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

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