Presenting: The New Environmental Education Park
By Cathy Van Bebber
In 2019, just four years ago, Courtney Anderson, Biologist/Park Ranger at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge (HNWR), presented the Friends of Hagerman (FOH) with an idea about a major new project to consider. "We should build a new Education Pavilion", she said. It would be an outdoor space which could be used for all kinds of environmental and educational activities--school trips, adult activities, picnics, and kids’ projects. We mulled it over for a couple of months and then decided to do just that.
During the rest of 2019, we tossed around plans and ideas and finally narrowed the project down and set our goal. The structure would be an open-air, double-roofed, metal pavilion, with an area of 1600 square feet, located just south of the Butterfly Garden, right off of Refuge Road. Plans were drawn up and we were ready to roll. Then Covid hit in 2020 and everything came to a screeching stop—before it had even started. And for a year, we sat, unable to do anything.
The Environmental Education Park Committee: Bryon Clark, FOH President; Paul Balkenbush, Assistant Refuge Manager; Mike Grubb and Cathy Van Bebber, Committee Chairs; Derek Miller and Larry Vagus, Committee Members. Cindy Steele, not shown
Finally, in the summer of 2021 and, although the refuge was still closed to the public, construction began. The pavilion was finished and turned over to HNWR in November, 2021. Many thanks go to Paul Balkenbush, Assistant Refuge Manager, Mike Grubb, FOH board member, and Derek Miller, then President of
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the FOH for doing such an awesome job in overseeing the pavilion project. Also, a big round of applause goes to Rusty Daniel, Engineering Equipment Operator, and Caleb Derrick, Maintenance Foreman, for they were the ones who bulldozed the dirt, leveled and prepared the site, installed the sidewalk, built the bridge, installed the electricity, and laid the plumbing so we did not have to hire outside workers, saving FOH a considerable amount of money.
After two years of shutdown, it was a joyous occasion when the refuge finally reopened the Visitor Center in March of 2022. FOH held a Spring Fest Celebration Event on May 14th and invited the public to come see our new building. Over 400 people came and enjoyed all kinds of learning activities for both adults and children.
This day was also a somber day, for there was also a ceremony in which the pavilion was dedicated to Refuge Volunteer Katie Palmer, a young wife and mother, who had lost her life when hit by a truck while walking in her neighborhood with her husband, John, one morning in April 2020. Katie was instrumental in bringing hands-on nature programs and activities for children to Hagerman. Over 100 of her family and friends joined FOH President Bryon Clark and the Board of FOH for the dedication in our new pavilion.
Dedication to Katie Palmer
Plaque Honoring Katie Palmer
But our work was not finished, not yet. We began the final phase of the project—perhaps the most detailed of the tasks to be completed: building a bridge from the Visitor Center parking lot to the pavilion, installing a single-vault bathroom, pouring a 9-foot diameter concrete gathering circle, installing three new park benches, connecting all the parts with sidewalks and, finally, installing 18 pallets of sod—many thanks go out to the 24 volunteers and 6 staff members who made it happened on that very, very, very hot day.
So now we can say, “It is complete and good job!” Many thanks go to Mike Grubb and Cathy Van Bebber, who were co-chairs of the project, along with committee members, Derek Miller, Larry Vargus, and Cindy Steele. Many thanks to Kathy Whaley, Refuge Manager, for her dedication in making Hagerman one of the best places in North Texas to enjoy and explore nature.
The Friends of Hagerman are extremely proud to have been the driving force behind this project. I will say that it was truly a labor of love, for the Friends are all volunteers who have worked thoursands of hours throughout the years.
Many thanks also go to those who contributed money to be used toward the pavilion. We could not have done this without your support. Thank you.
Bringing in the Dirt
Pavilion Foundation Poured
Vision for Second Stage
Ready for Sod
Last of the Sod Installed
The visitor center is open Monday through Saturday 9-4, Sunday 1-5. It's a great time to visit the refuge!
