Despite uncooperative weather at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge during my visit last week, weather that made distance photography all but impossible, the fog and drizzle and thick clouds served one important purpose: to remind me that the clear view can sometimes obscure, that the richness of color and texture and form can sometimes be appreciated only when nature forces us to look at things differently.
Just before sunrise I stood at Jones Lake and watched a variety of wildlife start the day. This lone female bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) swam lazily about the shallows.
Alligators fill in warmer times the freshwater sloughs along the Heron Flats trail. Too cool for the large reptiles to pose a threat, this tricolored heron (a.k.a. Louisiana heron; Egretta tricolor) seemed comfortably unconcerned with the cold-blooded dangers lurking in dens hidden around the area.
A plaintive, lonely cry. That drew my attention to the tidal flats where this male gadwall (Anas strepera) floated by himself. A few more calls and his mate scrambled from the marshy salt flat quite near where I stood.
Back at Jones Lake later in the afternoon, the weather had deteriorated significantly. But the thickening fog couldn’t hide this willet (Tringa semipalmata) who flew in from the gray beyond and joined several friends near shore.
From Jones Lake I moved to the salt marsh and walked the boardwalk to the shore. In a nearby flat this great blue heron (Ardea herodias) was little more than a shadow in an increasingly gray world.
The Dagger Point lookout faces into San Antonio Bay where slow erosion of the shore undercuts sand hills and drops oak and redbay trees into the water below. The fog had become so thick that only what was within arm’s length retained color while everything beyond faded into a world with no ground, no air and no sky—all was a kaleidoscope of gray. When it moved its head, my eyes were drawn to the great blue heron perched atop the highest limb on the left; otherwise, it was one shadow amongst many, a distant and dark extension of the fallen tree upon which it stood.