Pundt Park: What I Love About Forests

Therwpid-img_20140510_113206.jpge’s a certain way the light falls in a forest that just makes my heart tremble with excitement.  It’s a spill of sunlight across a swath of leaves gathered at the edge of a fallen tree, or the emerald green of moss creeping up a tree base.  It’s rounding a bend in a trail and seeing a path, bright and warm with sun.  It’s the mix of shadows and light playing across pine needles and forest debris.

Pundt Park offered all this and more last Saturday.  This 380 acre park in Spring is part of the Spring Creek Greenway system, and offers a large system of multi-use and dedicated trails.    That means equestrians, bikers, hikers and geocachers are all out there together on some trails, but not on all of them.  Some of the trails go all the way to Jesse Jones Park from here. There are two pavilions and a playground, and plenty of forest to explore.wpid-img_20140511_110855.jpg

If you like Jesse Jones Park, you’ll like Pundt Park.  The terrain is very similar.  We want to go to Jesse Jones again next, but I want to come back to Pundt and explore.  I spent most of my time talking to others in our group and playing trivia, and only spent about an hour out on the trail. What I saw was just a tease; a tease of what looks like a really great forest.

CRNT #5: Wonders of Nature

wpid-img_20140501_172811.jpgWell, I’ve been back to my favorite spot; by hike and by bike, alone and with family, not with the dogs since the last time I wrote about it but maybe sometime this week.

These are some of the things we’ve seen along the way.  Above, a Loggerhead Shrike looks over his kingdom.  wpid-img_20140501_172942.jpgCottontails show very little fear of humans as they hop around foraging for food.  I’ve seen about a dozen this week, around trees and along the culverts, sitting right along the trail next to fences.

wpid-img_20140501_174443.jpgA pair of Mallards floating side by side on the edge of this pond area.  They were not a breeding pair – actually were two males, interestingly enough.  Haven’t seen mallards all year, then I see them out of town and get all excited, only to come home and find some in my “big backyard”.

Along my walks and rides out in this area, I have contemplated how much this area has changed.  We were out here in September of 2010, before we moved in together.  We had borrowed my parent’s canoe for a paddling event, and took it out to the water here to make a find on the island in the middle of the lake.  At the time, there was nothing out here.  I was having trouble even placing where we parked and entered the water.  I thought it was at a school, but I am guessing now it was actually the Lakehouse, a neighborhood clubhouse nearby where my son is taking art lessons now.

It is funny how things change.  It makes me think about how everything changes like this; if you look back on your first impressions of something, and then compare it to what you know now, you can feel that sense of change.  Like the progression of a relationship with a person, my relationship with this place has changed over time.  I am so much happier with it now than when I first “met” it.  

Cinco Ranch Nature Trail #4 – The Darn Dog

birds 1“Daddy, did you hear that dog?” said the little girl who had just passed us on her bike to her father next to her.  “Yes, I did,” he said.

I was not surprised.  I bet everyone at the lake last night heard my dog.  The little girl was referring to the whining he was doing when they passed us, similar to the whining he did every time we switched directions, stopped for a second, saw another dog, got passed by a jogger.  Somebody needs to either get out more, get more exercise, get his nuts removed, get a shock collar, or be worked with more on calming the eff down.  He was driving me crazy, and not contributing to my goal of simmering down from the work week and releasing the stress headache I had going on.

Also, he does not make a good birding companion.  When I stopped to look with the binoculars at the rich bird life I was seeing along the way, he would whine and tug on the leash, like “let’s go already!”.  When I sat down on the grassy creekside to watch the ducks in the special duck place, he could not stand it, fretting and whining and trying to break his down-stay.

In the end, though, he and I (and Breeze, who was a very good girl) got about an hour of exercise, and I ended up being very happy with the walk overall.  I discovered that the secret place of ducky delight is even better than I thought.  There were all kinds of interesting birds there last night.

Even better than a little cove full of black bellied whistling ducks is a cove full of blue-winged teal.  Sure, there were a few whistling ducks there, and probably at night, they do own the place, but this late evening, it was the blue winged teal that had taken over.  The whistling ducks look absolutely gigantic next to these smaller, more delicate ducks.  My cell phone camera is not great, but you can see the much smaller ducks in the background and the whistling ducks in front.

birds 3Also, there were a few more unique birds, like a couple of black necked stilts.  A handful of what I believe to be dowitchers fed nearby.  There were also a few herons (great blue, little blue, perhaps some unidentified) here and there.  Further down the path, by the side of the big lake, I saw a black crowned night heron sitting there unperturbed by my dog’s whining.  I also spied a loggerhead shrike perching on a branch, which is the third time this past week that I had a possible shrike in my viewer, so I am counting it.  A small bird with a medium bill flitted about on the rocks feeding from the edge of the lake, which I am thinking was a western sandpiper.  Red winged blackbirds sang chirpy songs at each other from little trees on the sides of the creek.

My favorite part of last night, though, were the barn swallows.  Dozens of them were swooping up and down above the creek that leads to the cove, going back and forth between there and the tunnels that make up the nature trail.  Golden bellies flowed below blue wings in a graceful arch up and down that was soothing to watch, but impossible to capture by photograph.  Some things you just have to commit to your memory instead.

Earlier this week, I was captivated by some scissor tailed flycatchers who were arguing in and out of a tree at the soccer fields.    This is also something I will have to commit to mental memory.  I only barely got a good look with the binoculars.  That brings my bird total up to 83 for the year.

I am loving the CRNT more and more every time I go to it.  I can’t believe I have lived here over three years and am just now discovering it.  I am glad I am finally getting over being sick, because it was a bummer to be missing some migration action.  Good thing I caught those blue wings now, because they will be gone in a couple of weeks.  I am hoping my ankle will start feeling better soon (it’s been giving me some trouble for a few weeks) and we can get back to our bike rides and seeing more birds.

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