Daytime temperatures soar well over one hundred degrees in Dallas during early August. The chance to encounter some of the larger animals living in the Great Trinity Forest really drops off as a result. Down to a near zero chance of seeing one. Rather than a traditional 4pm Saturday visit to the river, I went down at 4am instead.
|Time exposure of the full moon and stars over the Great Trinity Forest|
|Moonlight filtered through the ancient Post Oaks|
The first hundred steps are always the hardest. When hiking through the woods in the dark, your hearing plays as much a role as your eyesight. Since your eyesight becomes so muted, your hearing seems to magnify many times.
Finding toads and frogs is easier at night than in the daylight. Using their calls coupled with a brief red-eye flash from a camera, one can see the glowing eyes of a frog bounce back.
The Great Trinity Forest has a variety of frogs and toad species. In addition to the Green Tree Frog, there are species of the Leopard Frog(both Plains and Southern) and the Texas Toad(both Texas and East Texas Toad).
|East Texas Toad|
My resident go to guy on herpotology, Michael McNair is still on the mend from being struck by a car in May and just recently released from the hospital after spending almost 40 days in Baylor's ICU. He would know more about these amphibians off the top of his head that I would know scouring wikipedia for their ID.
Foxfire Fairy Fire
|Bioluminescent Foxfire fungus|
Scientists are unsure as to why some species of fungus are bioluminescent. One possibility is that the faint glow attracts insects, which proceed to disperse fungal spores. Thus, in the case of fungi bioluminescence may serve as a form of reproductive assistance.
Parade of the Pigs
I have been able to find the same feral hog sounder this spring with pretty good success. Knowing where they are and when they are active lets me follow them at a distance with ease. The trick has been the daytime heat. When the weather gets too hot, they are not active until after dark. That poses a problem seeing them in the high grass they enjoy.
Recently, I found that by hacking the software of my Canon using an opensource program called Magic Lantern, I could(in theory) use the camera in very low light conditions like a full moon. It's not perfect but works better than a human eye in very, very low light conditions.
The result is below, filming a 19 pig sounder parading across a mudflat well before dawn.
It was so dark that the pigs did not even spot me, standing out in the mudflat, in full view. It's fun to watch them crossing the mud, all in a line, wary of the dark around them at that early hour. Pigs have excellent senses in the smell and hearing department but have really poor eyesight.
|Great Trinity Forest Under A Full Moon|
|Dawn Breaking Over The Trinity River|
With the rise of the sun and setting of the moon it was time to head over towards Little Lemmon Lake to rendezvous with Dr Tim Dalbey for a look into some River Otters and Spoonbills that had been sighted there earlier in the week. Drawing a blank, he showed me around Roosevelt Park, Bruton Bottoms and Oak Creek on a driving tour, scouting out areas to explore in the future. I'm excited about what might lie up that way, vast out of the way sloughs, wetlands and swamps. We came across a dead beaver on Bruton Road, probably killed by a vehicle within the last few hours. Moving it off the road, it must have weighed well over 50 pounds and appeared pregnant. Some reckless driver killed it for sport from the looks of things.
|Spoonbills at Little Lemmon Lake|
Before making our way back to where I had parked, we swung by a potential pre-historic Indian site and a set of historic outbuildings. Walking down the trail only 100 yards we encountered this nice young healthy 6 point Whitetail Buck.
It was probably wondering what two humans were doing so far away from a road, so far away from just about anything. Funny that this is all inside the city limits of Dallas!