Nature Therapy: Wild Goose Chase

“What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Emergence From The Madness

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m glad all that is over. If you have no clue as to what I’m talking about, you may be more of a recluse than I am.

Every political season makes me dislike people, and I really want and need to like people. Traditional prime time, cable, or satellite TV churns out the same old crap as the last election season, and entertainment value seems to be the sole purpose anymore.

I am picky about what goes into my head, so I stay off social media, delete unwanted political emails, and listen discerningly to friends’ gossip (to know what to go and fact-check). Vetted journalism is where I like to go for information, conservative and liberal alike; it’s work to get all the facts straight.

But sometimes, it’s nice to be entertained too, when the circus calls for it.

Overall, the strategy worked, my sanity was saved, energy reserved for more important and urgent matters, and the relationships I cherish all remained intact. And like any other period of insanity, we turn to nature for a spiritual recharge afterward.

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge

Anahuac NWR is that great spot for viewing winter arrivals from within the vehicle or out and about strolling or biking along canals or on raised boardwalks. It’s quiet. One can actually hear nature’s symphony conducted, not drown out by automobiles and other audible intrusion. Birds of all kinds are quite at home here.

Last time we visited was to see a particular bird that had set up shop underneath a concrete slab at the end of Frozen Point Road. He ain’t from around here. And like all misfits, birders from near and far hope to see the darling in his unusual habitat. We didn’t bother driving out to him this time, but we fondly remembered him from back in February.

Burrowing Owl

Out Of Place
Burrowing Owl

Many species of geese winter along the estuaries. The vast open plains of Anahuac host very large colonies of water fowl. You can usually locate them by sound alone, there are so many. On this trip, we heard the familiar ‘honking’ of geese in the distance, but we didn’t see a single one the entire day. And we were looking.

Still, walking among the huge Bald Cypress trees at the visitor’s center is healing and rejuvenating. The ones in our yard are just now beginning to change foliage from green to orange signaling the impending consumption season.

Someone Drained The Swamp
Exposed Bald Cypress ‘Knees’

Keeping eyes to the skies certainly has its benefits. The recently cooler weather painted the skies a deep blue. Northern Harrier are year ’round residents along the marshes; though we weren’t counting or logging any species with eBird on this trip, we witnessed more of them than ever before…15 or more.

American Kestrel were also busy along the high lines. The sun was always on the other side of them making it difficult to get a decent photo. Other hawks were even kind enough to fly within shooting range.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Sandhill Crane

Not Geese, But
Sandhill Cranes!

When the ole camera crick-neck kicks in, I turn to the ground and into the reeds. Autumn is the perfect time to look among the flowers on the paths as the ground will be prolific with insects — particularly small, dainty butterflies. We added some new species to visual catalog and chased and stalked with reckless (but careful) abandon.

Pearl Crescent

Pearl Crescent

The Vermillion Flycatchers were still by the pond at the entrance, same as last time. They apparently like it here and return faithfully.

Sometimes a chatty bird helps us with ID before even seeing it. The familiar call of a wren-type turned us to the grasses. We guessed it was a Marsh Wren by the habitat. We were right.

Marsh Wren

Sassy and Stinkin’ Cute
Marsh Wren

It was I who noticed the rat snake under the bridge. He was several feet long and apparently was digesting a meal. He was quick to slink away under the bridge after this shot. The kids and hub missed him completely.

Don’t Forget To Look DOWN
Rat Snake

Cormorants are considered ‘rats with wings’ in some parts. They are well-adapted in the water and are often seen with just their heads out swimming around before submerging again after some food. This is the first time I’ve gotten close enough to capture his beautiful face.

Neotropic Cormorant

Mr. Blue Eyes
Double-crested Cormorant

Scottie is my bug kid. When he finds a caterpillar or beetle and doesn’t know what it is, I try to take a photo for ID later at home with field guides and photos on the internet. Like a walking encyclopedia, he is usually quick with an ID for a moth or butterfly I’d never seen before. He’s good.

Henry's Marsh Moth Caterpillar

Henry’s Marsh Moth Caterpillar

Having the big lens strapped on, we used the camera phone instead to play a bit with nature. This guy looks like a monster that needs restraining.

Steady There, Old Boy
John Pets a Praying Mantis

The zing for the day was a bird that I see every day but can’t seem to photograph: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Like the kinglets, they are zippy and fast and are always obstructed by leaves and twigs as they forage in the canopy. He not only jumped into an opening, but he placed himself into sun for me as well. Thanks, little buddy!

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Never Stays Still
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Like any other outing with a purpose, we may not have gotten the prized geese, but we walked and talked as a family and enjoyed our day in the sun and fresh air.

We ticked one more species to our annual count:

  • #248 Fulvous Whistling Duck

This morning, we are geared up to spar with the rest of our class. We test for our green belts in just a few weeks!

Related Posts

Do you have a favorite wildlife refuge to visit?

Get outside, people!

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