Saturday, January 6, 2018

Blackland Prairie Revisited: Protecting Birds and the Environment while Educating the Public

Great Horned Owl from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

Protecting wildlife starts with saving habitat, maintaining native plants and fauna and protecting animals that have become injured or can not compete in their natural world. These animals become ambassadors to show our future stewards of the environment why they are so important and what makes them special.
Barn Owl hissing. from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

Blackland Prairie Raptor Center is doing all of these important aspects of wildlife preservation. I visited their first Saturday of the month, it's the only time they're open to the public and they show the birds that pass through their center. 

They keep the birds as wild as they can be, even the imprinted birds that haven't learned to live in the wild are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. It is quite an impressive operation and much of what I have learned about the Blackland Prairie is from talking with the naturalists there.

Barred Owl from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

They take the time to show you each bird they have and explain their unique situations. I was impressed with how much the children knew about the birds and the difference between nocturnal and diurnal.

Every time I go to the center I learn something I didn't know. Here is a list of some more things I've learned from my visit today.

Red Tailed Hawk from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

1. A flock of Kites is a kettle. The mississippi kite is expanding its range southward. With age comes the more grey plumage and it feeds on mostly insects.

2. I've never heard a barn owl hiss up close. They also shriek and it can be quite piercing to the ear.

3. The tuffs of feathers on the head of the owls break up their round shape and make them harder to see in the wild.

4. A barn owls ears are so intense they can hear a heartbeat and they can actually attack a mouse under the snow without even seeing them.

5. Owls have tubular eyes that are more fixed than other animals and therefore they need to swivel their heads to see.

Preregrine Falcon from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

After the bird show we took a hike on the trails and we learned about blue stem grasses, native grass and invasive non-native species. I learned about another place I had never heard of before today and I very much enjoyed my visit, the park is the Parkhill Prairie near Blue Ridge and it was an amazing visit where I saw hawks and vultures flying in their environment. 

It was a wonderful day.

Red Shouldered Hawk from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

Friday, January 5, 2018

One Amazing Sunset and What's on the Horizon?

This evening I got to watch the sun set and enjoyed so many aspects of its glory. The colors grew from yellows and oranges to salmon and pink and finally a rich red and deep blue.

This wouldn't normally be in the Road Trip section but I thought I would preview what is coming up. I"m planning on getting out road tripping and shooting more nature in silhouette.

Another aspect of nature I've been experimenting with is isolating the bright colors of nature against a dark backdrop. I am excited about the new year, so many opportunities to shoot and explore nature.

I'm running out of new parks close by so I will probably be running up to places in Oklahoma very soon and I plan on kayaking on Daingerfield for Chain Pickerel.

My next trip will probably be up to Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge, I am looking for places to find waterfalls. I am also planning on getting out to Arkansas for the fall foliage this year. Please stay tuned.

Tomorrow I'm planning on getting out to the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center, I will have more photos of owls and hawks so stay tuned. 

In the meantime, I've been doing a 365 day photo challenge so here is a group of sunset images from day 28. I can't wait to see what new places I discover, so many possibilities, so little time.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Cedar Ridge Preserve: A Great Mix of Nature, Exercise and Community

Sumac Berries by ArtbyGordon ©2018
I visited the Cedar Ridge Preserve near Cedar Hill, Texas today. I had actually visited many years ago when it was the Dallas Nature Center.

It is the perfect mix of nature and community,  there were just enough people on the trail that you didn't feel to isolated nor crowded. The paths snake around limestone cliffs and meanders up one hill and down the next.

ArtbyGordon ©2018

There are many large stands of cedar and the shallow roots are like snakes rising out of the chalky soil. They've added logs of cedar for easy hiking and even the steepest trail was pretty easy to maneuver.

ArtbyGordon ©2018

It was the perfect day for a hike, cool enough to be comfortable but not too cold. I worked up a sweat on a few of the steeper paths and the cool breeze was a comfortable temperature.

There are several views where you can see Joe Pool lake and the distant hills. There were a few dogs on the trails but I didn't see that much wildlife or hear that many birds. I did hear some crows, a kinglet and a Carolina wren but it was mostly quiet.

