A Not So Swampy Swamp

A Not So Swampy Swamp

Texas, and a great deal of flyover country, has been experiencing drought conditions for the last several years. You may remember all the fires in Texas and other states  summer of 2012. Our parks and wildlife have been sorely impacted. I have noted how low the lakes are at Brazos Bend, and we have so many dead pine trees to deal with all over the area.

Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Garden - still half way to Dallas.

Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Garden - still half way to Dallas.

The Location

Do you remember when I went to Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Garden? I did an adventure called Bees and Blossoms Instead of Birds and showed you flowers and critters from the east side of the facility. That was in November of 2012.

The west side is wooded and has great nature trails. I have been there twice now looking for birds and ... I can't find many.

The Drive

The trip is about 32 miles/est 45 minutes on a weekend morning. I know folks that commute longer distances everyday to work. Me, I live 2.2 miles from my office and the worst congestion I face are the multiple school zones. 

The park is great for just getting out but not so much for birds. Being outside and walking around is always nice. The grounds are well kept; there were runners now and then and dog walkers. In fact, I got barked at by a ferocious chihuahua.

Mercer Arboretum West

Most of the park looked like this last November. Nice wide trails with various underbrush, trees and vines. And a lot of dead pine trees.

Early morning trail views
Early morning trail views

Back in November, I took a lot of pictures of leaves and experimented with the light. But I didn't see many birds. A few Blue Jays making noises and some secretive Wrens.

But mostly it was quiet. There is a section planted with Maples and I can offer this up in homage to one of the best photographers on Instagram. If you follow me on Instagram, then you probably follow this famous Japanese guy, too.

Maple !

Maple !

Of course, in February all the maples had shed their leaves and the area was a bit bare. The maple area looked like this a few weeks ago:

Maple area in February

Maple area in February

Except there are large blooming Camellias! I think they may have peaked, but I still found some nice ones to share.

Pink

Pink

White

White

Not far from here I did spot a couple of birds. A wren that just would not cooperate, and then some over-caffeinated Kinglet or Vireo. Even if they had of stayed still, it was overcast and cloudy. Here is a Northern Cardinal singing in the top of a bare tree:

Northern Cardinal. Well, he was singing just a minute ago.

Northern Cardinal. Well, he was singing just a minute ago.

Looks promising, no?

Looks promising, no?

This is the sign that got me thinking of herons and egrets and maybe even a kingfisher last November.

The Arboretum folks have built a wonderful set of boardwalks around the swamp with great places to sit and contemplate nature. To appreciate the varied wildlife around a swamp.

I was disappointed last November. And the bit of rain we have had this winter only improved the situation marginally.

mercer_dry_swamp_1500.jpg
mercer_swamp_feb_1500.jpg

Well. There you are. Not a swampy year.

So, last time I headed over to the Botanical Gardens and showed you bright yellow blooms and butterflies. Not much chance of that now, but I found a trail that goes under the highway to the gardens that was kind of fun. (Yes, last time I drove across the highway from one parking lot to the other! It is Texas, I thought I was supposed to!)

Don't want any tall hikers to injure themselves.

Don't want any tall hikers to injure themselves.

Things are different when you are under the road. It was really noisy. And I found that plants will take any opportunity to grow. It is what they do.

Tenacity Study No. 1

Tenacity Study No. 1

Tenacity Study No. 2

Tenacity Study No. 2

The Botanical Garden part gave me plenty of opportunities for my new passion. Instagram has a new feature collection called....

Lovely Dead Crap

Lovely Dead Crap

MOAR Lovely Dried Crap ... or maybe it is a chrysalis? With something exciting inside?

MOAR Lovely Dried Crap ... or maybe it is a chrysalis? With something exciting inside?

Not impressed? It is an acquired taste, I guess.

OK, I will show you something really nice to wind this up. One of the advantages of such a mild winter is the Tulip Magnolias weren't damaged. Take a look at this:

Tulip Magnolia bud

Tulip Magnolia bud

Which will open up to this...

Tulip Magnolia just opening...

Tulip Magnolia just opening...

and give you a tree full of these!

Tulip Magnolia bloom

Tulip Magnolia bloom

The rains will come back, they always do. But when do you think this dry cycle will be over? Does anyone know how to do a rain dance? And more importantly, do you want to see more Lovely Dead Crap?

West of the City

West of the City

The Bird Feeder

The Bird Feeder