Yesterday I spent a wonderful eleven hours day-tripping to Anahuac NWR and High Island. Truth be told, the last hour involved sitting down in my grungy jeans and T-shirt for some great Italian food at a local restaurant, after driving back to my neck-of-the-woods.
I started my daytrip with no breakfast; birded all day with no packed lunch; and so I was tired AND hungry when driving away from High Island’s birding field-of-dreams. So I convinced myself that I was presentable enough (even with hat-hair) to enjoy a bit of after-the-fact carbohydrate loading. It just made sense, right?
And so I’m spending today, Earth Day, mostly indoors to develop yesterday’s bird photos. But before giving time to the feathered ones, I wanted to share two unexpected sightings and one near miss!
The first unexpected sighting occurred while driving Whites Ranch Road, between Anahuac NWR and High Island. I happily drove along this deserted FM highway, trying to stay within the speed limit as I was lead-foot excited about getting to High Island.
As I drove along, watching Scissor-tailed Flycatchers playing tag with each other on both sides of the road, I remembered reading a blog post (from the wonderful blog site “Travels with Emma”) about the author getting stuck behind cattle drives that covered this entire road. And what to wonder but that I drove up behind this:
Watching the dog in the pickup-bed in front of me (in above picture) was almost as entertaining as watching the four cattlemen and large herd of cattle. This was no city dog. No barking; no trying to jump out of the truck. This dog moved from one side of the truck’s bed to the other, alertly watching. This working dog knew exactly what was going on and would have gladly raised a paw to help.
But for this birder headed to High Island, there would be no getting around this modern day Texas cattle drive. But that was OK, for how often do you get to say you’re stuck on the road behind four cowboys on horses and a big bunch of cattle?
And if you don’t think this is the real deal, check out the spurs, rope and such on this cattleman.
Missing from my photos (besides the smell) are the sounds. The cattlemen’s loud whistles and calls, and the crack of a whip (in the air) that these cattle were trained to respond to, slowly turning from the FM highway into the opened gate leading to land. No hurrying or running, just the calm motion of a familiar routine; expected behavior:
The second unexpected sighting, once past the cattle drive, is what I think is a crawfish farm. So I pulled over and snapped a photo. Whether crawfish or crayfish or crawdads, watching a small boat go by and empty the contents of each red-bobbed basket was a new sighting for me:
And speaking of the unexpected, I have a non-birding near miss to report, after finally arriving at High Island:
Even for a Monday, and even for a non-fallout kind of day, quite a few birders were out and about Boy Scout Woods. So I found one of my favorite quiet spots, and birded in the deep shade of mature Mulberry trees. These Mulberries were loaded with their plump red fruit, just the meal ticket for tired and hungry migrants.
As I stood under the largest Mulberry, with neck craned upward, I got delightful looks at a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, busily feeding on the favored red fruit.
Suddenly I heard the sound of an object crashing downward through the Mulberry’s branches. Assuming the sound to be a probable small branch, broken from the robust dining efforts of a squirrel or other bird, I took a quick step backward, as the noise sounded as though the branch would fall right on my head!
Being too familiar with the stubborn stains of ripe Mulberries, my step backward was made with purposeful haste. And PLOP, landing on the ground right where I had been standing, was a snake! And without purposeful thought, two more of my backward steps made haste.
Now I know that almost all snakes are not harmful to humans, and so this snake crashing down and harming me (by landing on my head!) was not my first alarm. My alarmed heartbeat was that if I had not HEARD the falling object, and had not stepped backward, this snake landing on me would have caused me to SCREAM LIKE A GIRL!
And can you imagine, my quietly birding less than thirty hidden-yards from the human-whispering of those in this birding heaven, and THEY suddenly hearing the screeching squeal of this birder? Oh, the stories that would have been told at my anonymous expense…
And so I leave you with this not so good photo of a disoriented snake that was a near miss. The picture is poor quality as I had NOT the right lens NOR the right mind to focus. I’m thinking it might be a Texas Patchnose snake, just by looks. (You will definitely need to "click-on" photo to see it)
But I don’t know if Patchnose snakes like swinging from trees and dropping on birders, just to get a laugh from the squeals that come out of otherwise quiet humans.