Gilded Moments

Chihuahua and Sonora” is one of my favorite essays from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac

It’s an account of a canoe trip he took with his brother in 1922 at the delta of the Colorado River in Mexico. 

There’s a beautiful passage where he describes dawn in the “green lagoons” as a gilded moment among a wealth of wildlife and fowl, water and sky:

“‘He leadeth me by still waters’” was to us only a phrase in a book until we had nosed our canoe through the green lagoons.  If David had not written the psalm we should have felt constrained to write our own.  The still waters were of a deep emerald hue, colored by algae, I suppose, but no less green for all that.  A verdant wall of mesquite and willow separated the channel from the thorny desert beyond.  At each bend we saw egrets standing in the pools ahead, each white statue matched by its white reflection.  Fleets of cormorants drove their black prows in quest of skittering mullets; avocets, willets, and yellow-legs dozed one-legged on the bars; mallards, widgeons, and teal sprang skyward in alarm.  As the birds took the air, they accumulated in a small cloud ahead, there to settle, or to break back to our rear.  When a troop of egrets settled on a far green willow, they looked like a premature snowstorm.” 

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Reading these words nearly 100 years after the Leopold brothers’ adventure, I am grateful to be creating my own gilded moments exploring nature with the ones I love. 

On February 6, 2021, I went birding with my sister Julie to the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge. We recorded 40 bird species in seven hours. 

On February 23, I went back with my husband Steve.  He was able to get pictures of many of those birds and more. 

Here is a selection of photos from our modern-day explorations of the Brazos and San Bernard River basins on the Texas Gulf Coast:


Ibis

Pheasants? No! Glossy ibis in flight.

Glossy ibis up close.

Glossy ibis, up close.
White ibis. Old blue-eyes.

Sandhill Cranes

A dozen more could be heard (but not seen) farther afield. 

American Coot

American coot

Run, coot!  Run!

Snow Geese

Snow geese in flight. I like to imagine these same geese stopping near my hometown in South Dakota on their way up to the arctic tundra.

One-legged Dozers

Black-Necked Stilts

High-steppin’ stilt
With the pretty pink legs.
Making the teals feel shy

Teals and Shovelers

Blue-winged teals
Green-wing teals
Female northern shoveler
Male northern shoveler

Backyard Birds

Yellow-rumped warbler
Female cardinal
Savannah sparrow

Alligators

You gotta watch your feet when you’re birding in Texas
Alligator statue matched by its reflection
I think that I shall never unsee an alligator hanging from a tree.

Bird Checklists

San Bernard NWR February 23, 2021

San Bernard NWR February 6, 2021

6 comments

  1. I love this, Jenny – your photographs are SO beautiful! I’ve never been to the San Bernard Refuge.
    Bill and I went many times to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and loved it – especially in the winter when the breeding whooping cranes were there.

    Like

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