It was great to see so many familiar faces. Peggy,
Mary Jane, Tom,
Bob, Michael, Jim, and Nancy were at Meyerland Plaza Starbucks, raring
to go by 7:30 am. We got our carpools set-up and then set-out on a
caravan to Brazoria County. Our first stop was Hudson Woods, near the
intersection of State Highway 35 and FM 521. That was where we would
meet Mike Lange with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), who was
going to guide us to some new Columbia Bottomland tracts that have been
bought and added to the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge.
The day was gorgeous, low 70’s, bright and sunny,
with a little
breeze. My one concern was mosquitoes but I was determined not to let
any little insect ruin my outing. We arrived at Hudson Woods early,
about 8:30 am, and who did we have meet us at the entrance, four
beautiful White-tail Deer. What a treat! While we waited for Mike I
took our “band of explorers” to see the oxbow lake. We saw egrets and
watched a Great Blue Heron slowly sail off while giving us its
heartiest “croak” as if to say, “What are you doing here?”. Then we
followed some of the mowed trails and saw blooming Turk’s Cap, golden
rod, and asters and a huge Live Oak and Green Ash before we started
back to the parking lot to look for Mike.
Instead, as we walked back he met us in his SUV.
He got out, and we
all said “hello,” and then he gave us a 15 minute overview of the
Columbia Bottomlands land acquisition program that he operates. His
maps opened the eyes of a lot of people but it was his great tales of
land acquisition intrigue that had us all glued to his every next word,
when we were not laughing.
Then it was off to Eagle’s Nest Lake, off of
County Road 25, west of
Hudson Woods. Mike unlocked the gate and we parked our cars, got out,
and began our walk to the lake. That is the very moment the buzz, buzz,
made its presence known. We kept moving to reduce their hot pursuit and
wound up at the end of a pier looking at a nearly dry lake. Eagle’s
Nest Lake is 2,000 of a 4,500 acre tract that has been acquired for us
but which has almost dried up during the drought. Needless to say it
was a long walk to water but off we set. We dodged Giant Cutgrass, hog
“wallows,” and slightly unstable dirt. We walked as far as we could but
were not able to see much of the remaining lake. Mike suggested we
drive to the other side of the lake and take a look so we walked back
admiring the beautiful Live Oaks, Cedar Elms, Western Soapberrys,
Pecans, and a plethora of other trees in this diverse hardwood forest.
We drove to the other side of the lake and stopped
at the side of a
road for lunch. We tried to enter another part of the woods but the
mosquitoes drove us back to the cars. Then we went back to the lake.
This side of the lake allowed us to approach what water remained closer
and that was good. We saw thousands of wading and shorebirds like
Western Sandpipers, Great Blue Herons, Black-necked Stilts, American
Avocets, Great Egrets, and many other of our feathered friends. The
highlight for me was hearing and then seeing about eight Sandhill
Cranes fly overhead. Very nice!
The next stop was at the Cedar Lake Creek Unit
which is 1,315 acres
in size. We drove, and drove, and drove over bumpy roads in two SUVs
(we left the other cars at the FWS office parking lot) and went through
some gorgeous Live Oak forests but had to stop when a downed branch was
more than we could get around.
Our final stop was right in Lake Jackson, Dow
Woods. Recently, Dow
Chemical had donated this 338 tract to FWS. It had been grazed hard so
it is now in recovery mode with small Pecans and other trees just
starting to sprout up. We walked along Bastrop Bayou for awhile and
then it was time to go. As we lingered in the parking lot, wishing the
day did not have to end, a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers flew over our
heads as if to say their goodbyes. What a great send-off! We will be
back you can bet your bottom dollar on that.