My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sheldon Lake Rookery Revisited

My friend, Tracy, invited me to spend the night and then go on the paddle she was leading for the Bayou City Outdoors Group at Sheldon Lake. I had already promised to take care of the animals so I had to get an invite for Zootie, Natalie's dog,  as well.

Passion flowers were blooming around the lake
Zootie and I made are slow way up from Galveston through heavy traffic and stopped at REI for a new sleeping pad and to exchange a pair of pants. Then Zootie needed to go to the pet store and pick out a chew toy since I forgot to bring any.  We got to Tracy's house in time to make the salad which included my house present - a couple of quarts of tomatoes. (We are overrun with them and pick a couple of quarts every other day.)  Carol, the new friend I met on the Yellowstone trip last fall, was also there with a friend of hers. It was a lovely supper and I got another birthday cake with ice cream.

We got to the Sheldon Lake State Park boat launch about 9:00 A.M. I wandered around on the land for a while and then went ahead and paddled ahead to look for nesting birds. There are many less then in past years.  I think the hurricanes have destroyed some of the trees, but the drought may have been also have been hard on the wading birds. There were probably only scores to low hundreds of white ibis where there used to be thousands.

Nesting white ibis

Feeding white ibis

Black-crowned night herons have babies so have to fish all day long.

Snowy in breeding plumage
 The most numerous birds were cattle egrets but I think their numbers were also down.  I think there were under 500 birds there, where I would expect a few thousand.  I saw only a few great egrets and non on nests. There were only a few snowy egrets on the nest as well as few little blue herons.  But there were about the same low numbers of black-crowned night herons as usual and, for the first time I can remember, I saw several yellow-crowned night herons. Tri-colored herons were almost entirely absent - I saw only two of them.  Roseate spoonbills were present in about the same numbers. Anhingas were present but I didn't see any of their nests. Some nests may be in areas we can no longer reach due to the spread of several invasives - alligator weed, giant salvinea,  and water hyacinth. 

Yellow-crowned night heron

A cattle egret

Roseate spoonbill, little blue heron and tri-colored heron

Little blue heron foraging

  I mostly let the south wind carry me past the nesting sites and tried to take pictures in the every changing light. We had cloudy to partly cloudy skies with some times mostly sunny, throughout the morning. I was almost out of open water by the time the rest of the group caught up with me.

Some of the paddlers

My first adventure of the day happened after I followed  Dutch into a cul-de-sac of open water He busted out but I couldn't even see where he had done it and stared fighting my own way out over a terrible mix of alligator weed, giant salvinea, and water hayacinth, any of which are capable of stopping boats by themselves. A passing fisherman, who had earlier gotten trapped in the same kind of place came over and threw me a rope.  I tied it off on the boat and then used both halves of my double blade to pole.  Between us, I made it across the last thirty feet.

Roseate spoonbill in glorious breeding plumage

The only place where red, pink, orange, and yellow look good together

These egg masses are probably those of the channeled applesnail, a relatively new invasive species
As we paddled in to the boat launch,  the sky darkened but we didn't get rained on, either there or while eating lunch at the land part of the park. We also had time to visit the tower and then get back to our cars and start home, before the heavens opened. We drove most of the way back to Tracy's house where I'd left Zootie in moderate to heavy rains. Just after we got home, the floodgates of heaven opened and we had a long deluge.  It finally tapered off 1I was able to take Zootie out for a short walk and pack up the car.
Looking down on some of our group on the ramp to the tower
Then the BIG adventure began. I attempted to go along Beltway 8 and cut across to Highway 59 and ran into flooding. The longer I drove, the worse it got until water was flooding over the medians. I got scared enough to sit the storm out for about thirty minutes at a gas station - this after I found the road I turned on was a dead-end one - until the road looked to be improving. But a few blocks further east, the police had the road closed and hundreds of cars were stopped.  I managed to turn off on a through road and then started working my way east.  I found a few more flooded areas, but none over about six inches and managed to make my way to the 610 loop.  But the streets off of 610 were flooded and traffic had backed up along 610 in many places. So the going was very slow.  It was two hours before I reached I-45 south. Then the heaven's opened again, and while we weren't flooding, visibility was so bad, we were driving 45  -50 mph where most people drive between 65 and 70. So  it took another nervous hours to reach Galveston. The rain stopped just before I reached the causeway and didn't have to fight the rain to unload the car. Then it started back up and continued most of the evening, interspersed with thunderstorms.

Water lilies glowed like lanterns in the dim light
On a personal note, I'm packing for my last outing in Texas.  I'm going to an annual visit to South Llano River State Park where we enjoy the peak of spring migration, the incoming breeding birds, including the golden-cheeked warbler.  We'll also enjoy a few paddles on the beautiful South Llano River.

I'm also cleaning out my car and all reviewing all my stuff to see what I can get rid of so I may actually be able to take it all with me to Montana. I'm leaving here May 6. Between doctor appointments, getting my food and camping gear ready, getting travel food organized, getting two more new tires, and getting my car cleaned and packed, I'm going to be run off my feet.

So I'll be blogging sporadically until I get settled into Bison Range NWR.