Specifically established and managed to provide native coastal prairie habitat for the endangered Attwater’s prairie-chicken, the 10,541 acre Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge is home to a wealth of other birds and plant species.

Driven away from the coast by a wealth of newly hatched and unbearable mosquitoes, I decided on Saturday to make a first visit to the refuge. Yesterday’s relatively long drive was worth it; the entire refuge was aglow with a variety of sunflowers, partridge pea, bitterweed, and a yellow ‘something’ that I’ve not yet identified.

From my vantage point on one side of the refuge’s lake, this flower-covered bank — no doubt a combination of species — shimmered in the high noon sunlight; its reflection in the water was lagniappe.


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As always, you can click on the image for a larger and more detailed image.

45 thoughts on “Sunnyflowers

  1. That’s one place I’ve never visited. I’ve driven past a number of times over the years on the way to somewhere else. The sign on Hwy 36 has always intrigued me. But yes, a long drive. As a matter of fact, back when I used to make my annual spring drive in search of wild flowers I would pass by on my way to the Brenham area.

    1. Well, from what I saw yesterday, and from what I’ve seen in the iNaturalist reports, this place is going into my regular rotation. For birders, it’s clearly a must-visit spot, but the variety of flowers and grasses I saw yesterday made up for everything I’ve been missing at Nash. It’s the first place I’ve seen that beautiful pink Gulf Muhly growing wild, and in abundance. There’s a nice bird blind by this lake, too, and it’s an easy mile and a half from the parking area.

    2. I should have mentioned that the auto route is interesting, too, and provides good access to the variety of plants in the place. There’s another observation platform farther into the prairie itself that gives a good view of things.

    1. I’ve never seen the mosquitoes as bad as they were this weekend, and I’ve known ‘bad.’ These seemed to consider repellant a secret sauce, and it didn’t repel them one bit. At the Lafitte’s Cove Nature Preserve, I met the only two people who were willing to take them on: two women decked out in mosquito netting veils and such. Inland was the only answer, and I’m so glad I made the trip.

      1. Did this area get rain with recent tropical storm Beta? The last time I visited Aransas Nat’l Wildlife area, there were swarms of them. I was miserable and moving fast. It was a short visit!

        1. We did get rain, but a bigger problem on the coast was the tidal surge that filled up the marshes. The Brazoria Refuge, the Artists Boat, and the Hamby Nature Trail all took substantial water, and the mosquitoes took full advantage of it. The problem with salt marsh mosquitos is that don’t fly only at dawn and dusk. They’re happy to be out and about 24/7. In time, they’ll disappear again, but they’re terrible when they’re swarming. I came home on Saturday with only one or two bites, but I couldn’t stand them flying into my eyes, mouth, and nose!

    1. Thanks, Derrick. I was particularly taken with the reflection. There’s clearly a depression at the bank’s edge, and I liked the way it showed up in the reflection.

  2. another place I’ve never visited. years back when I was traveling with regularity to Big Bend I would query my companions if they knew what the different yellow flowers were called. one guy told me that (some at least) of the yellow wildflowers were referred to as ‘yellow composite’ because they tended to cross pollinate. I have no idea how true that is.

    1. Your friend was both right and wrong. One of the common and humorous terms for yellow flowers in the sunflower family is DYC, or “damned yellow composites.” They’re akin to the LBBs that birders talk about; like the ‘little brown birds’ that are so abundant and so similar they’re hard to identify, the DYCs can be a real chore to get right.

      Many of our yellow flowers belong to the Asteraceae, or Compositae — the sunflower family. They’re called ‘composites’ because they contain two kinds of flowers. What I used to call petals I now know are ‘ray flowers’, and the center of the flower is made up of ‘disc flowers.’ Like a compound sentence, a compound flower is composed two parts.

      As for pollination, plants like sunflowers will both self-pollinate and cross-pollinate, but that isn’t why they’re called composites.

    1. It was such a bright and pretty scene, and the entire refuge was filled with various kinds of yellow. There were other plants, of course, but when yellow decides its time has come, other colors have to fall in line!

  3. I love the reflection in the water! Sorry to hear about your hungry mosquitoes, Linda. With all those tropical storms currently brewing in the Gulf, things might not settle down for a while — good you were able to get away, even for a brief time!

    1. Well, I look at it this way. The mosquitoes will go away eventually, and in the meantime — if it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t have made it to Attwater. Besides, I found quite a bit of damage from storm surge and flooding in some of my favorite coastal spots, so it was a good time to visit a new place. As for these new storms? I don’t have time for them. They just can go elsewhere!

    1. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful sight to wake up to every day? You’d have to plan carefully, though, so you could have different blooms at different times of the year.

    1. I smiled when I came across a cautionary note in their interpretive materials. I can’t find it again, but it said something like, “Yes, the prairie chickens are here, but don’t expect to see them. They’re shy.” I didn’t see a single bird while I was there — chicken, prairie chicken, or otherwise — but I was there at the worst time of day for viewing. I’ll plan better next time.

