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The iNaturalist Community: Connecting People to Nature While Expanding Biodiversity Knowledge

By Kathy Whaley, Refuge Manager

Although iNaturalist.org has been around since 2008, many nature enthusiasts are just now learning about this unique resource. So, what is iNaturalist, how does it work, and how can it help me become a better naturalist?

iNaturalist, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is an online network of “observers” who make records of most any living thing on Earth worldwide. It includes species of birds, mammals, plants, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, moths, insects, fish, fungi, lichens, mollusks, and even protozoans. So far more than 3 million observers have recorded almost 470,000 species throughout the world. In Texas alone, 67,000 registered observers have identified 28,281 different species to date. Looking more locally, as of late April 2024 Grayson County had 2,541 observers who had recorded 3,477 species. If you would like to see the observations at Hagerman NWR, go to iNaturalist.org, select “Community” at the top of the page, then drop down to select “Projects”. Type Hagerman in the search box then select Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. As of late April, 814 observers had recorded 1,634 species totaling just under 27,000 observations on the refuge alone! On this page you can see who has recorded the most observations, the most species, a location map, plus which species are most often observed and recorded (hint: the most commonly recorded species on the refuge is large, gray/blue, and flies. Can you guess what it is?)

For those who just want to explore data and not record observations, you can go online to www.inaturalist.org and enter the location you would like to learn more about in terms of species present. Once the observations for that location load, you can refine your search by groups of species (i.e., birds) or by species (i.e., painted bunting). There is an “Explore” option that will allow you to see what others in the area have observed or query a specific organism to see if it has been spotted nearby. iNaturalist shows observations of species present by map, grid (photos), or list. You can also set a custom boundary that you define and choose a map view or satellite view of that area. Traveling to a new location and want to know which species you can expect to see there? No problem! Plug in your destination “Location” and let the database do the work for you.

To get started as an observer, simply download the free iNaturalist app on your smart phone (or tablet) from the Apple or Android app store. Once the app downloads you will need to create an account using an email address and select a password. Location services must be turned on for your camera and for iNaturalist. Once this is done you are ready to “observe”. Practice with a photo of a wild plant, bird, or animal already on your phone or go outside and snap a photo of something wild (please don’t upload ornamental plants, pets, or people). The app will walk you through what to do step by step in an easy-to-understand manner. If you think you know what the species is, enter it when you upload the photo. If you just know that it is, for example, a snake, enter the category “reptile” and start there.

The intuitive iNaturalist database also provides the ability to get suggestions for an identification when you upload a photo of a species. This feature can be very helpful, especially with plants. Once you take 

your photo, before you enter a possible ID, click on "view suggestions". iNaturalist will tell you if the suggestions are "expected nearby" or even "seen nearby" which will help you narrow the suggested species to the most likely ID based on your location. Once your observation is recorded and saved in the database, other users will be able to see the image and make suggestions on the correct identification. As a registered observer, you will have access to experts in every category who are generally very happy to share their knowledge with you.

All iNaturalist entries include the date and time observed, the observer username, a map showing the location, a photo, and usually a suggested ID if one is known. Once the photo is uploaded, the ID will need to be confirmed by other users. When you have two or more positive identifications your observation will be labeled “research grade” which basically means that is for certain the correct identification. Whether you are looking to expand your own personal knowledge or are working on an actual nature-based research project, iNaturalist is an excellent reference that is now used by professional biologists and for conservation research around the world.

“Seek” is a different app developed by the iNaturalist team that can be very helpful for the identification of living things. No log-in or account is required to use this free app. Once the app is downloaded, simply point your camera at the plant, animal, fungus, butterfly, or whatever it is you want to identify and give Seek just a few seconds. It uses image recognition technology to help identify the organism based on positive ID’s already in the database. All things considered, Seek is an amazing identification tool for those of us who love to explore the outdoors and its many forms of life.

Want to learn more or put your new skills in action? On Saturday September 7th, Texas Master Naturalists will hold the 3rd Annual Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge iNaturalist Bioblitz. Certified Master Naturalists and others from the iNaturalist community will survey all flora and fauna located on refuge lands by using the iNaturalist app. Everyone is welcome to come join the fun and play an important part in this unique citizen science effort. The event will last all day, but you can come and go as you like. You will enter your own observations through the app which will become part of your personal iNaturalist history and be available for you to access at any time.

Go explore!

Refuge Update:

Though refuge lands are open from sunrise until sunset every day of the year, the Visitor Center is open Monday through Saturday 9-4, Sunday 1-5.  It's a great time to visit the refuge!

Photos by Donnie Simmons

More Amazing Nature Photos taken at the refuge.