ArtbyGordon ©2018

The surrounding highways were far enough away and their sounds were muffled by the hills of the preserve and the dense cedars and oak trees. Several times along the way I was able to just relax and enjoy the silence of nature.

It was a perfect day and something that I've been craving for quite a while. Nature is an amazing source of strength and peace for me and I left the park recharged. I will definitely go back.

ArtbyGordon ©2018

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Love of Birds and Places to Find Them

I have always had a passion for nature and birds have always been the easiest wildlife to attract to my backyard. Even in the most urban of backyards you can attract all kinds of species of birds, I've counted 40 species passing through my backyard.

There are also so many local places to go see birds. This is a list and some pictures of places I love to go see birds and enjoy nature.

The Blackland Prairie Raptor Center near Lake Lavon in Lucas, Texas. The first Saturday of the month they display their birds and give you lots of information about each raptor. They also have tours of the property where they give you lots of info about the Blackland Prairie and why it is so important in our local ecosystems. I will be there this Saturday with new pictures.

The Heard Museum in Mckinney is a wonderful place to go surround yourself with nature. There are great stands of old growth trees and every time I've stopped by I've seen an owl. Depending on the season, there are many different species that pass through the park and there's a nature museum and even animatronic dinosaurs. 

The Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary trails

The Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary trails in the meadow

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in Sherman, Texas is a great place for waterfowl passing through and many different species of hawks. I have seen flocks of waxwings in the spring and this winter I've been able to get to see the snow and Ross Geese. It's a wonderful park as there are never that many people there and there are many places to hike and explore.

Ross and Snow Geese at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
Waxwings in Hagerman

Trinity River Audubon Center

Trinity River Audubon Center  a 130 acres of wildlife habitat that was originally an illegal dump site and now reclaimed as a haven for birds and other wildlife. I've visited several times and even once volunteered with fellow employees to help improve the park, that's how I learned about the center.
They even have a night owl walk and I'm planning on signing up for one soon.

There are a few others I am planning on checking out in the near future including Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve in Cedar Hill. 

If you can't get out to see the birds, bring them to your backyard. Make sure they have water, seed and Suet available for them. Also it's important to have lots of plants and shrubs in different levels and the birds will use all the different areas to roost, feed and nest.

I have had the following nest in my backyard: wrens, chickadees, bluejays, cardinals, squirrels-they think they're birds-mockingbirds and several different sparrows. I also had bluebirds nest in a previous residence. 

I grow plants specifically for wildlife and have also attracted 35 species of butterflies that also lay eggs, feed as caterpillar and grace the garden with colorful wings all summer. It really is a rewarding endeavor to make your yard a haven for wildlife and it's also a passion that pays in peace and calm. Nature is my favorite addiction.

Red Admiral at Hagerman

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge: A Gray Winter Day

It was a cold winter day. I wasn't sure if I had missed the Snow and Ross Geese that migrate through the park but I decided to take a chance. The ride up was a long misty gray highway and it seemed longer than usual.

I needed a bit of nature, even though my backyard is full of chickadees, kinglets, cardinals and bluejays, there are too many distractions. Too many things to do, the television and the daily life struggles, so I went up to Hagerman to escape for a little while.

I wrote this about the seemed like a long endless gray since Christmas

A Soft Morning, the winter breath of hungry ghosts
gnawing at my spine and cortex
it was as if we were both barely alive
me and this gray landscape
all colors given up
all light and character absent
we were both colorless forms

an old oak
shaking off the autumn
the wind rushed through
breaking limbs
leaving scars
but that's what winter does
it breaks us to the bones
leaving a shell that believes
in spring
that remembers color

A soft morning
awake and alive
but my soul asleep
in some gray lake
where the frost keeps the reeds
in winter all we have left
is our skeleton and a force of wind
our will

The Snow Geese were still there, not quite as many as previously, but just as loud and beautiful. They looked more like large white stones as they huddled in masses in the fields. Again they kept their distance but with less cars they all waddled closer to the road to get a drink. 

What I enjoyed the most was the sound of the constant chatter and a new chorus would begin as another ended. I got out of the car to a huge flog that covered the sky as they reshuffled the flock.

