2011 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
Previous       2011 Journal Topics       Home       Next
 

   WEEK 2 @ BRAZOS BEND: CRITTER COUNT

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 20

 
"The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
 

I mentioned in the last entry that the weather has been much warmer the past week, resulting in more flowers and green leaves. The warm weather has definitely brought out the alligators this week, too!

On Friday I counted a total of 55 different 'gators on a 13-mile bike ride around Elm, 40-Acre, and Creekfield Lakes and on the Spillway, Big Creek, Horseshoe, and Pilant Slough Trails. I got off my bike (it's lying next to the trail) on the Spillway Trail to take a picture of this big guy:

The other six days I routinely saw 'gators on land and in the water when I was walking or cycling, just not as many as on Friday.

'GATORs GALORE

Here are some of the alligators I saw this week; I'll include more in a subsequent entry about our weekend patrol job.

The easiest place to spot 'gators is right in or along the trail, as in the photo above. On sunny days they are often stretched out in the grass between the water and the trail.

I saw this pair on the Pilant Lake side of the Spillway Trail:

 

Other times they remain partially in the water to keep cool, like this 'gator in 40-Acre Lake:

Many of the alligators I saw this week were sunning themselves on islands 50-100 feet from the levee trails around Elm and 40-Acre Lakes. They are easier to spot when I'm walking than when I'm on the bike:

Young alligators love to climb up on logs in the water. You have to look pretty closely to see them:

Above and below:  juvenile 'gator on a log in Pilant Slough

The hardest alligators to spot are the ones swimming 'way out in the water. Sometimes it's hard to tell if it's a 'gator or a log, unless you can see the distinctive outline of the head or body:

These three young fellas were easy to see near the 40-Acre Lake pier. I think 'gators like to hang out there because fisher(wo)men sometimes toss fish to them:

I missed seeing all these 'gators our first week at Brazos Bend. They are the main draw at Brazos Bend and visitors (even CG hosts) are disappointed when they don't see at least several of them each day.

BEVY OF BIRDS

There seemed to be even more birds around the lakes this week, if that's possible. There are numerous perching, shore, and wading birds, birds of prey, and swimmers like ducks and geese:


Kingfisher in Pilant Lake  (2-15-11)


Egret in Old Horseshoe Lake  (2-18-11)

Many birds live here year-round. Others visit on their way farther south in the fall and north in early spring.

This week I've noticed some flocks of small, black migratory birds coming through the park in swarms, chattering and blackening the sky as they move in undulating waves from one feeding spot to another.

HERE PIGGY, PIGGY

Jim and I have also seen lots of wild pigs this week. Those suckers are BIG.

I saw about two dozen hogs in the woods on the remote Creekwood Trail one day when I was hiking with Cody and tried to take pictures of them, but they ran too fast when they heard us for me to get any good shots. Here's one from a distance:

Last night Jim and I both saw a whole field full of pigs in the Elm Lake picnic area while we were doing our weekend patrol duty before closing time. As we drove by in the park truck we shone a search light on them; they just kept on digging for whatever critters they eat in the dirt and didn't run. It was too dark to take pictures of them.

The fog was so thick the light beam barely penetrated the mist but we could see eyeballs peering out at us from the woods as we drove through all the camping areas, picnic areas, and "The Longest Mile" out to HQ to hand in our report.

The coolest sight was all the alligator eyeballs reflecting off the water at the Elm Lake picnic area! I wasn't able to get a picture of that, either. The 'gators in the picture below are on the far side of Elm Lake during daylight:

The other camp hosts promised us we'd like that job! I'll talk more about weekend patrol in another entry.

WANTED:  DEAD OR ALIVE

Let's see. Other critters I've seen this week . . .

There are more turtles sunning themselves on logs in the lakes:

We see deer everywhere, especially in large groups near the Nature Center when we're going to maintenance meetings at 8 AM. We've seen fewer when we're out on the trails.

Armadillos and raccoons are everywhere. Fortunately, I've seen more live armadillos than dead ones. This is one of two armadillo carcasses I saw near Old Horseshoe Lake this week:

This was my week for skulls. I found a steer skull on Sawmill Trail across from a ranch:

Occasionally those cows get loose and visit the park near its boundaries. I think someone probably just threw the skull over the fence into the park, however. Good thing Cody wasn't with me then (I was riding my bike) -- he might have freaked a bit when he saw that, like the concrete "skulls" that spooked him at Huntsville State Park one year.

I also saw this skull on Creekwood Lake Trail; we think it's a deer skull:

If not, someone please tell us what it is (was).

Then there are the raccoons . . .

RACCOON TALE

Raccoons are mostly a nuisance at Brazos Bend because they raid the large trash containers in the campgrounds and picnic areas every night and leave quite a mess for the rangers and park hosts to clean up the next morning. Even though the bins all have four heavy metal lids, most are beat up enough that they don't lie flat enough to keep the raccoons out. I'm surprised the rangers haven't put locks on the lids yet, like campgrounds do in bear territory.

There is one such large trash container within sight of our camper (until the leaves all come out) but far enough away that we can't smell it, hear the raccoons, or see what's going on.


Pilant Lake (2-15-11)  (You'd rather see more scenery than a trash bin, wouldn't you??)

There is no recycling at Brazos Bend (long story) so every evening we're taking a bag of trash and kitchen garbage over to this bin. Friday was no different.

Saturday morning, as usual, I followed Cody through the woods behind our camper to pick up his morning pile of poop. As we neared the garbage container I could see some plastic poking up through one of the four lids on the hinged side.

Upon closer inspection, I could see exactly what it was and knew what the culprits had done. I just couldn't figure out how they did it in a nearly-empty dumpster with smooth metal walls that are about four or five feet tall.

One or more raccoons had gotten into the large bin and somehow carried a gallon Ziplock-type bag with a spoiled piece of Sam's Club "3-Alarm" cheddar cheese in it from the floor of the dumpster, up the metal sides, to the hinged side of the lid at the top of the bin and forced the bag part way though the 1/2-inch crevice. I don't know if they ate the cheese inside the bin or outside.


Pilant Lake  (2-15-11)

How do I know what was in this bag (besides reading the label)?? Because I'm the one who threw the cheese away!!!!

Not only is it amazing that the raccoons dragged the bag (at minimum) to the top of the bin . . . it boggles the mind to think what that potent cheese is doing to their GI systems!! That's some VERY HOT cheese.

I'm torn between guilt and amusement . . .

I wasn't sure I'd tell anyone about it except Jim but when I confessed to the other campground hosts at a cookout we had this week, they all thought the story was funny enough to repeat.

TRAIL SCENES

Continued on next page . . .

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

Previous       Next

2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

-