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Fall 2016
Friends of Aransas Board of Directors
Fred Lanoue - President
Amanda Rocha - Secretary
Linda Lanoue - Treasurer
Linda Frank - Director
Ellen Reisinger - Director
Irma Hernandez Schreiner - Director
Linda Swiggett - Director

A Word from the President


Did you know that one category of FAMI's most valuable volunteers is also the hardest one for us to recruit? I'm talking about those people that volunteer their time and talents to help administer our Friends group. 

Here is a partial list of some of the "behind the scenes" people that make it possible for us to operate. We currently have seven people that serve on our board of directors, including a president, treasurer, and a secretary. We have a Nature Store manager who makes it possible for us to have a successful store that provides the majority of our operating funds. We have someone that publishes this electronic newsletter every quarter to keep our members informed. We have the person responsible for keeping our website current and the person responsible for administration of our Face book page.

We are always looking for people that are "computer savvy" to help us with many different aspects of trying to stay current. There are also people that we know we need but haven't been able to find. We need someone with fundraising experience to help us develop and maintain a full featured fundraising program. We need someone with the right experience and skills to help us recruit local businesses and corporations that are willing to support our Friends group. 

Many of the positions I mentioned above will have vacancies starting in January. We would really love to talk with anyone that can volunteer their skills and some time to help us continue to fulfill our mission of helping Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and the wonderful whooping cranes. Please contact me  if you would like to help.

There's another way you can help. As we enter the last quarter of the year, please consider making a tax deductible donation to Friends of Aransas. We are staffed entirely by hard working volunteers, so more of your donation goes directly towards programs such as helping to protect the whooping cranes and protecting the unique environment that is found at Aransas NWR. Your donation can help us make a difference!  To donate by credit card using Pay Pal, go to our website and click "Donate".   You may also send a check made payable to FAMI to Treasurer,  P.O. Box 74 Austwell, TX 77950.

Thank you for helping us help Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

Fred Lanoue, President
Refuge Update
By Joe Saenz, Project Leader

Fiscal Year 2016 is ending and we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the whooping cranes as they migrate from Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada.    A few (3-4) sub-adult birds remained on the refuge all summer in the Sundown Bay area of the Blackjack Peninsula.  
The onset of fall also looks very different for the Aransas staff.  Wildlife Biologist Keith Westlake transferred to Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama as the Refuge Manager.  Keith spent nearly two productive years on Aransas.  Keith will also be managing Cahaba and Watercress Darter NWRs.  SCA Intern Chris Smith completed his internship here at Aransas and will be working at Manassas National Battlefield Park.  Diana Iriarte also announced that she has taken a position with Ducks Unlimited in Charleston, South Carolina and will be leaving in mid-October after more than five years at Aransas.  They will all be greatly missed.   Connor Jacobson, an intern from Texas A&M, joined our biology team in September.  He will assist with whooping crane monitoring and education programs this fall.  Two new employees in our fire management program will be arriving soon.  Casey Mefford was hired as our new Engine Captain to replace Jesse Harrand and will be starting October 3rd.  Scott Affeldt will be starting on October 17 and is the new Assistant Fire Management Officer (Fuels,) replacing Prescribed Fire Specialist Jeff Adams.  The refuge now has a 2 vacant Wildlife Biologist positions and one Wildlife Refuge Specialist position that we hope to fill very soon.  We will also be hiring a term Laborer to help with maintenance of our visitor use areas.
Approximately 2,500 acres were burned on the Tatton Unit in August and a little over 900 acres were burned on the Blackjack Peninsula in September.  Attempts were made to burn a larger area on the northern tip of Matagorda Island but weather did not cooperate.  We hope to try again in October.  The cooperative grazing program continued at the Myrtle-Foester Whitmire Unit.   Gulf Coast Zone Biologist Jena Moon assisted with the detection of tawny crazy ants in a few buildings on Matagorda Island, and Jena will be assisting with the treatment and prevention of these invasive ants.
Weather conditions have delayed the roof replacement project at our maintenance shop, but the project was near completion by the end of September.   Only a few punch list items remain.  A new hunt check station building was delivered in September.   Volunteers and staff began mowing roads in the hunt area in preparation for our archery deer hunt which opens on October 1st.
Federal Wildlife Officer Giles completed a two week fire detail in Idaho.
Our visitor services team has been busy working at various outreach events (Hummer/Bird Celebration, Corpus Christi Hawk Watch and Endangered Species Day at the Texas Zoo in Victoria) and getting ready for a busy fall season.  We welcomed new Visitor Services residential volunteers Jim and Joan Ward, and really appreciate their work already!  We are excited to bring back the annual refuge celebration!

