Saturday was a beautiful day! Temperature in the low 80s, no rain, no clouds. So with schoolwork for the week done, I decided to head over for a hike and see what birds were around. With all the rain lately, surely there would be plenty out and about, especially in the mark area. I was really looking forward to this.
The first thing I see as I’m getting my equipment together is a 4-wheeler carrying my new friends Owen and Lynn Richards. Owen was nice enough to pose for me, but by the time I got the camera pointed in the right direction, he was seated back down.
As I begin my trek toward the Bittern Marsh area, I hit my first obstacle. With lots of rain, comes lots of water. The lake is full and they are letting out a lot of water into the river. Consequently, the west side of the trial heading to the marsh was flooded. No problem, I’ll just take the high ground and take the east side of the loop. Perhaps I can find another way past the flood on the way back on the west side.
As I enter the wooded area, I realize that I’m not seeing a lot of wildlife today. I also notice that in the woods, the breeze is not blowing and the humidity is pretty high. No problem, I brought along three bottles of water.
Finally, I spot a Hairy Woodpecker up in the trees, just on the north side of the marsh. The trail doesn’t go near the tree it is in, but I still manage to get a few semi-obscured shots with the 600.
I continue on, around the east side of the marsh, and then realize the trail on the south side is flooded as well. No problem though as there is an alternate path on a higher piece of ground, so I take it. In the mean time, I’m realizing that I’m really glad I wore my water-resistant hiking boots because by now, my tennis shoes would be soaked!
Finally make it around the south side and up to the marsh, when I realize that with the exception of about 4 or 5 American Coots and another couple who were headed out to the boardwalk over the marsh, the marsh is empty today.
Drats! Okay, I’ll admit it. By now, the tripod, 7d with the 600 attached, and the 5d2 with the 24-105 attached were starting to get a little heavy. But hey, that’s one reason I’m out here, for exercise and staying in enough shape to lug all my equipment around. So, time to head up the west side of the trail back to the parking lot.
Hmm, where’s all that water come from? Yep, the western path to and from the marsh is flooded all the way down to here. Can’t even make it to the boardwalk without some serious wading. I’m scouring the trees, but still no sign of egrets or herons, or much of anything for that matter.
Resigned to the fact that the path is blocked, I head back the way I came. Of course, this hike just got about 1.6 time longer than I had expected, but hey, like I said, that’s one reason I’m out here.
On the way back, I decide to take a few environmental shots. May as well use the time I’m having in nature to enjoy the scenery. I stop at a footbridge and notice this very peaceful scene, and down a half a bottle of water.
A little farther up the path, and I see this barbed wire, looped and hanging on a tree branch. Reminds me of something out of an old western, so I take a photo.
Back the way I came. By now, I’m through two bottles of water and my shoulders are really feeling the weight of the equipment. As I approach the area where I had seen the woodpecker earlier, I’m searching the trees to see if it is still around, and if it has any friends. I stop and set the tripod down to scan the trees and reset my shoulder. It sure is peaceful… and quiet… except for a strange rustling noise. That’s strange. I wonder what that could be. I listen again. Surely that’s not a rattle snake. I start looking out in the woods beside the trail, searching for anything that might be slithering along the leaves. Then I look straight down… and my heart stops… if only for a brief second. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I was suddenly about 10 feet away looking at this, right where my foot was just seconds before!
Well, it took a bit, but I slowly calmed down enough to gather my thoughts, even though I was still shaking a bit. But then I noticed that it wasn’t moving. Had I stepped on it without knowing? It’s head was all thrown back and it’s mouth was side open, so I slowly approached. As I got closer, nope, it was still alive. It’s mouth opened even farther and it tail began to vibrate. I didn’t see any rattles, and I’m admittedly not real familiar with snakes so I’m thinking maybe this was a young rattle snake that just hadn’t grown its rattle yet. So I get my shot, and realize just how close my foot was to this thing. I spend about 10 minutes there wondering if I should do anything or not when I hear voices approaching. The couple from the boardwalk.
As they approach, I holler and let them know that there is a snake on the trail. To my surprise (and relief actually), the gentleman tells me that he is the ex-president of the North Texas Herpetological Society (they study reptiles) and he slowly approaches the snake. I told him I thought it was a rattle snake because it was shaking its tail, but he informs me that it is “just a water moccasin.” I’m thinking to myself, “and that’s supposed to make me feel better?” But knowing that there was someone present that knew about snake was a great relief. (It is funny how God can orchestrate things so that needs are met at just the right time.)
Long story short (I know, too late), we talk a bit and then I follow my new friend and his girlfriend out of the woods like scared school-boy hiding from a bully behind the teacher. As we are walking, I find out that his name is Jeff Justice and he is the staff photographer at a local hospital! So not only did he know about he snake, he could have given me first aid if needed!
We finally make it out (alive) and exchange information. While I didn’t get the shots I went in looking for, I came out with a new friend and a shot I never thought I would take. You just never know how your day is going to turn out, so be prepared for anything.
Keep shooting (and be careful)
All shots made with the Canon 7D & Canon 600 f/4 IS + 1.4x and the Canon 5d2 & Canon 24-105 f/4