Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lake Jackson

We've been here for six months now and today was the first time I've been on Lake Jackson, despite its being only a couple miles from our house. It's a pretty good size urban lake that disappears every few decades when the silt plug in the limestone karst gives way and the lake goes into the ground until a new plug builds up and about a lake's worth of rain falls out of the sky. It's up now as high as many people have ever seen it. I've checked it a couple times now, but either didn't have a boat with me (just looking at the launches) or didn't find it appealing. Aimee's been bugging me to go since we got down here, but I wasn't excited about paddling on an urban lake that could turn into a giant flushing toilet. Besides, the part you can see on North Monroe Street looks like one giant lilly pad (not much water to speak of). On Sunday we went to the state park down the street from the launch on Crowder Rd to check out the Indian mounds and walk the nature trails. Afterwards we drove down to the boat ramp to look at the lake and see what there was to see. It was a pleasant evening with no wind and there were lots of birds, and for the first time I thought it might be nice to paddle there sometime.

Prospects for paddling were bleak today, as there was a 100% chance of rain, and it could last all day. It was already falling when I woke up at 7 this morning, so I pretty much gave up on it, especially after seeing the huge green and yellow mass on the radar. I ran errands and did responsible stuff for a couple hours. Then by noon it had started to clear and by one the sun was out and it was mid-50's and there wasn't any wind to speak of. I was on the lake by 2.

I didn't really go far, but I spent about 2.5 hours out poking into the swollen marshes and fingers watching birds. The birding was fantastic. I saw: pied-billed grebe, double crested cormorant, great blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, tricolored heron, white ibis, hooded merganser, turkey vulture, osprey (hit the water twice and caught a fish on the second try), American coot by the hundreds, killdeer, greater yellowlegs, belted kingfisher, eastern phoebe, tree swallow, European starling, yellow-rumped warblers (aka butterbutts), red-winged blackbird, grackle, and I'm probably forgetting some because that's a lot and I didn't bring a pen/paper with me, which I should in the future. Add that to all the warblers, wrens, cardinals, robins, chickadees, woodpeckers, and hawks I saw in the backyard this morning and that makes for a pretty good birding day.

There were lots of huge (almost fist-sized) snails that seemed to be associated with clumps of vegetation. Further research suggests that they are the Florida Apple Snail and the biggest snail in North America. I'll take a photo next time.

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