This afternoon, we went geocaching at Lake Granger, a half-hour drive from home. We picked up various caches along the Comanche Bluff Trail. While searching for a cache on the Hoxie Bridge, we got a bonus ... a close up encounter with an Eastern Screech Owl. We have heard them many times around our house – they have a very distinctive horse-whinny sound – but have never gotten a close look at one. The yellow circle in the image below shows where this one was roosting for the day. This is within a few meters of the cache's hiding place. This owl, or another of the same species, was photographed in the bridge's iron works 2 years ago as well.
Here is a picture we took of the owl on the way out along the trail. I estimate it to be about 8" long. I first spotted the tips of its tail feathers dangling down below the beam and went in to investigate, wondering if it were part of the cache container.
We left it to snooze and checked up on it on the way back. It had moved so that its tail was no longer showing.
It was a good day for animals. The owl was at the first cache we found. Just next to the second cache, we saw a huge opossum, though he scurried out of sight before we got a picture. Then, just before we got to the third cache, I almost stepped on a nice snake lying motionless across the trail. At first, I thought it was a plastic snake put there as a joke, since it didn't move. It started to wake up as I moved it off of the trail. It looks like a Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus), a non-venomous insect eater found near water.
After I moved it off the trail, it slithered away into the greenbriar patch. Greenbriar is a nasty climbing vine that forms brambles throughout the region. I am sure that greenbriar was the inspiration for barbed wire. That stuff would prove to be our nemesis throughout the afternoon; we both got cut up, and I lost my sunglasses at some point while forcing my way through a patch.