We turned off of
FM 1374 and onto Forest Road 222 and began to drive through the part of Sam Houston
National Forest where East Sandy Creek flowed through its extensive floodplain. I pointed
out to the people in my car the many Mayapples and the Palmettos that we passed as we
looked for a place to park.
Then it happened! I became aware of a large, dark, shape on the left side of my
peripheral vision. The shape appeared suspended in mid-air about 30 feet high. It was a
very large, very heavy, bird. I struggled to focus on its features and slowly awareness
crept over me. It has a white tail. The bird landed on a tree in front of the car about 50
feet in the air. It has a white head. It flew from the tree, down the road, and out of
sight to the left. It's a "BALD EAGLE"!!!
I was so excited that I could hardly speak clearly. For the next half-hour I was giddy
with delight. That's when I thought, "You know you've had a good trip when the first
thing you see is a Bald Eagle." All seven of us were beyond excited. Finally, we
calmed down and got ready for our hike along East Sandy Creek.
We started by going through Mayapple patches and Palemtto thickets. Large American
Sycamores were very noticeable and North Parula Warblers called in the canopy of Water
Oaks, Cedar Elms, and other bottomland trees. We veered to our left and followed more
closely the slope that descends onto the floodplain. In this area the Palmettos thinned
out and the grass and Inland Sea Oats took over. The forest was more open. We were
impressed by the huge American Elms that we saw (largest was over 45 inches in diameter)
as well as the Water Hickory and Green Ash that populated the sloughs and swales of the
Mayapple, Redbud, Butterweed, Red Maple, Spring Cress, and Spring Beauty all bloomed
with their white, yellow, red, and pink colored flags. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a
pair of Pileated Woodpeckers supplied us with many "oohs and aahs." Carolina
Chickadees scolded us from their lofty perches. Dave found a firefly on a bottomland
hardwood tree, beaver chewed trees, and Black Walnuts along East Sandy Creek.
We saw a young watersnake swim across the creek and duck under some debris and stopped
to look at endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker cavity trees. All in all it was a perfect
day, perfect weather, and - that eagle!