Thursday, November 27, 2014

This Count Is for the Birds

Who wants to join in the 2014 Christmas Bird Count at Hagerman NWR

Dr. Wayne Meyer is taking names of those interested, and you can sign up online  or by calling the Refuge, 903 786 2826.  Dr. Meyer says you don't have to be an experienced birder to participate, because spotters are needed for each team, as well as those who can ID the birds seen.

The count at Hagerman, set for Saturday, December 20, is just one of hundreds of counts planned across the Northern Hemisphere that will make up the 115th Audubon Christmas Bird Count.   Last year some 70,000 volunteers participated in the count, which has an interesting history.


During the nineteenth century  sportsmen of the eastern U.S. would  compete on Christmas day to see who could shoot the most birds, so just over one hundred years ago Frank Chapman and members of the early Audubon Society decided that there should be a new tradition that did not take such a toll on birds, and that new tradition became  the Christmas Bird Count.   The data collected in all these censuses have become one of the world’s most complete and long-term data sets on bird populations.

According to Audubon, "The long term perspective made possible by the Christmas Bird Count is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat - and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. For example, local trends in bird populations can indicate habitat fragmentation or signal an immediate environmental threat, such as groundwater contamination or poisoning from improper use of pesticides."

Each count is based on a circle with a fifteen-mile diameter.  The task of the counters is to find and identify all the birds they can within that circle.  They can take a maximum of 24 hours to do this, all within one calendar day, between December 14, 2014, and January 5, 2015; however, most Christmas counts don’t last that long -  the National Audubon Society encourages Christmas counts to cover the daylight hours and most counts include a few hours of owl searching at night.

The Hagerman NWR Christmas count circle is divided into six areas and each area has a designated leader who is skilled in identification.  Volunteers can participate in an all day search or register for a half day, as several  areas are small enough to be covered in half a day.  The owl count will begin at 4 am and the main count will begin at 7 am, and will conclude at 5  pm on  December 20.

There is another way people can contribute.  Any bird feeders within the count circle can be included in the day’s tally.  If you prefer,  you can register to be a feeder watcher if you live in one of these communities within the Hagerman NWR circle: Pottsboro, Sherwood Shores, Cedar Mills, Mill Creek, Locust, Fink, Tanglewood, Georgetown, Preston and Gordonville.

All persons registered for the Hagerman count will be notified by email of count details before the event.





Thursday, November 20, 2014

Turkey Day on the Way

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What is Baccharis

Recently there has been lots of conversation at the Refuge about Baccharis, but what is it?   Growing in profusion along many of the Pad roads, this plant provided a roosting spot for many migrating monarchs this fall.   We consulted Dr. George Diggs about which species of Baccharis we are seeing.  Dr. Diggs said that the Baccharis we are seeing is most probably Baccharis neglecta Britton.  He added, “While I haven’t collected B. halimifolia at the refuge, it is definitely in the area (known from both Dallas and Fannin counties) and I suspect it has moved into Grayson County by now.”  Both are native to the lower 48 states.

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, UT, Baccharis neglecta Britton, which is also known as False Willow, Jara dulce, Poverty Weed, Roosevelt Weed, is “A weedy, tall (6 -12’) shrub abundant in fields out of cultivation and on disturbed ground, also in unshaded, low places. With ascending light brown branches and green twigs. Leaves partly evergreen, very narrow, less than 1/4 inch wide and up to 3 inches long. Male and female flowers on separate plants. Female flowers inconspicuous, silky, in small, greenish white heads which appear to be individual flowers, these arranged in large clusters up to 1 foot or more long and 8 inches wide, resembling silky plumes in October and November. Fruit, minute, about 1/16 inch long, borne on the wind by a tuft of hairs."



Baccharis neglecta (Photos by Melody Lytle, from  Wildflower Center Digital Library)
Baccharis, along Pad C at HNWR, by William H. Powell

The website notes that Baccharis is the ancient Greek name (derived from the god Bacchus) of a plant with fragrant roots, and the species name neglecta refers to the prevalence of this plant in neglected or disturbed areas.  The shrub offers a showy profusion of silky silver/white flowers, and is also a good nectar plant for many pollinators including some butterflies.   Luckily for the butterflies, the plant is highly deer resistant, too! 

Alternatively, Baccharis halimifolia, which is also known as  Groundseltree, Sea-myrtle, Consumptionweed, Eastern baccharis, Groundsel, Groundsel bush, Salt marsh-elder, Salt bush, Florida groundsel bush is also a 6 – 12 foot deciduous shrub which is tolerant of salt-water spray.  Its plumes in fall are said to resemble “silvery paintbrushes.”


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bobkitty Tale

By Kathy Whaley (Originally published Nov. 11, 2010)

This is one of those stories where you would almost have to had been there to believe it… so I will understand if you’re skeptical.