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Cope's Gray Treefrog by Mayve Strong
by Pam Rendall-Bass
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Yellow-billed Cuckoo, "Whatcha doin?"
by Kitta Weinkauf Dory
Great Blue Heron
By Donnie Simmons
Were YOU There?
All are welcome as a participant or a volunteer--A fun time is had by all!
Refuge Rocks "Under the Prairie Sky" and the Photo Club Super Moon Field Trip
The Eastern Bluebird: An Exciting Season Concludes!
Photo by Chris Balsamo
The Nest Box Program was established in 2010 at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. It has become one of the most popular programs on the refuge. In 2023 we monitored 46 nest boxes on two trails: 15 boxes on Raasch Trail and 31 boxes on Harris Creek Trail.
The season for monitoring starts in the last week of February and typically finishes on July 31. Monitors are all volunteers and a team of 2 normally monitors each trail on Wednesday of each week. Weather and personal schedules will sometimes make Thursday the day of choice. Checking a nest box consists of opening the box, looking for nest building, eggs laid, new
hatchlings, live or dead young, and finally when the young have fledged the nest. All of this data is recorded on a form from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology called NestWatch. There are hundreds of NestWatch programs all over the country for many bird species. Our target species here at Hagerman is the Eastern Bluebird; but we will often find in our boxes on this refuge: Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Bewick’s Wren, or Tufted Titmouse.
We are always interested in new volunteers to monitor if you can be scheduled weekdays on Wednesday or Thursday. The typical monitoring season runs from March through July. We have training scheduled in January each year, which is mandatory for new and old volunteer monitors. The Friends of Hagerman website will have all of the information on volunteering.
This 2023 season was very exciting as we finally got our Nest Cam box fully functional. The Nest Cam box was located east of the overflow parking area. At this spot we had line of sight to the radio antenna on top of the Visitor’s Center, and it was in an open area which is important for Bluebird nesting. The camera feed is sent to the television monitor inside the Visitor’s Center lobby. We had a complete Bluebird nest on June 14. Volunteers, refuge staff, and visitors were able to view the activity of eggs being laid, the incubation of eggs, the hatching of eggs, the female’s feeding of five young, and finally the fledging of all five young Bluebirds on July 22.
Our Adopt-a-Box Program has been a continued success for funding our Nest Box program. Each season we need nest box repair and replacement. That means purchasing new nest boxes, poles, screws, clamps, predator guards, and Nest Cam equipment. The sale of sponsorships will begin on December 1 each year and each box adopted costs $35. We limit each donor to a maximum of 3 boxes. We offer 45 boxes and the Nest Cam box is not up for adoption. In reality each donor is helping to sponsor the entire program, not just their nest box.
The chart below shows four bird activity categories with monthly totals and then the 2023 season totals. The categories are a) completed nests, b) number of bird eggs, c) number of live young hatched, and d) number of birds that fledged. We track each trail ( HC is Harris Creek and R is Raasch Trail) and the four species that are common here at Hagerman. These categories are important to Cornell NestWatch for their scientific research which you can read on their website at various times during the year. Note that the Carolina Chickadee appears to be a significant nest box inhabitant here at Hagerman.
Total Bluebirds Fledged in Program Nestboxes:
In February of 2021, we had a severe cold spell with temperatures in the area of -2 degrees Fahrenheit. This was devastating to many bird populations. According to Kathy Whaley, Hagerman’s Refuge Manager, it make take 5 years or more to regain our average season total for fledged Bluebirds.
The following are some of the great websites to research for Bluebird knowledge as well as all the other species of birds.Sialis
Snow on the Prairie
Photos by Nelda Zamir
It must be August when you see Snow-on-the-Prairie! Driving along Refuge Road, en route to Hagerman NWR, this plant with cool appearing green and white leaves actually does look like a light dusting of snow where it is growing en masse. There are actually two plants: Snow-on-the-Prairie (Euphorbia bicolor) and Snow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata) which, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Database, 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, as 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 E. bicolor is narrower than that of E. 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 is found mainly in the eastern third of Texas. The USDA Plants Database 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!
