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Winter 2017
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


Friends of Aransas NWR will hold our annual member's meeting on Saturday, January 21st. This year we will be trying a new format that we hope might attract some new members. We will start the day with fruit & pastries, followed by our business meeting. We expect to introduce several new members of our board of directors, and we'll be giving away some nice door prizes to add to the fun.
After we adjourn the business meeting we will take a short break and then welcome the public to join us. The public session will include several updates from the refuge staff and then the presentation by our guest speaker. Our speaker this year will be Carrie Salyers, a biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries who will explain the details of the whooping crane reintroduction program in Louisiana.
After the program, current members will be given an opportunity to go on a tour of the refuge led by refuge staff. Weather & road conditions permitting, they hope to take you to a non-public area. Members are urged to bring a snack or lunch to enjoy before the tour.
Details will be sent to members by January 10th. I hope you will join us for a really enjoyable day. We have a lot planned for the new year, and are excited to get started!
Best wishes for a happy 2017, and may it be filled with chances to GET OUTSIDE!

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

We had a busy fall at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge!  Our annual Refuge Celebration Day (October 15th) was a great success.  We had over 350 participants, lots of great activities for families, wonderful support from partners like Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Native Plant Society of Texas, Rockport Kayak, and YOU (FAMI).  I'm most proud of our awesome volunteers and staff - we make a great team, and I think we pulled off a fabulous event!  Our Visitor Services team and volunteers were involved in several environmental education and outreach activities this fall, including the Texas Zoo's Endangered Species Day, the Celebration of Flight in Corpus Christi, Monarch Madness at Fennessey Ranch, Rio! Rio! at Goliad State Park, the Amazing Outdoor Abilities event for the Coastal Bend Children and Nature group, and our Early Bird New Year's Celebration.  Scout groups continue to use the Youth Environmental Training Area, and have completed several great service projects to prepare it for future use.

White-tailed deer hunting season on Aransas NWR is officially over, and we had another successful archery and rifle season.  I'd like to offer a special thanks to our residential volunteers, Jim and Joan Ward, who staffed the hunt check station.  They spent many early mornings and late evenings helping our hunters, and we are grateful for their time and effort! 

Speaking of volunteers, we welcomed a new (and returning!) set of winter RV volunteers:  Penni Phillips, Brenda Carlson, Don and Ginny Pair, Russ and Nancy Barnes, Phil and Marcia Douglass, and Cal and Marilyn Briggs-Harris have already arrived.  John and Betty Olson will be here in early January, and Cindy Catalano is returning in March.  Please stop by the refuge and thank them for their hard work!

Our staff has experienced some BIG changes recently, and more changes are on the way!  Emily Wong (Wildlife Biologist) and Carmen Blumberg (Wildlife Refuge Specialist) will be arriving shortly to join the Aransas team.  We're also hiring a new Supervisory Wildlife Biologist and Visitor Services Laborer (maintenance).  I am equally happy and dismayed to announce that our fantastic Environmental Education Specialist, Jennifer Brown, has accepted a new position at Balcones Canyonlands NWR outside of Austin.  I'm so proud of Jen and all of the work she's done here, and I look forward to partnering with her at her new refuge and continuing our good work!

In the midst of all of these staff changes, we've still managed to accomplish a lot on the ground for wildlife.  Our whooping crane survey flights were completed in early December - click here  to view Dr. Wade Harrell's most recent update, including observations made during the flights.  Our fire crew has been busily preparing for winter burns, grazing and moist soil management are continuing at Whitmire.  Refuge staff also had the opportunity to meet with local boaters, fishing, and hunting guides at a recent Flatsworthy meeting in Rockport.  We were invited to come and share refuge regulations, and we enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the fishing/hunting/boating community in such a positive way. 
On behalf of the Aransas NWR staff, I'd like to wish all FAMI members a happy, healthy, and safe 2017!

Sketching in the pollinator garden on Refuge Day.
 Photo by Laura Bonneau, USFWS
Interpretive Pollinator Garden
Butterflies on Crucita 
Photo by Linda Lanoue

By Linda Frank & Ellen Reisinger

If You Build It, They will come!

Well, we built it and, yes, they did come!  If you were privileged enough to take a walk in our new Pollinator Garden this fall you know what I'm talking about.  It really started on the Saturday in October when we celebrated National Refuge Day and did the Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting for the Pollinator Garden.  The Crucita Mistflower bloomed just for the event (we, of course, planned it that way!) and the butterflies, moths and bees of many varieties came and enjoyed the Crucitas and the many other plants that were blooming then.  The week after the event a visitor to the Refuge commented that they had never seen so many varieties of butterflies in one place before.

The Pollinator Garden began in a unique way. The area was not scraped or sprayed because many native plants were already there. These were identified and then the unwanted non-native plants were removed by hand.  Little by little more native plants are being added.  The one requirement is that they must be native plants that are found on the Refuge.  There is a dedicated crew of volunteer workers that come out every month and tend to this wonderful garden.

We are really pleased that what started out as a dream has so quickly become a reality.  Normally a garden takes a while to really come into its own.  Our Pollinator Garden is by no means finished - it will always be a work in progress - and will change with the seasons. Meanwhile the critters seem to appreciate what we have done and are rewarding us by "posing" on the various flowers for us to take photos or madly skim through the field guides trying to identify the various moths and butterflies.

