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Freedom Flies at Hagerman

By Peyton Briones

Photo by Randall Patterson

The ultimate sign of freedom and patriotism soars high and proud here at Hagerman. With its white head and tail, beautiful brown body and wings, and razor-sharp talons, the bald eagle is a great representative of our strong will and courage.

Photo bK.I.R.A.N Photography 

The beloved bald eagle first became the national bird back in 1782, when it was placed with outspread wings on the Great Seal of our country. For about six years, Congress held a dispute on what the national emblem should be. It wasn’t until 1789 that the bald eagle was chosen to represent the nation.

One of the largest opponents to the bald eagle as America’s emblem was Benjamin Franklin. In a letter, Franklin wrote, “I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character; like those among men who live by sharping and robbing, he is generally poor, and often very lousy. The turkey is a much more respectable bird and withal a true, original native of America.” Not all of Congress had common ground with Franklin’s views. Bald eagles, like other eagles worldwide, have been seen by many people as symbols of strength, courage, and freedom. Unlike other eagles, the bald eagle was 

indigenous only to North America, which helped cement its place.

Bald eagles are designated as sea eagles and therefore their diet mainly consists of fish as their primary food. However, they are opportunistic foragers and will eat sea birds and ducks or hunt over land for small mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, prairie dogs, and muskrats. Both the male and female build the nest, but the female chooses the nest tree. They are strongly territorial birds and will defend the nest territory which is usually several square miles, depending on habitat and the proximity of other eagles, especially during nesting season.

Photo by Brian Clark

Photo by Mary Elford Hulshouser 

Battles over nesting habitats are quite common and can easily result in injury and even death. These birds can grow to be much larger than meets the eye. Adults measure from 30 to 40 inches from head to tail, with a 7-8 foot wingspan, and weigh from 8 to 14 pounds, though the female is larger than the male. Their nest can get up to 10 feet wide and 2,000  pounds.

During nesting season, females can lay 1 to 3 eggs (usually two) about 2 to 3 days apart. The young will stay in the nest for about 11 to 12 weeks when the adults will start encouraging them to fly. Eaglets can usually be seen exercising their wings on the nest or nearby for several days before fledging. The young will stay at or near the nest for another 6 weeks while the adults continue feeding them and teaching them to hunt and fish on their own.

Refuge staff and visitors started watching the bald eagle pair that nests here at Hagerman around 10 years ago, and due to bald eagles not fully maturing and gaining their iconic white head and breeding until adulthood, the experts believe that these birds are at least fifteen years of age. About the first time they built a nest, they were photographed by a popular photographer who spent a lot of time capturing the amazing sight and posting his photos to Facebook. He began referring to them as “Lucy” and “Ricky”, and before long, the names were adopted by the community. 

If you’re curious as to where you can spot these beautiful birds, staff and refuge volunteers in the visitor center will be happy to point out the best places. The female is very 

Juvenile Bald Eagle by Laurie Sheppard

Lucy on the Pole with Red-wings

by Robert Chura

tolerant of people and if she's sitting on "her pole", she'll sit quietly and let people visit. The male is more private so you'll only see him from a distance. Late fall is a good time to find them. After they return to Hagerman and before they are tending eggs on the nest, you'll sometimes see them together. Later, you might see one or the other out fishing or taking a break from tending the nest or in spring after the eggs have hatched and the adults are trying to feed their young. Staff and volunteers often see some juveniles who fly over the refuge at any given time, and people might see other eagles from the Sandy Point Picnic Area.  That's where a juvenile was released by the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center in the fall and the folks doing the weekly bird census have seen both adults and juveniles 

there recently. Always keep an eye on the sky - some of the birds flying around are not vultures but are Bald Eagles.

Nowadays, the bald eagle is protected under the National Emblem Act of 1940, The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and The Lacey Act. Although once abundant throughout the US, their population greatly declined in the 1960s. Farmers and fishermen killed many eagles for getting too close to their poultry or fishing nets, gamekeepers took many for falconry, and pesticides, which interfered with their reproduction, were the cause of death for many bald eagles. President John F. Kennedy wrote to the Audubon Society, “The Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the bald eagle as the emblem of the nation. The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolize the strength and freedom of America. But as latter-day citizens, we shall fail our trust if we permit the eagle to disappear.”

