Friday, June 24, 2016

Hagerman NWR: June 2016

I've come to an unfortunate conclusion about nature photography in Texas during the summer. Namely, that I only have three options. Either be prepared to be out before dawn and finish early, suck it up and deal with the heat, or just accept not going out at all until October rolls around.

Yesterday I chose Option B and drove up to Hagerman NWR. I'd heard that there were Painted Buntings and Barred Owls on the Meadow Pond Trail. And the pollinator garden was in full bloom. Add those to the usual opportunities for waterfowl and other birds and it seemed worth the drive. So with a wide-brimmed hat and a full bottle of water, I hit the road and arrived at the refuge around 11:00.

Grasshopper, Hagerman NWR
Pollinator garden was the first stop, where some unexpected inhabitants were the first to catch my eye: grasshoppers, and huge ones at that!  Fortunately, this one also sat fairly still for me.

Cloudless Sulphur on Echinacea, Hagerman NWR
I didn't see many butterflies.  And the ones I did see were awfully active and didn't stay in one place for very long.  One Sleepy Orange did pay a nice, long visit to an Echinacea.

Grasshopper, Hagerman NWR
I caught another grasshopper on a leaf, then decided it was time to head onto Wildlife Drive.

I spied a softshell turtle crossing the dirt road.  At least, I think he was crossing.  There were tire tracks on either side of him, so I wondered if someone else had not seen him and driven right over him.  But there was hardly any traffic at the refuge, and he didn't appear to have suffered the sort of trauma that would come from having been run over.  I didn't see him as I was driving back out, either.  So I'm choosing to believe that he was crossing, and that he made it.

Killdeer, Hagerman NWR
On my last visit to Hagerman back in April I saw lots of little shorebirds running around.  This time, it was only Killdeer.  I suspect the others were driven off by the heavy spring rains and release from the Lake Texoma Dam.  Fortunately, I like Killdeer.

Dragonfly, Hagerman NWR
I was on the Meadow Pond Trail by 12:30.  I asked a ranger eating lunch in his truck at the gate if he knew anything about the Barred Owls I'd heard of.  He said he didn't, but advised me that it was probably pretty hot on the trail.  Unnecessary, but still a nice gesture.

Things were pretty still on the trail.  Very few birds chirping, and this dragonfly didn't even want to move much.  It was, as predicted, hot. (EDIT: Michael Fox says this is more specifically a Blue Dasher.  And I trust him more than anyone else for dragonfly IDs!)

Meadow Pond Trail, Hagerman NWR
The Meadow Pond Trail is perfectly flat and very straight because it follows an old rail bed.  When it's more than 90 degrees outside and there are hardly any clouds in the sky, being perfectly flat is not enough.  I made it to the bridge past Deaver Pond with barely any trace of wildlife, took one look at the trail seeming to extend to infinity, and decided it was time to turn around.

Deaver Pond, Hagerman NWR
Deaver Pond is green and lush.  And possibly home to many water moccasins.  As much as I wanted to see wildlife, I didn't want to see any of that particular variety.  So I didn't spend too long at the edge of the water taking this picture.

Nothing eventful happened for a while.  I got back to my car, drank all my remaining water, drove back down Wildlife Drive without seeing anything interesting, refilled my water bottle at the Visitor Center, and saw nothing of note on a second stroll through the pollinator garden.

One last order of business.  On my visit in April I hiked the Harris Creek Trail and thought the view north overlooking the Derby Ponds was gorgeous.  Unfortunately, I hadn't brought my tripod and wide angle lens on the hike so I didn't get a shot of them.  I wanted to take another look.

Nature, as if so often does, had a better idea.

Along the walk I spooked a White-tailed Deer foraging in some underbrush.  It scampered off before I got more than a quick look at it.  Then I heard another noise, and saw that she had left behind a fawn.

The cover was too thick for a photo.  So I watched how she was moving and headed to a spot where I could get a clear look at her before she turned to follow her mother.

She made it to the spot I hoped she would ... then turned the opposite direction I expected and headed towards me!

White-tailed Deer Fawn, Hagerman NWR
She seemed to quickly realize her error, but didn't know what to do next.  So we just stood there staring at each other.  Well, she stared.  I snapped the shutter, recomposed, shot again, lather, rinse, repeat.

White-tailed Deer Fawn, Hagerman NWR
She bleated occasionally and panted a lot, but otherwise didn't show any signs of stress.  So I kept taking pictures of her.  She was beautiful.

White-tailed Deer Fawn, Hagerman NWR
Eventually she decided that she shouldn't be out in the open like she was, and dove back for cover.  Then she did exactly what she was supposed to and lay down in the grass, effectively camouflaging herself.  I left her, assuming her mother would eventually return.

New Leaves, Hagerman NWR
My view of the ponds?  It had become almost completely overgrown, so there was no such shot to be had.  Note to self -- next year, take the shot in April.

I did notice some new leaves growing on a tree, and found it interesting that instead of turning from green to red before they died these leaves started red and changed to green as they matured.  The backlight from the high sun gave them a nice look.

I sweated a lot more than I'd wanted to, but about as much as I'd expected.  As happy as I am about having seen the fawn, I'm not sure walking around outside in the middle of the day taking pictures is something I want to make a habit of over the next three months.  But from this day at least I have the memory of an encounter that will be with me long after the sunburn on my forearms is gone. :)


Friends of Hagerman said...

Steve, May we have permission to use the fawn photo you recently posted on Friends of Hagerman Facebook Page for the FOH blog? Sue Malnory

SteveHarbula said...

Absolutely! And thank you so much for asking. :)