Remember when it was warm?

I began pondering warm weather as I searched through my collection of photos for a nature post.  You see, it’s been cold here in North Texas for the last few days, and warm before that, and cold before that, and so on ad nauseam since autumn last year.  No surprises lie beneath the surface of our on-again off-again winter.  In fact, that’s quite normal ’round these parts.

Nevertheless, I stood on the patio a few moments ago with brisk cool winds embracing me while warm sunshine rained down from above, and in that moment I wondered to myself how much longer winter’s grasp could restrain Texas’ oppressive heat.  It would soon return, I feared.

Yet that instance of consideration aided me in finding just the right photos to post.

These pictures are from last summer.  I can tell you the heat and humidity were both quite overwhelming at the time I captured these shots in June 2006.  I wore shorts and a tank top as I sauntered around the lake, yet the dearth of clothing failed to provide any relief from scorching temperatures and stifling moisture filling the air.  It was hot.  Damn hot, in fact.  Part of that stemmed from a muggy atmosphere dripping with water vapor.  You could feel it wrap around your body like warm wet cotton the moment you stepped out the door.

Despite the meteorological obstacles, however, I enjoyed a rather placid early afternoon with the various forms of life that inhabit the world wherein I live.

One such creature, a great egret (Ardea alba), strolled along the shore of White Rock’s Sunset Bay.  The snowy white bird gave no thought to the laundry list of waterfowl sharing its domain.

A great egret (Ardea alba) strolling along the shore while a mallard drake (Anas platyrhynchos) stands camouflaged on land

Did you notice the mallard drake (Anas platyrhynchos) perfectly camouflaged in the grass?  I didn’t notice him until I processed the photo for posting.  His plumage blends in well with the shore, don’t you think?

My gaze continued to follow the egret as it made its way no more than three feet (a meter) from the shore, tall lanky legs carefully lifted and set down in shallows to carry it onward.  I suspected it was heading toward the confluence of several major tributaries that feed the lake, what normally presents as a good feeding ground for such predators.

While it walked, many other aquatic birds made their way toward solid ground… and shade.  Yet the egret never paused when navigating around white and brown Chinese geese (a.k.a. swan geese, Anser cygnoides) and mallard ducks jockeying for first rights to the best cool spots.

A great egret (Ardea alba) strolling along the shore while mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) and Chinese geese (Anser cygnoides) make their way toward land

When finally the time came for the egret to enter the cove, it was not alone.  A great blue heron (Ardea herodias) stealthily haunted the area.  In fact, I watched the heron for some time and found it amazing that the winged beast hardly moved at all.  Its head looked this way and that, its eyes, I’m sure, fixed on one thing or another in the meantime, yet it stood motionless, a statue carved from feathers and firmly positioned in a stoic stance.  Much unlike the egret’s constant motion, the heron seemed impermeable to all stimuli save whatever ran through its avian brain.

A great egret (Ardea alba) walking in the shallows as a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) stands motionless

Each of these temporal tidbits forever captured in digital amber remind me of what is to come as we move rapidly away from winter and toward spring, then summer, and finally autumn again… only to revisit winter in less than a year.  Between now and the first cold snap wherein we Texans find ourselves considering what arctic invader has visited our lands, we will see a menagerie of weather that has boggled the minds of scientists and non-scientists alike for more centuries than can be counted.  Our geographic position offers us some of the most robust meteorological swings and extremes as can be found on our little planet.  And I’d want it no other way.

[Update] I have since identified the white duck in the center of the second image as a pekin duck (a.k.a. domestic duck, white pekin duck, or Long Island duck; Anas domesticus).

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