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Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary & Friends of Connie Hagar Inc.

Printable Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary Map





History of Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary:

Connie Hagar fell in love with Rockport after visiting the area with her sister in 1934.  In 1935, Connie convinced her husband, Jack to move from Corsicana to Rockport so she could enjoy the birds.  Not ready to retire at 57 years old, Jack purchased the Rockport Cottages.  Jack and Connie lived in Cabin 1 and hosted tourists and birding enthusiasts in the rest of the cabins.  Located at the corner of South Church St. and East First St. in Rockport, Aransas County, Texas, the Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary is the 6.25 acre former site of the Rockport Cottages.


It was from the Rockport Cottages that Connie conducted her 35 years of twice-daily, nine-mile-long rounds recording her bird findings.  Before Connie began her studies, little was known about the diversity of non-game birds along the Texas Central Coast.  Connie’s reports to ornithologists about her bird findings intrigued them and they came to Rockport to find out for themselves if her reports were accurate.  Connie is often attributed with putting the Rockport/Fulton area on “the map” for birdwatchers.


Jack and Connie Hagar had no children and when they both had passed away, their property was sold.  The cottages were sold and moved off the site, as was the house that Connie later lived in after Jack passed away.  The property remained undeveloped for many years until acquired by the Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc. in 1994.


The Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary became the first named stop on the Central Coast portion of the Great Texas Birding Trail.  The site was dedicated and the sign was unveiled in a ceremony on September 8, 1994.  Roger Tory Peterson was the featured speaker at the dedication ceremony and he spoke of his fond memories of Connie Hagar, now a birding legend herself.  The Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary is still owned and managed by the Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc. for public wildlife viewing.


Benches are placed so visitors can sit and watch birds.  There's also

a drip bird bath, pond and a wildlife viewing tower on the site.


All  photos  used with permission from the Friends of Connie Hagar Inc.


See Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail page


History of The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail





The Friends of Connie Hagar (FCH):

Betty Baker , after successfully organizing and managing the first of many successful Hummer/Bird Celebrations in 1989, realized that more needed to be done locally to improve awareness of birds and stewardship of their habitat in the Rockport-Fulton area and she had her sights on the Rockport Cottages property.  Betty organized the first meeting of a group of citizens who were interested in the preservation of the property that was the former site of Jack and Connie Hagar’s Rockport Cottages. 


Founding directors of the Friends of Connie Hagar Inc. included Betty Baker, Dan Baker, Clay Gillis, Margaret Boyce, Kay Jenkins, Susie Bracht Black, Jesse Grantham and John C. Washburn.  Betty served as the first president of the newly formed organization.  With guidance and assistance from Susie Bracht Black, the Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc. was incorporated in Texas in 1990 and was recognized as a 501(c)(3) organization by the Internal Revenue Service in 1991.  The organization was established for the purpose of furthering public awareness, interest, knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the life, habits and habitats of the birds of the Texas Coastal Bend as exemplified in the life of Connie Hagar. 


An agreement between the Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc. and the owner of the Rockport Cottages property, James L. and Judith A. Samsel, for acquisition of the property was signed in 1991.  Also, in 1991, Kay Olsen and Martin Cabaniss were elected to replace Margaret Boyce and Clay Gillis as directors and Karen (Kay) McCracken was elected to serve as an honorary director.  In 1992, a $5,000 donation by Mrs. Ceil Frost kicked off the fundraising efforts to purchase the Hagar’s former property.  Mrs. Frost’s contribution and contributions from the Rockport Home and Garden Club and the Rockport Rotary Club, along with donations from numerous private citizens, were used as financial match for grants.


Grants from the Sid Richardson Foundation, Meadows Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation completed needed funding for the acquisition of 4.25 acres of the property.  Board members, Jesse Grantham and Betty Baker, were instrumental in developing the grant proposals for the needed funding.  A bridge loan from the National Audubon Society made acquisition of the property possible while waiting for the awarded grant funding.  Tireless efforts by Advisory Board member and Rockport attorney, Lola Bonner, ensured the smooth transition of the property from the Samsels to the Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc.  The Samsels donated two acres of the property as part of the land acquisition agreement.  