The first Friday morning in November I was riding north on Oil Field Road when ahead of me I saw the bright flash of a white tail swishing profoundly back and forth, back and forth. As I got closer, I could see that the bushy tail was attached to a very alert deer. Ignoring me, she jumped around, up and down, back and forth, into the weeds, and back out to the road for about 30 seconds. I was quite amused at her antics then came the real surprise: she had a playmate. Out of the weeds beside the road popped a young bobcat. It looked to be about 15-20 pounds and probably a 2010 model. 

Photo by Kathy Whaley
The deer lunged playfully at the bobcat, tail still swishing, and the bobcat just watched as if to say “oh yeah? Well now what cha' gonna do?” They stopped in their tracks about 10 feet apart and stared at each other for about 7-8 seconds before the bobkitty darted back into the weeds…then out again… then in again. 

The doe looked my direction briefly, then bolted into the woods where her buddy had gone. I thought to myself how cool it was to see such an interesting mixed-species, herbivore/carnivore encounter. When you visit Hagerman, keep your eyes open! You never know what might just be around the next bend.

For more information about what to see and do at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, the official website, including a species list, is http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Hagerman and the website for the Friends of Hagerman is http://www.friendsofhagerman.com.

Editor's Note: Want to share your "tales" of adventure at Hagerman NWR? Email to friendsofhagerman@gmail.com. There is no remuneration for any submissions. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Go Native In Your Garden

Texas Native Plant Week is October 19-25.

How ‘green’ is your garden? Well, now may be last chance this year to plant seeds of wildflowers native to your region that will give you low-maintenance blooms next spring and all summer long. Not only will they thrive — they’ll support native birds, insects and other pollinators that depend on familiar, home-grown species for a healthy ecosystem.

Liatris mucronata DC, or Gayfeather, at Hagerman NWR (Refuge File Photo)

“Native species evolved in the local environment and have developed complex interrelationships with other area plant species as well as fine tuning to local climate and soil  conditions,” says Kathleen Blair, an ecologist at Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. Exotic plant species — non-natives, including many commercially available garden flowers — haven’t. That means, she says, “If you plant non-native or exotic species, a whole lot of other local species cannot use them.”

Maximilian Sunflower

It’s possible that going native might help save a local ecosystem, or at least parts of one. That’s what motivates Pauline Drobney, a biologist at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa, where the staff is working to restore the globally threatened tallgrass prairie savannah. Each year, says Drobney, staff and volunteers plant up to 250 species of native plants on the refuge.  Does planting native mean sacrificing flash and drama? No way, says Drobney, who won over a skeptical neighbor by showing him the butterfly milkweed and blazing star in her yard. “It was just knock-your-socks-off color,” she says.

Some non-natives or exotics have become ecological nightmares, escaping backyards to rampage across entire regions, choking out native species as they spread. Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria, native to Europe) is a prime example. “It’s a nightmare of a plant. It’s now clogging up the wetlands of the East Coast,” says Blair.

Beyond that, planting an appropriate species will improve your odds of success. Some wildflowers are highly site-specific in terms of rainfall, elevation and soil type.

Here are just a few examples of some native wildflower favorites by region:

Great Plains/Prairie: blazing star, cream gentian, fall sunflower, prairie phlox, prairie violet, heath aster, bird’s foot violet. (“Not only does it bloom profusely, but it’s the obligate host food for the rare regal fritillary butterfly,” says Drobney about the last plant species.)

Southwest: lupin, beard-tongue (or penstemon; a real hummingbird favorite)

Chesapeake Bay watershed: butterfly weed, Joe- Pye weed (also known as trumpet weed), eastern or willow bluestar

Southeast: bee balm, black-eyed Susan

Pacific Northwest: broad-leaf lupine, spreading phlox
Upper Plains: rigid goldenrod, wild lily

Northeast: blue flag iris, New England aster  For reliable information on plants native to your
region, consult your local native plant society.

The Nature Nook at Hagerman NWR has two different seed mixes available in small packets that are appropriate for the North Texas area. 

For Texas see http://npsot.org/ Some other good sources are:

Department of Agriculture: http://plants.usda.gov/ 

Native Plant Information Network  http://www.wildflower.org/ – houses a native plant database and searchable image directory maintained by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Plant Conservation Alliance  http://www.nps.gov/plants/ – contains links to plant guides by region.

U.S. National Arboretum  http://www.usna.usda.gov/ – search “native plants”.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service http://www.fws.gov/


Editor Note: Above information is a update of blog originally published October 14, 2010 from the  USFWS Newswire

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Workamping FAQ's


According to Wikipedia, “workamping”, a contraction of "work camping" is a form of RV camping involving singles, couples or families who work part-time or full-time. The people who are Workamping can be called Workampers. The term "Workamper" was coined by and is a registered trademark of Workamper News 

Workampers generally are retired or working part-time, and exchange volunteer work for RV-camping privileges. There are many settings for workamping, national and state parks and other public recreation lands, private RV campgrounds, etc.  There are currently two workamping couples in residence at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.