  4. You couldn’t have arranged the colors, lines, and shapes of that scene better if you tried. Gorgeous and worth framing (but who has enough walls these days…oh, that’s sad – who has enough walls for all the beauty?)
    Anyway – glad you got out – the mosquitoes are horrendous and nothing deters them – good it’s cooler so long pants and sleeves are tolerable.
    (Compound flowers – ray flowers! The last is a perfect name and description, I never knew what to actually call them before. Thanks)

    1. There’s a really nice bird blind overlooking the lake, but I walked a little farther down the trail to find an unobstructed view, and I liked the way it came out. The haze and humidity washed out the colors a bit, but the photo is pretty close to the way things looked: not postcard pretty, perhaps, but interesting.

      Botanical nomenclature can be confusing, to say the least. Ray and disc flowers are easy enough, but there are somethings I have to look up every time I come across them. Some of it I don’t need to know, but I do like to be able to identify things properly.

    1. Aren’t those reflections great? I was surprised to find the lake, and the creek that runs through the refuge. I’m anxious to return, but only after it’s a little cooler and a little less mosquito ridden.

  5. That yellow reminds me of the kind of ‘tater salad that has a hard boiled egg yolk or two creamed into the moistening sauce.

    Just to share because wonderful, heard tell of a young girl born deaf, but who was able to hear after an operation at about age 5. She had a great adventure discovering the sounds the world made. Up until she was actually confronted with the real live bug, though, she thought the cicada noise she was hearing was the sound that sunshine made.

    1. That is a great story. It reminds me of Annie Dillard’s recounting of details from Marius von Senden’s book, Space and Sight: “One patient called lemonade ‘square’ because it pricked on his tongue as a square shape pricked on the touch of his hands…”

      I’ve always thought of cicadas as nature’s white noise. They’re beginning to quiet down now, but I love hearing them in the height of summer.

    1. They’re terrible little beasties, those mosquitoes. I usually can fend them off with spray and such, but on this weekend, they seemed attracted to the spray. My tolerance for nature goes only so far!

  6. Yes, here in Australia we are expecting the flies to arrive. You will see news reportage when politicians are outside while being interviewed are forever wiping away the flies crawling over their faces, concentrating round the eyes and nostrils hoping for some moisture to be available.
    You will notice often people trying to wave the flies away. It is now a from of a greeting. One way to lure flies away is to have an open sardine tin some distance away.
    I can well understand the need to drive somewhere dryer and escape the mozzies.

    1. I wondered if someone would notice the yellow in the trees, and you did! The more I looked at the photo, the more I enjoyed those echoes of yellow threaded through it.

    1. One of the nice things about this little lake is that there are places where the banks surrounding it offer at least a little elevation. That’s what allowed getting both the color of the opposite bank, and the reflections. It certainly is happy-making, isn’t it?

  7. That’s quite a bright and beautiful project for the Prairie Chicken. And the reflection is impressive. The color palette very nice also. Of course I am not a fan of drought but at least ours was the cause of a very small mosquito population this year.

    1. Believe me: we know and appreciate that side benefit of drought. Freezes are good, too, although they’re not quite so effective in containing the little buzzy things.

      I saw a notice last night that West Nile’s been found in some populations in Brazoria County, so the aerial sprayers are going to be out in force for a couple of days. They may bypass the refuges, although they do have some sort of concoction that has been approved for use in such sensitive areas. One of the most interesting presentations I’ve heard was by a member of the Brazoria County mosquito control team. It’s a complex business; they don’t just load up the plane with lethal doses of whatever and take off.

      1. I am sure a lot of thought and science goes into the spraying strategies. Collateral damage to both humans and other creatures is of concern as well as water quality since that’s where they breed. It has to be extremely bad here for any spraying to be considered in populated areas. And believe you me, I have a very good supply of both Permethrin and Picaridin. This boy learned his lesson.

  8. A golden blanket spread upon the shore, just for you! Alternatively, welcoming you to the the mosquitoes’ picnic, where you were the guest of honor.

    Attwater is one of our very favorite places! We are apparently quite rare as we have been there three times and seen Prairie Chickens on each visit. Lots of other birds, wildlife and flora, too. Can’t wait to return!

    1. How wonderful that you’ve been to Attwater; I’m not surprised, given your love of birds. It’s always fun to share photos of a place that others know. Maybe some day I’ll get to see the prairie chickens — although not seeing them will be fine, too. It’s a beautiful place, and I’m looking forward to exploring it more thoroughly once it cools down a bit and the flying beasties depart! I do have a few more photos I’ll post once I sort through them; they show the variety there, both the prairies and the riparian areas.

    1. I can’t remember ever coming across ‘mozzies’ for mosquitos — what a perfect word. It combines ‘mosquito’ and ‘buzzy’ rather nicely. With any luck, their numbers will have declined by this next weekend; at least I don’t have to contend with them at work.

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