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The Wonders of Snow Geese

By Peyton Briones


Photo taken by Laurie Sheppard

Kathy Whaley, Refuge Manager, Estimated 6,500 to 7,000 Snow/Ross's Geese

on Friday, Dec. 1st, 2023

Winter is coming, and with that, the snow geese as well, one of Hagerman’s most awe inspiring displays of sheer numbers of a species in a single location.

From their arctic breeding grounds, these birds cover thousands of miles to settle in the fields of Hagerman in the late months to feed on the 300 acre field of wheat before heading back to their breeding grounds, known as the reverse migration. Every August, refuge staff prep the fields along Wildlife Drive with wheat for the snow geese, and

by early spring, the fields are usually completely barren from the migratory birds. While many see all our white feathered friends as snow geese, many of those birds are known as Ross’ Geese. The main difference in spotting the two is the Ross’ goose is smaller with their bill being shorter and a rounder head. The snow goose has a black liner around the edges of their beak, almost resembling lipstick.

Photo by Pam Rendall-Bass

The snow goose has two color morphs, or variations, white (snow) or gray-blue (blue), hence the commonly used description as "snows" and "blues". This is actually more commonly found in the snow geese as opposed to the more rare phenomenon found with Ross’ geese. White morphed birds are all white except for their black tipped wings, but blue geese have bluish-gray feathers replacing the white except on the head, neck, and tip of the tail. Spotting a blue morph is not a rare occasion with bigger flocks that come to Hagerman, but if you spot one, they are a beautiful sight to behold. These birds can be seen in astounding numbers in thousands and cover the fields entirely, giving the look that snow has taken 

over Hagerman.

The blue coloration of the snow goose is more common with those that nest in parts of Central Canada. The blue morph on a snow goose is affected by one single gene, with the dark gene being somewhat dominant over the white gene. If a blue morph mates with a white morph, the baby chicks will most likely get the blue morph gene. Despite this, if two blue morph variants were to mate, they will mostly have blue morph chicks, but also may have some white morph chicks as well. 

With our bird watchers taking to the fields weekly, it is reported there are around 3,500 snow geese and Ross’ geese currently around the refuge, so be on the lookout next time you visit, they’ll be a hard bunch to miss.

There is a reason people are noticing more snow geese over the recent years. The population has rapidly grown over the last few decades, up 300% from 1970. Recent estimates of counts are near one million greater snow geese and ten million lesser snow geese. Changes in winter habitat and migration patterns, including the Central Flyway used to get to Hagerman, are believed to have caused rapid growth. More remaining grain in the fields slows migration, allowing more geese to survive.

With the jump in numbers comes a jump in agricultural fields taking massive hits, especially in the arctic and sub-arctic breeding grounds. The growing numbers of migrating snow geese means that more wheat fields, and other fields used by snow geese, are getting eaten up quickly, causing damage to other waterfowl and wildlife that use the arctic and sub-arctic grounds as their home habitat.

Photo by Pam Rendall-Bass

Since the late 1990s, efforts have been underway in both the U.S. and Canada to try and reduce the population of lesser snow geese to more manageable levels due to the elimination of some habitats in Hudson Bay and other areas. The Light Goose Conservation Order was eventually established in 1997 and mandated on a federal level in 1999. These efforts included increasing hunter bag limits, extending the length of hunting seasons, and adding new hunting methods. Although these have been implemented, they have not been successful in reducing the overall population of snow geese.

Despite their destructive capabilities, they are still a beautiful sight to see at Hagerman and bring in lots of people ranging from bird 

enthusiasts to visitors hoping to watch the spectacle.

A fun fact about the snow goose, they do make epic journeys by air, but they are also quite impressive on foot. Within the first few weeks of hatching, babies may walk up to 50 miles with their parents from the nesting grounds to a more suitable area for the parents to monitor and care for the babies.

After hatching, baby snow geese are well developed, having open eyes and down-covered bodies that immediately show the color of feathers they will have as an adult. After a few days, they can maintain a body temperature on their own and grow quite quickly.

Though it may not be well known, there are two types of snow goose, the lesser snow goose, and the greater. While the only identifying factor noticeable immediately is the greater snow goose having a slightly larger build than its counterpart, the main difference lies in the nesting grounds and migratory paths. The lesser snow geese, the variant seen at Hagerman, breed in northeast Siberia, north Alaska and northwest Canada, then travels to south USA, north Mexico, and even Japan through what are known as the the Central Flyway, Mississippi Flyway, and Pacific Flyway. The greater snow goose, on the other hand, breeds in northeast Canada and northwest Greenland, then travels to northeast USA during the winter through the Arctic Flyway.

