Spring on the Bayou

April 7, 2022

Yes, it has happened. Spring has sprung. It seemed to take longer this year.

We were also late getting our spring shot of that bend in the bayou, the same high bank in the tangled woods of Houston’s Memorial Park we’ve been documenting throughout the seasons for the last eight years.

Our devoted photographer, Jim Olive, has high-tailed it to the California desert with his beloved in order to escape the unhealthy air here. Never mind that it is often too dangerously hot there even to walk outside.

So the assistant had to take over, enlisting an assistant-assistant. We braved the clouds of yellow tree pollen (“extremely heavy”) and only slightly impaired, fought our way into the woods through the wire and branch obstacles erected by the Memorial Park Conservancy.

Fortunately we made it down the well-traveled dusty path and out again before the start of the red flag warning of fire hazard and high winds. The sun was barely up over the trees.

It was a lovely day. We stood on the high bank, watching the muddy stream, listening to the birds singing to each other, wrens and cardinals. (Actual on-site recording) The flow was fairly high, over 1800 cubic feet per second (cfs), apparently mostly releasing from Addicks Reservoir in far west Houston. The gates on Barker were closed. (Here’s our page of links  to rainfall and river flow gauges, flood maps, and other useful stuff.) Note that both federal reservoirs are public parks, used only for flood control, normally dry, their floodgates usually open.

That bend in the bayou on April 7, 2022. Looking downstream from a high bank in Memorial Park with the River Oaks Country Club golf course opposite. Photo by SC

The Trees Are Alright

Some of us have been concerned by the number of trees that seem to be slow to wake up. The world is confusing enough without having to go through super cold weather one day and sweltering temperatures the next. What to think?

Texas A&M urban forester Mickey Merritt is not concerned. He says that maybe we’ve just gotten used to trees leafing out earlier than they normally do. “The last couple of years have been pretty warm in February and trees leafed out early.” But we’ve had freezing weather more recently, and it’s been colder a little bit longer, he adds. Drought could play some role, but that will “really show up later when things get hotter.”

Oaks, he thinks, are ”right on time, live oaks especially.” Pecans “are always last – end of April, mid-May.” He’s not worried about sycamores either.

And it’s not unusual for a couple of the same species, red maples, for instance, in the same neighborhood, to leaf out one ahead of the other.

No studies have been done, but his observation, “just driving around,” is that he’s not seen “anything to make me concerned.”