According to the Cornell University bird app, the bird Iʼve been following through this stand of piney woods is a wild turkey.
Itʼs smart of the turkey to hang out in a nature preserve a few days before Thanksgiving.
But itʼs also a bit surprising, as Iʼm just on the very southern edge of wild turkey range, and according to the newspaper, wild turkey populations in this part of the world have been plummeting for the last decade or so.
I went to a new place to find a slice of nature: The Trinity River Waterbird Rookery
Itʼs right off of Interstate 10 near Wallisville, Texas, which is both a blessing and a curse.
Itʼs great because the entrance is adjacent to a bridge over the Trinity River, so most people donʼt see it and itʼs inconvenient to get to, so hardly anyone ever goes there. The bad part is that the wildlife viewing platform is so close to the freeway that you canʼt hear whatever birds might be busy rooking up in the preserve.
Itʼs not formally a nature preserve, itʼs a flood control project, which is why it was built by the army. But when I was there, the foliage was recovering nicely from the Christmas cold blast, and there was a big fat painted turtle in the shallows looking at me with an angry face like some kind of swamp bouncer.
Sometimes if I canʼt sleep, I like to scroll through Apple Maps and see what can be seen. On this particular night, I found a flock of birds near NASA. They look like egrets or something similar to me.
We went to China Ranch today. Itʼs one of those places that makes me feel calm. If I had no debts, no obligations, and no cares in the world, Iʼd try my hand at being one of the China Ranch farm workers, picking dates in the desert, living in a rusty trailer, and generally staying off of civilizationʼs radar.
Since I do have debt, obligations, and cares in the world, I relish seeing the creatures of the wilderness. The score this trip:
Two kinds of lizards, including a cool one with a blue beard
The crayfish donʼt belong here. Like the bullfrogs that pollute the few water sources in the desert, they were planted by settlers who though they might be useful for food. Unfortunately, theyʼre the reason the entire Pahrump pupfish population has to live in a concrete fish prison out in Corn Creek.
Unlike the Amargosa dace and Devilʼs Hole fish, they didnʼt evolve in a hot spring, so in the winter they just kind of get sluggish and stop moving. Itʼs like aquatic hibernation. And since they canʼt flee, they are easy snacks for the big crayfish that were brought in from Louisiana a hundred years ago.
Darcie and I spent a peaceful day at China Ranch. Lots of wildlife running around, getting ready for the Summer ahead.
China Ranch is a place where an earthquake opened up a big crack in the desert letting the usually underground Amargosa River see the light of day for about a half mile. In the 1930ʼs someone established a date farm there, and you can get fresh date bread and date shakes at the little farm stand, and go for long walks hours away from anyone else. Itʼs just a nice place to get out of our heads for a while.
The crayfish donʼt belong here. Like bullfrogs, they were planted by settlers who though they might be useful for food. Unfortunately, theyʼre the reason the entire Pahrump pupfish population has to live in a concrete fish prison out in Corn Creek. Unlike the Amargosa dace and Devilʼs Hole pupfish, they didnʼt evolve in a hot spring, so in the winter they just kind of get sluggish and stop moving. Itʼs like aquatic hibernation. Since they canʼt flee, they are easy snacks for the big crayfish that were brought in from Louisiana a hundred years ago.
People ruin things. But I live in a place where several types of creatures have learned that not only are chihuahuas tasty, theyʼre slow, stupid, and frequently found behind doggie doors. Doggie doors are very common here. Sometimes nature gets even, and it makes the newspaper.
Las Vegas locked down is a weird place. With no humans on The Strip, the city is being taken over by waterfowl.
Local media has been showing photos and video of geese and ducks all over the casinos. The theory is that they're attracted by the people-less fountains. Last week, I saw some video of a family of ducks that have made a home in one of the revolving doors of The Bellagio.
Mike the hummingbird who lives in my backyard has a female friend. Alice is not afraid of me and sits on a twig and watches me while I water the plants.
The family of grackles who used to visit me outside my office window every day doesnʼt come around anymore now that the weather is cooler and they can go elsewhere for food. Now I have all this leftover fondue bread sitting in my filing cabinet.