Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake

Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake
Sunrise over Lower Red Rock Lake

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Paddle at Sheldon Lake State Park

Yesterday my friends Bob, Natalie and her daughter, Ellen, and I met at Sheldon Lake Reservoir for a paddle to see the nesting birds. The day was overcast with increasing southwest winds until we had gusts of around twenty miles an hour. We easily blew east and north but had to work a little on the way back. My pictures were often out of focus since I was blowing past the birds so fast.

Paddlers
The rookery has very few birds. Don't know why that is but there are less than a tenth of the normal numbers.  We didn't investigate the upper islands so there may be more birds there.  But anhingas, snowy egrets, tri-colored egrets, little green egrets, both night herons, little blue herons and roseate spoonbills were all there as were coots, moorhens and purple gallinules.

Yellow-crowned night heron
Green heron

Anhinga and Boat-tailed grackle

Purple gallinule

White ibis pair on nest

Little blue heron

Tri-colored heron on nest

Common moorhen

This large alligator was cruising beside us until he got camera shy and sank

After our paddle, we went to the park itself and enjoyed a light lunch and a stroll through the demonstration  butterfly and hummingbird garden. Sheldon Lake State Park is one of Houston's best-kept secrets. Very few people know of its existence.  Bob was one of those people and was blown away at the paddling opportunities, the green toilet, the two manicured fish ponds - this is the site of an old fish hatchery - and the lovely trees and shrubs.  At least 235 species have  been documented at the park and there is a huge rookery of wading  birds and anhingas there.  Purple gallinules and least bitterns also nest there. Here is the complete list of birds documented by 2008.

Another wonderful feature of this park is a reconstructed prairie pothole. The staff used old aerial photos to find the pothole, then removed the fill dirt. (This prairie had been transformed into a rice field and the potholes filled in.)  All in all, this is one of my favorite destinations in winter and spring.  In summer, the water lilies, water hyacinths and other vegetation make for hard to impossible paddling. But the land part is wonderful all year around.