Sunday, January 6, 2013

Goldeneye -- Sun., Jan. 6

Bright sunshine and cool temperatures reigned in the climate department today. Good walking weather! 

The main repercussions of our two 10K walks yesterday, were the four huge blisters I sported last night. I could hardly walk on my feet because of the blister pain. So, I popped and drained them all, put Neosporin and Band-aids on them overnight. By this morning, I could walk on them again with only minimal pain.

The RV washers came back and finished up waxing Rigamarole this morning. I slept through all of it. Bob finally woke me up at 11:20 a.m. and said, "Did you want to go walking today?"

"Of course," I replied. "I want to go to Audubon's Mitchell Lake Wetlands." 

When the RV washers finished up, we paid them and headed out at 12:55 p.m. The Mitchell Lake Audubon Wetlands are only seven miles from our RV park. Easy peasy. We were greeted by this:

This must be the most secure Audubon site we've ever seen! We were ready for this, though. On the American Volksport Association website walk description, it told about this locked gate. All you have to do is drive up to the gate, press on the intercom button and the attendant opens the gate for you (weekends only). Admission to the wetlands is $2/per person.

Audobon Center--pay admission here.

We went inside, paid admission and I signed up for my Volkswalk. (Note: I'm the only one who walks for Volksport credits, so Bob didn't need to sign in.) We were on the trail by 1:15 p.m. 

Having grown up on the West Coast, many birds in south Texas are new to us. The bird most people are looking for at this time of year is the goldeneye duck. They have been spotted regularly; however I'm not sure we saw any today. The ducks that looked like them kept flying away any time we got close.

We did have a wonderful walk, though rushed. Bob wanted to be home by 3:30 p.m. to watch the Seattle Seahawks football game. In the time that we had, I did my best to spot birds, get photos, then talk to the gentleman in the visitor center afterward about the birds we saw.

I didn't even have time to read the signs at the visitor center. Bob read them while I was signing in. Here's the short version. From 1901-1973, the city of San Antonio needed somewhere to send their sewage. The technology for sewage treatment plants had not been developed back them. So, ponds, settling basins and sewage sludge ponds were used, right here, at Mitchell Lake. 

"Ewwwww!" You might be saying right now.

Not so fast. The City of San Antonio declared the lake a refuge for birds and wildlife. Since 1984, the San Antonio Audubon Society has been doing regular birding trips to the area. You see, all the nutrients that filtered out of the sewage were really good for the birds. 
"All of that biologically active input still fuels a food chain that provides a rich feast for local and migrating birds..." 
so said Eric Brierley, Past President of the San Antonio Audubon Society, in a 2007 article for There is still a symbiotic relationship between the Audubon Society and the San Antonio Water System.

Here's  a photo journey through the Audubon Wetlands.

Mexican ducks.
Northern shoveler at Bird Pond
East polder.
Caracara--Mexican eagle.
Black-bellied plover (winter plumage)

Snoozing turtle.

Double-crested cormorant

Turkey vulture (had been feeding on dead opossum on the trail)

Our "trail."
American white pelicans on Mitchell Lake

American white pelicans.

Yes, you guessed it...American white pelican.

Black-bellied plovers

Long-billed dowitchers.

Pelicans in Sparkleland (Mitchell Lake)

Birder's delight: Great egrets, black-crowned night herons and ducks.

Northern shoveler.

West polder.
For inquiring minds, a polder is described by Encyclopedia Brittanica Online as: 
 tract of lowland reclaimed from a body of water, often the sea, by the construction of dikes roughly parallel to the shoreline, followed by drainage of the area between the dikes and the natural coastline. Where the land surface is above low-tide level, the water may be drained off through tide gates, which discharge water into the sea at low tide and automatically close to prevent re-entry of seawater at high tide. To reclaim lands that are below low-tide level, the water must be pumped over the dikes. If a sediment-laden stream can be diverted into the polder area, the sediment may serve to build up the polder bottom to a higher level, thus facilitating drainage.
The polders at Mitchell Lake are the original settlement ponds from the sewage treatment years. There are also five basins, some with water in them, some without.

We also saw, but couldn't get photos of, bufflehead ducks and lesser scaups. Once we were past the last polder, I speed walked back to the Visitor Center. It was already 3:30 and the Seahawks game was about to start. We made it back to the 5er by 3:55. Bob made a quick trip to the RV park office and propane tank to get our empty tank filled. I poured him a Corona with lime, cooked left-over chili over left-over mashed potatoes and served it with left-over Southwestern cornbread. What a yummy dinner. He sat in comfort watching the Seahawks hand it to the Washington Redskins. 

Now Bob is napping until the Oregon/Oregon State basketball game. I'm off to watch the new season of "The Biggest Loser." And Jillian is back! Woo hoo.

How was your weekend?

Travel Bug, with ow-ies on her feet, out.