Upcoming Activities:

The Friends of Hagerman is Hosting

17 Family Friendly Events in May!

Calendar of  Events 

Choctaw Day Tram Reservations

  • No upcoming events

First Butterfly Garden Walk of the Season

May 11th, 1:30 to 3:30

Pipevine Swallowtail by Laurie Sheppard

Enjoy a stroll through the 1/4 acre Butterfly Garden at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.  Garden docents will be on hand to help you identify the Texas native plants and the butterflies in the garden.  Come on your own or bring the family.  Use our close-focus butterfly binoculars to get a really CLOSE look.  Special activities for families include scavenger hunts, meet the Metamorphosis Puppet and more. Garden walks are Come and Go or Come and Stay. The garden is free of charge and open to the public during Refuge hours.

Do you love butterflies and native plants? Do you enjoy being outdoors and meeting new people? If so, then consider joining a group of volunteers who serve as docents in the Butterfly Garden at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. New volunteer garden docents are always welcome and training is provided: simply attend a scheduled Butterfly Docent Meeting, or email for more information: friendsofhagerman@gmail.com

The Butterfly Garden is Looking Good!

Come and visit our gorgeous Butterfly Garden!  If you enjoy gardening and meeting like minded people, come join us for gardening mornings!  Email: friendsofhagerman@gmail.com for information.

Sea Glass Art: A Great Gift for Mother's Day

Sea gulls, frogs, dried flowers and Mom! We've added a few new art glass pictures in the Nature Nook, but more coming soon!

The Friends of Hagerman Online Auction

To donate an item, email dereknolan@yahoo.com

Birding with Jack: The Weekly Bird Census

Left to Right: Mike Petrick, Nancy Riggs, Jack Chiles and Terry Goode

Each Tuesday a team of experienced birders, including Master Naturalist Jack Chiles, traverse 35 miles of refuge roads and hiking trails, documenting every bird they encounter. This Bird Census is reported to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology for use in research, and each week we will bring you a link to their actual bird count, and a summary of their adventures.

April 30, 2024 Complete Bird Census

90 Species Oberved, +2 other taxa, 1641 individuals

Grasshopper Sparrow by Mike Sanders, Spotted Sandpiper, and White-faced Ibis

Bird migration is reaching peak activity with many migrants making their long journey north. We set out with high hopes for some exciting finds. Our first stop was Harris Creek Trail where we found our first new migrant – a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. We also saw Painted and Indigo Buntings, a male and female Blue Grosbeak, and many of our usual birds. Four male Wood Ducks flew by and gave us all a good view. From there, we headed to the Goode picnic area. Along the way we saw a male Baltimore Oriole at the top of a tree. We also saw a large flock of Cedar Waxwings feasting on the nearly ripe Mulberries in a yard in the area. Our next destination was Enterprise Road where we made our first futile search for Bobolinks, but we had to settle for a Bell’s Vireo and more Blue Grosbeaks. We returned to the refuge and found a single Upland Sandpiper and a few Cormorants on Plover Rd. Ducks, shorebirds, and gulls were scarce due to high water after the recent rains. At Meadow Pond we found a Green Heron on the emerging Lotus pads and a Tree Swallow perched in a dead tree. Turtles were very active and we had to dodge several crossing roads and trails. Out west, we found some lingering Meadowlarks and some arriving Grasshopper Sparrows. Our final count for the day was 90 species of birds, three snakes, four turtles, and a very large spider crossing the road. Photos today are Grasshopper Sparrow by Mike Sanders, Spotted Sandpiper, and White-faced Ibis.

See the  Bird Census Results  page for other entries this month.

The Friends of Hagerman NWR Photo Club

Photo Club Meeting: South Africa Trip by Ken Scheepers

Saturday, May 18th at 1:00 PM in the Visitor Center

Join us for the May meeting of the Friends of Hagerman NWR Nature Photography Club. Photo club members, guests, and visitors are welcome to attend meetings. Ken Scheepers will give a presentation about his South Africa Trip.

Ken Scheeper's presentation will be of his recent 8-week, 6,451-mile trip across South Africa, where he was fortunate to have photographed 172 bird species. Ken will present a slide show of the photographs, beginning with an overview and context of where he traveled to, the gear he used, and answer any questions the members may have during the presentation.

About Ken Scheepers

A native of South Africa, Ken came to the USA in 1985 following an extensive 2 1/2-year adventure on a sailboat, sailing some 34,000 miles that began at the age of 28 back in 1982, 

Read More

Sponsor the Friends of Hagerman NWR with a Membership

The Friends of Hagerman NWR Foundation is a 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to instill reverence, respect, and conservation of our wild creatures and habitats through supporting environmental education, recreational activities, and programs of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sponsors Enable the Friends to…

  • Provide at least 12 free, family friendly, nature-oriented activities every month
  • Provide the refuge with volunteers to plant wheat for the geese, mow the trails, pick up trash, paint and perform other chores assigned by refuge staff
  • Develop Second Saturday programs to educate the general public about wildlife conservation
  • Sponsor “The Refuge Rocks!” nature programs for children

