Brenda and I decided we wanted to go "Alligator Hunting", so we headed off to the trail around the lake. As we passed the Prarie we were amazed to see THOUSANDS of spider webs glistening in the early morning sun. I didn't think they would show up in a photograph (still learning!) so I didn't shoot any pictures. After getting home and seeing the sunrise picture I didn't think would work, I really wish I had tried for that shot too! We slowed down and just gazed out at the beauty before us, then headed slowly through the woods and onto the trail where we were immediatly greeted by our second alligator of the morning. Time to start adding to the "Gator Count"!
We got to the 40 Acre trail itself and were greeted with these helpful Moorhens. They started the parade down the trail!
On the side of the trail opposite the lake you can see the marshes. You have to check out both sides to see the alligators and add them to your "Gator Count". As we were passing this section I saw this Little Blue Heron posing on the branches of a dead tree. Actually, I think he was checking out his soon to be breakfast, but it sure FELT like he was posing for me!
We continued our walk looking at both sides of the trail for alligators and we spotted this box turtle checking us out.
We were totally amazed at how the birds seemed to lead you along the path. We got quite a kick out of following these two Great Blue Herons as they lead us around the lake.
We finally reached the end of the lake part of the loop and were now ready to head back into the wooded section of the loop. Final total for our morning loop "Gator Count". TWENTY-FOUR!
After joining Rick at the picnic tables we headed toward the parking lot to go check out a new trail. While there we were fortunate to meet Bill, one of the many State Park volunteers. He told us the names of some of the birds we had seen, and gave us a lot of useful information about the park itself. He recommended that we go to the Nature Center and we could actually pet an alligator. That was too cool to resist so we headed that way! We had to wait for the center to open so Rick used the time to take some pictures of the trees shrouded in Spanish Moss and Brenda and I headed back to the campsite to pick up some items he needed. While we were at the tent we applied healthy layers of Deep Woods Off to our exposed skin and clothing and put the can in the car to give to Rick when we got back.
At the Nature center we DID get to pet a baby alligator. They aren't at all what you would think. The scales are soft and pliable and actually felt pretty smooth to the touch. The baby we were allowed to pet was a year old and was about to be released back out into the park.
We also got to walk through the different learning stations they have set up in the center. It was really cool to see how they laid out the different environments and talked about all the different cycles of nature. You could really tell that this was set up for school tours and included all the TEKS for Life Science!
Bill had also suggested since it was getting hot we might enjoy walking the Red Buckeye Trail. This trail is part of a network of trails in the forest section of the park. We knew we weren't going to see alligators, but Bill told us there were many species of butterflies along that trail at this time of the year. We drove down to the trailhead and hiked for a while on the WhiteOak trail to get there. It was hot, muggy, and not very scenic...but we trudged along. We finally got to the Red Buckeye cutoff and started down the trail. It was quite muddy after the recent rains in the area. Rick stepped over a puddle in the middle of the trail and told us quietly to stop. We looked up at him and he looked like he was in an "OFF" commercial. He was COVERED in mosquitos! I mean they were so thick in places you couldn't even see skin! Oooops, guess we forgot to tell him about the can of Off that was sitting in the car for him to spray on! We got off that trail VERY quickly! It was a mutual decision that the butterflies weren't worth a zillion mosquito bites!
We decided that we would hike Elm Lake instead, so we drove down there to see if we might be able to see some different wildlife. It is very much like the 40 Acre Lake trail, just a little longer. We left the parking lot and hit the trail.
From the path I noticed this group of Moorhens in the grass. As I was shooting two of them started squaking loudly and one flew into the air....looks like they are yelling at each other!
Loved the look of these two birds on the branch of a tree against the beautiful blue sky!
Even though this lake isn't as well know for the Alligators as 40 Acre Lake, they ARE here!
As we were walking along the path enjoying the wildlife we spotted a movement in the grasses close by. We were lucky enough to get to see a Momma Moorhen and her little chicks at the water's edge feeding.
I couldn't tell if this was a Great Egret or a White Ibis, but wanted to try my luck at getting a bird in flight shot.
We were on the final stretch around the lake when I spotted this Anhinga wading in the shallows. This bird generally swims underwater to find food, and spends part of the day on branches in the lake drying his wings. I thought I was pretty lucky to get a shot like this!
Everyone was getting tired and hungry, so we decided to head to the car and let Al lead the way. We plugged Needville into the GPS (aka Al) and followed the directions. Needville is a very small town and as we drove through we only saw a couple of places to eat. One, The Jay Cafe, had several cars in the parking lot so after making a quick stop to pick up some Calagel for the insect bites we headed there for lunch. We are so glad we did. We had some of the best "homecooked" food we've ever eaten! The lunch special was Fried Catfish, French Fries, and Coleslaw. Then we each got a piece of pie for dessert. One word sums it up...MAAAAARVELOUS!