Barry & Lynn Burkhardt entered retirement three years ago and began their "legacy" work as full time RV volunteers. Their experiences include two summers with the Corp of Engineers in Branson, Missouri, at Table Rock Dam visitors center, and two seasons with the Georgia State Park system at Highland Walk Golf course. The 2013 winter was their first experience with a national wildlife refuge, in Anahuac Texas. They worked with Bill and Carol Powell who extended an invitation to apply at Hagerman NWR.

Bill and Carol are veterans at Hagerman, spending each fall at the Refuge since 2009.  They also returned in spring, 2013, to assist with BirdFest Texoma.. The Powells began workamping in October 2003 at Cibola NWR, in Arizona.  Since then they have been at  Great Bay,  New Hampshire; Mattamaskeet, North Carolina; Lower Suwanee, Florida Panther, Merritt Island, all in Florida;   Mackay Island,  North Carolina; and in Texas,  Hagerman and  Anahuac.  They also volunteered for TPWD at Sabine National Battlefield in Sabine, Texas.   They note that all Refuges & Texas Parks & Wildlife furnished a full RV site in exchange for 32-48 hours of service per couple.

Carol has worked primarily with records, digitizing pictures & slides, office work, Visitor Center desk, school programs, and trash collection.  Bill received DOI certification to run various types of heavy machinery on all refuges. He also has worked with school programs, maintained building & grounds, upgraded internet system in Cibola and of course picked up trash.

Since arriving at Hagerman, Barry and Lynn have cleaned, cleaned, cleaned and spruced up outdoor areas including picnic grounds, and restrooms!  They mow regularly and help wherever needed with visitor information and activities, and have worked in the Butterfly Garden, with Youth First and group tours.

Both the Burkardts and the Powells will be at the Visitor Center on Sunday, October 26, at 2:30 pm, ready to share their experiences and answer questions about workamping.  Come on out and meet them and enjoy Bill's slides from other Refuges as  well!  The coffee pot will be on!




Thursday, October 9, 2014

Go for the Gold

Roadsides and fields in North Texas and at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge are glowing with “gold” at this time of year.  Several wildflower favorites are contributing to this fall palette.

Maximilian sunflower is a cheery yellow wildflower blooms that  from August to October and provides food for livestock, as a range plant, and seed and cover for wildlife. Helianthus maximiliani Schrad., called Maximilian sunflower, Max sunflower and Michaelmas-daisy, was named for the German explorer and naturalist, Prince Maximilian, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center native plant data-base.  Maximilian explored the Great Plains of the U.S. in 1832.


Maximilian sunflower, by Sue Malnory
Max sunflower is a prairie perennial native to the eastern U.S. and grows throughout the U. S. as an introduced species and ornamental.  Recognizable by multiple blooms along the unbranched, upright stalk It grows from 24” to 10’ tall, and reproduces by seed and by sprouting from the rhizome, which is edible.  In addition to seed, it also provides nectar for bees and butterflies.

Also in the aster family is Gutierrezia sarothrae (Pursh) Britt. & Rusby, with common names that include Broom snakeweed, Kindlingweed, Matchbrush, Texas snakeweed, Broomweed, Turpentine weed.  Growing from 1 – 3’ tall, it is a small shrub-like plant covered in tiny yellow flowers.  By bloom time the lower leaves have dropped off, giving it a delicate appearance. 

Broomweed, by Dick Malnory
Broomweed is native throughout much of the western U.S. and blooms from August – November.  It reproduces by seed, and provides nectar for bees and butterflies and seed for birds.  Dried plants can be tied together to fashion a “broom”.

Another yellow autumn wildflower, one that is considered a “bad actor” by many, is Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis L., also called Canada goldenrod, Canadian goldenrod, Tall goldenrod, or Giant goldenrod.  Goldenrod is blamed for causing allergic reactions each fall, but according to NPIN, the reactions are caused mainly by pollen from the ragweed plant that blooms at the same time.


Goldenrod, by Dick Malnory
Goldenrod grows 3 – 6’ tall, and like the Maximilian sunflower, is perennial.  It provides nectar for bees and butterflies, and produces seeds.  It will grow in most any soil and is tolerant of dry or moist conditions,   Goldenrod is  a native plant found  in Canada and across the U. S. and blooms September – November.

So, using the phrase in a different context, "Go for the Gold"  and enjoy the view.

"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house.  So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air."
-  Nathaniel Hawthorne
Note- this post was originally published on October 4, 2012.