Brazos Bend State Park is not one of my usual summer destinations. I certainly don’t camp at this beloved park during the heat of summer. My blog “Seeing Green” (see June 2011 list of posts) explains the woes of summertime birding in this habitat; not to mention the summertime heat and humidity; and mosquitoes; and lack of song birds.
But this summer is different. This summer is setting record heat and drought conditions across Texas. I felt a deep need to visit my beloved Brazos Bend, and see firsthand the impact of a drought that would surely alter the lush wetlands of this jewel of a park. I was shocked, but not surprised, by the severity of impact on the complex habitat. This blog post will speak louder with photos, rather than words, sentences and paragraphs. I’ll limit my writing to serve as a roadmap for comparison of photographs from past days in this wonderful field and photos from a day trip on August 25, 2011. (Please note that you can "click on" the photos to enlarge, then just use your browser's "back arrow" to return to the blog.)
Many visitors to Brazos Bend State Park do not explore the multiple miles of backcountry trails, and most would be surprised by the diversity of habitat that these trails cover. But almost every visitor is familiar with the observation tower that overlooks 40 Acre Lake and Pilant Lake. The severity of drought on this lake area was extraordinary. The below photo captures the absence of water:
Just down this trail's path, headed toward Elm Lake, is a footbridge that allows hikers and bikers to cross Pilant Lake. In Feburary of 2005 I took the below photo, to document my delight in seeing a Great Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tri-colored Heron, and Snowy Egret, all in the same spot, fishing beside each other. I am standing on the footbridge as I take this 2005 photo:
This past Thursday, I stood in the same spot and captured the below photo:
Or, another view that shows the dry Pilant Lake bed on both sides of the footbridge:
In April of this year I took the below photo of a Yellow-crowned Night Heron:
The same area as photographed this past Thursday:
And, from April, two photos of a Little Blue Heron as it fishes:
The same area this past Thursday:
Note the soil, normally underwater, is deeply cracked from the drought conditions:
Elm Lake, the largest body of water, and most frequently visited from the picnic area, was not completely dry--but it had become a mostly muddy habitat:
The view of Elm Lake from the picnic area's new viewing platform--the platform's stilts stood on dry ground:
The day brought many surprises and several delights. In this post I simply want to capture the drought conditions. I plan to post more photos and stories of this day trip, with glimpses of nature doing what nature does: surviving; evolving; and taking life one day at a time. There will be some delight with these next blog posts.