Attwater Prairie March 02, 2008
Attwater Prairie, located near Eagle Lake, Texas is a National Wildlife Refuge for the very rare Attwater Prairie-chicken, Tympanuchus cupido attwateri. It is a sub-species of the now extinct Heath Hen. Chances are slim to see one of these endangered birds, as there are only about 50 on the 10,000 acre preserve. However, captive breeding has been instituted to prevent the extinction of these unusual fowl. Several zoos and colleges are participating in efforts to reach a goal of 5,000 of these (probably) very tasty birds. After all, I would guess they do... taste just like chicken. :) Although we did not see any of the birds or their fascinating mating leks, we still enjoyed the visit.
The prairie at Attwater has a driving lane and several walking paths open for the public. Our traipsing through the semi-wet grassland produced several butterfly sightings: Goatweed butterflies, Pipevine Swallowtails, Cloudless and Dainty Sulphers, and a fleeting glance at a Dusky-blue Hairstreak.
The flora was just warming up, so the bloomers were very limited. The most eye-catching of all were the Hairy Phlox, Phlox amoena growing mostly on their lawn. The US database for plants does not show this as a native Texan, so I suspect someone planted it in the nearby butterfly garden, and it escaped out onto the grass. It was making quite a spectacle of itself, and well worth my efforts to photograph and identify it.
If you find yourself in Texas, stop by the Attwater Prairie. Even if the chickens don't show, the huge American Bison, flocks of White-faced Ibis and many other interesting critters made it well worth the one hour drive from Houston.