The property was acquired in 1994 and became the first named site on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail in the same year.  Site amenities, including sidewalks, a hawk tower, and a freshwater pond were constructed through an agreement with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Department of Transportation.  After acquiring the property, the Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc. constructed the trails and restored oak motte habitat on portions of the property with expert guidance from Gene Blacklock. 


Activities of the Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc. include providing nature-related educational programs for the public and school children.  FCH members also designed, installed and maintained the original hummingbird and wetland demonstration gardens at the Texas Department of Transportation Picnic Area and adjacent City property on SH 35 in Rockport for several years.  Caretakers of the gardens included Kay Jenkins, Betty Baker, Kay Olsen and Pete and Peggy Holt with assistance from local scout groups, volunteers and the Aransas County 4-H Club.  The Demonstration Gardens were later renovated by and are currently managed by Aransas First (www.aransasfirst.org), another nonprofit conservation organization in Aransas County.  FCH members initiated efforts with the City of Rockport to plant trees and later to build bird nesting platforms on the Bird Islands in Little Bay.  Former presidents of the Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc, include Betty Baker, Kay Jenkins, Martin Cabaniss, Cynthia Wommack and Bill Hildebrand.

The Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc. has a twofold mission: The first is to preserve the history of the late Connie Hagar and her contributions to ornithology, and the second is to further public awareness, appreciation, and conservation of the birds of the Texas Coastal Bend and their habitat.

Friends of Connie Hagar Inc. Goals:
1. Develop and manage the Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary as a nature/outdoor education center to preserve and increase public awareness about Connie Hagar’s contribution to ornithology, birds and their habitat

2. Participate in and encourage partnerships that foster the conservation of healthy ecosystems and bird habitat on public and private lands in Aransas County

3. Increase access to and participation in birding and other nature-related opportunities in Aransas County



Habitats Found in the Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary:



These woodland habitats have an overstory dominated by live oak (Quercus virginiana) and sweetbay (Persea borbonia) and an understory containing yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) and vines. 


Oak mottes once occurred in abundance within the expansive coastal prairies found in the Texas Coastal Bend.  They were restricted from expanding by regularly occurring wildfires.  Oak mottes provide valuable feeding and nesting habitat for migratory and resident birds.


Threats to these habitats include invasive species such as the Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) and clearing for urban development.





Once prevalent throughout South Texas, coastal prairies have been converted to agriculture crop production, improved pastures, and urban development. 


Coastal prairies in the Texas Coastal Bend are dominated by the grasses seacoast bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and gulfdune paspalum (Paspalum monostachyum).  Other important grasses include switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans).  Forbs are another important component of prairie habitats.


A recent invader impacting coastal prairies in the Texas Coastal Bend is guineagrass (Panicum maximum) which thrives from disturbance such as mowing.





 Coastal wetlands refer to vegetated marshes or shallow open water that may also contain submerged vegetation. The vegetation associated with wetlands can tolerate “wet feet” and therefore survive where competing upland plant species cannot.  Coastal wetlands may occur in salt water, brackish or fresh water environments.


Salt marshes and brackish marshes occur along the coastline and serve valuable functions including protecting the shoreline from wave erosion, providing nursery habitat for juvenile fish species, and feeding and nesting habitat for shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl.


Freshwater wetlands are important sources of drinking water and food for all kinds of wildlife, even those we associate with bays.




In addition to volunteer workdays, when volunteers from Rockport and Fulton along with members of other nonprofit organizations come out to help maintain the trails and gardens, there have been tireless caretakers over the years who have maintained the Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary including Bill Hildebrand, Pete and Peggy Holt, Ray Little, Les Sorenson, Kay Jenkins and Manuel Diaz.



Friends of Connie Hagar regularly devote

their time and energy to preserving

the Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary. 


See Our FCH Membership Brochure

Read FCH Strategic Plan

Contact Bill Hildebrand for more information:



P.O. Box 2465

Rockport, Texas  78381



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