Monroe, LA to Austin, TX

February 20, 2016 23:45 – 23:45

This is my second night in Austin. Free internet is only about 1Mbps; paid is about 8Mbps. They really should stop calling it “high speed internet”. This is not the 1990s anymore. The hotel is in a weird location. All through Austin, IH-35 runs parallel to each side of I-35, and the Springhill Suites South is on the east side of I-35. With frequent tie-ups on I-35, this makes getting anywhere in a hurry a tricky proposition. I could not live in Austin. Traffic is awful, and getting worse. Just in the last year, it’s gotten noticeably worse because of Austin’s rapid growth.

On the way from Monroe, I stopped at the Black Bayou Lake NWR. It’s a lovely NWR, but the birds weren’t terribly active, and most of the ones that were, were either too far away or very easily spooked. Just as I spotted this red-shouldered hawk, it took off. On the bright side, I did get a halfway decent in-flight shot.

I got that shot from one of the blinds. I also spotted a pair of pied-billed grebes from the blind.

I think this is the male, closer up.

Apparently, the water level gets pretty high. This decoy was about 8 feet above yesterday’s water level.

Where the boardwalk splits off for the blind, a second trail goes back into the woods. There, I managed to get a few decent shots. I think, but I’m not sure, that this is a olive-sided flycatcher.

Here she (?) is again.

I’m not 100% sure, but I think that this is a yellow-rumped warbler in flight.

And, this appears to be an orange toxic barrel! I didn’t see anything in what I’ve read about Black Bayou Lake NWR having been a toxic site.

Stepping back, you can see that there’s a mix of evergreens and deciduous trees, and some lovely reflections in the water.

The highlight of Black Bayou IMO is the wildlife boardwalk trail.

It’s surrounded by dead drowned trees.

There are wooded sections leading to the open water section. There, I spotted this northern flicker, who was flickering at a tree.

I also caught a few shots of a red-bellied woodpecker, hiding its belly, as usual.

As I was leaving, I caught sight of something I at first thought was a small robin. Looking more closely at the pictures, however, I discovered that it was an eastern bluebird.

Last night, I went to dinner with Susan, Castle, and Ted. Susan used to be Susan Slattery, and was the executive director of First Night Alexandria in 1999 for the big 2000 celebration. I was one of the acts that night. She & I also went on a local TV show to promote FNA that year—they wouldn’t let me sing one of my songs, so instead, I sang White Christmas… which really has nothing to do with New Year’s Eve! We had dinner last night at Curra’s Grill. The company and conversation were great, but I ordered incorrectly. The tacos al carbón I ordered were pretty bland.

This morning, I decided to revisit Balcones Canyonland NWR. I went there last year, and forgot. But, as I got closer and closer, I realized I’ve been there before. And, like last year, I was too early for the golden-cheeked warblers, which are the only bird that nests exclusively in Texas. They don’t show up until March, apparently, and I’m not likely to ever been in Texas in March. Although… you never know.

Naturally, bird shots were few and far between. I did spot an enormous robin, though… but I didn’t get a clear shot. Not remembering how treacherous the Cactus Rock Trail was from last year, I stupidly left my hiking poles in the car. The footing on that trail is quite precarious, and much of the slanted, rocky, hilly trail is on the side of a hill. So, if you fall, you won’t stop until you hit a rock or a tree. I almost fell several times—the odd slant makes it too easier to become disoriented. At about the halfway point, the trail went up very steeply. Anticipating a difficult walk down on the other side, I turned around.

Here’s why it’s called the Cactus Rock Trail.

Many of the rocks there look igneous, or at least like they were subjected to great heat in the past.

At the top, there’s a viewing platform, overlooking the Colorado river… which I’d forgotten flows though Texas.

I’m undecided about tomorrow morning. If I sleep well, get up early, and if traffic to the north isn’t awful, I’ll go to the 10:45 service at the First UU Church of Austin. Otherwise, I’ll hit the road early for the Candlewood in Fort Stockton, Texas, which is going to be my 2-day outpost for seeing Big Bend National Park. My plan is to devote all day Monday to the park, then return to Fort Stockton, and hit the road for points east on Tuesday morning. If I skip church and arrive at the hotel early enough, I might bop over and explore Marfa, which is a funky artistic town on the edge of nowhere. But, it’s supposed to be cool.

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