Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Lotus Pier Fishermen: Adapting to the Drought at Brazos Bend State Park

 AQUAPLANT is a wonderful website, part of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service of the Texas A&M System.  AQUAPLANT provides detailed descriptions, photographs and management options for a number of pond plants, including the American Lotus. The AQUAPLANT website and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service website are well worth “bookmarking” and are easily found using a Google search.
The AQUAPLANT website describes the American Lotus as follows: 

“American Lotus is a perennial plant that is often confused with water lilies. Leaves are simple, round, bluish-green in color, up to 2 feet in diameter, attached to the stem in center (no slit like water lilies). Leaves are flat if floating or conical if emergent and can stand above the water’s surface as high as 3 1/2 feet on the rigid stem. Flowers are large (to 10 inches across) yellowish-white to yellow with more than 20 petals. The center of the flower, the seed structure, is cone-shaped (or like an inverted shower-head) and has openings in which the seeds develop. Lotus can form large colonies and spreads by seeds and large fleshy rhizomes.  Submerged portions of all aquatic plants provide habitats for many micro and macro invertebrates. These invertebrates in turn are used as food by fish and other wildlife species (e.g. amphibians, reptiles, ducks, etc.).”

And so last Thursday, August 25th 2011, while spending a day photographing the drought impacts on Brazos Bend State Park, I once again found myself “Seeing Green”: 

The “Seeing Green” of a former June blog post bemoaned the challenges of woodland birding on a favored backcountry trail of Brazos Bend, as I was surrounded by the extravagance of an early summer forest. The bounty of full-leafed hardwood trees prevented my spotting the white-eyed vireos that teased me with their calls, playing hide-and-seek with me from behind the tree canopies-- and winning that day's game. 

But this August Thursday I was seeing the green of an aquatic habitat, a miniature forest—or more accurately a large colony of American Lotus (Loti?).  This complex habitat would delight the seasoned birder, as well as any outdoor nature enthusiast (willing to stand quietly in the sun, the heat and the humidity of this three digit temperature day).  I was rewarded with multiple sightings of what appeared to be an adaptive lifestyle for the gorgeous, silent fishermen of the marsh and wetland habitat.  The large Lotus leaves, “floating” in the thick mud of the lake’s drought conditions, were serving as fishing piers for these summer Texans. 

A Green Heron, on Lotus "fishing pier" with surrounding leaf shade:

Throughout the morning I watched these beautiful Aves species “cooling their heels” in a Lotus leaf bath, providing a relief platform from the muck and mud of the drought-stricken Elm Lake.

More Green Herons:

A Little Blue Heron--note the diameter of the Lotus Leaf "pier" as well as the flat floating leaves in the background:

A "teenager" Little Blue Heron, looking just as awkward as its human teenage cousins, molting from its juvenile spring white plumage into the beautiful dusty blue of adulthood:

A juvenile Purple Gallinule, parents not in sight:

And a juvenile Common Moorhen appears to be a probable candidate for the "Gifted and Talented" program at the local school district.  The Lotus flowers seemed to be favored food sources for multiple Aves species, perhaps due to the insects housed in and around the flower bud.  This high IQ Moorhen youngster had maneuvered a flower stalk atop an adjacent Lotus leaf, providing balcony viewing and creative brunch dining.  But I could just hear her thoughts:  "Now how do I...?"

And more beautiful Lotus flowers:

And even an avid birder can stop and note the future generation of Moorhen predators, hiding in the Lotus colony, waiting to pick a fight with each other:

This amazing habitat--unusually visible due to the severity of drought, made for a delightful day of August birding at Brazos Bend.  It was miserably hot--and only the Lotus Pier Fishermen could make me smile.

1 comment:

  1. Don't they have any air conditioned viewing spots at these State Parks. Really, temps in the triple digits and you still have a smile on your face?

    Your AC spoiled Retama Neighbor


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