Sunday, March 20, 2016

Texas Tulips: Beauty in Pilot Point Texas

I watched a story on  NBC 5 News about Texas Tulips in Pilot Point, Texas. Saturday morning I was on my way to Pilot Point. I had to see this, a field full of multicolored tulips just an hour away.

It was a perfect day for it too, cool, sunny and a little bit windy. There is a $2.50 per person entry fee, the parking is so well organized and the people running the place are very friendly and helpful. You pick your own and they pack them up for you, just in time for Easter.

When you first get there, all you see is a crowd of people in a field full of colors, I was envisioning impressionist paintings with every turn. There were young children with cut tulips trailing behind parents, lots of selfies, happy couples and many like me taking pictures of the whole scene.

What also interested me is the story and idea of how Texas Tulips got it's start. The story epitomizes the American dream of having an idea and building a business from your passion. Watching your inspiration grow much like the tulips in the middle of a field somewhere in Texas.

The story begins in Holland almost 40 years ago. The Koeman family started a horticulture farm that grew to include leeks, chrysanthemums, irises and tulips. The son Pieter joined the family as the company gradually developed a reputation of having early tulips. With the passing of their father, Piet Koeman, the company changed course and settled in Pilot Point where they found fertile soil. country charm and nice weather and an opportunity to meet the people that bought their tulips. Texas Tulips was born.

There are so many different colors and varieties, the way they are laid out across the field in rows is a work of art in itself. I enjoyed watching people just enjoying themselves being out among such a beautiful colorful backdrop. 

Besides the amazing colors and varieties, I was impressed by the names like Ice-Cream, Flaming Parrot and Monsella. I enjoyed the atmosphere, almost felt like I was in an impressionist painters' dream and I assure you there will be paintings to follow. 

I would highly recommend checking it out if you get a chance to take a ride to Pilot Point. I'm really enjoying a recent trend of finding out of the way places close to home-stay tuned for next weekend, sure what I'll discover, part of the excitement of exploring the road.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Trinity River Audubon Center

Had a day of volunteering with colleagues from Texas Instruments at the Trinity River Audubon Center. First of all, I never realized a place so beautiful and pristine was so close to downtown Dallas.

After taking a shuttle through the city, on a very gray overcast day  we arrived at the gates of the nature preserve. It’s the largest urban hardwood forest in the United States at 6,000 acres.

Besides the hardwood forest, there is a wetland and remnants of the black land prairie. On our tour we learned about switch grass, invasive Johnson grass which some of our group worked to remove and the three hundred species of birds that pass through the refuge.

The bird-shaped visitor center is composed of recycled materials, from blue jeans insulating the ceiling to renewable bamboo for the flooring. The windows of the building are slanted to avoid the chance of bird strikes and all water that hits the roof is easily collected and recycled.

It’s nice to see an idea that works. This beautiful landscape was once an illegal dumping site which took the city three years to clean up and now it is a pristine landscape that is a testament to people caring about nature and nature restoring itself.

We looked for the screech owls that are nesting now, listened to a Pileated woodpecker and learned about all the different mammals that leave their tracks on the muddy trails, including bobcat, coyotes and deer.

The river and its way of changing the landscape was our project as well. We moved granite rock to cover the muddy trails that the flooding caused.

It was great to see coworkers unite for a cause and I must admit their work ethic was as impressive in volunteering as it is with projects at TI. It truly is a great bunch of people to work with.

I am planning on getting back for birds and brew and the night walks calling for owls. I still am amazed how close a beautiful landscape is to the city and it’s nice to see environmental projects that work and improve our community.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hagerman Wildlife Refuge

I've been talking about visiting this park for years and I finally made it today. It is so close to home it was really a short easy ride but the landscape was just beautiful.

I felt like God was showing me all the greatest designs of nature with a light that changed through the day always bringing me another amazing view of the spring landscape. I have not had this feeling of peace and simultaneous excitement standing behind a camera in quite a long while.

First of all, the greens were so rich and the storm that wrestled with the sky all day made the most amazing light and shadows that changed as quickly as I could shoot. I haven't had this feeling of excitement watching birds in a long time too.

I found a field of rich green grass that held large pockets of mallards, pintails, buffelheads and even a few dowitchers. I was able to sit on the side of the road and just enjoy the wildlife without feeling I was in anyones' way and yet I didn't feel like I was so remote as to feel vulnerable.

There were flocks of song sparrows, meadowlarks and the largest group of cedar waxwings I've seen in a while. There were cardinals, crows, herons and egrets and I noticed a flock of white pelicans that surveyed the sky in the midst of a darkening storm.

I stopped by the visitor center and the people there were not only proud of their park but they were able to tell me where a large flock of waterfowl were. I got a magnet, a beautiful magnet at that-hand painted I believe.

I got to walk on the Meadow Pond Trail but I wasn't up for the full 5 mile walk, I did get to see the first pond. I was completely alone except for two couples that I saw along the way. It was one of those amazing moments where you are emersed in wildlife, the sounds of frogs on the roadsides and cardinals calling along the fence rows.

The trail is actually a very old train track so it's wide and quite easy to walk, on either side there is water both from the pond and from standing water from recent rains. Along the way I was able to photograph red admiral and sulphur butterflies. All of the yellow wildflowers were alive with the sound of honey bees and I forgot how much I missed that sound.

I will definitely get back to Hagerman for another adventure and believe it will probably be a regular place for me to go to get away and enjoy nature. I would highly recommend this place both for its close proximity and for the beautiful, natural place it offers, I will be back for spring migration.

Hagerman Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center

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