From once being listed as endangered, the number of Bald Eagles has rebounded to an estimated 316,700 individual bald eagles nationwide in 2020, including 71,400 nesting pairs according to a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report. Therefore having a nesting pair here at Hagerman makes them all the more special to us.

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 Caleb Darling

More Amazing Nature Photos taken at the refuge.

Upcoming Activities:

The Friends of Hagerman is Hosting

14 Family Friendly Events in January!

Calendar of  Events 

Wilson's Snipe by Richard Barnes

Richard Barnes' 2023 Video Clips of Hagerman Wildlife on Youtube


Monarch Research Team Needs Your Help!

Photos by Laurie Sheppard

It's winter and the Monarch butterflies that migrated through north Texas are settled in the pine and oyamel trees in the Sierra Madre mountains.They arrived a little late this year, reaching El Rosario a few days after Dia de los Muertos. Some stragglers were still seen in Grayson County in late November, and hopefully, they made it all the way to Mexico.

Volunteers at Hagerman NWR conduct several surveys of migrating Monarchs each spring and fall as part of the Integrated Monarch Monitoring Program (IMMP) - a national program that documents milkweed, nectar plant, and monarch use data from various land-use types and regions. Information gathered at National Wildlife Refuges like Hagerman is an important part of the research shaping scientists' understanding of how monarchs interact with their environment and how the population and its habitat changes over time.

As with many such projects, the IMMP at Hagerman is looking for additional volunteers willing to commit a few field hours during the spring and fall migrations of everyone's favorite butterfly. Training in how to document blooming plants, identify monarch eggs and larvae, and the structure of the surveys themselves will be held in early 2024. The monitoring team conducts surveys at three locations on the refuge, each a little different in dominant habitat. We walk in pairs over a marked grid pattern and identify the blooming plants at measured intervals. We also check each milkweed sprout or stem for the presence of monarch eggs or caterpillars and note every adult monarch we see. Surveys are conducted in late March through mid-May and in October through early November. Exact dates for the surveys are based on the availability of volunteers and a weather forecast that is favorable to monarch flight.

If you think you might be interested in joining this fun and interesting project, register below and we'll be in touch.


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.

December 26, 2023  Complete Bird Census List

81 species (+2 other taxa), Observers: Jack Chiles, Wayne Meyer, Laurie Sheppard

Tropical Kingbird

Wilson's Snipe

There was a heavy frost and the temperature was in the mid twenties when we started out. It rained a lot at the refuge over the weekend and the lake level has also risen. The sandbar at the end of Plover is now almost completely submerged. Harris Creek trail from the entrance to the photo blind was very productive with a lot of Song Sparrows, some Spotted Towhees and a Loncoln's Sparrow and White-crowned Sparrows. Tufted Titmice were calling as well as Carolina Wrens. We went early on to Terry Lane in search of the Tropical Kingbird and the Say's Phoebe that was reported yesterday and did not find either species but Terry Goode, who does the census with us often did see it this morning in the same vicinity but neither of us saw the Say's Phoebe. If you want to see many white geese now is the time to visit the refuge. We did not get a good estimate today but there are probably at least 8,000 present. We saw 10 species of sparrows. Ducks are plentiful with counts of 176 Northern Shovelers, 290 Gadwalls, 5 American Wigeons, 10 Mallards, 626 Northern Pintails, 352 Green-winged Teals, 4 Ring-necked Ducks and 5 Buffleheads. The Buffleheads were in Steedman Marsh. There were more than 500 Ring-billed Gulls as well as a mature Bald Eagle off the end of Plover Pad. We saw only 1 Wilson's Snipe today but we counted 11 Greater Yellowlegs, and 99 Least Sandpipers. One White-faced Ibis and 1 Great Egret are still present and were near the low water crossing north of headquarters. We saw 135 Brewer's Blackbirds and 110 Brown-headed Cowbirds east of the cemetery. We saw over 200 Meadowlarks today including both Eastern and Western Meadowlarks. We did see a Brown Thrasher today, a species that has been scarce as of late. We finished the day with 81 species. Today's photos, The Tropical Kingbird that has been drawing so much attention, about to nab an insect and the lone Wilson's Snipe we saw today in the small wetland near the entrance to Wildlife Drive. I am hoping that each of you have a prosperous and happy New Year. Thanks to all of you that read my posts each week and for the many comments that I receive thanking me.

