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

A Word from the President

  As I reflect back over FAMI's accomplishments in the past year, I want to give special thanks to two groups of people. First, I want to thank the small group of volunteers that gave hundreds of hours of their time to serve on our board of directors and/or helped to staff the FAMI Nature Store. Without this group, FAMI simply could not function and we would not be able to continue as an organization. FAMI is proud of the fact that we are a 100 percent volunteer organization; not a dollar of the funds we raise goes towards salaries, and every penny of profit from our Nature Store goes to help the refuge. I also want to give a big thank you to the staff at Aransas NWR. They have made it clear that they consider FAMI to be a valuable partner, and they always do their best to help us succeed. It's a lot easier to volunteer when you know your efforts are truly appreciated.
Thank you also to all that made donations, allowing us to do more for the Refuge.
Did you know that one of the top reasons for visiting Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is nature photography? Years ago most of the best nature photographs were taken with very elaborate and expensive equipment, but that has been rapidly changing. Even with a relatively inexpensive digital camera that automatically chooses what settings to use, it's possible to get some great pictures. Many of you have probably seen some of the beautiful photos on our Facebook page which were taken by Laura Bonneau, Visitor Services Manager at Aransas, using only her smart phone. Our friends group is really proud of the amazing natural beauty and unique habitats that can be found at Aransas NWR and we want to make it easier for others to enjoy. We have created a page on the photo sharing site Flickr where you can go to look at great photos taken at Aransas. Anyone can visit our page and enjoy looking at the photos posted there, you don't have to join or reveal any personal information if you only want to look. If you have pictures from Aransas you'd like to share, we would really love to have you post your photos on our page. If you don't already have a Flickr account, you'll need to join Flickr and upload your photos, and then it's easy to join our group and post your pictures. To get to our new page, follow this link or go to Flickr and search for our group page Friends of Aransas NWR. Enjoy the pictures!
Best wishes to all in 2016. I hope to see many of you members at our annual meeting January 30.

Fred Lanoue, President
Refuge Update
By Laura Bonneau, Visitor Services Manager

While fall and winter may be "slow seasons" in some places, that just isn't the case at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge!  Here are a few of our recent happenings.

  • We had quite the successful hunting season!  We sold 125 archery permits, and 299 out of 300 rifle permits.  Total harvest for all of the hunts was 96 white-tailed deer (63 bucks and 33 does) and 83 feral hogs.  Thank you very much to our visitor services interns, Hannah and Kevin, for working in the hunt check station!
  • Our biology crew has been hard at work at the Myrtle-Foester-Whitmire Unit, flooding moist soil units for waterfowl and sandhill cranes and removing invasive species.
  • Wade Harrell and Beau Hardegree just completed the annual whooping crane flight survey.  For more information and observations, please see the latest whooping crane update here.
  • Our refuge fire team has completed the wildland/urban interface fuel break along the north boundary of the refuge.  Primary whooping crane units are being prepped for late winter/early spring prescribed burns. Spring fire training (including chainsaw/pumps) is in the process of being scheduled for Aransas refuge personnel and volunteers
  •  Several Boy Scout and Trail Life USA groups have been utilizing our Youth Environmental Training Area (YETA) for camping and exploring.  Each group that camps at the refuge (by special reservation) is required to do a service project, and so far we've had help with the pollinator garden and cleaning up trails and campsites in the YETA.  Jennifer Brown is doing a great job working with these groups! 
  •  Visitor Services staff have been involved in several educational and outreach programs, including partnering with the San Antonio Bay Partnership to present educational programs during their Estuary Education Week  in Seadrift, attending the Port Lavaca Night Out, and having an informational booth at the Rio Rio event at Goliad State Park.
  •  Jim Kurth, Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Cynthia Martinez, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, visited the refuge in October.  They were very impressed with our beautiful refuge! 
  •  The refuge fire crew conducted a 643-acre burn on the Blackjack Unit.  The purpose of the fire was to manage brush and to provide resources for wildlife, including Whooping Cranes. 
  •  Refuge staff and volunteers participated in a very successful Christmas Bird Count.
Boy Scout Troop 25


Rail Trail

The weather has not been cooperative about plans to replace the bridge that goes from the end of Rail Trail to the road! We're going to try again in January. It has been rescheduled for the week of January 11.

Those with carpenter skills are especially needed, but others can help, too. Email Laura Bonneau or call her at (361) 286-3559 ext. 236 to get more information, or sign up for a day or days.

