Ecological Habitat Assessment

General Biological Inventory of Vilbig Lake

  Prepared for: Irving Lake Association, Inc.  

Prepared by: Jonathan M. Stewart 

May 1998


1.0 Introduction 

A habitat assessment and general biological inventory were conducted at the Vilbig Lake marsh/wetland area (site) in Irving, Dallas County, Texas.  Figure 1 presents the area surveyed/assessed.  This report summarizes activities and presents the habitat assessment results.  It does not strive for the creation of a pristine area, but rather seeks preservation of the area that will allow humans to enjoy the benefits of a quality environment, which supports humans and human-tolerant wildlife. 

      1.1 Objectives 

To obtain a general understanding of the ecological systems present at the site, a habitat assessment was conducted from December 1997 to May 1998.  Components of the habitat assessment included listing observed flora and fauna (including threatened and endangered species) and critical area determination.  The objective was to provide a baseline of information regarding habitats at the site. 

Plant and animal species encountered visually or by sign as tracks, gnawing’s (beaver), and scat were identified to species if possible, and listed according to specific groups.  Various field guides were used to facilitate identification.  Wetlands associated with the site were confirmed in forested, stream fringe, and shoreline areas. 

      1.2 Description of Study Area (Site) 

The site lies in North Central Texas specifically, western Dallas County.  The site is totally within the Trinity River basin.  Current land use in the vicinity of the site is residential, recreational, light industrial, and undeveloped.  Average population density per square mile for Dallas County is 2, 069 people. 

Topography is characterized by relatively flat land with a portion dissected by a small stream.  Land elevation is approximately 440 feet mean sea level. 

      1.3 General Community Types 

Within a broad classification, the site lies within the Blackland Prairies ecological region of Texas and is close to the Cross Timbers ecological region.  Because of the two ecological regions, presence of a major tributary of the Trinity River, and the transition of moist climes of East Texas to dry West Texas, the site may support diverse habitats. 

A classification of the natural communities of the site was not the main objective of this habitat assessment, but the constituents of the communities noted in the course of this assessment are listed and briefly described. 

Plant communities at the site range from open field/grassland to dense riparian woodlands.  These communities support diverse populations of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. 

The following habitats occur o or near the site based on the results of the assessment. 

o       Open water (Vilbig Lake)

o       Shoreline

o       Emergent wetlands

o       Riparian woodlands

o       Mixed open lands 

Open water habitat occupies most of Vilbig Lake.  Shoreline habitat follows the boundary of Vilbig Lake.  Emergent wetlands exist adjacent to the shoreline and in the many sloughs and backwaters that are present (Figure 1).  Riparian woodlands exist along the stream on the eastern portion of the site and on the numerous peninsulas that exist.  Mixed open lands comprise the remaining habitat type.  Figure 2 presents the approximate location of each habitat type.  No other significant natural communities are present on or adjacent to the site. 

2.0 Methodology 

The habitat assessment consisted of visual inspections of site conditions 1 to 2 days per month from December 1997 to May 1998.  Concerning vegetation, dominant species were identified [as well as major community types].  This was accomplished by walking transects through the habitat types [except for open water] and observing plants, birds, plants and other wildlife.  The shoreline was assessed for vegetation and other wildlife sign (tracks, scat, fish, and tadpoles).  A list of plants (flora) and animals (fauna) observed during the assessments is provided in Tables 1 and 2.  The flora and fauna are provided using the common name only, for simplification. 

3.0 Results 

       3.1 Open Water Habitat 

Open water habitat is comprised of Vilbig Lake and associated sloughs and backwaters that are devoid of vegetation.  This open water habitat supports fish and also provides benefit for birds, mammals, snakes, turtles, and amphibians.  Birds such as double-crested cormorant, pied-billed grebe, Franklin’s gull, Bonaparte’s gull, ring-billed gull, and bufflehead were observed. 