Not all growing things found in the Pollinator Garden are beautiful or smell nice!  When the Rough Riders 4H Club (from Austwell/Tivoli) came and helped weed in the garden they found an interesting mushroom.  On our December workday we found the same variety of mushroom in several locations.  Have you ever considered a mushroom as a pollinator plant?  This one is!  It smells like a dead animal carcass and attracts flies which then distribute the mushrooms spores in the landscape!  Who knew?  If you look up "stink horn mushroom" you might see a pink, lacy looking mushroom.  Ours is white.  We are still working on the correct botanical name but we can confirm that it really is stinky!

Stink Horn Mushroom
Photo by Patricia Rios
Member Only Fall Field Trip
Photo by Laura Bonneau, USFWS

Our field trip to the Lamar Unit began cold & windy, which you can tell by the way our members are bundled up. However, the sun warmed us pretty quickly, and we didn't let the weather keep us from having a good time. 

Solar Panels for new well. Pond created is in far background.
Photo by Linda Lanoue
Although it's a small unit, there was a lot to see & le arn. Our guide, Laura Bonneau, gave us  a lot of information about what we were seeing, including the flood control levees, and the new well to provide potable water for cranes and other wildlife. Although  we did not
see any Whooping Cranes, Dr. Elizabeth Smith wa s along to talk with us about their habitat, and the ongoing observations from the adjoining property.

Osprey with fish that flew over us. Photo by Rick Jenkins
This was a great chance to see this important unit that is closed to the public.

A few people had to leave right after the tour, but the rest of us enjoyed lunch at Panjo's in Rockport, and then a visit to the Linda S. Castro Nature Sanctuary,  led by Ellen Reisinger.

The next member field trip will be March 25, to the Whitmire Unit. Details will be sent to members in early March.

Christmas Bird Count
White-tailed Kite
Photo by Anita Brunsting

Thank you to everyone that participated in the Aransas 2016 Christmas Bird Count. Compiler Paul Swacina reports that the preliminary reports show a total of 174 species.

CBCs are always fun, seeing how many different species you can find. When you're somewhere like Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, you sometimes need to take a break from counting to enjoy a non-countable species.

Photo by Anita Brunsting

Early Bird New Year
Puddles the Blue Goose
Photo by Linda Lanoue

It was another wild & wacky Early Bird New Year's celebration. Super Whooper unexpectedly needed to be somewhere else, so we had a surprise visit from Puddles, the Blue Goose. Puddles is the official mascot of the National Wildlife Refuge system, so is quite a celebrity. We were excited to have Puddles lead us in dancing to the Whoop Song, help us count down to noon, and pose for photo ops. 

Before Puddles made his/her appearance, Visitor Services Manager Laura Bonneau gave us a State of the Whoopers address, and answered questions about the flock. 

After cake and punch, we had our contest for the best white, black & red feathers. Blanca Castro won first prize.

Early Bird New Year was presented by Friends of Aransas, the Science & Spanish Network, and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

Blanca Castro Photo by Linda Lanoue

Upcoming Events
2016 Whooping Crane Festival
Photo by Fred Lanoue
Winter is our busiest season, 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 - 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. 


January 21, 2017 - Annual Membership Meeting
Aransas NWR Visitor Center
Business meeting and election of officers for members, followed by drawing for door prizes. Included in the prizes will be trips on the Skimmer, donated by Captain Tommy Moore & Rockport Birding and Kayak Adventures.  The program will be open to the public. There will be updates on the refuge and Whooping Crane flock. Our featured speaker will be Carrie Salyers, Biologist/Wildlife Outreach Coordinator with Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries. She will speak to us about their Whooping Crane Recovery Program. Members will be offered a tour to a non-public area with refuge staff, weather & road conditions permitting. Details will be sent to members by January 10th, and will be on our website.

February 18, 2017 - Matagorda Bay Birdfest
Texas Baptist Encampment in Palacious, TX
We will be there to talk with people about FAMI and the refuge. For more information on the event see
their website.

February 24 - 26, 2017 - Whooping Crane Festival
Port Aransas, TX
We will have a booth in the Bird's Nest nature-related trade show in the Port Aransas Civic Center. We'll have nature merchandise for sale and free information about the refuge. Get more information about the festival here.

March 11, 2017 - Whooping Crane Strut
Memorial Park in Rockport, TX
Mark you calendars for this race, whether you run or walk. It's fun for all ages. A portion of their proceeds will be donated to Friends of Aransas. We'll be publishing a link for more information as soon as it becomes available.

  March 25, 2017 - Member Only Field Trip
Whitmire Unit of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
Road & weather conditions permitting, members will have an opportunity to tour this non-public unit. Invitations and details will be sent to members in early March.

April 8, 2017 - Earth Day - Bay Day
Heritage Park in Corpus Christi, TX
We will once again be there telling folks about the refuge and FAMI.
See their website for more information.

Thank You to Supporters
November Pollinator Garden workers
Photo by Linda Lanoue

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

As always, we thank our Corporate Sponsor, Hilcorp Energy for their continued support.

Special thanks to Captain Tommy Moore and  Rockport Birding and Kayak Adventures for their year round support, and donations to our annual membership meeting.

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.

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 when you do your on-line shopping.

Memory & Honor Donations received:

In memory of Nell Wilson, formerly of Fulton, Texas. We're told that she moved to this area to be near the refuge.

In honor of Barbara Bray, remembering Barbara & Bill's anniversary date.

In honor of Margaret Babb.

In honor of John Noll, John Masin, & Don Jeane for their contributions to the book, No More Endings: Saving Species One Story at a Time.
As always, we thank everyone for helping us help Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.