Thursday, October 8, 2015

National Wildlife Refuge Week

By Helen Vargus

The week of October 11-19, 2015 has been designated National Wildlife Refuge Week.  There are 562 refuges and 38 wetland management districts in America’s National Wildlife Refuge System.  As the world’s premiere public conservation system, they protect more than 150 million acres of wildlife habitat.  The refuges are home to 700 bird species, 220 mammal species, 250 reptile and amphibian species, over 1000 species of fish, and numerous invertebrates and plants. 

The national wildlife refuge system was born on March 14, 1903,  when President Theodore Roosevelt set aside Pelican Island, a tiny bird rookery of the coast of Florida, as the first refuge.  Today refuges are found from Maine to Alaska, and from the Caribbean to the Pacific.  Refuges cover all the North American ecosystems including boreal forests, wetlands, deserts, grasslands, arctic tundra, and remote islands.  Every state has at least one refuge and a refuge is within driving distance of every major city.  Texas is home to 18 National Wildlife Refuges.

Forty-seven million visitors use the refuges every year.  They add $2.1 billion dollars to local economies and support tens of thousands of local jobs. 

Snow on the Prairie at HNWR, by Lee Hatfield
Grayson County is fortunate to be the home of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, Texas.  Hagerman offers outstanding recreational opportunities for hiking, birding, fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, paddling, photography, and for a place to share the outdoors with friends and families.  Hagerman and the Friends of Hagerman also offer monthly educational opportunities for both youth and adults.

Sunrise Silhouette at HNWR, by Carl Hill
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week with planned activities during the week of October 11-19, 2015.  Enjoy a walk on the wild side this week and connect with nature at Hagerman!

On Sunday, October 11, at 3 pm we will celebrate the Grand Opening of the Butterfly Garden.

Gulf Fritillary on Texas Lantana, by Jesus Moreno
For the rest of the week, with the exception of Monday, all activities during the week will take place from 10 am-12 pm.  The Visitor Center and Refuge offices will be closed on Monday, October 12, in observance of Columbus Day, but the refuge lands will be open from sunrise to sunset.

“Tracking Tuesday” on October 13 will teach you what animals leave behind on the trail. Join us on the trail to test your tracking skills.  

“Wildflower Wednesday” on October 14 will provide lessons about wildflowers and the important roles they play on the prairie and as nectar sources for pollinators.  Look for wildflowers with us in the butterfly garden. 

Come hike with us on Harris Creek Trail on “Trails Thursday” on October 15. Learn about hiking safety and the history of Hagerman.

“Flyaway Friday” on the October 16 will discuss the migration of birds and butterflies. Experience with us the release of our Monarchs for their fall migration to Mexico.

On Saturday, October 17, join us for a docent-led walk in the Butterfly Garden at 10 am.

All activities listed above are free of charge and open to the public.  In case of rain, there will be an indoor program for the Grand Opening of the Butterfly Garden; other outdoor activities will be limited or cancelled. For more information about Hagerman NWR and activities, see or

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Monarch Tagging at HNWR

There will be a Monarch Tagging at Hagerman NWR on Tuesday, October 6.  If you are a newbie at this like we are, you might want to know:

"Many questions remain unanswered about the fall migration of the monarch population east of the Rocky Mountains. How do the monarchs move across the continent, i.e. do they move in specific directions or take certain pathways? How is the migration influenced by the weather and are there differences in the migration from year to year? We need data to answer these questions and we need your help! Only through the cooperative efforts of volunteer taggers will we be able to obtain sufficient recoveries and observations of the migration to answer these questions. Because monarchs have a certain "charisma" and a fascinating biology and because its fun to have an excuse to collect butterflies, this project is also a good way to introduce [participants] to science and have them contribute to a scientific study. Through participation in this project we also hope to further interest in the conservation of habitats critical to the survival of the monarch butterfly and its magnificent migrations."

Monarch Watch, the go-to website for monarch butterfly information, has complete supplies and instructions for participating in this citizen science project.

When: According to the website - the peak Monarch migration for the Hagerman NWR area occurs between September 29 and October 11.

Tags are placed on temporarily captured Monarch butterflies and the data for each tag is reported to Monarch Watch.   When a tagged butterfly is recaptured or found, the finder can contact Monarch Watch with the tag data and the new location.  Recovery data is analyzed for migration patterns.

If you would like to attend the tagging, please be at the Refuge Visitor Center by 9:30 am, Tuesday morning.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hagerman Is Wild For You!

