White ibis

White ibis
Ibis

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Just Gotta Paddle Sheldon

Sheldon Lake State Park is in the Houston Metroplex and is unknown to most of the region's inhabitants. But the lucky few who know about it find it magical. The park was made on land used for a fish hatchery and many of the ponds still exist, surrounded by trees and bordered with a huge meadow to the north.  The west side of the park is a 1230 acre shallow lake with several islands. It has become a rookery for roseate spoonbills, white ibis, little blue herons, snowy egrets, great egrets, cattle egrets tricolored egrets, black crowned night herons, neotropical cormorants and anhingas. Usually all the islands are covered in squabbling birds raising their young in the breeding season.

But this year, the numbers were way down and we only saw a few islands with birds using them. The water quality has been degrading as less water is getting into the lake due to development. This may be harming the birds as well.

Three friends accepted our invitation to paddle with  us - Natalie, our house guest Winnie, a paddler and birder from Corpus Christi, and me. We put in at the southwest corner of the lake and then had a longer than expected paddle because, for the first time in years, the water was open all the way to the the northeast corner of the lake where there is a put-in for paddle craft and where people fish from the bank.


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Snowy egret

Cattle egrets

White ibis

Common gallinule


Paddling along the islands

Watching the birds

Almost full grown chick begging for food

Cattle egret pair

Spoonbill

Heading over to the marsh side of the lake

 In this area, I got to a place where I had four great pictures, the bald eagle, a black crowned night heron, a roseate spoonbill, and a little green heron. I got semi decent ones of two of them.



Bald eagle

Black crowned night heron all spiffed up



Tracy enjoying the day

Natalie



Cypress pair

Eastern kingbird

Purple gallinule - one of three I saw

An anhinga in non breeding plumage - couldn't get close to any of the breeders 

A little blue heron in its second year and starting to change to adult plumage


I loved the glow I got from this lily - it looked lit.

A princely great egret


Almost to the north road

The invasive apple snails had left lots and lots of egg masses about

Pat and Sheila at the Carpenter Bayou Bridge on the north side of the lake


A second year spoonbill

A breeding spoonbill

We came off the lake starved as it was way after lunch. I got out the stuffed eggs - in two flavors -  and offered them around. Only one of them actually got to the picnic where I supplied Mississippi Caviar, Southwest Eggplant Salad with crackers and chips. The rest of them were devoured on the spot.


Winnie made the four of us pose for a picture

After lunch, most of the group left, leaving only Winnie, Shiela and me to take a walk on the lovely shaded trails and enjoy the ponds.


This guy was walking down a trail ahead of us and then turned around and gave us this picture


Winnie walking to the tower

A view of part of the lake in bright sun


Pickerel weed

It was a wonderful day on one of the last little wild places in the Houston Metroplex.