Original Blog Post by Sue Malnory on August 23, 2012
Ranger-Led or Self-Guided Field Trips Available
Apply Now! First come, first served.
Ranger Spencer Beard, his assistants, Master Naturalists and other volunteers will ensure that you and your students enjoy a fun-filled learning experience. Up to 150 students may be accommodated, there is no cost.
Lesson plans and TEKS are available on our website.
Ranger Classroom Visits are also available.Apply Today!
Photo Club Meeting: Wildlife Videos with Richard Barnes
September 16, 2023 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM in the Visitor Center
Richard Barnes is from Glasgow, Scotland and moved to Texas in 2013. The following year he produced a video to show the summer wildlife in our garden in Farmers Branch to his family back in Scotland. Chris Jackson featured the video on his DFW Urban Wildlife website and encouraged him to continue filming our local wildlife. Around that time he also started using iNaturalist to record wildlife observations. Mr. Barnes lives with his wife, Shannon, in Lake Dallas and they garden for wildlife – they created a flower bed for pollinator plants and have a small back yard pond. They look for wildlife in local parks and nature preserves in Denton County and visit Hagerman NWR several times each year.
This presentation will cover the basics of filming wildlife with some tips about how to get started for beginners. Mr. Barnes will show videos of some of his more interesting and unusual wildlife observations and will conclude with a compilation of footage he has filmed at Hagerman NWR.
You can view Richard Barnes' videos at Richard EH Barnes YouTube.
Photo club members, guests, and visitors are welcome to attend meetings. You do not need to be a photo club member to attend.
For questions about the photo club, contact:
Photo Club Leader, Lisa Wilkins
The "New" Photo Blind
Hagerman NWR’s maintenance team has completed a repositioning of the Headquarters Photo Blind to Fish Pond 6! This is a great spot that is frequented by waterfowl and a variety of other birds. Wild turkey, deer and other wildlife may also be seen from the vantage point. The setup offers great wildlife photography potential.Thanks to the FOH and our great volunteers the Headquarters Photo Blind has a fresh coat of low contrast paint, a gravel ramp and enhancement of the window positions.
The Friends of Hagerman NWR
Annual Nature Photo Contest is Here!
Every year in September, the Friends of Hagerman NWR Photo Club sponsors a nature-themed photo contest. For a small fee per photo, photographers may enter as many photos as they wish.
All photographers are invited to participate in the contest, regardless of age or skill level. Divisions include Beginner and Intermediate/Advanced: all photographers, including youth, are welcome!
Ribbons will be awarded for First, Second, and Third place in each of four categories and in both divisions (Beginner and Advanced/Intermediate). In addition, a cash prize will be awarded for First Place in each category, and the photos judged as “Best of Show” and “Youth Best in Show”. Winners will be determined by a panel of judges, who will review the submitted photos without reference to entrant name.
Winners’ photographs will be displayed at the Refuge Visitor Center and published on the Friends of Hagerman website, Facebook page and other venues. The Nature Photo Contest Committee will coordinate and conduct the contest for the Refuge and the Friends of Hagerman NWR.
Plant of the Month: Zexmenia
by Donna Rogers
Texas Master Naturalist
Hagerman Butterfly Garden Docent Chair
Photo by Donna Rogers
Photo from Haeley
Giambalvo, Native Backyards
One of my favorite drought-tolerant Texas native plants is zexmenia (Wedelia texana). Sometimes known as Texas creeping-oxeye, zexmenia is a small shrub that grows from 8 in. to 3 ft. tall, natively in fields and wood borders. Zexmenia grows abundantly on the Edwards Plateau and the Rio Grande and less abundantly in the Trans-Pecos and Southeast. While it is also seen less frequently in North Central Texas, it is a great choice for our area.