  • Maintain the beautiful butterfly garden—a Monarch Waystation that has attracted species new to Grayson County

  • Facilitate Eastern Bluebird populations by maintaining and monitoring 45 nestboxes throughout the refuge

  • Provide interesting educational tram tours of the refuge via the “Wildlife Explorer”

  • Produce “The Featherless Flyer” newsletter and other publications to promote conservation

  • Maintain the friendsofhagerman.com  website 

Join Today!   Memberships available for $10

Join Cindy Steele for:

The Refuge Rocks! Programs for Children

    • June 15, 2024
    • 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
    • Hagerman NWR Visitor Center

    Calling all kids!  Let’s Go Fishin’ on Saturday, June 15th with Hagerman NWR staff and volunteers.  This special Refuge Rocks event is for youth ages up to 16.  We will be fishing from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and is open to children ages 16 and under.  With the help of volunteers, kids will be able to demonstrate their fishin’ skills!  Gear will be available for kids to check out and bait will be provided.  No registration is required for this event, and you can come and go as you please.  We’ll also be providing a fishing-themed craft table.   Location TBD.  Check back on the website or Friends of Hagerman for more information on the location.

    Registration is not necessary for this very special event.

    • July 11, 2024
    • 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
    • The Pottsboro Library, 104 N. Main Street, Pottsboro, TX 75076

    • July 20, 2024
    • 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
    • Hagerman NWR Visitor Center
    • 15

    The national bird of the United States featured on our quarters is the iconic bald eagle, found throughout the rest of North America as well. Learn about the migration and habitats of these majestic birds.  Discover the world of eagles and learn what they look like, where they live on the planet, the habitats they prefer, and other interesting facts.  We'll be learning about the bald eagle while participating in fun activities along with an eagle craft!   

    Come join us on July 20 for a free class for youth ages 5-10.  Registration Required

    Photo by Mary Elford Hulshouser

Future Refuge Rocks Programs:

Puddles' Craft Corner

How to Press & Dry Flowers in Three Minutes!

By Cindy Steele, Master Naturalist

It’s that time again! May in our area is a virtual explosion of wildflowers everywhere you look! Just drive out on any road to enjoy all the beautiful roadside beauty! It’s fun to drive the backroads and go on a wildflower safari…even taking pictures of all the beautiful, colorful blooms! It’s fun to go on a flower safari…looking and taking pictures but be aware of private land: picking flowers in your own backyard is best, don’t pick flowers anywhere unless you have permission, and certainly not on Refuge lands.

The perfect place to view and photograph lovely native plants and spectacular wildflowers is right here at Hagerman NWR! Take a drive around the refuge to view beautiful patches of wildflowers or park at the visitor center and walk over to the butterfly garden.    When it’s in bloom this time of year, it’s bursting with many colors of native flowers. And an added bonus is all the fluttering butterflies flitting about along with many other pollinators “doing their thing”!

You might even have some wildflowers or planted flowers in your yard! It’s a short trip to see gorgeous flowers when they’re right outside your backdoor.  Now, what do all these...

Junior Ranger Program: Advanced and Intermediate

Complete a scavenger hunt, a leaf rubbing and identify a few common birds to become a Junior Ranger.  At the end of the journey report back to the Visitor Center where you will be guided through the Junior Ranger Pledge and receive a merit of completion. 

Print a Hagerman-specific Junior Ranger Packet or Advanced Jr. Ranger Packet or pick one up in the Visitor Center.

The Junior Ranger Pledge

As a Junior Ranger at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge,

I pledge to protect outdoor creatures small, big and huge.

To keep the water, air and land clean.

To make enjoying nature a routine.

I will share my new skills with family and friends.

When people and nature work together, everybody wins!

Come, Take a Tour on the Wildlife Explorer!

Come join us for a ride on the Wildlife Explorer! Our new and beautiful tram is available for ninety-minute tours of Hagerman every Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM, weather permitting. Our tours are as varied as our drivers. Each tram driver has her/his approach to the tour: you may learn about wildlife, birds, habitat, refuge history, photography, you name it! To paraphrase, “a Wildlife Explorer tour at Hagerman is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” But you know it’s going to be good! Come see us! Lots of stops for bird-watching and photography.

  • Lots of stops for bird-watching and photography.   
  • Guided tours are weather permitting and seating is limited. 
  • Standbys are accepted if space permits. 
  • Recommended for age 6 - adult. 
  • Bring your binoculars or borrow ours.
  • Meet at the visitor center 15 minutes before departure. 
  • School, church, families or other groups of 6 to 8 people may request a special group tram tour on days other than regularly scheduled tram tour days 
 Group Tram Tour

Register for a Tram Tour Today!

