Katy on the Prairie

Coastal Texas is flat. If you have been reading this blog very long, you might be wondering if all of Texas is flat and grassy. No, but this part is. And recently I explored a tiny part of what is called the Katy Prairie.

Once upon a time flat, poorly drained grasslands stretched from the Piney Woods in East Texas to the Gulf Coast, populated by Comanche and Karankawa Indians (can I say Indians? I think I am supposed to say Native Americans). Later, small farmers arrived and then large scale rice agriculture prospered. Eventually, the Malls and McMansions settled the area. Now, there are numerous protected tracts and preserves for conservation, and my goal was find some of those to check out the birds. So I could tell you about them.

This is the Katy Prairie Conservancy website and it is most informative, but has terrible maps and instructions. Actually, they do have some maps, but I didn't find them when I planned the trip....  so I ... took the long way.  And now that I look at it, I don't think I even found part of the official Katy Prairie. But, as you will see, I did find some birds.

Katy Prairie Conservancy sites. Downtown Houston is east of this location

Katy Prairie Conservancy sites. Downtown Houston is east of this location

So, I started out early as is my habit. My friend, Dense Fog was not present, just his cousin, Patchy Fog. As I said, I did not study the maps; I just assumed there would be an exit called Katy-Hockley Cut Off on on the freeway.

Wrong. Or the fog hid it.

I will not go into detail about where I ended up (hello, Brookshire) because my local friends will be laughing at me. But eventually Siri and I found the right road and headed North. And we spotted some elevated walkways over wetlands and declared victory.  I was at Paul D. Rushing County Park, and there are sports fields and a parking lot. Turns out they have a chain of lakes with paved walkways and it was quite nice.

Elevated walkways over the wetlands

Elevated walkways over the wetlands

Getting out of my car I spied a man with binoculars and instantly recognized a fellow birder. He was familiar with the area and quite knowledgeable about the birds. We walked around a bit together till I got my bearings.  One of the big attractions at this time is the Savannah Sparrow. They are migratory and spend the winters with us.

Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow

Mostly they flush out from the underbrush when you get close. This one consented to pose for a while. And they were everywhere. I estimate I saw hundreds.

Savannah Sparrow on pier railing

Savannah Sparrow on pier railing

Elevated walkway out to blind (with Savannah Sparrows on the walk and rails)

Elevated walkway out to blind (with Savannah Sparrows on the walk and rails)

There are numerous walkways out over the water (which is really low due to our drought). At the end is a blind so you can be all sneaky on the birds.

I walked all around the lakes and have some great wide shots of the lake and grasses I will put in the Other Things Gallery for you to see, but I can't wait to tell you about the Stalking the Great Egret.

I am in that blind, can you see the openings are all spaced for heights? One of them just fit me and I could prop up the camera. And this is what happened next: (Use the arrows to advance the slide show and hover over the bottom of the big picture to see the play-by-play action!)

I also saw a couple of Snipes, some White-faced Ibis and a flock of Coots. There was a Great Blue Heron that perched on one of the blinds for a while. His picture is in the Birds Gallery. I saw a Mottled Duck my new friend helped me identify, but it was too far away to get a picture. And a Greater Yellowlegs. There were Red Tailed Hawks flying overhead and of course, the ubiquitous Turkey Vultures.

It was a good day for birding. I didn't end up where I expected, but it is all about the journey, right? And the stories we can tell. Have you been to the Katy Prairie? Which one of those tracts on the map above is worth visiting?

Away to Anahuac

In the foggy bottoms