I had to go to north Houston on Friday and so I fitted in an hour's visit to Jesse Jones Park. As it was a dark and wet morning, I wasn't expecting to see much in the way of birds but I thought it would be a good place to look for snakes.
I focused on the area around the boardwalk which crosses a large pond containing cypress trees. If I was going to find a Water Moccasin anywhere, surely it would be here. Besides, I like this area because the cypress trees' "knees" sticking up through the water make the pond look positively primeval.
I carefully searched the ground and water along the boardwalk but all I saw was a solitary Green Heron. I was surprised to see that it had a very prominent crest.
Juvenile Green Herons have a very slight crest but this bird's deep red throat showed clearly that it was an adult. Plus the feathers on the top of its head were really sticking right up. I wonder if the raised feathers were because I had startled the bird. Or perhaps I had just caught it before it had had time to groom itself.
After a fruitless 20 minutes of looking for snakes, I abandoned the pond and did a quick walk through the woods. As the light improved, so did the volume of bird calls. The calls of a Pileated Woodpecker and several Red-bellied Woodpeckers echoed around me but I couldn't see the birds making them. I could hear a Northern Parula, too, but again didn't get to see bird itself. In fact, the only birds I actually managed to see were several Red-headed Woodpeckers high in the trees and lots of Northern Cardinals.
I'm always a little surprised to see Cardinals when I'm out birding. I am so used to seeing them at our feeders that I tend to think of them as yardbirds and to forget that they really are wild birds.
Walking back towards the parking area, I crossed the boardwalk again. The Green Heron was in the same place but this time it looked more normal with its head feathers neatly in place.
There were still no snakes, though. Bummer! I consoled my self by taking a photo of an interesting flower near the end of the boardwalk.
That's when I noticed a movement in the water. Yes! A Water Moccasin was swimming quietly around, its tongue out to test the air as it went. It was a very pretty sight, although you can't tell this from my rather blurry photos.
As my available time had run out, I hurried back to the car, stopping only to take a couple of photos of some insectivorous Pale Pitcher plants and stunning Irises near the visitor center.
So not a great morning but at least I had a good look at a Water Moccasin.