Tuesday, June 16, 2015

30 Days in June: Day 15, Sunset at La Chua Trail

Sunset at the Prairie
It's been very hot the past few days and it seemed like a good time to visit to La Chua Trail in the evening. The symmetry of seeing one side of the Prairie during the day on Sunday and the other side in the evening on Monday appealed to me. And it would be fun to look for owls and watch the sunset. Thinking that the sun would be less brutal by 6:30 pm, I foolishly left my hat at home and spent the first 45 minutes there shielding my eyes with my hand. It was awkward at best. But eventually I was able to put my hand down and relax. I do think that half my face is sunburned, though.

 Evening Resting Spot for a Black Swallowtail
Flocks of White Ibises and Black Bellied Whistling Ducks were coming in to roost for the night. I passed a Cottonmouth Snake moving across the path, maybe on the hunt for Cotton Rats. I walked quickly down the trail to have enough time at the observation tower before it got dark. I passed the carcass of the dead Softshell Turtle I had seen last week. It was hard and dry, like jerky, after being in the hot sun all week. It still smelled awful.

White Ibises Coming In

Turtle Carcass
The light on the Prairie mellowed as the sun got lower in the sky. Majestic fields of American Lotus spread beneath tall clouds. I was pleased to see both the Wild Spanish Horses and the Bison grazing near and past the observation platform. The scene was peaceful and lovely.

Lotus and Clouds

Wading birds and ducks gathered and fed in the mudflats. There were Glossy Ibis, Spoonbills, Black Necked Stilts, Great Egrets, Herons and Common Gallinules, to name a few. Fellow birders, Danny and Deena were at the platform and helped me locate some Black Necked Stilt chicks. Despite their best efforts, I only saw dark blobs. When I looked at the photos on my computer I still couldn't make them out. I'll have to try to see them in the daylight. I was able to pick up Mottled Ducks for my list.

Horses Near the Platform

Evening Birds

Glossy Ibis
The sun was almost down and the temperature was cooler. The dragonflies helped keep the biting insects under control, but that wouldn't last long. It was time to get back to the boardwalk for a chance of seeing an owl.

Sun is Setting Fast Now
Alligators had been congregating on the banks, catching the last rays of sun. Now they were heading into the water for the night's hunt. We caught glimpse of a pair of babies waiting above the waterline. Feeding time must be hazardous for the youngsters.

Watchful Gators
A pair of Black Bellied Whistling Ducks stood together in the Lotus marsh. And a juvenile Least Bittern clung to the top of a Lotus stalk, looking very much like a scared blossom.

Black Bellied Whistling Ducks

Juvenile Least Bittern
The sun hung just above the horizon and it was getting darker on the trail. I was fortunate to meet another birder, Lloyd, who was also looking for owls. He pointed me to a Great Horned Owl as it flew from the treeline and out over the Prairie, and helped me hear the raspy sound of a chick calling from the woods. Another bird for my list.

Last Bit of Sun
The Dragonflies were done for the evening and the mosquitoes were starting to bite. I left without getting to see a Barn Owl, but the night was a beautiful success anyway.

June Challenge Total: 86 Birds, 19 Natural Areas Visited

Twilight Falls Over the Prairie

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