       3.2 Shoreline Habitat 

A habitat associated with the open water habitat is the vegetated shoreline.  This area virtually extends throughout the boundary/border of Vilbig Lake.  The vegetated shoreline at the site appears to be highly productive for plant material and provides shelter for birds and other animals.  Plants such as tamarisk (salt cedar), broom sedge, and false indigo were observed.  Birds such as American coot, red-winged blackbird, killdeer, common snipe, mallard, and great-tailed grackle were observed in this habitat. 

       3.3 Emergent Wetlands 

Emergent wetlands are those areas that support a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.  Vegetation was limited to non-woody herbaceous plants such as cattails, rushes, sedges, smartweed, grasses, duckweed, and water primrose.  Birds such as great blue heron, great egret, snowy egret, green-backed heron, blue-winged teal, northern shoveler, red-winged blackbird, common yellowthroat and American coot were observed in this type of habitat. 

Emergent wetlands account for a small percent of the area within the site but they are very important in the productivity of fish and wildlife resources.  They are also critical for the maintenance of clean water and controlling of floodwaters. 

       3.4 Riparian Forest 

The riparian forest area exhibits 25-50 percent tree cover and comprises a majority of the eastern portion of the site.  Dominant trees include early success ional wetland species such as willow, green ash, and some cottonwood; moist area species such as cedar elm; and drier area species such as pecan, elm, walnut, and eastern red cedar.  This forest also includes hackberry, sugar maple, black cherry, and mulberry. 

This riparian habitat is typical to other riparian forests in North Central Texas in that it is a higher productive habitat that provides storage to floodwaters, removes sediments and pollutants from water, provides habitat for migratory warblers and other small birds, provides a wind break, and cools the air in summer. 

Birds such as wood duck, yellow-billed cuckoo, great horned owl, belted kingfisher, red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, downy woodpecker, northern flicker, least flycatcher, willow flycatcher, Carolina chickadee, Carolina wren, house wren, ruby-crowned kinglet, Swainson’s thrush, cedar waxwing, white-throated sparrow, swamp sparrow, and numerous warblers were identified in this habitat.  A complete list of birds observed in this habitat and the site is provided in Table 2.  Mammals observed were beaver, fox squirrel, raccoon, Virginia opossum, and red fox were observed. 

Small shrub habitat occupies a small percent of the area and is a transition habitat from early success ional open field or emergent wetland to the forest community.  Shrubs include young tree species less than 12 feet tall plus some hawthorn, yaupon, and deciduous holly.  Birds such as mockingbird, northern cardinal, Carolina wren, brown thrasher, and eastern towhee were identified in this habitat. 

       3.5 Mixed Open Lands 

Mixed open lands include the remaining habitat with less than 25 percent trees and/or shrubs.  This includes the grassy areas and the field.  The field provides a wildlife food source and floodwater storage.  It appears to have high herbaceous vegetative productivity.  Plants such as the prairie primrose and white clover were ubiquitous.  Birds such as scissor-tailed flycatcher, eastern phoebe, and mourning dove were commonly observed. 

General soils comprising the site are Siliwa-Silstid-Bastsil: deep nearly level to sloping, loamy and sandy soils; on stream terraces.  The soil unit that comprises the site is Arents, loamy, gently undulating.  This unit is made up of areas that have been mined for gravel and sand.  The areas are lower than the surrounding landscape.  Slopes range from 1 to 5 percent.  Arents are used as pasture and for urban uses, including light industry, racetracks, golf driving ranges, sanitary landfills, and residential area. 

4.0 Summary 

A habitat assessment was performed at the Vilbig Lake site.  Flora and fauna were identified to species when possible.  Habitats such as open water, shoreline, emergent wetlands, riparian forest, and mixed open land were identified.  Conditions at the site were generally conducive to high productivity and species diversity.  A variety of wildlife was observed throughout the site.  Tables 1 and 2 provide a comprehensive list of the flora and fauna identified.  No threatened and/or endangered species were identified on the site.  However, this does not imply that none exist or visit the site    