The Little Sit

Cancelled May 4th due to high water

Sunrise at the Little Sit by Laurie Sheppard

Photo by Cathy Van Bebber

Meet Jack and the Bird Census Team and learn how to identify the birds of North Texas while enjoying the beautiful sunrise over Lake Texoma! Modeled after Cornell's national "Big Sit" event, a group of dedicated birders invite you to join them at sunrise to conduct a bird count as multiple species fly to the water and the surrounding land to feed.  Leaders will bring spotting scopes and will provide tips for identification of the many species you will see.

This event lasts a couple of hours, but all are welcome to come and go as they please. Participants are advised to bring a chair, binoculars and water. 

The First Saturday of every month, beginning 30 minutes before sunrise.

Location: H Pad, Sadler, Texas 76264 (H Pad is in Sadler, but it is part of the refuge) GPS Coordinates: 33.734961, -96.780582

Please register (optional) so we may inform you of unexpected changes. 

Click to enlarge map:

Early Bird Walk with Jack Chiles


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Master Naturalist Jack Chiles will lead our Early Birding event, weather permitting. Bring binoculars or borrow ours.  Meet at the Visitor Center and return in time for the Second Saturday program.

Please Register (Optional) so we may inform you via email of unforseen changes/cancellations.

Photo by Jack Chiles

Second Saturday:  Woodpeckers with Dr. Wayne Meyer

Saturday, May 11th  at 10:00 AM in the Visitor Center 

Photo by Ananthanarayanan Thiagarjan / Kiran photography

Ever hear the rat ta tat of a woodpecker industriously drilling into a nearby tree? Wonder what they're doing? Come find out at second Saturday when Wayne Meyer tells us all about woodpeckers.

Dr. Wayne Meyer is Associate Professor of the Biology department at Austin College, where he has been teaching for 30 years. He started birding at 13 in Connecticut. In 1993 he finally achieved his life’s dream of being paid to look at birds when he joined the faculty of Austin College. He has birded both coasts of the U.S. extensively and now has spent a quarter century birding in Texas and Oklahoma. The proximity of Austin College to Hagerman NWR has made research on prairie birds easy and convenient and he has been studying song learning and singing in Painted Buntings for over a decade. Meyer is also a sought after speaker for Master Naturalist groups and a frequent speaker at the Friends of Hagerman NWR second Saturday programs.

After the program, stay for the Choctaw Cultural Day activities!

Future Second Saturday Programs

Do You Like to Work Outside? The Refuge Needs You!

It takes a lot of people to have a beautiful garden!

The Wednesday Garden Team 

Love to work with native plants and meet other gardeners? Come and help us add plants, weed and mulch our beautiful butterfly garden. Garden Team volunteers get first dibs on thinned native plants as well as access to seeds and cuttings for propagation. 

Gardeners meet on most Wednesdays, but times vary.  Contact Us  to subscribe to the volunteer garden team weekly email. Provide own tools and gloves. Minimum age 18, or 16 if accompanied by parent/volunteer. 

Mowing and Refuge Beautification: The Work Crew

Do you enjoy working outside, mowing, sprucing up hiking trails, trimming and removing brush and general cleanup? Show your love for nature by joining the Outdoor Crew at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. Outdoor Crew volunteers meet on the First Tuesday and Fourth Saturday of every month.

Contact Us for exact times, dates and other details about joining the volunteer Work Crew.

Scouts welcome!

Visitor Center Volunteers Needed!

Do you enjoy meeting all kinds of people from all over the world, and like-minded people in our area?  If yes, consider joining our team of Visitor Center Volunteers.  You will greet refuge guests, distribute maps and other refuge information, and make sales in the gift shop.

Shifts available every day of the week: Monday through Saturday 9 AM to 12:30 PM and 12:30 to 4:00 PM, Sunday 1:00 to 5:00 PM.  Training is provided.  Contact Us if interested.

FIX Contributers

Thank You

To Our Contributors:

Jack Chiles, Cindy Steele

Refuge Manager: Kathy Whaley

Deputy Refuge Manager: Paul Balkenbush

Visitor Services Manager: Spencer Beard 

Editors: Patricia Crain,  Laurie Sheppard

Friends of Hagerman NWR Foundation

6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, TX 75092

Phone: 903-786-2826

Contact Us  

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Events and activities hosted by the Friends of Hagerman are funded by donations and powered solely by volunteers.  There are no fees for admission to the refuge or parking; the refuge is open from sunrise to sunset every day of the year, drive on any road unless gated.

6465 Refuge Road

Sherman, TX 75092



Kroger: Stop by the customer service desk at Kroger and link your Kroger Card to the Friends of Hagerman: the Friends will get rewards for every dollar you spend, at no cost to you.

Please add friendsofhagerman@gmail.com to your contacts to ensure delivery of registration confirmations, account information and the Featherless Flyer

See you at the refuge!

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