Photo by Murali Hanabe

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!

Recent Sightings:

Immature Bald Eagle by Brenda Edwards

Adult Bald Eagle by Brian Clark

Juvenile Bald Eagle by Jim Oliver

Snow Goose by Jim Oliver

More Amazing Nature Photos taken at the refuge.

Upcoming Activities:

The Friends of Hagerman is Hosting

13 Family Friendly Events in December!

Calendar of  Events 

The Adopt-A-Nestbox Sale is On!

Hurry! Only a Few Nestboxes Available!

The perfect Christmas gift for the bird Lover in your family

Every year the Friends of Hagerman gives the public an opportunity to support the Eastern Bluebird population and learn all about them via the Adopt-A-Nestbox Program.

Participants of the Adopt-A-Nestbox program will be invited to name their adopted nestbox, and visit it along a Hagerman NWR hiking trail as often as they like. Participants will receive an email every week during nesting season with a picture of the inside of the nestbox and an explanation of its stages of development. An adopted nestbox makes a great Christmas gift!

The price of $35 per nestbox helps to support the expense of maintaining the impressive Bluebird trail of 45 nestboxes throughout the refuge.  There is a limit of three nestboxes per person.

Calling All Bird Feeder Watchers:  

The Christmas At-Home Bird Count Needs You!

Photo by Pam Rendall-Bass

Help bird researchers from the comfort of your living room! 

The Christmas Feeder Count

December 16, 2023

To participate, observe birds at your feeders on December 16, 2023.  Keep track of the largest number of each species seen at one time. For example, if you see 3 Chickadees at breakfast, 5 at noon and 4 in the afternoon you would report 5 Chickadees.

Send your results plus your name, location and time spent looking for birds to:

Wayne Meyer at wmeyer@austincollege.edu or leave voice mail at 903-813-2254 (E-mail is preferred.)

The Christmas Count circle includes the following communities:

Preston Peninsula, Highpoint, Pottsboro, Mill Creek, Sherwood Shores, Cedar Bayou, Cedar Mills, Walnut Creek, Gordonville, Big Mineral, Paradise Cove, Flowing Wells, Hagerman, Basin Springs, Grayson County Airport, Fink, Locust, and Shay and Enos OK.

All are welcome to participate! 

The Christmas Bird Count:

Join Us for a Day of Birding!

Photo by Bill Powell

The public is once again welcome to join this annual event, to aid ornithologists in their research and meet fellow birders.

Participants will be divided into groups and will explore the birds of the refuge and surrounding area. This year's count will encompass an area 15 miles in diameter: all the way into Oklahoma in the north, Grayson Airport in east and Sherwood shores/Cedar Mills in northwest.

Dress for the weather and meet at the Visitor Center at 7am. Stay as long as you like, or until sundown. Bring water, lunch and/or snacks.

A meal will be provided for participants at the end of the day.

Please Register if you would like to be treated to dinner after the count.

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.

November 28, 2023  Complete Bird Census List

81 species, Observers: Jack Chiles, Laurie Lawler, Laurie Sheppard

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Rusty Blackbird

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Immature White-crowned Sparrow

The morning started out very calm with the temperature near freezing. Our first stop was near the bridge on Raasch Trail. There we found quite a few American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins feeding on weed seeds. There were many Red-winged Blackbirds in the area. Some of the birds we saw there included, House Wren, Song Sparrows, Harris's Sparrows, Lincoln's Sparrows and House Finches. We then continued on to the Harris Creek Trailhead. There we had a Bald Eagle fly in and alight in a tree across the creek. This was the beginning of a very good day for Bald Eagles. Lucy was on her favorite pole and we also saw a Bald Eagle sitting on the sandbar at the end of Plover Pad. Later in the day we saw an immature Bald Eagle (possibly the rehabbed one that was recently released) and a mature Bald Eagle both soaring over Sandy Point. We saw a couple of female Red-breasted Mergansers in Mineral Marsh...

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

The Friends of Hagerman NWR Photo Club

    • June 29, 2024
    • 5:30 AM
    • Hagerman NWR, 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, TX 75092

    The Lotus Flowers are blooming now if you want to try and get some photographs on your own. You can access the Meadow Pond trailhead from Bennett Lane from the South. Keep in mind that Meadow Pond Trail may be very wet and muddy to walk on.

