Into the New Year

Bryan Adams Memorial Sculpture ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

 

If this life of ours
Be a good glad thing, why should we make us merry
Because a year of it is gone? But Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering, “It will be happier,” and old faces
Press round us, and warm hands close with warm hands,
And thro’ the blood the wine leaps to the brain
Like April sap to the topmost tree that shoots
New buds to heaven; whereon the throstle** rock’d
Sings a new song to the new year—and you?
Strike up a song, my friends, and then to bed.
                             ~  from The Foresters: Robin Hood & Maid Marian ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

 

** ‘Throstle’ is an older word for song thrush.
About the sculpture:
Bryan Adams served as Environmental Education Coordinator for the Mid-coast Wildlife Refuge Complex: the Brazoria, San Bernard, and Big Boggy refuges. He was dedicated to educating people — especially children — about the wonders of nature; each year, the refuge programs provide learning opportunities for up to three thousand elementary and secondary students from local school districts, the Houston School district, and Rice University. After his death, the bronze sculpture of the children was selected as a fitting memorial. A dedication for the sculpture and a new pond is planned for January.

Enough, Already!

When it’s hot and droughty on the Texas coast, freshwater ponds begin to dry, and wading birds that have nested along their edges sometimes find life complicated by the vicissitudes of nature.

This baby black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), one of three being led across a desolate mud flat by its mother, finally tired of the heat and exertion and just sat down — unwilling or unable to go on.

After only a minute or two, the mother realized one of her brood was missing, and came back to have a little talk with the tired one.

I couldn’t hear the conversation, but I suspect she sounded like any mother: “If you want some shade, some water, and something to eat, you’d better stick with us.”

Whatever she said, it was enough to get the baby on its feet again, ready to rejoin the family.

Despite the distance across the dried-up pond, they were fast walkers. One of the other chicks tended to dawdle and missed being included in this photo, but it wasn’t far behind. Even at the time, the well-camouflaged chicks were hard to pick out against the mud.

(Click to enlarge the image, for a better look at the chicks)

Soon, all three were tucked away in a safer location. As they disappeared into the small thicket of broken reeds and vegetation, I wondered which of us was more relieved.

In time, wings will grow and rain will come. They’ll begin enjoying life as the graceful beauties that they are, and I’ll be glad to enjoy them again.

Adult black-necked stilt foraging at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

Water Colors

View from the Big Slough boardwalk ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

When August-like heat, typical Houston haze, and Saharan dust combine to create nearly-unbearable days and uncomfortable nights, a trip to the water is in order.

Some prefer Gulf beaches, but for those whose taste runs to fewer people, less traffic, and fewer beer-fueled antics, one of the area’s wildlife refuges can be the perfect destination. A new boardwalk over the Brazoria refuge’s Big Slough provides occasional glimpses of alligators and birds, while inviting admiration of aquatic plants thriving there in the summer’s heat.

Water lily (Nymphaea spp.)

With blue sky above and clear water below, this lily’s  reflection couldn’t have been more refreshing. 

At first, I assumed it to be our native white water lily — Nymphaea odorata — but that plant floats on the water and closes by noon or early afternoon. These flowers stood well above the water, and continued to bloom until late afternoon. The spots on their sepals suggested they might be dotleaf water lily, but the leaves didn’t seem quite right.

Whichever species they might be, their afternoon display was lovely.

Here, a flower and bud are surrounded by a combination of duckweed and Carolina mosquito fern: velvety green fronds that turn reddish in full sun. A staple in still or slow-moving waters, the fern sometimes is confused with the so-called red tide: a microscopic algae (Karenia brevis) that occasionally appears in Gulf waters. But this plant is harmless unless it completely covers a pond, when it can reduce the water’s oxygen content.

Water lily and bud surrounded by Carolina mosquito fern (Azolla caroliniana)

Like blue water, these tiny red plants provided a fine backdrop for the white lilies. Elsewhere, a more subtle green was the order of the day, as a different sort of bud — still unidentified — rose from the water.


Lovely as red, blue, and green might be, no summer is complete without a bit of yellow. Only two hours after I arrived at the boardwalk, several of these gorgeous native water lilies began to open. The common name ‘banana lily’ hardly fits such a beautiful flower; another common name — ‘sun lotus’ — seems more appropriate.

Yellow water lily (Nymphaea mexicana)

The Saharan dust is moving on and rain is in the forecast, but there are weeks of heat ahead. I can’t think of a better way to cope than by revisting this slough, and these lilies.

 

Comments always are welcome.