Woody branches of this plant send down roots and gradually increase the plant’s circumference. Zexmenia has rough-hairy, gray-green foliage. Leaves are rough on both sides and vary in shape from lobed in the basal half on either or both sides to narrow and unlobed, with margins weakly toothed or untoothed. The flowers are small, in showy heads with yellow to orange rays appearing on petals of a single flower, on long stems extending vertically above the leaves. These daisy-like flowers literally cover the plant from summer to frost.
This plant dies to the ground when it turns cold around November or December. Trim off the dead stems in early March and zexmenia will easily sprout in the spring and begin its eight-month blooming reign. It is hardy, long-lived, long-blooming, non-aggressive, and popular as a low, shrubby flower for massing in full sun.
So, here are six good reasons to grow zexmenia:
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The Friends of Hagerman Board of Directors
Dues From Memberships Enable the Friends to…
Birding with Jack: Updated, Weekly Census Results
By Master Naturalist Jack Chiles, Mike Petrick and Dr. Wayne Meyer
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.
Black-Crowned Night Heron
Butterfly Garden Walks
Registration is not necessary
Pipevine Swallowtail by Laurie Sheppard
Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, the Little Sit has been Cancelled on September 2, 2023. Pleases join us for the next one on October 7, 2023
Early Bird Walk with Jack Chiles
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.
The September 9th Early Bird Walk has been cancelled due to the heat.
Photo by Jack Chiles
No Weaseling Out of It: Mink on the Brink
with Dr. Jessica Healy
Saturday, September 9th at 10:00 AM in the Visitor Center
Mink have long played the role of villain in literature - the 'horrible, vicious animal' that would murder a coop full of chickens for sport. In the stories of the First Nations people of the Pacific northwest, the mink is a trickster character. For decades, mink garments have been used as status symbols. As an invasive species in Europe, mink imported from the US for the fur trade and escaped into the wild are responsible for the decline of several native European species. But what do we really know about this highly intelligent little aquatic carnivore? Come hear Austin College Biology Professor and Mammalogist Dr. Jessica Healy makes the case that mink ought to be respected, not feared.
Dr. Jessica Healy, PhD is an Associate Professor of Biology at Austin College in Sherman, TX. Originally from Iowa, Dr. Healy attended Colorado State University for graduate school, receiving a PhD in Zoology in 2010. Dr. Healy primarily studies the physiological ecology of hibernating species like ground squirrels, but as a Mammalogist has an interest in the natural history and ecology of all mammals.
Photo By Needsmoreritalin - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Future Second Saturday Programs
Future Refuge Rocks Programs
Puddles' Craft Corner
Under the Prairie Sky
By Cindy Steele, Master Naturalist
Welcome back to Puddles’ Craft Corner! Can you imagine what it was like 200 years ago when the pioneers were traveling across North America in their covered wagons and came over a hill to view the vast prairie that spans the middle of our continent? 200 years ago, much of central North America was covered by huge expanses of grasses and wildflowers called the Prairie. The Prairie stretched from Texas to Canada and Illinois to Montana. Travelers called it a sea of grass.
The word prairie comes from the French pre´rie meaning meadow. A prairie is a type of habitat with mostly grasses, but also flowering plants and occasional shrubs or isolated trees. This type of habitat can be found around the world, but it goes by different names, such as steppes in Asia, pampas in South America, while African grasslands are called savannas. The word prairie generally means grasslands in North America. There are often many animals on a prairie that either prefer a prairie or can only live on the in this type of ...
Register for a Tram Tour Today!
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.
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.
To Our Contributors: Cathy Van Bebber, John Van Bebber, Jack Chiles, Cindy Steele, Donna Rogers
Refuge Manager: Kathy Whaley
Deputy Refuge Manager: Paul Balkenbush
Visitor Services Manager: Spencer BeardEditors: Patricia Crain, Laurie Sheppard
Friends of Hagerman NWR Foundation
6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, TX 75092
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Special thanks to Nancy Miller for the amazing photo of the Visitor Center
See you at the refuge!