#InTheWildHood - The Water Edition

There's a high-pressure system sitting on top of West Texas right now, and it's bringing the heat.  Be it our western mountains, eastern bayous, northern plains, southern valleys or central hills, this weekend we'll all be passing 100 degrees. Well, except the beach. If you're at the beach it'll be hot, but it won't be hitting the century mark. 

A perfect antidote to that kind of hot is water. 

© Sharon B. | #InTheWildHood  

The gorgeous photos of cooling oases in this post are just a handful of the hundreds of submissions we've already received for our In The Wild Hood photo contest. They represent the roughly 15 rivers, 3,700 named streams and 7,000 lakes and reservoirs dotting the Texas landscape — not a bad way to keep cool. 

Blanco river
© Elizabeth M. | #InTheWildHood  (Blanco River)

Our July 2016 Wanderlist can help you pick a state park with fresh or salt water recreation close to where you are. Make sure you check in with each park for any closures or special instructions. If you're already out and about and decide to head to refreshing hydration you may prefer to listen for places you can go. This week's Under the Texas Sky podcast gives an overview of some of Texas' best swimming holes. 

Lake Amistad
© Eric Diaz | #InTheWildHood  (Lake Amistad)

And while you're enjoying one of our beautiful Texas water locations this weekend, don't forget to pick up your camera or camera phone and snap a picture. Entering the In The Wild Hood summer photo contest is quick and easy.  If you need inspiration, photographers Earl Nottingham and Chase Fountain have a gorgeous photo essay in our current Summer Dreams issue. 

Santa Elena Canyon
© G.B. | #InTheWildHood  (Santa Elena Canyon)

However you decide to enjoy the waters of Texas, please stay safe and keep cool as the temperature soars!

For more great content on places to see in Texas, subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.  For a limited time enjoy three months of digital access to 600+ articles and our expanded 2020 Summer issue - all for only $1.99!


#InTheWildHood — Hawk Edition

Full disclosure — I took none of the photos in this post. They are all submissions from our In The Wild Hood photo contest.

Like the rest of our magazine staff, I've been teleworking since mid-March. Our group is small and geographically scattered along a 100-mile stretch of IH35. Still, we are used to seeing each other in the office every weekday. Now we converse using virtual meeting and chat tools. An unforeseen benefit of this is that, thanks to TEAMS, I know precisely when the hawks first starting hanging out in my backyard.

Wildlife in my yard is no new phenomenon. While I am one of the 86 percent of Texans who live in an urban area, a greenbelt trails through my subdivision — heavily wooded, full of hidden karst and threaded by a dry, limestone creek bed that fills with water during heavy rains. One finger of it sits directly behind my house, and to fully benefit from it's beauty, we long-ago removed a privacy fence and gate.

© Kat P. | #InTheWildHood

Over the years we've had the full array of urban wildlife; the occasional deer, cute little bunnies, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it ringtail, the ubiquitous possums, raccoons and armadillos, and the more thrilling foxes and coyotes. And birds of course — many, many different birds. You'd think then that I'd be immune to the allure of a gliding hawk, but you'd be wrong.

There are two of them, a nesting pair I assume, and my first view of them was June 16 when one flew across my deck at the exact eye-level of my office chair. It was so close that, had a window not been between us, I could have reached out to touch it's gleaming feathers. Since then we have seen or heard them several times a day. Occasionally, as was the case this morning, I see them catch their prey and settle with it on a tree branch. All of these sightings I exuberantly (as much as that's possible in writing) share with my work friends on chat.

There's some debate in my neighborhood as to whether they are red-tailed hawks or red-shouldered hawks. I tend to think the latter based on a rather distinct call they make to each other. But I am not an ornithologist. 

© Bill W. | #InTheWildHood

What I do know is that they are here, in my backyard, every day. The squirrel population, which was abundant and very loud at the start of my teleworking adventure, is suddenly suspiciously absent. My cats no longer cry to go outside in the day time: one in fact was diagnosed with anxiety by his vet, and the timeline of symptoms matches the appearance of the hawks exactly. And each time I see them swoop down into my yard, I grab wildly for my phone but never quite get that perfect photo I long for.
It's possible that there have always been hawks in my backyard. After all, I have 5 large live oaks, a small ornamental pond and the beauty of forested green space a stone's throw from my deck. So maybe it's not that they are new, but rather that my being at home every day to experience them is what is new. 

© Cherish T. | #InTheWildHood

It's a beautiful thought, really, that majestic wild creatures can be there every single day if you just look for them. Even in your own backyard.

And many of you seem to agree judging from all the fabulous entries in our In The Wild Hood summer photo contest. You don't have to go far to find and capture (on film) the beauty of nature. Sometimes it comes to you. Now, if I could only get a photo...
If you enjoy articles about native Texas species and want to learn more, subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.  For a limited time enjoy three months of digital access to 600+ articles and our expanded 2020 Summer issue - all for only $1.99!