Texas being so big and the Hill Country being so central, we seldom cross boundaries into other states, but every Texan knows you don't have to leave Texas to find a change of pace. Texas encompasses everything from sophistication to swamps and deserts to tropics.
A few weeks ago, Denny and I went east to the wildflower farmland of Austin County--not to be confused with our 'Keep Austin Weird' state capitol--to participate in the Attwater Prairie Chicken Festival. Held, naturally enough, at the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge about 70 miles east of downtown Houston.
Photo of Lesser Prairie Chicken courtesy of Michael Bruce's Flikr stream
In case you're unacquainted with Attwater Prairie Chickens, the birds are an isolated branch of the Greater Prairie Chicken family. Prairie Chickens once numbered in the hundreds of thousands in the U.S., but over the last 150 years the birds have become critically endangered as America plowed and paved the nation's grasslands. The Attwaters number fewest in the family. There are only 55 known on the Attwater range now, and five of those were missing at festival time.
Spring is booming season among Greater Prairie Chicken males. They gather in a short-grass area to strut, fluff and wag their feathers while moaning to attract mates. I know some folks compare this to guys in bars trolling for women, but it's different at dawn on the Attwater prairie. Fierce and sweet, and somehow like the sound of wind whistling through the last tree standing in a clear-cut land.
It was a good way to spend a chill dawn, marveling at the diversity of life as survivors called a precarious song to tomorrow.
Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott ,for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.