The National Audubon Society operates more than 30 welcoming centers around the USA. Ruth and I have been to a few. We have even seen the first one in Greenwich, CT. While in Texas, we visited the Trinity River Audubon Center not too far from downtown Dallas and really liked it.
The Trinity River Audubon Center, which opened in 2008, has quite a story to tell. It’s on reclaimed land and its Gold status LEED building must look like a huge white bird in flight from the air. It and the land surrounding it was once the notorious Deepwood site. There was a gravel mining operation and illegal dumping ground here before reclamation began. Citations to clean it up were ignored, and locals reported seeing 18-wheelers dumping in the area. The austere-looking Audubon facility has a planted green roof, and recycled blue jeans were used for its insulation. Its walkways, stairs, and ramps lead to 120 acres of hardwood forest, many pristine ponds, and a bend in the Trinity River. There are 5 miles of nature trails to explore. Most of the people we met on them were disappointed that they had not see wildlife on this sunny, winter day.
Hearing this, I went inside and asked the 2 ladies running this center about recent bird sightings, and one of them told me that there hadn’t been many before saying, “Sparrows” and giving me a list of the common birds that are seen year-round. There were 12 sparrow species on that list and more than 100 names of birds. The list was quite diverse and the lady began listing the most common ones in her experience. “Great egrets, vultures, turkeys, red-tailed hawks, scissor-tailed flycatchers,” she enumerated. The other lady named Allison joined our conversation and told me that she once saw 12 roseate spoonbills in a single day. The other lady thought of my dilemma and told me that yellow-bellied sapsuckers were common this time of year. I saw none. Texas has more than 600 resident and migrating bird species, more than any other state, and more than half of its non-tropical birds live along the Trinity River.
The Trinity is a major Texas stream. It’s 550 miles long and a water source for 10 million people. It flows to Trinity Bay, which is part of Galveston Bay, and has been much diverted. Twenty years after a major flood in 1909, its course through Dallas was completely altered. The new channel is one mile from the old one, and it was a polluted mess by the 1960s.
It’s hard to believe while there that the Trinity River Audubon Center with its primitive forest and 10 scenic ponds is so close to a huge city. In the Center itself, I saw swimming turtles and listened to some birds, but I saw none of the 45 resident mammals from its easy-to-walk trails. I suppose I was there at the wrong time of day and year.