

Terns feed on small fish and aquatic creatures and can be seen hovering and diving for prey, as well as skimming for insects.


Tern in flight, photographed by Mike Chiles

Terns usually return to the same nesting area year after year. Before the launch of Tern Island I and II, the birds chose the rocky surface of the Pad roads for their nursery, completely vulnerable to predators and extreme summer heat; the successful hatch rate was low to none.  



Nesting Tern, photographed  by Jack Chiles in 2011 on one of the Pad roads at HNWR.


Hopefully,  the platforms at the Refuge will provide a safe nursery environment for a successful hatch this year.


In addition to All About Birds, information for this post came from Texas Parks & Wildlife and from US Fish & Wildlife.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

National Pollinator Week has BEEgun!

National Pollinator Week: June 15 – 21

It’s time to give the much deserved recognition and appreciation to all of the bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles, other small beings that act as pollinators for many of the plants in our native ecosystems and agricultural crop fields. “We would be lost without them” may seem like an overstatement, but after a full understanding of the ecosystem services that they provide, it should be clear to see that these natural pollinators are a vital component to the lives of all creatures, and if they did not already exist, it would be necessary to invent them.

Pollinators at work at HNWR, by Nancy Miller
Within the last decade there have been noticeable, and in the case of the Monarch Butterfly – drastic, decreases in the numbers of many species of pollinators. This is an issue that, if not quickly resolved, will lead to a wide array of problems in our natural ecosystems, as well as our very own homes. Fortunately, awareness and solutions for this threat are steadily growing, and (as you will see at the end of this short article) there are simple ways in which you, your friends, and families can help restore our pollinator populations and encourage their continued importance in the lives of all.

Pollinator at work at HNWR, by Dick Malnory
There are over 100,000 different species of pollinators that, through simple and innate interactions with plants, insure the continued production of seeds, fruits, and therefore, each new generation of plants by transferring pollen (male gametes) from plant to plant. In the natural environment, these workers are irreplaceable when it comes to maintaining the delicate flow and balance of energy among organisms and the integrity of the functioning ecosystem as whole. On the agricultural side of things, we know that at least one-third of the world’s food comes from plants pollinated by the long and diverse list of wild pollinators.  If we lack the pollinators to do the work for us we, as humans, would have to try to find a way to mimic the cross-pollination acts ourselves; a service that, when done by the natural pollinators, has been estimated to be worth nearly 200 billion dollars on a global scale.  Can you imagine the collapse that will take place in our natural ecosystems, food security, and economies if we neglect the importance of conserving the world’s pollinators?

Pollinator at work, by Charlotte Ziesmann
In response to the startling decline in the numbers of pollinators - along with several other countries, as well - The United States is taking action! Alongside the millions of dollars and working hours that have been invested to support the research of the population declines and conservation endeavors, there is a national project underway to further support the protection of these special pollinator species. Recently, the White House released the "National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators", proposing that  the 1,500 miles of I-35 roadsides are converted into pollinator friendly areas. Over the next several years, this multi-faceted plan hopes to convert roughly 7 million acres of land into appropriate reserves for pollinators like the Sunflower Bee, Franklin’s Bumblebee, or the Monarch Butterfly – an insect that is struggling to recover after a 90% decrease in total population size. But wait – it gets better!

Backyard wildflower patch, by Sue Malnory

Here is something great that you can do to help – create your own personal pollinator garden! As we continue to develop our natural lands into neighborhoods, shopping centers, and parking lots, our pollinators lose two critical components of their habitats - somewhere to nest and flowers from which they can collect nectar and pollen. If each individual, household, school, business, or neighborhood park, would commit to creating a small garden with native plants, appropriate nesting areas, and absence of pesticides, we can create a sea of small stop-over stations or refuges for the thousands of pollinators that our land is to support. In return for the services that they provide for us, it’s really the least we could do!

For fundamental information on how to create a safe, functioning, and creative garden, please visit the site below:

NOTE: 
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is pleased to announce its participation in the Monarch Joint Venture, a national program of the Fish and Wildlife Service, with major partners National Wildlife Federation and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, with the primary goal of restoring monarch butterfly populations on a national scope.   In partnership with AmeriCorps and the Student Conservation Association, monarch student conservation corps interns will support local conservation of monarch habitat through community outreach and education.

