May Short Stories

May Short Stories

May was extra busy! A couple of trips to our regular haunts plus a big trip to North Texas. The main reason for the trip was to attend my 50th high school reunion in Terrell, Texas. And I had such a great time seeing old friends again if only to dispel rumors that I had moved to California and joined a commune. We were a class of 136 students, and we have lost 31. A happy and healthy bunch of 42 made it to the reunion. Thanks to the badges with our senior photos we wore we could recognize each other. Can you find me in this group shot?

Terrell High School Class of 1966 Photo by Bill Maroldo

Terrell High School Class of 1966
Photo by Bill Maroldo

The next morning we were on the road to find some birds! A Facebook friend Randall Patterson guided us by phone down the wooded trails in the Colleyville Nature Center in hopes of seeing the Barred Owl fledgling, but he had left the nest the day before. We did hear the parents calling to each other. While waiting on the owl to appear we met another Facebook friend, Jeff Clow who told us about the Trinity Trails Duck Pond in Fort Worth where we might see Wood Ducks. That turned out to be a very successful tip!

Drake Wood Duck shows off Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/5.6 1/1600 sec ISO 1250; tripod

Drake Wood Duck shows off
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/5.6 1/1600 sec ISO 1250; tripod

We don't have many Wood Ducks this far south. I had never seen one before and as a rule don't find ducks all that impressive. But, these were just beautiful and swam quite close. There were about a dozen males and one lone female. We noticed a bit of aggression between the males, but more over the bread thrown by children than the female. I am not sure if they breed in that park; no babies in evidence although we did see a couple of mallard ducklings.

Getting around the Metroplex was challenging to say the least. I am positive all the road building equipment, jersey barriers and concrete trucks have moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. ALL of the major interchanges are being expanded and rebuilt, and most of them are getting toll lanes. We relied on that nice lady in my Android phone to tell us what lanes to get in and where to merge, and where to exit. Be forewarned if you are headed that way. If you live around DFW... then you have my sympathy and surely it will eventually end. This story from 2010 states the bulk of the changes would be complete in five years but it sure didn't look like it to me.

Snowy Egrets and chicks at UTSWMC rookery Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/5.6 1/1000 sec ISO 2000; tripod

Snowy Egrets and chicks at UTSWMC rookery
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/5.6 1/1000 sec ISO 2000; tripod

We also checked out the rookery in the middle of the University Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. It is a 4-acre site surrounded by office buildings and parking garages. The rookery has been active since 1938 and is maintained by the medical center to honor a promise made to its first president.  There is a trail all the way around the thick woods teaming with Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons, Little Blue Herons and Cattle Egrets. Visibility is limited since you are starring up at the birds through the foliage.

We are used to Smith Oaks Rookery or even Resoft Park where the birds are on islands. Here you can't go into the rookery itself but the birds don't read the signs so they are nesting in the trees over the pathway. And I don't know how to put it delicately; they poop on you while you are trying to take photos. Good thing I was wearing a hat!

Also disturbing are the birds that fall or are pushed from nests. We saw quite a few dead chicks on the grounds and a few crippled and dying birds. Yep, it is nature in action and nothing you can do about it - there are over 4000 nests! How would you know which nest it fell from? At High Island the alligators keep the ground clean.

Courthouse Square in Denton, Texas Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm f/5.0 1/500 sec ISO 400

Courthouse Square in Denton, Texas
Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm f/5.0 1/500 sec ISO 400

We also visited with my sister who has recently moved to a new development near Argyle. From there we all went over to Denton one day.  North Texas State University is at Denton, so it has a lot of trendy coffee shops and equally trendy looking young people wandering around downtown. And it still has its old courthouse built in 1896. A lot of the county seats replaced their old courthouses in the 50s and 60s for practical reasons but it is wonderful to see the ones that escaped the wrecking ball.

Giant mural oversees patrons at fancy burger joint on the square Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm f/3.5 1/400 sec ISO 2000

Giant mural oversees patrons at fancy burger joint on the square
Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm f/3.5 1/400 sec ISO 2000

The above fantastic mural is called The Great Texas Supper and is inside LSA Burgers on the square. They have live music at night on the roof and I can definitely vouch for the hamburgers. How many music stars can you name? I will start you off on the far left .... George Jones, Selena, Roy Orbison...

Empty storefronts Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm f/7.1 1/640 sec ISO 400

Empty storefronts
Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm f/7.1 1/640 sec ISO 400

We came home from Fort Worth through Waco and College Station. A much more pleasant drive than the trip up I-45 through Madisonville and Corsicana. I wanted to stop in Waco and check out Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper Magnolia Market but we were trying to miss a big rainstorm and hurried by. We did stop in Calvert, Texas.

There were communities in the area as early as 1820, but Calvert was moved two miles to the railroad in 1868 and thrived as an export center and county seat for the surrounding cotton plantations during the Reconstruction era in Texas. By the end of the century floods, fires and yellow fever had taken their toll and the town declined.

Some of the store fronts have antique stores or local venues, but this block was so empty. I timed the photo with no traffic, but normally there giant 18-wheelers zipping by. Something the original inhabitants could never have imagined.

Antique store in downtown Calvert Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR

Antique store in downtown Calvert
Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR

I don't know what days the stores are open, perhaps just on the weekends. But I would like to browse around in this one!

Old BW of Surfside Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/8.0 1/2000 sec ISO 640; braced in vehicle window

Old BW of Surfside
Sony A77II with Sony f/4 500 G f/8.0 1/2000 sec ISO 640; braced in vehicle window

And a quick update. After I wrote the blog post on Old BW in April, we couldn't find him. I was thinking maybe I had put a jinx on him by making him internet-famous, but finally on May 10th we spotted him in one of his regular hangouts near the Intracoastal Canal bridge. I was so relieved. He looks as handsome as ever.

It was fun to chase birds in unfamiliar places... but we came back with a greater appreciation for the variety and accessibility of birds in our coastal areas. But, home is always the best, no?

Don't you wish we had Wood Ducks in our local ponds? Have you taken any trips lately? What about going to old towns and thinking about how slow life was back then? Let me know in the comments below.

Waterlogged Texas

Waterlogged Texas

A Tale of Three Fishes

A Tale of Three Fishes