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.