Prescribed burn on refuge. Photo by Laura Bonneau, USFWS

Help Needed!


Volunteers are needed for the Refuge Day Celebration on  Saturday, October 15th .  If you're available to help with the event (we have a wide variety of needs and opportunities), please contact Laura Bonneau at  361-286-3559  or .

Whooping Crane Update
Photo by Butch Andreozzi

Wade Harrell, U.S. Whooping Crane Recovery Coordinator

Fall migration will soon begin and whooping cranes will start moving south out of their breeding grounds in Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP). It was a good breeding year in WBNP. Above average water conditions contributed to an estimated 45 fledged whooping cranes that will soon be headed to Texas on their first migration. We usually expect to see the first whooping cranes arrive at Aransas NWR in early October. The whooping crane migration from Wood Buffalo to Aransas is about 2,500 miles in length and can take up to 50 days to complete.

Last fall, I outlined some of the places that whooping cranes stop to rest in migration. This fall, let's take some time to look at some of the preliminary results from the whooping crane tracking study in regards to when, where and how whooping cranes perish. For years, scientists have thought that migration was the most dangerous time for a whooping crane, and hence the time period in which they were most likely to die. Our recent telemetry study is providing new information in this vein and is again reminding us that there is still much to learn in regards to whooping crane biology. Most of us don't like to talk about death, but for a wildlife biologist, understanding more about mortality can help us improve management for whooping cranes and ultimately recover the species.

Read the full report here.

Interpretive Pollinator Garden
Honey bee (Apis mellifera) with pollen sac

By Linda Frank
Photos by Steve Reisinger

Let me tell you 'bout the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees (but not the moon up above) and a thing called Love.

Come to the Grand Opening of our new Pollinator Garden during Refuge Day on Saturday, October 15th

We live in a very beautiful world.  Plants and their pollinators have evolved together over millions of years.  As I write this I'm watching some of our avian pollinators zooming around pollinating plants as they suck up the nectar from the flowers.  The hummingbird's long bill and even longer tongue is made to get at the pools of nectar that hide in the bottoms of the many tubular flowers in my garden.  As I watch I notice a large black bee that takes a shortcut to get at the nectar - it cuts a hole in the base of the flower - right where the nectar pool is and in doing so "cheats" the flower because it avoids the pollen.  Guess that's a bee that can't be considered a pollinator (at least on that plant).

Why are we so interested in pollinators all of a sudden?  If you think about what you eat on a daily basis much of it must be pollinated (mostly by bees).  Many of the plants in our world won't survive if they don't have an external pollinator.  As the world gets more and more urban the plants that sustain the pollinators are being crowded out.  Information on what plants to plant to attract which pollinator is readily available on the internet (and in real books too!).

At Aransas National Wildlife Refuge we have taken a small step toward remedying that loss.  We have put in a Pollinator Garden just off the parking lot at the Visitor Center.  It has been a labor of Love from the Grant Writing that Linda Lanoue did, to the design that Ellen Reisinger and I put together, to the work on the hardscape and the weeding that is an ongoing labor of love (maybe not so much love on this part).  As we were pulling out a lot of burr grass we would find a treasure hidden underneath it.  We've found cardinal flower (the male flowers are on one plant and the female flowers on another - talk about a plant that needs pollinators!).  Some native Mexican Hat has show up as well as the ubiquitous Lazy Daisy and Cowpen Daisy.  While we planted many new plants we purposely did not clear the entire site because we were hoping that many beneficial plants would come up from seed.
Our design was to have only plants that are truly native to the Refuge.  We used Doc and Martha McAllister's book (Guidebook to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge) as a reference.  We have planted Kidneywood, Texas Persimmon, and Anacua to help anchor the site.  Texas Lantana, Padre Island Mistflower, Turk's Cap and the many daisy type flowers help fill it in.  Since the garden is still in its infancy we are continually tweaking it and trying to stay ahead of the burr grass.  We are constantly amazed at the number of bees and butterflies that have found our garden.
We will have the Grand Opening for the Garden during our Refuge Day Celebration on Saturday, October 15th at 9:00am.  Come help us celebrate the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees.    
Native bee (Lasioglossum spp)

