Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bastille Day With The Swamp Coyotes

Quoi ! des cohortes √©trang√®res Feraient la loi dans nos foyers ! Quoi ! Ces phalanges mercenaires -La Marseillaise

What! Foreign cohorts Would make the law in our homes! What! These mercenary the English translation of La Marseillaise the French National Anthem. Fitting that those words describe how the coyotes of the swamp feel surrounded by so many foreign birds from afar. The gawks, squawks and howls of the birds sounding alarm seemed to interest and somewhat annoy the curious coyotes crossing a few hundred yards of open water.

The sultry steam of a Texas mid-July morning is felt as soon as the sun clears the trees of the Great Trinity Forest. In the sawgrass flats that surround the swamps, the heat beats down in a merciless manner even at 7am.

Coyotes wading across drying lake in Great Trinity Forest July 14, 2012
Many people think that coyotes are a nocturnal animal. That simply is not true. In places where humans rarely venture, coyotes are often out in the daytime. The trick is being able to see them. Tough to do among the high grass and dense triple canopy foliage that rings Lemmon Lake. The coyote photos were taken around 9am with the coyotes moving southwest to northeast across the shallow lake.

Coyotes, Black necked stilts, Great Blue Herons, White Ibis and Egrets
Lemmon Lake is in a transformation at the moment. Changing from a lake to a shallow wading body of water fairly rapidly. Over the next few weeks the lake will probably go completely dry, just like it did last summer. It creates a feast for wading birds and a death sentence for the fish and shellfish that moved into the lake during winter flooding. It's a natural cycle. One that repeats itself yearly. The lake is a precious resource for the wildlife down there. One that often creates strange relationships as seen in the photo above.

Roseate Spoonbill July 14, 2012
The original purpose of this visit was to fulfill a promise I made last winter to show a couple guys some Wood Storks and Roseate Spoonbills. We luckily saw both those birds within the first ten minutes of our visit.

I get a lot of enjoyment seeing others witnessing this stuff unfold in front of them. It's a special kind of something that happens down there when adding friends to the mix that increases the experience.

Wood Storks and Roseate Spoonbills are a rare sight in Dallas. I'm not sure there are even any at the zoo. To see them with the sunrise cracking over the horizon is a special sight and one I wish more people could see for themselves. The problem is though, how do you balance something so obscure, remote and unique without ruining it. In the past week I have seen people going to silly lengths to photograph the birds here, ones that scare the birds away and ruin the experience for others.

I have been photographing the birds here at Lemmon Lake for a few years now. It's an interesting experience to see the same Roseate Spoonbills come back to the same lake and same roosting trees year after year.

I went through my old photos and compared the 5-6 Spoonbills that spend time at Lemmon Lake with the current 2012 Spoonbills. I can identify 3 of the same individuals from years past in 2012. Migrating from Mexico and Central America to spend time at Lemmon Lake year after year is really cool.  It would be fascinating to see what part of the world these birds spend the rest of the year.

I feel responsible for others spooking and scaring them off since without my mentioning the birds or the lake, I don't think anyone would venture there. I have learned this week that some folks cannot see the forest through the trees and will go to whatever lengths it takes to get a photo. I'd like to see the birds come back next year and years to come. I'm not a birder, environmentalist or some kind of green advocate. Far from it. But I do recognize something really special when I see it.

Wood Storks In Flight Over Lemmon Lake July 14th

Roseate Spoonbill


  1. Great photos as always. I must have bad timing because I never see anything more than a few birds at Lemmon Lake but I may go tomorrow and hopefully I'll get lucky. I'd love to see coyotes in the wild.

  2. David,

    The birds move around quite a bit and it can be hit and miss seeing them. The Wood Storks move in from the east, I have no idea where they spend their time or roost at night. It could be as far away as Seagoville for all I know. Without some prolonged rain, it will go dry soon. Another week and most of the lake will be dry.

  3. It's Julie from KPMG here! Either the woods down there are full of wildlife or you are just really good. We were talking about some of your other posts and thinking about how lucky you are to bump into these scenes. Now we know that's not true. It's because you know what you are doing. Also, this whole blog thing you have going on is just like how you are at work. You do incredible amounts of work behind the scenes to help others, then give them all the credit. Or let them take it. You just stand back.

  4. It's always a joy to tag along with you Ben. It was another special day. Thanks for another adventure

  5. I love the pictures, feels like I am just there...beautiful, I never catch these kind of beautiful moments. When is the best time to be there?

  6. I love these editorials and the pictures are amazing! We have been sharing them with Oak Cliff via our link share site at

  7. Thanks. This time of year, in the heat of the summer, the best chance to see wildlife is before 8am or after 8pm. The larger animals are really only active at night when the days are hot. In early October that changes somewhat. The deer, pigs, bobcats and coyotes are more active after 5pm. I just come across the animals, I never go looking for them or sit around waiting. We just cross paths.