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, located at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, offers a number of volunteer opportunities, including the following that are coordinated by the Friends of Hagerman:

Visitor Center Volunteers – greet visitors, hand out literature and answer questions about the Refuge, book tram reservations and make gift shop sales using computer sales system.  Work one or more shifts each month – 9 am – 12:30 pm and/or 12:30 – 4 pm, Monday through Saturday, and 1 - 5 pm Sundays.  The schedule is flexible, and couples may work together.  Training is provided and extensive reference materials are available to volunteers.  Must be 18, or 16 if accompanied by a parent/volunteer.

Nature Walk Leaders – lead small groups on guided walk on one of the Refuge trails.  Need good general knowledge of birds, other wildlife, as well as plants at Hagerman NWR.  Join on call team for school and other group visits by adults or youngsters, may be needed weekdays or weekends, specify when you could be available. Age 18 or older.

Youth Program Assistant – join the Youth FIRST team!  Programs are for ages 4 -7 and 8 – 12, on the first Saturday of each month.  Sign up to attend the next team meeting and you can choose to read a story, lead a game or a craft for one or more sessions, or just provide general help!  Must be 16 or older.

Nest Box Monitor – Nestbox trails at Refuge are monitored weekly, March through August; schedule depends on how many teams we have for the season; generally a team of two  monitors once each month, plus work days at the beginning and end of each season.  The number of volunteers needed is limited. Must be available on a Thursday or Friday, be 18 or older, have completed the free, online safe driving course, and able to record data accurately.  

Gardener – work in the  Butterfly Garden at the Refuge as we add plants, weed, and mulch.  Join a team that is on call for workdays, weekdays and/or weekends.  Provide own tools and gloves.  Minimum age 18, or 16 if accompanied by parent/volunteer.

Garden Docent - Know or ready to learn butterflies and native plants? Join the on-call team who give guided tours and presentations in the Butterfly Garden, weekdays or weekends April - October. Meet monthly on a weekday for training and work events. Age 18 or older.

Tram Tour Driver/Guides - Drive  the C&E Cardinal Express, electric open-air tram, on 4 mile tour route (1.5 hours) at Hagerman NWR; must have safe driving record, be age 18 or older, complete approved driver safety program and be knowledgeable about wildlife and willing to learn Refuge history and operations to share with visitors on tour.  Drive one or more times monthly, Wednesday at 10 am, Sundays at 2 pm; Saturdays either 10 am or 2 pm, depending on the season, and for special events.   Tours go, weather permitting. 

Marketing Team -  Like to tell folks about Hagerman?  Join an on-call pool for outreach events at fairs and festivals; hand out literature and promote the Refuge.  Writer? Contact us about submitting short pieces for the Friends blog or newsletter. Photographer?  Post HNWR photos on the Friends Facebook Page, cover events and more.

There are also opportunities for folks with special skills, accounting, artist, acrobat - well perhaps not acrobat! - but if you have a special skill or talent to share, PLEASE contact us!

Ways to reach us:

Call - Hagerman NWR - 903 786 2826

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Refuge Office/Visitor Center Turns 4 This Month

Ribbon-cutting at Grand Opening
Four years ago this month, actually on September 8, 2011, the Refuge Office and Visitor Center at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge held its grand opening.  And how grand it has been since!

Visitors at Grand Opening
In late March 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Refuge Staff and the Friends were excited to learn that the new Visitor Center had been awarded Silver  Certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  More than 20 different design aspects helped reach this level. 

Building under construction
LEED highlights for the facility include super thick insulation sprayed inside all walls and on ceilings, solar panels that produce about 1/3 of the power required to operate the building with a high-efficiency HVAC system.  Windows contain energy efficient glass that does not allow heat penetration, and  windows in the observation area are tilted to reduce bird strikes.  Motion sensors on all lights  turn them off when the room is unoccupied, and energy star appliances have been installed in the breakroom.  Other features include the use of low-odor paints and other chemicals used throughout the building, carpets made from 65% recycled content, and recycling of all construction debris and unused materials.  Light colored exterior materials and roof metal  reflect light rather than absorb it, and the building is situated  in an east/west fashion to maximize natural sunlight.   
Transportation/energy costs were reduced by use of locally available materials, for the most part, including Texas limestone for much of the construction.  
There are five “green” plaques in the Visitor Center that describe other LEED features.  Be sure to look for them the next time you visit!
In the new venue, the Friends of Hagerman NWR has sponsored  Second Saturday programs, two Super Saturdays, and Youth First, the expanded program for youngsters.