Stewards of Nature
Photo by Linda Swiggett

The History Center for Aransas County honored Friends of Aransas NWR and others that were chosen as  Stewards of Nature in Aransas County. President Fred Lanoue was presented a certificate at a reception September 10th. Organizations and individuals honored were chosen by members of the community for their efforts to preserve, protect, and restore the natural environment. 
The reception marked the opening of the History Center's exhibition, Stewards of Nature, which will be on display through November 12, 2016. The exhibit celebrates those who have worked to preserve the unique environment of the Coastal Bend, with its barrier islands, marshes, and oak mottes. There will be posters telling the stories of the honorees.  
You can see more about the exhibit here .
We are excited and proud to be part of this exhibition! 

Youth Conservation Corps
Photo by Fred Lanoue

Students from the Austwell/Tivoli ISD, working through the Youth Conservation Corps, along with their leader, Student Conservation Association Intern Chris Sandoval, assisted with numerous projects around the Refuge. We especially appreciate their hard work in the pollinator garden!

HummerBird Celebration
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge Manager Joe Saenz talks with a visitor to the FAMI booth.
Photo by Laura Bonneau, USFWS

Thank you to everyone that came by our booth in the Hummer Mall. It can be a lot of work, but it's always a good time, and we look forward to doing it again next year.

Upcoming Events
It looks like the next few months are going to be quite busy, and we're pretty excited about upcoming events, so mark your calendars now!. More details will be posted on our website as they become available.

October 15, 2016 - Refuge Day Celebration
Aransas NWR 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Activities for the entire family, including the grand opening of our new pollinator garden.

October 15, 2016 - April 14, 2017 - Winter Hours

Visitor Center will be open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas). The refuge auto tour and trails are open daily from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. 


November 19, 2016 - Members Only Field Trip

Lamar Unit of Aransas NWR (road & weather conditions permitting)

Tour of unit not open to public with refuge staff


December 21, 2016 - Christmas Bird Count

Aransas NWR

December 31, 2016 - Early Bird New Year's
Aransas NWR Visitor Center
Get an early start on New's Year with Super Whooper.

January 21, 2017 - Annual Membership Meeting
Aransas NWR Visitor Center
Business meeting and election of officers. Our speaker will be Carrie Salyers, Biologist/Wildlife Outreach Coordinator with Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries. Members will be offered a tour to a non-public area with refuge staff.

Refuge Hunt Dates
Archery: October 1 - 9; scouting September 30
Rifle #1: November 5 - 9; scouting November 4
Rifle #2: November 26 - 30; scouting November 25
Rifle #3: December 10 - 14; scouting December 9

For more information on hunts, visit Aransas NWR's website.

Thank You to Supporters

Thank you to:


Our Corporate Sponsor, Hilcorp Energy for their continued support.


Our pollinator garden mighty maintenance team: Linda Frank, Ellen Reisinger, Fred Lanoue, Laurel Cahill, Laura Clark, Lillian Gasca, Patricia Rios, Vic Ostrum, Linda Ostrum, Irma Schreiner, & Linda Lanoue. They meet monthly to help in the garden. If you'd like to help, too, let us know.


All the members that renewed early! If you haven't renewed already, please remember that memberships are to be renewed by Oct. 1. We have some special Member Only events coming up you won't want to miss!


The Robert & Donna DiMilia Family Charitable Fund for their generous donation.


We do not list individual donors without permission, but we greatly appreciate everything we receive. You can contribute to our general fund, or specify that you want your donation go to a special purpose, such as the Whooping Crane or Connecting Kids with Nature Fund.


Special thanks to all the photographers that so generously allow us to use their images. Some of the ones we've used a lot recently are by Butch Andreozzi, Gary Ertl, Steve Reisinger, and Kevin Sims.


Thank you to everyone that donates by using the Smile program when shopping at Each purchase through the Smile program earns a small contribution to FAMI. You pay the same price for the same goods & services as using regular Amazon. Please keep us in mind as you do your holiday shopping.


As always, we thank everyone for helping us help Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.