In the Great Trinity Forest, there is a pond near the Trinity River Audubon Center (TRAC) that the folks there call the “Secret Bird Pond” because it is surrounded by trees and not easily visible from trails. I started photographing there in 2010 and go back periodically because it is so special.
The pond itself is ephemeral, meaning that it is not always full. It fills with heavy rains or better yet, when the Trinity River floods and sweeps in all kind of new fish and food. In dry periods it dries up completely, but not before birds and animals feast on the fish and other edibles exposed by the shrinking water. In the winter, ducks and migrating birds swoop in, and in the summer rare wading birds like wood storks, roseate spoonbills, ibis egrets and herons can suddenly fill the pond with activity. Secret Bird Pond is an endless cycle of life and death, feast and famine, water and drought, a natural drama played out less than 8 miles from downtown Dallas.
The pond is “perfect” in many ways. Some ponds and small lakes in the Great Trinity Forest are just too deep to support smaller wading birds that like to walk through shallow waters to hunt. Others are so shallow that they quickly dry up. The Secret Bird Pond, however, fills to about 6 feet deep at its high point near a saddle in the middle, and then gently tapers off to the shores.
As a result, Secret Bird Pond attracts everything from wading birds to songbirds to owls and kingfishers to raccoons and snakes and beavers and river otters and so much more. They are all drawn to this pond in numbers I have not generally seen in most other ponds and once filled, it takes many months of drought for the pond to dry up.
The pond itself is beautiful. As Secret Bird Pond goes through the ebb and flow of water and drought, its looks changes greatly. The pond never fails to surprise me – even simple refections at dusk show the pond in new ways.
When the rains and flooding stops, Secret Bird Pond slowly dries out, leaving wildlife to make due with what is left.
Much of what I have photographed at Secret Bird Pond has been from the inside of my custom built “floating blind”, which is basically a fly-fishing tube modified for photography When I am in it, almost all animals completely ignore me. I have had beavers swim around me (below), birds land on me and otters and raccoons stare straight at me, only to decide I was not relevant to them.
Secret Bird Pond hosts migratory birds throughout the year, including the secretive woods storks, roseate spoonbills, and great egrets.
It is an amazing treat to see wood storks in the middle of Dallas County, much less sharing a small pond with spoonbills, egrets, and a host of other species.
Secret Bird Pond is sublime and easily one of the most amazing places in the entire Great Trinity Forest.