Additional programs offered have included a screening of the Aldo Leopold story, Green Fire, History Day at Hagerman,  a Bow Hunting Seminar, and  Wild Wednesday story hours in 2012; 3-day BirdFest Texoma in 2013; a Fun Friday on January, a writers' workshop, a birding workshop, a photography workshop, Snakes at Hagerman NWR, and FAQ's for Workampers in 2014. Spring Family Fun activities have held throughout the week of  spring break, starting in 2013.

All aboard the Carlos & Eulalia Cardinal Express!
The Visitor Center also serves as a departure point for tram tours and guided walks throughout the year, as well as the "front door" for the annual High on the Hawg Friend-and-Fund Raiser. 
Gathering in Visitor Center for bird walk

School groups, clubs and other groups, including the Bluestem Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists, have enjoyed tours and presentations in the Visitor Center as well as out on the Refuge.

Officer Kevin with school children.

In 2014,  the Nature Nook hours were expanded from the original 10 - 3 on weekdays, to 9 – 4 Monday through Saturday and 1- 5 on Sunday, with a dedicated group of volunteers to provide information to visitors and make sales in the book and gift shop daily,  except on federal holidays.

 The new Butterfly Garden has augmented the landscape adjacent to the building and serves as a "model" for native pollinator plants typical of the Refuge surrounding area.

The saying, “If you build it they will come” has held true at Hagerman – the total number of persons checking in at the previous Visitor Center for all of 2010 was 7,065, compared to 14,514, for 2014. Visitors from outside the local area are pleasantly surprised to find such a beautiful facility, and many local visitors have stated, “I have been to the Refuge before but I never came to the Visitor Center – this is great!”

So Happy 4th Birthday to the Refuge Office/Visitor Center!

Visitor Center, 2011, by Ken Day
Grand Opening photos by Skip and Melinda Hill.
Information on green building features provided by Kathy Whaley.
Garden photo by Donna Rogers.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Fall Shorebird Migration

American Avocet by Bill Powell
At summer's end, each week in Jack Chiles'  bird census for Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge you will find various species of shorebirds  being reported. These birds are arriving in increasing numbers on the fall migration.The following is a reprint of an article by Wayne Meyer, PhD, that appeared in the September, 2009, issue of the Featherless Flyer.

Most people know that there are thousands of geese at Hagerman NWR each winter, but not many know that shorebird migrations bring at least twice that many birds through our refuge. North American shorebirds breed in the northern tier of states, Canada or the high Arctic. Most of them spend the winter in the tropics, although some species will travel into South America.This means that they must fly thousands of miles, a feat requiring a great deal of fuel. Wetlands located along the migration routes, therefore, are important places for the birds to stop and refuel. Since Hagerman NWR is on the southern end of the Central Flyway and close to the end of the Mississippi Flyway, it gets lots of traffic each spring and fall.

Solitary Sandpiper by Bill Powell
The spring migration is rushed. Birds travel quickly to get to their breeding grounds and claim the best territories. A few early migrants arrive in late March and the big rush is over by the second or third week of May. Within that period the individual species tend to occur in waves, each species having its own peak period of just one or two weeks within the 6-8 weeks of spring migration.

In fall, however, the situation is quite different. A few birds appear in late July but the last ones don’t arrive until November. For any particular species there may be two or even three waves in one season.

Breeding success helps explain the reason for these multiple waves. The first migrants are failed breeders and nonbreeders. Injured birds, young birds that didn’t collect sufficient resources to breed, and birds whose young were lost to predators head south early. We see them in July and August. Advantages to coming south early include fewer predators and less competition for food.

The adults who raised young will remain on the breeding grounds until their young are able to care for themselves. They take advantage of the long hours of summer sunlight to collect energy for molting and to store fat prior to their long flights.These birds usually begin showing up at Hagerman NWR in late August or September and peak prior to October. This is an interesting time to observe the birds as some wear breeding plumages that we rarely see.

The third wave is usually made up of juveniles who hatched during the summer and are making their first migrations. Since they used food energy for growth, they need more food than their parents did before they can store enough fat. They begin to arrive in mid-September and peak in mid-October, although a few slow-pokes will not pass through until November. Some overwinter at Hagerman NWR.

