My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Birdy Paddle on Champion Lake

October 21, 2015

One of my paddling buddies, Pat Cox, retired this year and can now paddle midweek.  So he organizes paddling trips most Wednesdays. When I asked about getting together, he invited me to go paddling on Champion Lake,  in the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge.

This is a very easy paddle, because the area is small,  and you can only paddle in particular channels through the swampy lake, but it is amazingly full of birds. Even that day, when most of the summering birds have left and only a few species of wintering birds have arrived, we saw lots of birds.

My orthopedic doctor has decided I only have a cyst on a tendon on my right wrist. He was about to give me a cortisone injection the day before this paddle, but I told him the wrist was getting better and that I would be paddling today.  So he gave me a new prescription - go paddle as hard and as long as I possibly could.  Then if my wrist flared up, come back for the shot.

So I went to the site early and paddled an extra hour.  But those birds made me take so many pictures, I hardly paddled. I did paddle some extra loops around the group, with no effect on my wrist.

When I arrived, several royal terns were fishing in front of the pier.  Sometimes, the birds would fly directly toward me.  I played with catching them with my lens, but the light was so low - we were cloudy with a chance of rain - that the pictures are really terrible.  I heard grunting and looked towards the sound and found a tree full of neotropic cormorants. Great blue herons, tri colored herons, and  great egrets were hunting.  A male cardinal flew near the pier.

Tri colored heron

A very poor picture of one of the royal terns against the white sky

This white ibis was right at the boat launch

A little neotropic cormorant getting his fish turned into position to swallow it

A wood stork and an anhinga

This little guy was probably three or four years old

I got my canoe off the car and in the water and started my paddle. White ibis and roseate spoonbills were feeding together while a belted kingfisher flew overhead giving its rattling call.  I found a spotted sandpiper bobbing along a sand bar.

I decided to paddle up through the cypress trees and saw a tree with several anhingas sitting in it.  Then I noticed something white with a dark head move, and realized there was a woodstork in the tree. I also saw a juvenile little blue heron in the same area.  It was mostly blue, but still had a little white on it.

In some areas, there is mostly cypress, in others there are other trees and shrubs,
including lots of buttonbush

The very low light made for very soft pictures  - this is an anhinga

Roseate spoonbill

After the rest of the group arrived, we paddled some of the duck trails (this is also a duck hunting area) and then went back into the cypress.  We kept seeing lots of birds and hearing bluejays, a huge flock of grackles and a flock of red-winged blackbirds. We also saw a few little green herons and several black-crowned herons.

Linda and Pat

This picture was too poor to keep as it was, so I made it into a silhouette so you can see the body shapes and poses of the anhinga on the left and the neotropic cormorant on the right

Pat and Linda in the cypress

Little green heron

I got real excited when I glimpsed this tree full of wood storks and roseate spoonbills


Lunchtime on the pier

Part of the nineteen loafing royal terns
After the paddle, we walked to the butterfly garden and found several  species of butterflies.  We took a short walk and found more butterfly species. All in all, it was a great time.

A cloudless sulphur butterfly on Turk's cap

Gulf coast fritillary

Thanks, Pat for leading this wonderful paddle. 

Pat and I just before he loaded his kayak

Another friend, Dave, had never seen a wood stork and wanted to go look for them.  So, two days later we paddled there again, much harder and longer.  But we still had the dark cloudy skies and no good close looks at the wood storks.  Here are a few more pictures.

All who wander - purple lines - are not lost

Dave's picture of me trying to capture the racoon we chased up a tree -but he was
hiding in a junction of branches

The water was too low, just at the back end ofthe wading bird rookery,
to go further but this is my favorite landscape picture 

I loved getting this picture because cormorants are often hard to tell apart. The trio are
the smaller. thinner and cuter neotropic cormorants and the big guy is a double crested cormorant. 

Hopefully, I'll get to do some paddling in Louisiana where I'll be when this blog comes out.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

First Stop in Texas - Caprock Canyon State Park

There are two amazing state parks in the Texas Panhandle that are in very big canyons.  But these canyons are NOT in mountains, but in pretty flat plains.  So you can't even appreciate the parks until you drive down into the canyons.  I particularly love the spectacular Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

But I stayed there last year on my way to Galveston, so decided to revisit Caprock Canyon State Park, which I haven't seen for many years.  I planned to sleep there and then do a little hiking before going on to the Dallas area to visit friends overnight. 

I arrived about an hour before sunset and took time to wander around on the roads and check out the campsites. The sky was full of migrating monarch butterflies and the land was covered in sunflowers and blooming rabbitbrush to fuel their trip. 

This is the place where the Texas state herd of bison is kept.  These are descendants of the famous Charles Goodnight herd.  There are bison cut-outs everywhere but I didn't see any bison until deep dusk. Once again, I had to pass a car sitting in the road to  take it back from the bison. (Bison know exactly how to share the road and if you stop, they know it's their turn.  You just have to drive slowly and point your car in the direction you want to clear. ) It was too dark for pictures.

There were also little prairie dogs running around, especially near the only bathroom with flush toilets and showers.  I planned to take their pictures in the morning but they were still asleep when I decided to leave between showers.

There are a few small outcroppings above the ground that you can see as you approach the park

Looking at an outcropping on top of a valley

A long view down and out from the road

The soils were all very red and sparsely covered with mostly desert plants

A closer look

View down from my campsite

Another part of  the valley below the campsite

Closer view of outcropping

Bed is ready 

My car at a trailhead 

A bit of sunset occurred under the mostly cloudy sky

I liked the geometric look of these seed pods

Some of the caprock

One of the best things about this park is that the developed section is separated from the rest of the park by a really steep winding road down and through a canyon. So the trailers are in one area and the tent campers are in another.

And it is the trailhead for what must be a wonderful trail ride by bike.  That trip is still on my bucket list.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Coyote Observations

September 12, 2015

Laurel and I were lucky enough to find two different coyotes hunting at Yellowstone NP.  We watched them listen and look for game and then pounce on it. We didn't actually see them catch anything.

But they are built so differently from wolves who are much more massive, have long straight legs for running and who stayed MUCH further away from us.

The coyote walked very softly 

Pausing to carefully inspect sections 

And adding its nose to the hunt

More stopping and staring

And more

There is something out there

I think the coyote was watching for movement

Another step

And stare

Then it took off

And leaped with its tail acting as a rudder

Tail up intentness

Followed by a pounce

Still looking 

Another pounce

A few days later, we found this second coyote hunting.

Trotting and looking


Stopping and looking


Getting stealthy

Stopping and staring


As you can see, I had this adventure some time back.  But I had to many adventures - one a day for ten days, and then have had several adventures on the way back to Galveston, as well as while I've been visiting here.  So I figured I'd just throw in an extra post this week.

I'll be heading off to Louisiana next week.  Eventually you'll get to hear about my adventures there.