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Houston Regional Group - News
East Sandy Creek - You Know You've Had a Good Trip When …
Brandt Mannchen

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 floodplain.

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!

March 2011

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Last updated:  07/25/2011.   Content 1999-2011 by the Sierra Club.