My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Tormented by Butterflies

November 4, 2016

Paddling buddy, Dave invited us to go paddle at Champion Lake, another of my favorite swampy places in Trinity River NWR.  He even offered to paddle both me and Ellen in Natalie's tandem canoe, while Natalie paddled his kayak.  I declined because I'd rather hike then sit and I have spent many happy hours on land there.

I immediately started checking out all the distant birds by taking pictures and then blowing them up in the camera.  A pair of white dots in a distant tree turned into wood storks, a most coveted species in the late summer and fall, when Mexican juveniles sneak across the border and wander along the Texas coast.

Natalie and Ellen enjoying the put-in views

A long view of a pair of wood storks

After the paddlers left, I started walking the mowed path on the levy that forms the lake.  It goes all the way to the Trinity River but I got ambushed by thousands of butterflies and only managed about a half mile of it.  Every step caused twenty to forty butterflies to jump out of the grasses and forbs. The sun was bright and the air was warm. so the butterflies quickly flew out of camera range, while others caught my eye.  Most of the butterflies were less than an inch across their wings so I couldn't even see them on my camera screen. I spent a lot of time trying to capture them, getting ever more frustrated until the sun got too bright for pictures. Then I just enjoyed their bright movement while listening to the hum of honeybees and syrphid flies.

Queens were the most abundant and cooperative 

But only occasionally showed me their monarch-like undersides 

Migrating monarchs were resting in grass.....

Or among willow leaves.....

Or feeding on the abundant fleabane

The waterway narrowed along the trail and I was able to ambush
this pair of white ibis feeding on the far side

Metalmark species?

Think a different species of metalmark

I also checked out a side trail that went through wet woods full of little, mostly dry sloughs.  Finally I turned back so I wouldn't make the paddlers have to wait on me,  I had time to compile my bird list and then add a pair of roseate spoonbills before I caught sight of the returning paddlers.

One of the very few signs of fall

This little slough had enough water to make pretty reflections

There were lots of palmettos,  one of my favorite plants

This comma sat quickly on a tree trunk

There were cloudless, and I think, dogface sulfurs but most were too fast to capture -
this cloudless was in the butterfly garden

The last bloom of marsh mallow - it was across the lake from me

Great blue herons are hard to see against the trees

Returning paddlers

A pair of roseate spoonbills were the last birds on my checklist

Their flight starts with free fall

By the time we were ready to leave - around 2:00 PM, we were starving and had to make a stop for hamburgers. Another beautiful day.

I'm linking up to Wild Bird Wednesday.  Click on the picture to see bird blogs from around the world.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Good Friends and Good Birds

October 30, 2016

Soon after my surgery, I got a note from one of my favorite friends,  Tracy, that she and husband, Dutch, were ready to come pick me up to go birding.  We decided on October 30. Carol, a volunteering friend, joined us, along with my hostess, Natalie, and her daughter, Ellen.

We all met at East Beach Park and were soon enjoying common birds while searching for the pomarine j aeger that arrived here in July.  We noticed a man taking pictures, looked where he was aiming, and saw the bird sitting on the beach.  We approached the bird carefully, and were soon enjoying good looks of it. Later, while we were trying to identify the bird species resting together along the easternmost beach, the bird flew in just in front of us.

I apologize for the poor picture quality. I'm having to use an inferior method of holding my camera at waist height and look into the screen.  And I'm using the camera to just ID birds from distances too far to make good pictures.  Then I am making you look at them.

Not all fliers were birds

Royal Terns and herring gull

How many species can you identify?

Incoming brown pelicans

A Forster's tern flew in

Add caption

We discovered several black skimmers in the mix

The only marbled godwit we saw checking out the trash

Black bellied plover

Pomarine jaeger

Successful fishermen with their stripers

We checked out a couple of nearby birding spots, but high tide and lots of fishermen had cleared the birds out. Natalie and Ellen had to leave for Natalie's symphony practice but the rest of us headed west to find very few birds along Eight Mile and Sportsmens Roads.

Then it was lunch time, so we adjourned for a lovely lunch.  Dutch and Carol treated Tracy and me because it was Tracy's birthday and I was all crippled. 

It was another great day and more are on the agenda.

Hiking While Paddling

October 28, 2016

No I haven't learned to walk on water, but I tagged  along with Natalie when she got to take her first paddle after her own shoulder surgery. She was going to paddle on Lake Charlotte, one of my favorite paddling areas.  I knew there were places to hike along the lake, and that I would have a good time hanging out there during the paddle.

The day was beautiful except that it was a little warm from what I was used to in Maine. I helped Natalie and our friend Ann get their boats in the water and watched them paddle off before I set off on my hike. Since I am typing with my left hand, I'll let the pictures tell the story.

At the put-in

The trail is wide and easy

With lots of benches along the way

Part of it crosses a little arm of the lake

Giving views that can usually only be seen from a boat

Yaupon bushes were full of berries for the mockingbirds

Mist flowers were still blooming, to the delight of butterflies

Another view of part of the trail

I found lots of beautyberries growing along the trail

This bright yellow slash turned out to be an asp - they are abundant this fall

Trifoliate oranges imported from China for citrus rootstock which has escaped

I searched high and low for signs of fall- this was all I could find

I finished my hike and set up a chair near the put-in and waited for the paddlers to show up.

A view of the swamp adjacent to the lake

And a view of the lake edge in front of the swamp

 Meanwhile, Ann and Natalie found most of the wintering birds had delayed their arrival. while the alligators were basking in the summer heat - temperatures reached the mid eighties.

Ann by Natalie

Sunning 'gater by Natalie

My first view of the paddlers just after they re-entered the lake after paddling
the channel to the Trinity River

Fun's all done
I seem to be healing up quite quickly, even though the damage to my shoulder was greater than expected and I have to stay in my sling for six weeks instead of four. I've been hanging out with Natalie other friends and doing a lot of birding and hiking walking dogs. Today, I even took Natalie's golden retriever and her Springer spaniel walking at the same time. I could be driving now if I didn't drive a stick shift standard. Life is good and getting better.