I got off work at 0700 this morning after a 24 hour shift and drove out to Spring Canyon at the base of the Lake Meredith Dam. It’s really just the Canadian River Valley, but since the dam was built in the early 60s it’s an easily accessible wetland with marshy reed beds and five ponds. One of the ponds is inaccessible by the public since it’s on private land. there’s also a slough that runs several hundred yards down stream that drains seepage from the dam and there are cattails running down both sides of it. Unfortunately, an area around the largest pond has been developed as a swimming and picnic area, although I seem to be more annoyed by the crowds than the birds are. There’s also the ever present pipelines (this is the Texas Panhandle, after all) that are exposed as the cross the river valley.
All that said, it’s still a beautiful place early in the morning before the crowds arrive, especially when the wind is still and I get out there early enough to enjoy the sunrise. Red-winged Blackbirds nest and roost in the reeds and gather in large flocks before the all launch suddenly together and head to the farms and fields to the north to feed. The noise is astounding as hundreds of them greet each other in the early light, especially now that the males are starting to display and sing to mark territory. On quite a few mornings in the last month or so I’ve heard (but never seen) Virginia Rails calling and grunting in the cattails. Northern Flickers and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers are common, as are several species of sparrows. Add the rattling flight call of of a couple of Belted Kingfishers and the harmonies of a few dozen Western Meadowlarks and you have a beautiful place to spend a few hours in the morning
On the largest pond (which is spring fed-thus the name of the area) there’s a small flock of American Coots that have wintered here this year and they’ve been joined at various times over the winter by other waterfowl. This morning there were 3 Pied-billed Grebes just off the northern bank of the pond. The early light reflecting off of the dried reeds and grasses around the pond, the concrete of the dam above it and the red clay cliffs around it gives the still water (at least it was still today) beautiful colors.