Now first I’ll preface this post with the reasons for jumping to an overseas locale. This year, I spent my first Christmas away from Australia, instead visiting Fort Worth in the north of Texas, America, visiting my partners family.The upside? The chance to see some new and interesting wildlife in areas I had never really journeyed to before and to learn about the diverse ecosystems of the area. The downside? It was absolutely freezing (without snowing mind you, so what’s the point of being so cold??). This would be my sixth visit to the States, so I know it reasonably well, but my previous visits I had never had a fancy camera accompanying me, nor did I ever really think about the wildlife, the flora, the landscape, the habitats. So, instead of donning the cowboy boots and fixin-to the array of fast-food available in this part of the world, I chose to check out some popular bird spots, lakes and woodlands, as well as some popular wildlife spots to see what I could find.
… NOW to the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens
Highlights – Great Horned Owl, Wood Duck
The sun was shining and a short, but extremely pleasant, B-Bike ride from downtown Fort Worth along the Trinity River left my partner and I at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. As a guy in my late 20s, Botanic Gardens could be perceived as kinda lame and boring but I do find them interesting. I’ve been to a few around the world now and they never really strike me as mundane or unexciting. These gardens in Fort Worth were a relaxing mix of manicured gardens, local, untamed natural habitat, ponds and open spaces; a myriad of small, pleasing spaces intermingled gently together. The garden’s 109 acres provide habitat for local bird species, common ones but varied. The greater Trinity Park/Fort Worth Zoo/Botanic Gardens precinct prove to be great habitat for local birds.
The Native Texas Boardwalk was the most bountiful for us, bird-wise, with local, Texas native species growing on the east side, and exotic, invasive species growing on the west. I was lucky enough to snap Swainson’s Thrush, Northern Cardinal and a Downy Woodpecker in the old Oak trees.
As we were leaving, a much obliging Northern Mockingbird confronted us and decided to misinterpret the spiny undergrowth as a hidden veil of barbed protrusions. In actuality, I could see right through and almost touch the bird. It just sat there never looking at me, lost in its new, pointy world. Great poses for a few snaps!
We entered the ponds where a healthy amount of semi-remnant bushland remains, providing old hollows in the old Quercus trees. Suddenly, a Great Horned Owl flushed from a tree behind us, gliding silently over our shoulders and across the pond itself. So graceful and hushed. Unfortunately for us, the owl had disappeared amongst the dense canopy, possibly into one of the many hollows that littered the forest. I didn’t get the shot, but was super pumped for the sighting. My disappointment was short-lived as a look to the left netted me some Wood Ducks, several, wading in the steady pond, shy and flighty, surprisingly difficult to see, let alone photograph. I was lucky for some shots as a few males drifted by in the fading sun. A beautiful bird, common, but what a duck! The Wood Duck was essentially extinct at one stage in the early 1900s, as they were regularly hunted for meat and plumage, primarily sold for women’s hats in Europe. The enactment of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act 1918 saw Wood Duck’s numbers begin to recover as unregulated hunting and habitat destruction ceased. Lucky for us, the numbers recovered and this spectacularly gorgeous bird can live to see another day.
All in all, not a day wasted, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden proved a peaceful day of birding. I never saw another Great Horned Owl that day. But I hadn’t seen one for 28 years previous. And a life bird ticked proves a day not wasted.