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Trekking through Fort Boggy

Here’s a firsthand report from a new state park.

By David F. Henderson

An intrepid group of Piney Woods Wildlife Society members — all with family ties in Leon and surrounding counties — congregated last fall at the area’s newest natural jewel: Fort Boggy State Park. Hurricane Faye was dominating the news and the skies, but for the duration of our visit we enjoyed one gentle shower during lunch and comfortable temperatures throughout the day.

Our purpose on this autumn day is to begin gathering baseline data for future nature checklists for the area. We are not disappointed. Preliminary results show that we identify 39 species of plants in flower, 26 species in fruit, seven species of dragonflies, 10 species of butterflies, 22 species of birds, two reptiles and three mammals.

We are all amazed at the rich larder the area provides for its wild inhabitants. For instance, the abundant sparkleberry trees are laden with sugary-sweet fruit reminiscent of their close cultivated cousin, the blueberry. Normally, these berries are barely palatable! On the opposite end of the taste spectrum, dwarf sumac shrubs are seen throughout the park, being weighed down by beautiful red (and lemon-tart) clusters of red drupes.

The birding results consist of a typical end-of-summer mix of forest songbirds whose choruses resound through the natural amphitheaters of tall hardwoods and the tight catacombs of brush and bramble. A lone pine warbler is noted, along with numerous blue-gray gnatcatchers and both yellow-throated and white-eyed vireos. This perfectly represents the mix of trees here, where the westernmost ragged edge of the great East Texas Pineywoods — represented by a few straggler loblollies — merges into the numerous hardwoods of the Post Oak Belt.

Perhaps the most memorable sightings are not in the trees but at our feet, as we enjoy a close encounter with a beautiful and personable three-toed box turtle as well as both male and female eastern fence lizards. For those of us from the Houston suburbs, who only occasionally meet up with a green anole in our backyards, the sight of the checkered female fence lizard is indeed a special sighting.

Throughout the day, lovely little Boggy Lake, completely surrounded by forests, meadows and fed by fern-strewn natural seeps, is quiet except for the rain dappling its surface. It’s as if the lake is in wait for the wintering waterfowl soon to come. I, for one, look forward to being here for their arrival, and to continuing to catalog the biotic wonders, both small and great, of one of our newest jewels in the state park

system.

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