Saturday, April 20, 2013

Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge

After doing 6 loads of laundry at the laundromat (still waiting to get ours which was damaged in the move replaced by the moving company), Texter, Lady K and I decided to drive out to Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge and see what it was all about.  About 400 pictures later, we knew.  This is definitely on my list of 'come back and check out again in a couple of weeks' list.  So this posting will be full of pictures of birds.  I ask for indulgence on some of the bird names.  There are a lot of birds which I have never come into contact with before living in Tennessee, Texas and North Carolina.  Hopefully, I have identified them correctly.  

Benton Lake is a National Wildlife Refuge.  I am familiar with the wildlife refuges because of the one in Tennessee just a couple of miles up the road from where my grandparents had their cabin.  However, on that one, they planted corn and grain crops in areas for the animals.  Here, they are just letting nature take it's course and encouraging the native prairie and marsh grasses as food sources.

We drove the loop around the lake.  While not that long in mileage, it was long in terms of stopping and taking pictures.  Also, it was a graded, gravel road which does not encourage fast driving.

This is the view looking back toward town as you enter the refuge.  At the time we were there, it was overcast.  Chance of snow again this weekend.

This is one fellow I was already familiar with, a meadowlark.  One of the first birds we saw when we entered the refuge.

This little guy I can't identify.  Seems to have a white bar across his chest.   Then the fun began as we hit the first piece of water.  

These are Eared Grebe, I do believe.  New to me!  I am use to Canadian Geese (which there are a ton here) and mallards (also a lot of), but several 'new' types of ducks to me were seen.

This is one of the canals which moves water into Benton Lake.

A couple of Tundra Swans.  While I have seen swans before, I haven't seen them in the wild before.  Those at Apex Lake I really don't consider wild as they are fed by humans and live right in the big middle of everything.  

At one point, there was this huge flock of 'white' birds sitting in the road.  Texter and I thought they were gulls until we got closer (will post pictures of that later).  Turns out they are white geese, hundreds of them.  

Then this little guy, a red winged blackbird.  He, I knew, but lovely all the same. 

As you drive the loop around the lake, there is an observation walk out onto the marsh and up to the lake.  On a cold, cloudy day, it seems very remote out here.  It's hard to believe, less than 10 miles away is a large, thriving town.

But mother goose (or daddy) scared the pee out of me as it flew up from the marsh grasses only a few feet from where I was walking on the boardwalk.  Seems they did have a purpose there and I was interrupting it....a nest of 5 eggs only about 6 feet from the walkway.  I felt bad about leaving them out in the cold, so I didn't tarry on the walkway.


This is a picture from the walkway looking over the lake and toward the mountains.  It's so hard to describe the vastness of the place and the feeling  there is nothing for miles and miles around.

To show how cold it still is here, there is ice in the marsh still in places.  Glad I'm not a duck!

Texter declined to walk on the boardwalk as we had Lady K with us and it was cold and WINDY!  She drove a bit on the road.  Actually, she was hoping the flock of white bird we saw were her enemy, the sea gull, and she was hoping to meet some of them with the car.  But no such luck.

A possible pair of unidentified ducks in another area of the refuge.  There are about 8 water spots which form Benton Lake.  This one had not had a chance to fill up with water yet.

 This is a Long-billed curlew.  A new one to me.  Texter felt this guy (or girl) was a combination of an anteater and a bird.  I was excited to see a bird in the wild like this which I hadn't seen before.  

This is the ranger station.  I love the fact there is a wind turbine and solar panels in use here.  I wish more places utilized alternative methods of power like they seem to here.  

While Texter and I were impressed with Benton Lake and plan on bringing Gibbs out here and making several return trips, Lady K was less than excited.  Even the rough, bouncy gravel road wasn't enough to peak her interest.

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