When folks think of East Texas lakes many tend to picture boats and bass fishing and little else, and by doing so they miss so much. The dazzling sunrises and sunsets are but covers of a book that includes some of the best birding anywhere in the Lone Star State.
You needn't wait for the nice warm weather of spring and beyond either. Don't let January's chill keep one from getting in a boat and gliding ever so quietly into any number of the many coves that ring lakes like Lake Bob Sandlin, which is located in the Pittsburg, Mount Pleasant and Mt. Vernon area of the state.
Like the Mineola Nature Preserve some 60 or more miles south and west, and world famous Lake Fork that is even closer, Bob Sandlin is a bird-lover's dream.
It was a gray morning and we were photographing several hundred coots who dine sumptuously on underwater vegetation early and all day, when pelicans slid silently over head, heading south along the heavily treed east shoreline that is dotted by beautiful homes.
We began photographing the pelicans, believing they were going out of sight when suddenly they put the brakes on, literally, and dropped the landing gear much as an airplane might do to slow its' speed.
In what turned out to be a magical moment, the birds changed from their V formation to simply a number of large birds, temporarily hovering in the early morning air, changing from their horizontal formation to a vertical stack of birds turning on a dime and then within seconds, they'd done a 180 degree turn, tucked their feet back under themselves and reformed into their V and flew back over our position.
It had never happened before for us and that it did just once in a lifetime, was worth waiting for years to see. It was as if an invisible flight commander on an aircraft carrier had waved a flag and the world stopped.
Below the pelicans, in the grayness of the January morning, the coots were gathering in the shallows where plentiful underwater vegetation awaited them. Some simply swam along the edge of a large fog bank that drifted several hundred yards off shore, while others flew and landed in what sometimes ended in rather spectacular splashes. Still others tried to steal food away from those who had taken the time to dive for the tender green vegetation.
On another day a large number of pelicans "fished" the far bank of the cove in unison, swimming almost in single file and then they'd gather in a circle as though they'd corralled dinner and, again, all-together, they'd dip their bills in the water and scoop up the fish.
A huge white egret patrolled the far shore line, while a big blue heron glided toward us, landing among the coots on the near shore a couple hundred yards away.
Each day brought something new and delightfully different.