Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
Eileen Berger, Certified Indian Trail Master Naturalist
While visiting with several Master Naturalists during the Christmas Bird Count, I learned that Jim Varnum, a North Texas Master Naturalist and one of our native plant “gurus”, was going to lead a bird walk at Hagerman NWR situated on the shores of Lake Texoma that week. Since I had never been there and am always up for a field trip, my fellow ITMN member Charlie and I decided to go.
We met our tour guide and the other members of the tour at the beautiful new visitor’s center with educational exhibits in the lobby of the center. After gathering some brochures about the birds we might see, we headed out. The literature stated that Hagerman is home to more than 338 species of birds either resident year round or migrating here for the winter. We were able to view all manner of birds that live on or near water including many species of ducks, geese, gulls, herons, cormorants, egrets, sandpipers, and terns. We were also entertained by being able to view harriers, several different kinds of hawks, kestrels, merlins, woodpeckers, sparrows, vireos, wrens, cardinals, meadowlarks, finches, blackbirds and many more.
As we drove slowly from one area to another, we would pause to notice birds flying up from vegetation planted especially for cover and nesting areas. The refuge includes large wheat fields planted to attract and feed snow geese. Evidence of the ongoing drought was everywhere, with lake levels obviously down several feet. While we were standing outside our vehicles with our binoculars and spotting scopes trained on far-off birds, other birders would arrive. We met people from other states who make yearly trips to Texas to make use of our plentiful areas for viewing birds. Bird watching is one of the fastest-growing hobbies, and ecotourism is very important to the Texas economy. I have decided that you can tell serious birders by the expense of their binoculars and scopes, with brands like Swarovski and Leica numerous. Those same birders arrive in ten-year-old cars and vans with bumper stickers saying “I brake for birds”. They definitely have their priorities straight as far as I am concerned.
If you would like to experience Hagerman NWR, you can get directions and information by calling or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service http:/www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/texas/Hagerman/index.html
The refuge is open daily from sunrise to sunset year round. The visitor center is open Monday through Friday from 7:30am-4:00pm, Saturday from 9:00 am-4:00 pm, and Sunday 1:00-5:00 pm and closed on federal holidays. There are hiking trails and picnic areas, as well as Second Saturday nature programs offered by Friends of Hagerman. Fishing is permitted year round and hunting in season.
The Friends of Hagerman will host a special three day festival called Birdfest Texoma on May 3-5, 2013. It will include classes on photography, attracting birds and butterflies, native plants and trees, hummingbirds, rainwater harvesting, beginning birding, snakes, spiders, propagating plants, and classes of interest to children. Birding tours will be available all three days, by car and tram. For information about this festival visit birdfesttexoma.org
Do you think nature should be part of our everyday life, not just somewhere to go on the weekends? You are invited to attend our free, open-to-the-public, monthly program on the fourth Monday of the month at 7 pm at the Red Oak Library, 200 Lakeview Pkwy, Red Oak, TX. Would you like to join an active citizen corps of knowledgeable volunteers to provide education, outreach and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within our communities? ITMN will conduct spring training Tuesday evenings 6-9 p.m. at First United Methodist Church from April 2 – May 28. For more information on the Indian Trail Master Naturalist Chapter, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at 972-825-5175 or visit our website: https://txmn.org/indiantrail/.