FAMI will supply water, Gatorade & insect repellent.


Matagorda Island Wells

I n May, San Antonio Bay Foundation awarded Friends of Aransas $31,000.00 to provide reliable fresh water on Matagorda Island. The money was made available to the San Antonio Bay Foundation pursuant to a settlement agreement with the Texas General Land Office and Kirby Inland Marine. These funds are Supplemental Environmental Project funds which resulted from the oil spill in the Houston ship channel on March 23, 2014 that made landfall on Matagorda Island. San Antonio Bay Foundation previously contributed $10,000.00 to our Water for Wildlife Fund. We were able to supplement those amounts with other money from our Water for Wildlife and Whooping Crane Funds, thanks to individuals that gave donations.
A drilling project on a barrier island without road access, electricity, or potable water, and only spotty communication, is no simple matter. Some of the drilling companies contacted didn't even want to make the attempt, especially since it meant barging their equipment to the island & leaving it there until the project was completed. Happily, Carl Critendon of Critendon Well Drilling Service was willing and able to meet the challenge.
We now have two wells on the south portion of the island producing good quality fresh water for the cranes and other wildlife. They are equipped with solar-powered pumps, which have been proven to need a lot less maintenance than the old windmills.
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge management & staff, especially Felipe Prieto, were instrumental in getting this accomplished. FAMI President Fred Lanoue spent many hours coordinating the project and never let the obstacles and difficulties deter him from the goal.
Thanks to San Antonio Bay Foundation and everyone else involved, Whooping Cranes and other wildlife will have reliable fresh water on the southern end of Matagorda Island, even when dry conditions return to south Texas.


New Native Plant Garden at Refuge Headquarters
Ellen Reisinger, Fred Lanoue, Linda Frank
 With funds donated by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Retirees 2014 Greenwalt Walk for Wildlife, we have been able to rehabilitate the native plant area around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge headquarters flagpole. The contribution not only allowed us to purchase new native plants, but also to put in an automated irrigation system. This will make the area much easier to maintain, and give the plants a better chance for survival in our hot, dry summers.

It took a lot of people to make this happen. FAMI members Ellen Reisinger and Linda Frank did the design for the plantings and irrigation. Mid-Coast Chapter, Texas Master Naturalists donated many of the new plants. FAMI President Fred Lanoue and Visitor Services Intern Hannah Plumpton put in the new path. Ellen, Linda, and Fred installed the irrigation and did the planting. Fred, along with Visitor Services Intern Kevin Sun and FAMI member Linda Lanoue spread the mulch. Thank you to everyone involved, and special thanks to Greg Birkenfeld and the Refuge maintenance staff for their help. 

Come by the Refuge and take a look!  

Christmas Bird Count

We had a great time at the Christmas Bird Count held at the Refuge. Paul Swacina did a terrific job bringing everything together and Refuge staff went the extra mile to make it happen. Thank you to everyone that participated. Special thanks to Greg Birkenfeld for helping ensure that everything went smoothly in the non-public areas.

Steve Reisinger is still compiling results, but Paul says that it looks like there will be over 180 species! When a final report is available, we'll post it on our website & Facebook page.



Early Bird New Year's

We had a wonderful time at Early Bird New Year's! We celebrated the Refuge's 78th birthday & our love of Whooping Cranes, as well as getting an early start on New Year's. Richard Gonzales explained what the Science & Spanish Club Network is, and told us of some of their accomplishments. FAMI President Fred Lanoue gave a brief overview of Friends of Aransas NWR & invited attendees to visit our Nature Store. Jennifer Brown, Environmental Education Specialist then gave a "State of the Cranes" address.

To get everyone in a party spirit, our Super Whooper danced to the Whoop song & then posed for photo ops. You can see a video here. We then counted down to noon for our early New Year's. After that, we sang Happy Birthday to the Refuge & attendees blew out the candles on the cake. Richard Gonzales and the Science & Spanish Club Network donated the punch and decorations.

Also on display was a door decoration created by the 6th Grade Science students at Blaschke Sheldon Elemetary School in Ingleside, taught by Robin Flures. It's a beautiful life size "Winter Texan" Whooping Crane. It was donated to the Refuge by the students and the Science & Spanish Club Network.

After everyone had cake & punch, a prize was awarded for best plumage (white, black & red). The winner, chosen by the crowd, was 21 month old Idalia Raschke.