See the rest of Jack's notes and the latest Bird Census Results       

The Friends of Hagerman NWR Photo Club

Photo Club Meeting:

Nature Photography by Russell Graves

Saturday, January 20, 2024 in the Visitor Center

Join us for the January meeting of the Friends of Hagerman NWR Nature Photography Club. Russell Graves will give a presentation about his nature photography and adventures.

More Information

Future Events:

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

    • April 20, 2024
    • 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
    • Hagerman NWR Visitor Center
    • 9

    Trees are an important part of our world.  They provide wood for building and pulp for making paper.  They provide habitats (homes) for all sorts of insects, birds and other animals.  Many types of fruits and nuts come from trees - including apples, oranges, peaches, walnuts and pecans.  Even the sap of trees is useful as food for insects and for making maple syrup -- yum!  Come join us on April 20 for a free class to learn about trees. We'll be going out on the trail to measure the ages of trees and to make bark rubbings.  The attendees will make a fun tree craft to take home.  For ages 5-10.  Registration Required.   Photo credit:  Cindy Steele

    • May 18, 2024
    • 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
    • Hagerman NWR Visitor Center
    • 26

    Calling all bug and insect lovers!  Buzz in to learn about our creepy crawly bug friends in this Refuge Rocks program. Explore the magical realm of insects that are nature's superheroes. From ladybugs to praying mantises, learn about these tiny creatures' incredible powers and how they help our gardens thrive. Children will discover bugs' vital role in maintaining balance in our ecosystems. Get ready to unleash your inner bug enthusiast as we uncover the secrets of these fascinating critters and their essential contributions to our world.

    In this program, we’ll learn about the superheroes of the insect world through a short lesson, craft, and fun activities!  Come join us on May 18 for a free class for youth ages 5-10.  For ages 5-10.  Registration Required.   Photo credit:  C. Steele/Canva Pro

Puddles' Craft Corner

Exploring Nature in Winter

By Cindy Steele, Master Naturalist


No pictures to show


Welcome back to Puddles’ Craft Corner! Are you looking for ways to get your kids outside this Winter? Winter can be a real hibernating time – it’s tempting to want to stay cozied up indoors until the weather warms up a little. Part of the fun of Winter is snuggling up on sofas and under blankets diving into a good book! But as the days shorten, daylight shortens and everything becomes decidedly crispier, nature provides us with a magical backdrop that’s perfect for exploring.

Here in North Texas, the temperatures can be a mixed bag. Some days can be very cold, and others can be mild and in the 70s. Even though snowstorms are few and far between, the winter landscape is the perfect time to get outside, go on a hike, or just go exploring. The bare trees make it easier to spot birds and other small animals that might be out in nature.

Going on a hike in a local park, out at Hagerman NWR, around the lake, in your neighborhood or even in a local parking lot area at dusk will provide you with a few hours of fun identifying birds and looking for signs of other animals foraging for food.

A fresh winter’s walk in nature to get some exercise, get some fresh air and put an end to cabin fever is a lovely way to savor the winter season. If you’d like to do more exploring this Winter, here’s a list of fun, easy outdoor winter nature activities to help you get outside more this Winter.

Enjoying your time on a hike or nature walk requires preparation. It also means lugging a few extra items than you would like. However, there is a balance between being prepared and carrying your entire house on your back, so if you’re wondering what to pack for a hike or nature walk with kids, here’s a peek at what’s in a well-prepared backpack before hitting trails or the walking path at the park on a winter’s day!

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!

Enjoy a ninety minute tram tour of Wildlife Drive aboard our open-air Wildlife Explorer.  Learn about the fascinating history of the displaced town of Hagerman while watching for an abundance of wildlife.

  • 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

Future Tram Tours

Register for a Tram Tour Today!

The Little Sit

Sunrise Bird Count and Photo Opportunity

Photo: Sunrise at the Little Sit by Laurie Sheppard

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

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:

The Eastern Bluebird With Kathy Whaley

Saturday,  January 13th at 10:00 AM in the Visitor Center 

Photo by Chris Balsamo

Don't miss this informative presentation by our own Refuge Manager, Kathy Whaley.  Arrive early--this session fills up every year.

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.

Thank You

To Our Contributors:

Peyton Briones, Jack Chiles, Cindy Steele, Laurie Sheppard, Chris Balsamo, Caleb Darling, Mary Elford Hulshouser, Robert Chura, Randall Patterson, K.I.R.A.N Photography 

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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