Alex Ocanas, a recent graduate of Austin College (AC), will serve as our local Monarch Intern for the next six months.  Her office is located on the refuge.  Alex exudes enthusiasm for her goal of developing community events to support monarch habitat.  She hopes to support the development of 100 pollinator gardens in Grayson County over the next six months.  Alex is planning numerous outreach and education programs through the refuge, schools, and community park systems.  Please contact her at the refuge if you have an interest in planning a pollinator garden or participating in monarch habitat conservation through community outreach and education.

Thanks to Alex for information provided in this week's blog.
 





Thursday, June 11, 2015

'Dillo Trouble



Checked the Butterfly Garden at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and found we have had a night visitor. This visitor’s diet, according to the National Wildlife Federation, might consist of “… almost 500 different foods, most of which are insects and invertebrates such as beetles, cockroaches, wasps, yellow jackets, fire ants, scorpions, spiders, snails, and white grubs. A lesser part of the diet is comprised of small reptiles and amphibians and mammals, and  reptile and bird eggs. Less than 10 percent of the diet is from fruit, seeds, fungi, and other plant matter.” In our case, the visitor, who finds food through his sense of smell, is ploughing up areas of the garden as he roots for the insects and invertebrates. He can have the grubs but in the process he is uprooting desirable plants!

Our visitor is a nine-banded armadillo, the only species of ‘dillo found in the United States. “The term “armadillo” means 'little armored one,' and refers to the presence of bony, armor-like plates covering their body. Despite their name, nine-banded armadillos can have 7 to 11 bands on their armor.”

Dillo at HNWR, by Dick Malnory


In an essay, “The Night of the Armadillos” by Bertram Rota (Literary Austin, Ed. Don Graham, TCU Press, 2007), the London author reports seeing an armadillo in the wild for the first time: “An armadillo! As large as life and twice as natural in the eyes of a Londoner who had never seen this prehistoric survival outside the London Zoo…A good two feet long and armoured like a tank, the creature quietly nibbled grass, quite unruffled.” Then Rota presents an interesting picture of six grown men, including J. Frank Dobie, their host, plunging through knee-high grass, with Dobie exhorting his guests, “They root up everything I plant. Done more damage than I can bear” and “…drive them into the creek”. After all sorts of maneuvers by the chasers, they finally gave up the battle, declaring “It was a fair fight, six to six, but the armadillos won. In a sudden scurry all were gone and quietness reigned.”

Those who feel helpless in the face of the midnight forager might take comfort in the fact, from NWF, that “Armadillos have long been a source of food for humans. The nine-banded was nicknamed “Hoover hog” and “poor man’s pork” by people who blamed President Hoover for the Great Depression.”

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, “Armadillos are found in all but the western Trans-Pecos portion of Texas in a variety of habitats; brush, woods, scrub and grasslands. Originally from South America, they are now in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Louisiana. Their distribution is often based on soil conditions, and they are not found where the soil is too hard to dig.”

“Although breeding occurs in July, the embryo remains in a dormant state until November. Four young are born in a burrow in March. All four young, always of the same sex, are identical quadruplets and developed from the same egg. They even share a single placenta while in the womb. Armadillos are the only mammals in which multiple young form from a single egg with any regularity.”

Armadillos can live from 7 – 20 years in the wild. Their Conservation Status is “Increasing”. From the NWF:  “Humans have killed off most of their natural predators, and roadways have offered them easier means of travel to new habitats. Nine-banded armadillos have a tendency to jump straight up into the air when they are startled. This often leads to their demise on highways. They are small enough that cars can pass right over them, but they leap up and hit the undercarriage of vehicles. They are also poisoned, shot, or captured by people that consider them lawn and agricultural pests. Some are eaten or used for the curio trade.”

Last - what about leprosy?  According to an recent article in Smithsonian magazine, "... with a body temperature of just 90 degrees, one hypothesis suggests, the armadillo presents a kind of Goldilocks condition for the disease—not too hot, not too cold. Bacterial transmission to people can occur when we handle or eat the animal.  The easiest way to avoid contagion is to simply avoid unnecessary contact with the critters.

We would have more R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the State Small Mammal of Texas if he would go elsewhere for dinner!