You can see more photos by clicking on our Gallery. Click on any image to see it bigger.

Thank you to the Science & Spanish Club Network for co-sponsoring the event. Thanks also to FAMI members Ellen & Steve Reisinger and Fred & Linda Lanoue for their help with the event, and Irma Schreiner for staffing the Nature Store. A special thank you to Jennifer Brown for doing such a fantastic job of heading up the event.


Nature Store Update



By Irma Schreiner, Store Manager

As the calendar year draws to a close I want to thank all the many folks who purchased products at our store. As you know, all sales profits are used to support our Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and with your purchases you help us assist the refuge with special projects such as Water for Wildlife. Water for Wildlife maintains fresh water well ponds which are most important during times of drought. We are able to use these profits and maintain our store hours because our staff are all volunteers who generously donate their time. Special thanks to our 2015 store volunteers: Donna Coleman, Barbara and Gary Ertl, Melanie Konarik, Marty and Sharon Lang, Fred and Linda Lanoue, Clara Noble, Penni Phillips, Patricia and Patrick Rios, Linda Swiggett, Joe and Vera Waitt, and Shauna Wilkerson. I also want to thank all the volunteers who helped with our store booths at Whooping Crane Festival in February in Port Aransas and HummerBird Celebration in September in Rockport. Special thanks to folks who helped transport and set up: Bradley James, Ron Smudy, and Fred and Linda Lanoue. Thank you to folks who were there to sell at these two event booths: Linda Frank, Melanie Konarik, Fred and Linda Lanoue, and Patrick Rios.
Please come by the store next time you are at the refuge and see all the many educational books and nature guides available for purchase. We try to update our selections as new ones are published. There are plenty of books as well as educational games for the young naturalist in your family. And, of course, what would we do without our large selection of T-shirts. They make perfect gifts and souvenirs of your visit(s) to Aransas NWR. Other available items are a variety of tote bags, mugs, and a new reusable water bottle.
 I trust we can count on your continued support during 2016. May this new year bring you many outdoor days to enjoy the beauty of our land, especially out here at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Happy New Year to you and yours.


Annual Membership Meeting
Lee Ann Johnson Linam
Members, be sure to mark your calendars now for our annual meeting to be held January 30th. Please note that the date was changed from that originally announced due to a schedule conflict.

We are excited to have Lee Ann Johnson Linam as our speaker. Her father, Frank Johnson, worked for the National Wildlife Refuge System, and she grew up on Refuges in Mississippi, Arkansas, South Carolina, and, finally, Aransas NWR. She obtained a Bachelor's degree in Wildlife Science, and a graduate degree in Environmental Science. She spent 30 years as a wildlife biologist for Texas Parks & Wildlife.  Her career experience included coastal wetland management, alligator management, whooping crane behavioral studies, endangered species management, and development of citizen science programs for TPWD, including the Texas Whooper Watch program.  She retired from TPWD in 2013 and is now teaching science for homeschool families in Central Texas.
We're still working out some of the details for the meeting. We already have some fantastic door prizes lined up, including free boat trips on the Skimmer, thanks to Captain Tommy Moore.
We'll be sending out invitations to members soon, along with instructions to RSVP.


More Upcoming Events
2015 Whooping Crane Festival


2/26-2/28 - Whooping Crane Festival in Port Aransas, TX


3/12 - Whooping Crane Strut in Rockport, TX

Come out & enjoy these fun events!
Refuge Fee Free Days:
1/18 - In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
2/13-2/15 - In honor of President's Day
No entry fees are charged on those days.
Every day is a great day to visit your National Wildlife Refuge! 

Thank You to Supporters

Thank you to:


Our Corporate Sponsor, Hilcorp Energy for their continued support.


San Antonio Bay Foundation for their donations to our Water for Wildlife Fund.


Science & Spanish Club Network for co-sponsoring Early Bird New Year's & for their donations.


Captain Tommy Moore & Rockport Birding & Kayak Adventures for their support & donations for our annual meeting.


Robert & Donna Dimilia Family Charitable Fund for their donation.


Cub Scout Pack #345 of Portland, TX, for their donation.


Honor Donations

Donations have been made in honor of:

Charlotte Mitchell

Stuart Swiggett & Tracy Paul



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.


As you do your shopping, please remember if you shop at Amazon, using their Smile program earns a small contribution to FAMI. You pay the same price for the same goods & services as using regular Amazon.


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