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!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Snow on the Prairie

Snow-on-the-Prairie, by Courtney Anderson

It must be August when you see Snow-on-the-Prairie! Driving along Refuge Road, en route to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, this plant with cool appearing green and white leaves actually does look like a light dusting of snow where it is growing en masse. This white flowering plant can blanket a prairie in no time at all, hence the name. Because livestock stay away from the poisonous sap that the plant emits, it doesn't take much for it to cover a field.

There are actually two plants, Euphorbia bicolor Engelm. and A. Gray, and Snow-on- the-Mountain, Euphorbia marginata Pursh; NPIN, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Database, notes that the two are often confused.

As members of the Spurge Family, both plants have a milky sap that is irritating to humans with sensitive skin, as well as to the eyes, and is toxic to cattle.

Poinsettias are members of the same family. Growing 1 - 4 feet tall, in poor soils, the plants multiply by throwing seed, described by Dorothy Thetford in Wildflowers-of-Texas. Thetford says, “This ballistic dispersal of seeds explains the scattered arrangement of plants on the prairie.”

Both plants are annuals in the spurge family. The actual flowers are tiny white blossoms, surrounded by the green and white bracts. The bract of bicolor (in photos) is narrower than that of marginata. According to Texas A & M Agrilife Extension Snow-on-the-Mountain grows mainly in Central Texas, as well as north to Montana and Minnesota and south to Mexico, and Snow-on-the-Prairie mainly in the eastern third of Texas. NPIN shows a range including Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. The bloom time is July – October. We'll take anything that even helps us think "cool" at this time of year!

This blog was originally published August 23, 2012 and again on August 21, 2014; thanks to Courtney Anderson for top photo and additional information in this edition.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

It's All in the Interpretation

By Courtney Anderson

Interpret:  1. Explain the meaning of; 2. Conceive of the meaning of; 3. Represent by means or art or performance; 4. Orally translate for speakers of different languages

In science, an interpreter is a liaison between science and the public, educating on a myriad of subjects by making them exciting and enjoyable.

I have had the pleasure this summer of becoming a National Association for Interpreters (NAI) Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG) through training at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. It was a rigorous one week program that led to many friendships. Everyone I met had bright eyes and was spewing with creativity, and the excitement in the room was tangible. We learned how to craft programs around topics that ranged far and wide - I had the pleasure of listening to a topic all about dung!  Then everyone waited patiently while I gave a talk about my specialty, algae.

Courtney leading  hike at HNWR during Spring Break.

The training was essential for my work every day at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. When I came back, I had a greater understanding of how to reach and entertain a variety of audiences. That was part of the motivation for planning the Hiking for Habitat program every third Saturday, now torpedoed by the flooding! The goal of this program was to educate about the different habitats we have here on the refuge, while being  out in nature. Habitats are dynamic, and ever changing; especially at Hagerman, which is managed in order to provide suitable areas for wildlife. I am still looking forward to leading some hikes at the Refuge once the trails are clear, so stay tuned!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Test Your Wader IQ

"Stop Following Me" by Paul Martin
A look at the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Bird Check List will give you an idea of the many different wading birds that can be seen at the Refuge, at various times of year.  At Second Saturday, on August 8, Dr. Wayne Meyer will give us the complete low down on these birds, and in the meantime you can test your wader IQ:

  1. Largest of the North American herons: ______  _______  ________
  1. The White  __________ has a long down-curved red bill, long red legs and black wing tips.
  1. A ___________  __________, only seen at HNWR every few years,  is a huge, long legged bird with a bald head.
  1. Tall, long legged white birds with black feet, S-curve necks and yellow/orange bills are ________ Egrets.
  1. The _________ Egret sets off immaculate white plumage with black legs and brilliant yellow feet. 
  1.  Early conservationists rallied to protect __________s, nearly driven to extinction by plume hunters by the early twentieth century. 
  1. The _________  __________  _________  is a small, dark heron with  rich purple-maroon head and neck and dark slaty-blue body.          
  1. The __________-_____________  ___________   ___________ is  a nocturnal heron of the southern swamps and coast, has a yellowish crown stripe.
  1. A stocky and well-camouflaged heron of dense reed beds is the American  __________.
  1. A member of the heron family that spends most of its time in fields rather than streams is the __________   _________.

Thanks to Cornell’s All About Bird for bird facts.  To learn more, check out

Answers: 1.  Great Blue Heron; 2.  Ibis; 3.  Wood Stork; 4.  Great; 5.  Snowy; 6.  Egrets; 7.  Little Blue Heron; 8.  Yellow-crowned Night Heron; 9.  Bittern; 10.  Cattle Egret

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Coming Home to Roost

A video of Purple Martins recently taken in Austin, Texas, by Friends member George Mason and  posted on Facebook sparked some questions about the huge numbers seen. Purple Martins will soon begin their journey to their wintering grounds in Brazil. In the meantime they have been gathering at roosts across the country after completing the nesting season. “A martin roost is a place where Purple Martins sleep at night. A martin roost typically forms annually with martins using it nightly during late June, July, August, and early September in North America…. A martin roost may have from 1000 to 1,000,000 individuals, with numbers more typically in the 25,000 to 100,000 range. Most martin roosts are large enough to show up on Doppler weather radar as the birds leave in the morning.

Purple Martins heading to roost in Austin, Texas, by George Mason
Closer to home, after a great start on nesting at this year at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, the Martins seem to have left prematurely; did they move to a roost? On June 11, Refuge Manager, Kathy Whaley, Noted “We have not seen activity in more than 2 weeks now at the martin house. When we checked it today and we found 11 of the 14 compartments had been occupied by martins and had a nest. Two compartment inserts had been turned around as they had house sparrow activity for several weeks in a row. One compartment had a house sparrow nest. We are not sure why the birds left their nests, leaving 11 unhatched martin eggs and 4 martin baby bird skeletons in one compartment. I hope they try again next year.”

Perhaps the persistent spring/early summer rains were the culprit. According to, “Since martins feed solely on flying insects, they are extremely vulnerable to weather conditions that affect insect availability. Prolonged bad weather, such as rain, snow, cool temperatures, and/or heavy winds, all reduce or eliminate insect flight. If poor weather persists for more than 2 or 3 days, martins begin to die of starvation. 

Jack Chiles has reported seeing anywhere from 3 - 11 on the weekly bird census, which has been restricted to the perimeter of the Refuge due to flooding.

We found more about roosts in “Preparation for Migration”:

"Migration is an extraordinary act that requires a lot of energy and endurance. In order to accomplish their goal of returning to their summer or winter homes, birds must have an excellent source of energy to rely on. Martins, like all migrants, consume energy-rich foods just prior to migration and develop fat stores. Fat provides two times more energy than either carbohydrates or proteins. The amount of fat each species accumulates determines how far a bird can fly nonstop.

A second preparation for migration is that of forming roosts. Many birds, including martins, will gather in large numbers to spend the night. Many wading birds will congregate in estuaries. It is during this time that many migrants form the flocks that they will travel with. Martins, however, are thought to migrate in loose, small groups."

Here is a link, from 2004, with a map for searching out known roosting sites at that time:

Googling "Audubon Martin Roost Events" will bring up a list of roost watching events and associated festivals in locations such as Tulsa, Houston, New Orleans, and more.

Finally, click for information on turning in a new roost report here.

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