Blathr Wayne Lorentz

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Showing blathrs with the tag “Turtle Bayou.”

Beat it, turkey

Saturday, November 18th, 2023 Alive 19,198 days

A Cornell computer confirmation

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.

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Friday, November 17th, 2023 Alive 19,197 days

Cows will kill you dead

Each year in America, a couple of dozen people are killed by cows. I didnʼt have a reason to look up that fact until today, shortly after a cow tried to kill me.

It sounds silly, but replace “cow” with “bull” and it makes more sense.

I was at the Turtle Bayou Nature Preserve, where a herd of cattle are occasionally allowed to roam in order to stir up the soil, fertilize the ground, and make meals of the invasive plants. Bird watchers, such as myself, are welcome to wander around the preserve, and there are viewing stands and informational signs and other amenities to make a birding visit more pleasurable.

There are, however, no signs warning you that the cows might try to kill you.

I was walking along one of the birding tracks outlined on the big signs at the entrance when I heard a low rumbling behind me. I didnʼt think too much of it because I was engrossed in listening for birds. But then the low rumbling came again, and it sounded angry.

Turning around, I saw a big black bull and his harem staring at me through the brush.

Iʼve seen enough Discovery Channel to know that running from an animal is an invitation for it to chase you. And Iʼve read enough 1930ʼs cowboy books to know that cattle will stampede at the drop of a hat. So, what to do?

While trying to figure that out, Angus McAngryface put his ears back, lowered his head and let out a bellow so loud and long and low I could feel it vibrating in my lungs. Not a good sign. I started to panic.

Shaking, I took out my phone and took a quick video. If I was going to die, I wanted my wife to know which critter killed me so she could avenge me at the dinner plate. Then another blast: "Moooooooooooo!" accompanied by the pawing of a hoof at the ground, and a snot-flinging snort to drive the point home.

Time to think logically. In cowboy books, the cowboy always has a horse. What do I have to work with? A sack lunch and a pair of binoculars, neither of which are enough to fell an animal that weighs more than my car. I know I canʼt outrun him through the woods because Iʼve seen cattle paths through the trees. They know their way better than I do.

There is a single tree on its own amid the brambles to my right. It seems stout enough to withstand the impact of a bullʼs cranium. If I can keep it between me and the creature, maybe I can stay safe along enough for it to get bored and move on.

Slowly I side-step to my right. The brambles tear into my pants which start to leak blood, but Iʼm grateful for it because I usually wear shorts when Iʼm out looking for birds. Another report: "Moooooooooo!" And another angry snort.

I eventually manage to position myself in a defensive line: me, then pine, then bovine. Heʼs still staring at me. He still looks pissed at me for whatever transgression I have committed against cowkind.

Then — he starts. It begins with a trot and he heads down the track toward where I was standing, repeating his angry warning: "Mooooo! Mooooo! Mooooo!" In seconds that felt like minutes, he has passed me and is threading his way through the trees. The ladies follow in his wake, and spread out through the pine as do the tentacles of a great river in flood.

My panic starts to subside, but is rekindled every quarter minute by his continued taunts through the blackness of the stand: "Moooooo! Moooooo! Mooooo!" The volume fades, but I can still hear the anger as I once again pull out my telephone to film the remnants of my brush with trampling death.

Finally, the last few cows in his harem amble into view, and before they dive into the obscurity, one turns around and looks over her shoulder as if to say to me, “Dumbass.”

I am never going to Turtle Bayou again.

A quantity of fresh blood in the brush
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Into the woods

Tuesday, February 7th, 2023 Alive 18,914 days

The Turtle Bayou Nature Preserve also has a less-traveled eastern unit. There's hardly any bids to hear there, though. It's much drier, and a much less thorny hike along the water.

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Tuesday, February 7th, 2023 Alive 18,914 days

Diverging paths

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one on the right because there was more shade.

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Youʼre loopy

Monday, February 6th, 2023 Alive 18,913 days

FM-563 over Turtle Bayou

Man, that FM-563 traffic just never stops.

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Nature's bathtub

Monday, February 6th, 2023 Alive 18,913 days

A Tom Sawyer-grade swimminʼ hole in the woods
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Park it

Sunday, February 5th, 2023 Alive 18,912 days

I spent the morning at the Turtle Bayou Nature Preserve. Turtle Bayou used to be a oil town, but when the oil ran out, so did the people. All that's left of the town is an abandoned ferry landing, scattered concrete foundations, and the occasional bit of rusting oil infrastructure.

Today, the preserve is a refuge for various birds and other wetland critters from coyotes to crawfish. It is also occasionally occupied by herds of cattle, who crop the greenery, fertilize with abandon, and churn up the soil so it doesn't get too compacted. Pretty much the same thing that deer and elk and buffalo used to do here, before they were driven out by suburbia.

The area also functions as a geologic sponge, regulating water levels and cleaning pollutants from the water that flows from the surrounding 88,000 acres into Galveston Bay. That's why the Chambers-Liberty County Navigation District supports this project. It helps both birds and barges.

Birds tallied on this visit:

  • American Goldfinch
  • American Kestrel
  • American Wigeon
  • American Crow
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Boat-tailed Grackle
  • Blue Jay
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Carolina Wren
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Common Gallinule
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • House Wren
  • Mallard
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Pine Warbler
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Royal Tern
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Sedge Wren
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler

My recommendation: do not hike the trails with flat-bottomed shoes. You need hiking boots at a minimum. Well-worn cowboy boots are probably best. Especially if it's rained in the last week, and if the cows are visiting.

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Misty for me

Sunday, December 4th, 2022 Alive 18,849 days

It was a foggy, depressing day so I went out to Turtle Bayou where I knew there wouldnʼt be any other people; and there werenʼt.

I did find lots of birds, though. I recorded nine new species for my list:

  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Purple Finch
  • Winter Wren
  • House Wren
  • American Pipit
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • American Goldfinch
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler

There was also a metric ass-ton of mosquitoes. But thatʼs OK; the birds have to eat, too.

I thought about it for a while, and I think itʼs probably been close to 30 years since I was last bitten by a mosquito.

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A very special set of disposal skills

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022 Alive 18,628 days

A swamp on Lake Anahuac, near Turtle Bayou

I donʼt know why the mob bothers hiding the bodies of its enemies in Indiana corn fields, or New Jersey stadia, or Nevada reservoirs. Chuck a corpse in a gulf coast swamp, and itʼll be chewed up, digested, and reduced to gator nuggets in a matter of hours.

Even if the F.B.I. knows where to look, the agents will be like, “Yeah, weʼll just let them have this one.”

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