    Join us for a photo shoot of Lotus flowers at Meadow Pond at Hagerman NWR. The Lotus flowers are a favorite attraction at the refuge and a great photography opportunity at sunrise.

    This event is limited to FOHNWR Nature Photography Club members only. Registration is not required. Click here to become a member of Friends of Hagerman and select a membership with Photo Club.

    June 29, Saturday:

    5:30-5:45 am. Meet in the Visitor Center parking lot. The Visitor Center will be open during this time for anyone needing to use restrooms. 

    5:45 am. Depart parking lot and drive vehicles in caravan style to Meadow Pond Trail. We will have seats available in a van. Please ride together in vehicles for the caravan so that there are only 10 vehicles. 

    No accommodations will be made for those who arrive late.

    When we arrive at Meadow Pond Trail, we will unlock the trailhead gate to allow vehicles through and it will be locked when last vehicle in the caravan enters. We will drive on the trail to Meadow Pond. Meadow Pond is about 2.5 miles from the start of Meadow Pond Trail.

    Sunrise will be around 6:15 am. We will spend time photographing the Lotus flowers in Meadow Pond for about 1-2 hours. When finished, all vehicles must leave the trail at the same time and no vehicle can stay behind. Vehicles cannot leave early, as the trailhead gate will be locked.

    There are no facilities (restrooms) on Meadow Pond Trail.

    What to wear/bring: Hiking shoes, insect repellent, water, camera and photography equipment.

    For questions about this event, contact:

    Lisa Wilkins, Event Leader

    Mobile 972-658-8544

    Email FOHphotoclub@gmail.com


    For questions about the photo club, contact:

    Lisa Wilkins, Photo Club Leader

    Email FOHphotoclub@gmail.com


Photo Contest Results

Best in Show

Fall Colors Picnic Pond

by Jeffrey Rolinc

See All of the amazing

   Winning Photos   

Youth Best in Show

Solar Power

by Addison Sato 

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

Puddles' Craft Corner

Animal Tracks Craft

By Cindy Steele, Master Naturalist


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Welcome back to Puddles’ Craft Corner! Have you ever been on a hike or even a walk in your neighborhood and looked down to see some sort of animal tracks on the ground, but weren’t sure what type of animal made those tracks? Well, we’re about to learn a little bit about how to identify those tracks.

When outdoors, many children don’t have the good fortune of seeing animals in action; seeing them usually takes luck, patience, silence and time. There are many other ways to observe wildlife without actually seeing the animals. For Instance, children can look for evidence of the animals’ activities. There are many signs that children can learn to look for

that indicate what types of animals are around, what they’re eating and doing, what sort of habitat they might live in, and what kinds of interactions are happening between animals. Animal tracks are one of the easiest signs for children to find and understand.

Animal tracking is a fun nature activity for the whole family, and it can be done any time of the year. The best part is that you don’t need to be an expert to track animals, if you’re...

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

Register for a Tram Tour Today!

The Little Sit

Sunrise Bird Count and Photo Opportunity

Sunrise at the Little Sit Photo 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


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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:

Frog Reproductive Process with Mike Keck

Saturday, December 9, at 10:00 AM in the Visitor Center 

When many people think of frog reproduction and development, they think of aquatic eggs hatching out aquatic tadpoles which develop into terrestrial adults. However, the reproductive and–especially–developmental patterns of frogs is incredibly diverse, with much of this diversity found in tropical regions. Many frogs do not lay their eggs in water, some tadpoles develop away from water, and some frogs do not have tadpoles at all. In this talk, I will discuss the many ways that different groups of frogs reproduce and develop.

Michael Keck grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Photo by Joseph Spindle

He received his Ph.D. in Quantitative Biology from the University of Texas at Arlington, where he studied snake ecology and physiology. He has been a biology professor at Grayson College since 2001. He lives with his wife, Trish, and their dogs in Savoy, Texas.

Don't miss next month's presentation about the

Eastern Bluebird by Kathy Whaley, Refuge Manager!

Saturday, January 13, 2024 at 10:00 am

Photo by Laurie Blankenship-Lawler.jpg

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

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:

Jack Chiles, Peyton Briones, Cindy Steele, Laurie Sheppard, Pam Rendall-Bass, Laurie Blankenship-Lawler, Jeffrey Rolinc, Addison Sato, Bill Powell,  Brenda Edwards, Brian Clark, Jim Oliver

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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