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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wildlife tragedy/Wildlife bonanza

When I drive from my house to nearby Tomball, south on State Highway 249, I pass a couple of nice-sized little ponds on the right.  If it is early morning, I will usually see one or two herons or egrets there, having their breakfast.

Yesterday, we were headed into Tomball in the early morning for our regular Monday breakfast date and I looked toward the ponds as I always do.  I blinked and looked again.  I couldn't believe my eyes!  There were hundreds of water birds there!

These ponds like most ponds in the area are drying up, stranding all the fish and other water-based life there.  The egrets had discovered this and had flown in by the scores, followed quickly by other kinds of water birds.

I didn't have my camera with me when I passed by yesterday, but I had to go back into town at mid-day today and decided to take my camera with me.  There were not nearly as many birds there at that time of day, but there were still well over a hundred, feeding in the two ponds, where normally there might have been one or two.

(I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures.  They were taken from the shoulder of the highway, a good distance away.)

  In this section of one of the ponds, you can see a good number of Great Egrets and smaller Snowy Egrets.

These egrets are standing on top of what was the bank of the pond.  You can see how little water there is left.

Another shot showing the bank.  Normally, the water would reach up to the line of grass.

Just a few inches of water left where these Great Egrets are standing.

  In addition to the egrets, several Roseate Spoonbills had gathered to partake in the feast.

At the smaller of the two ponds, which is now almost entirely dry, it wasn't just water birds that had gathered. About a score of Black Vultures had flown in to help clean up the decay left by the receding waters.

A few White Ibises had also come to the banquet.

The drying ponds provide a brief bounty for these birds, but what will they do when the ponds are gone?  Meantime, in spite of the birds' good fortune, it is hard not to feel sad for all those little fish and other water critters trapped in their drying ponds with no possibility of escape.  Perhaps the best they can hope for is to become a quick meal for a hungry bird.  Better that than being left to gasp out one's last in the merciless sun.

Multiply these two ponds by the hundreds and probably thousands all over the state that will soon be only a memory in this worst-in-our-history drought and you can begin to imagine the dimensions of the wildlife holocaust that we are facing.  It is not only the birds, fish, and frogs that depend on these ponds.  They are life itself for deer, rabbits, coyotes, raccoons, foxes, o'possums, bobcats, and all manner of other animals.  Many have already died.  More will follow.  The vultures will continue to eat well. 


  1. You're right, ponds are drying up all over, Dorothy. On our way out to Hockley at the weekend, we saw a flight of at least 50 egrets going overheard. They looked wonderful in flight, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to know what type of egret they were.

  2. More and more, we are seeing concentrations of birds as water resources dry up. That probably was the impetus behind the 50 egrets you saw in flight, Jayne. It would be unusual under normal circumstances to see so many together in flight.