Besides the ducks there were many hawks including several kestrels, red-tailed and red shouldered hawks. As I was leaving I got a last glimpse of a hawk scanning a field outside the refuge. 

It was a very cold gray day but I enjoyed the needed escape. I also got some sketches for future paintings as well, so stay tuned. Let me know what  you thought of this post, more poetry? Less?
Did the photographs make you feel like you were there? I would love any input on this post. Have a happy New Year and get out there and enjoy nature.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Edge of Concrete: Escaping Gray

The light today was flat. An overwhelming gray that dumbed down the entire landscape. It was like a metaphor for my mood.
Amidst all the grays-the light jumps out of the obvious. I sat and listened, trying desperately to get lost in nature. This was a small moment of letting go and being peaceful.

The Edge of Concrete: Escaping Gray
It’s against my nature to not respond. I’m the student that explains to the teacher how much I’ve learned while the lesson is in progress.
It’s natural as a creative to respond, we explain things, we describe things. I get the distinct impression the class has just begun and I need to be silent to fully understand today’s lesson.

The woods are  insistent, both in voice and presence. The only comparison I can describe is sitting by a grave stone or in a tree stand hunting, both of these activities demand silence. We must surrender to the quiet, there is a purpose to it.
The voice is always the same, that constant breathing, the long inhale and that slow expelling of wind. The trees shake, the leaves fall and amidst the uncomfortable silence the lesson begins.

I sit on the ground. So many thoughts seem to be simultaneously shouting for description. I feel so much weight of everything but you never realize it until you sit down. Stop, for even just a moment.
I feel the ache of age, I wonder if the oak feels the groan and bending in the winter wind. I feel every ache and pain, the long walk has my heart rate accelerated, even while its cold outside, I’m overheating.

I remember yesterday the traffic jam, how intense we are in our own lives we don’t realize how life is changing and affecting so many families. Our main responsibility is to savor every moment but do we?
So in this moment as the ground is alive with bugs and tiny things moving around, I am having a hard time keeping my mind from wandering to things to do, chores, ideas, I am overwhelmed. 

It used to be a given that I would get lost in a place like this, but now it takes a bit of work. I struggle, the adult says look at the time, pay attention to strangers, make sure your hydrated. The child that got lost in fallen leaves and could lose himself in the shadows and ignore the thorns…where has he gone? I’m still searching, desperate to be calm…what a grand task it has become even here in the middle of the woods.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Back to the Discovery Gardens: Regroup, Revamp, Recharge

For the last ten months, I have embarked on a sort of deconstruction of Gordon.01. I've learned about sales, people, the ins-and-outs of social anxiety and the precarious side of finding and growing a business.

I've learned certain careers will devour any free time necessary to make them succeed. This is fine as long as the work is in line with your passion than you never truly work. I've learned about the tightrope and it's frightening and liberating ride that makes us aware of what truly living is all about.

I've also learned how tenacious one can be against all obstacles. When you don't think there is anything left in your tank, dig a little deeper and suddenly you're back and more excited than ever.

I also learned about how faith and following God can often be overshadowed by your daily work and often when times are hard is when we seek him the most.

"The tightrope is frightening and liberating, awareness of 
the absence of a net shows us what truly living looks like"

Silence, Motivational speaking and prayer have all become habits that have literally changed my whole scope of mental wellness. I've realized how much depression can be healed even if only for a period of time with the right activities.

After taking a time out from the career I took on, I've gotten back to the gym and know that it is an integral part of feeling good. Goals and direction, discipline and focus are all parts of a successful life and aid in healing depression.

A few days ago, I stopped everything and went to the Discovery Gardens. I found the passion and enjoyment that continues to be my calling. Nature in all its perfection is my secret weapon to keep myself grounded and connected to my faith.

When people are enjoying nature, they are at their best. I got to share stories with people about photography, traveling and art. I stopped and watched as colorful wings spiraled and danced among the beautiful foliage.

It was one of the best few hours I've spent in a while. It's hard to stop long enough to see what's around you and in a place where butterflies are everywhere in every color, shape and size, it really was a few hours well spent.

Artistgordon - Find me on