|Birds of the Great Trinity Forest hunting quarry near Joppa at dawn|
|Eagle Scouts Richard Grayson and Bill Holston talk to local Joppa fisherman Edward about his luck catching catfish|
|Flock of White Ibis with a second year immature coming into land near Cell G Lower Chain of Wetlands|
|The dedicated fishermen of Joppa|
The hot fishing places during flooding turn into premier birding spots down the road once the sun works the ponds over for a few weeks.
|Willie with a crawfish he caught by hand using kite string and a chicken liver|
|White Ibis with crawfish|
When the rains from the heavens stop and the skies clear. When the flood waters began to fall, the wading bird action can begin.
Hack Guide To Birding The Lower Chain of Wetlands
|The dried, silted and scoured lower chain of wetlands north of Loop 12 in Dallas. Master Naturalists Bill Holston and Richard Grayson begin the walk north from the old Sleepy Hollow Country Club lot.|
Early bird gets the worm when it comes to seeing wildlife during the summer months along the Trinity. Before the crack of dawn, getting down into the woods or high grasses before the birds stir is really the only chance to get up close and personal.
Like the world of real estate, location is everything. Timing and some keen observation skills fill the gaps on where to see birds.
The focus is Wetland Cell G and the recently flooded wooded and high grass areas to the immediate west of Cell G in an area known as Honey Springs by locals. At right, an area bounded loosely by about 75 acres inside the red circle, serves as a prescribed path beginning at the old Sleepy Hollow Country Club parking lot.
|Crested Caracara hovering over the Lower Chain of Wetlands enjoying a rising thermal|
|Little Blue Heron catching a crawfish|
As a group, the wading birds are primarily carnivorous and eat just about anything that does not eat them first. Prey items range from insects, spiders, and other invertebrates, including substantial amounts of shellfish, amphibians like frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, and skinks. Reptiles such as lizards and snakes, small bird species and nestling birds, and small mammals such as mice are in the wheel house of their diet.
|Yellow Crowned Night Heron|
This is when their long, graceful, “S” shaped necks come into play. In a classic case of form following function, the cervical (neck) vertebrae of the ardeids have evolved into a long, snake-like coil configuration, allowing for an incredible store of coiled flex and extension.
|Great Egret snatching a shad from the surface of a pond adjacent to the Lower Chain of Wetlands Cell G|
|Little Blue Heron with a Largemouth Bass at the Lower Chain of Wetlands|
|Reddish Egret, Great Trinity Forest, 2015|
In fact, the Reddish Egret possesses one of the most aggressive foraging modes of any North American bird species. The Reddish Egret at left was in the Great Trinity Forest summer 2015. Listed as a threatened bird by the State of Texas, it represents a special sighting for Dallas County. As far as endangered birds go, only the Whooping Crane, Wood Stork, White Faced Ibis and Reddish Egret are on the list. The Whooping Crane is the only bird not documented in the Great Trinity Forest. Radio data and GPS tracking suggests a group of Louisiana Whooping Cranes briefly visited the forest in the summer of 2013.
|Egrets and Ibises in the early morning summer light|
|Second year immature White Ibis in foreground with adult White Ibis in background|
The White Ibis (Eudocimus albus). Highly sociable in all seasons, the White Ibis roost and feed in flocks. White Ibises are often seen flying in lines or V-formations, with several quick flaps followed by a short glide. When groups wade through shallows, probing with their long bills, other wading birds such as egrets may follow them to catch prey stirred up by the ibises.
Until recently the White Ibis was an uncommon sight here in Dallas. From late May through September they are now easy to spot along the wetland cells and in the shallow evaporating lakes that dot the Great Trinity Forest.
At right, a White Ibis tackles an enormous crawfish in the Lower Chain of Wetlands, summer 2015. Many of the crawfish(crayfish) have grown to enormous size due to ideal habitat conditions.
|Master Naturalists Bill Holston and Richard Grayson on a dirt road next to Cell G|
|18 wheeled dump trucks kick up dust along the Lower Chain of Wetlands August 2015|
|Great Blue Herons intermixed with Great Egrets|
Great Blue Heron
|Great Blue Heron in a pond at the Lower Chain of Wetlands near Honey Springs, summer 2015|
|Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron standing among a flock of feeding White Ibis|
|A pair of Black crowned night herons in a dead willow next to the old Sleepy Hollow Country Club parking lot|
The Black-Crowned Night Heron is a small, wading bird that reaches lengths of about 2 feet with a wingspan of up to 4 feet. They have black plumage on top of the head and back with grayish-blue wings. The underside of the neck and belly usually a brilliant white. It also has a thick black bill and short yellow legs.
The night herons have a shorter neck than other herons assisting them in their stocky appearance when compared to other wading birds.
Two long white slender plumes extend from the back of the head while in breeding plumage. There unique vocalization, “quock”, is often heard at or around dusk as they fly to their feeding grounds
|Black crowned night heron coming in for a landing|
|Yellow crowned night heron|
|Snowy Egrets stalking breakfast in the early morning sun, summer 2015|
|Walking on water, a Snowy Egret nails a small shad right on the surface|
As its name implies, the Snowy Egret is all white. It has a long thin black bill, grey to yellow at its base during the nonbreeding season. The lores and irises are yellow. The long, thin legs are black with contrasting yellow feet, sometimes with yellow green extending up the back of the lower legs.
|Snowy Egret with a fish|
Many incorrectly see the land down here as a durable asset. When in fact it is fragile, rare and disappears as fast as the setting sun.