Saturday, January 30, 2016

Pecan Flats Trail

Teri and I are finishing our second month at Inks Lake State Park. Time really flies!

The park has about 8 miles of hiking trails, but the trails have been closed during much of our stay because of controlled hunts in the park. Now that the hunts are over we decided to check out the 3.5 mile Pecan Flats Trail. The trail features 28 interpretive points and a nicely done booklet describing each point.

Cedar Waxwing Flock
We immediately encountered several large flocks of Cedar Waxwings. They seemed to be enjoying Mistletoe berries, and Teri spotted this pair feeding one another.

It was sunny and unseasonably warm. Male Northern Cardinals were singing like it was Springtime!
Northern Cardinal
While much of the trail was along a creek and featured large Pecan trees, some of the walking was on exposed Gneiss and Granite. There were some interesting rock formations along the way.

This trail provides access to a small primitive camping area. The area is far away from the lake and seldom used. We were tickled by this sign at one of the sites. Clearly no cocktails, but what about beer??
Campsite Sign
Sparrows tend to be drab, but I think the Black-throated Sparrow is a sharp-looking little bird.
Black-throated Sparrow
There are many types of cactus in the park. We think that this is Lace Cactus but are not sure. Anybody know?
Lace Cactus?
We saw a few common butterflies, which is a surprise in late January. We have had many freezing mornings, but these guys were out enjoying the sunshine just like we were.
Common Buckeye
Variegated Fritillary

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Balcones Canyonlands NWR

Teri and I have been enjoying our time at Inks Lake State Park in the Texas Hill Country. Today was cool and drizzly, but we decided to get out and do some exploring at the nearby Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.

Balcones Canyonlands is made up dozens of different tracts of land set aside as habitat for Golden-cheeked Warblers and Black-capped Vireos. Most of the areas are closed to the public, but the Doeskin Ranch tract has about 6 miles of public trails and we decided to try them out.

The forecast was for rain so we stuck to a couple of the shorter trails. The Creek Trail follows a beautiful clear creek and has several interpretive stops and a trail guide. Doeskin Ranch was a working cattle ranch up until 1992, so there were several old buildings, fences and roads to see as we walked.
With the wet year we've had the creek and springs were flowing well. In dry years the creek apparently dries up, leaving only a couple of water holes for the wildlife.
Small Waterfall
We also hiked the Pond and Prairie Trail, and saw a small group of Ring-necked Ducks that flushed before we got close enough for pictures.

Our visit was shortened today by rain, but we'll return once the weather improves to hike the more extensive Rimrock and Indiangrass trails on more elevated areas of the refuge.
Perhaps we will look into volunteering at this refuge in the future.