Take a few visits to the refuge this fall and watch the shorebirds moving through. Each visit is sure to show you different things and you’ll get all the challenge you could ask for in identifying the many birds that use our favorite fueling station.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cedar of Lebanon

Cedar of Lebanon at HNWR, 2014 (Refuge file photo)

By Jack Chiles

I have been observing this tree at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge on an almost weekly basis for the last 25 years. Planted in 1916, this tree has been in its death throes for quite a few years. Several years ago it produced a huge crop of cones and I remember a botanist from Maryland, Zeeger DeWilde, stating as we drove by and observed the tree that it was on its way out and that dying trees of this type often produce a lot of cones when they are near the end of their life. 

Green tips, Spring, 2015 (Photo by Kathy Whaley)

As to the specie of the tree, that has been brought into question by Karl Haller a naturalist who led bird tours on a weekly basis at the refuge for more than 50 years. He feels that it is possibly a Deodar Cedar, a tree of Afganistan and the Himalayas because the lower branches grow down and then gracefully turn up.  

I am including an excerpt about the Cedar of Lebsnon and the Deodar Cedar that I found on line.
Deodar cedar, or just deodar, is known botanically as Cedrus deodara and is used in the landscape along with Cedrus libani, or cedar of Lebanon, and the Cedrus atlantica, or Atlas cedar. Deodars can reach more than 150 feet tall, but we typically see them maturing in the 50- to 70-foot range after 30 to 40 years. Lower branches bend gracefully downward and then up again. The stiff, needle-like, silvery blue green leaves are about 2 inches long and borne in dense whorls.

When you think Afghanistan, plant material is probably not the first thing to come to mind. Yet this is precisely where one our landscape’s most elegant and beautiful trees originates. The tree I am referring to is the deodar cedar, and to be honest it is not just from Afghanistan but the Himalayas as well.
The flood waters did not reach this tree, although it is possible that the 50 + inches of rain received in the spring did not help it any. Karl Haller told me that he once saw a Golden Eagle perched in the top of this tree. Golden Eagles used to be seen here years ago. Over the years we have seen a lot of different birds perched in this tree using it as a lookout point. It will be sad to see this old friend gone. Hopefully the woodpeckers will still get several years of use from it. I am not aware of any plans to replace it.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Stop Invasives in Your Tracks

From Friends NewsWire:

Everybody has a role to play in stopping the advance of invasive species – those plants, animals and microorganisms that are not native to a particular area and wreak havoc outside their normal range.

NOTE: Not all nonnative species are harmful.  Many agricultural crops are non-native. An example is corn - a nonnative whose introduction has been very beneficial. The term "invasive" is reserved for the most aggressive nonnative species capable of changing site or living conditions for the worse where they establish.

According to the PlayCleanGo website,

"Invasive species are found in water and on land. In fact, invasive species can occur in just about every habitat type you can imagine: lakes and streams, cities, fields and farms, all of the native areas of the state. A few of the common species found on land include Canadian thistle, common buckthorn, wild parsnip, and the two fungal species that cause Dutch elm disease and oak wilt. Another one that folks are becoming aware of is the emerald ash borer."

Locally, invasive species such as zebra mussels, feral hogs and Johnson grass come to mind!

The site goes on to say that each species has evolved to have several means of expanding a short distance in its home territory, where plants and animals have come to coexist more or less peaceably.

A problem occurs when humans knowingly or unknowingly assist increase the distance a species is or can spread:

"Long distance spread is almost always human assisted. Because long distance spread takes the species a long way from home, the resident plants and animals are not often prepared to cope with their new neighbor. Natural enemies are missing and host species often lack the natural defenses necessary to survive an attack by the introduced species. Once introduced, aggressive species are free to expand their range using their short distance dispersal mechanisms with a competitive advantage over native plant and animals due to the lack of natural enemies."

A new campaign called PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks is a clear call to action to people who are regularly outdoors, whether working or recreating. PlayCleanGo complements the ongoing Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers campaign.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a partner in PlayCleanGo, along with more than 160 conservation groups nationwide. Together they are calling on the public to:
Be informed, attentive and accountable for preventing the spread of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species.
Arrive to recreational sites with clean gear.
Burn and use local or certified firewood, mulch, decorative rocks and soil.
Use local or weed-free hay.
Stay on the trails.
Clean gear before leaving, including removing mud and seeds.

Homeowners are encouraged to learn about and use native plants in their yards. Workers are advised to burn wood waste that may harbor plant pests from another part of the country or world. Together, we can do it!