Table 1





Eastern Red Cedar Mustang Grape Broomsedge
Black Willow Honeysuckle Ragweed
Pecan Peppervine Cattail
Black Cherry Viginia Creeper Wild Onion
Mulberry Poison Ivey Dandelion
Salt Cedar (Tamarisk) Greenbrair Composites (various)
Hackberry   Wood Sorrel
American Elm   Vetch (species)
Cedar Elm   Bull Thistle
Redbud   Pairie Primrose
Green Ash   Duckweed
Mimosa   Raspberry
Sugar Maple   Blue Sage
Chinese Tallow   Texas Dandelion
Cottonwood   Mullien
Carolina Buckthorn   Water Willow
Honey Locust   Aster's (species)
Chinaberry   White Clover
Box Elder   Hawthorn
Yaupon   False Indigo
    Heartleaf Ampelopsis
    False Garlic (Crow Poison)
    Panicum Grass (species)
    Bromus Grass (species)
    Sedges (Carex Species)
    Rush's (juncus species)

Table 2



Pied-billed Grebe Yellow-billed Cuckoo Dark-eyed Junco
Double-crested Cormorant Great Horned Owl Red-winged Blackbird
Great Blue Heron Chimney Swift Common Grackle
Great Egret Belted Kingfisher Great-tailed Grackle
Snowy Egret Red-bellied Woodpecker House Finch
Green-backed Heron Yellow-bellied Sapsucker American Goldfinch
Wood Duck Downy Woodpecker House Sparrow
Green-winged Teal Northern Flicker White-throated Sparrow
Mallard Acadian Flycatcher Swamp Sparrow
Northern Shoveler Alder Flycatcher Lincoln's Sparrow
American Wigeon Willow Flycatcher Chipping sparrow
Bufflehead Eastern Phoebe Indigo Bunting
Red-shouldered Hawk Great Crested Flycatcher Northern Cardinal
Killdeer Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Wilson's Warbler
Common Snipe Blue Jay American Robin
Franklin's Gull American Crow Brown Thrasher
Bonaparte's Gull Carolina Chickadee White-eyed Vireo
Ring-billed Gull Tufted Titmouse Tennessee Warbler
Rock Dove Carolina Wren Nashville Warbler
Morning Dove House Wren Yellow-rumped Warbler
Golden-crowned Kinglet Ruby-crowned Kinglet Black-and-white Warbler
Swainson's Thrush American Redstart Common Yellowthroat
Northern Mockingbird Solitary Vireo Yelow Warbler
European Starling Orange-crowned Warbler Blackburnian Warbler
American Coot Blue-winged Teal Least Flycatcher
Cedar Waxwing Eastern Towhee  


Raccoon Beaver Red Fox
Fox Squirrel Virginia Opossum  
Turtles (2 species) Frogs (3 species) Snakes (2 species)

INSECTS (various and numerous)



(Report any new findings to the Web Author and it will be posted)

Aquatic Plants


 Person posting the flora

American Lotus 2011 Al Kohutek sprayed and killed in 2011
American Pondweed 10/1/2016 Al Kohutek 2016
American Waterwillow (Justicia americana) 6/4/01 Brandon Wooddell & Al Kohutek
Bushy Pondweed 10/12/2017  Al Kohutek
Cat-tail (Typhan species) 6/6/2018 Al Kohutek
Coontail 6/4/01 Brandon Wooddell & Al Kohutek
Coastal water hyssop or herb-of-grace (Bacopa monnieri) 12/8/02 Al Kohutek
Duck Weed 6/6/2018  Al Kohutek
Muskgrass (chara species) 6/4/01 Brandon Wooddell & Al Kohutek
Pennyworth (Hydrocotyle species) 6/4/01 Brandon Wooddell & Al Kohutek
Rush 6/4/01 Brandon Wooddell & Al Kohutek
Spatterdock (Nuphar advena) Yellow water lily,  6/4/01 Brandon Wooddell & Al Kohutek
Yellow Flag, yellow iris, water flag June 2019 Al Kohutek, it's been in the lake for years but just now posting

Other Plants

Baccharis neglecta - Roosevelt weed (other names are
New Deal Weed, or Jara Dulce, or Poverty Weed)
12/8/02 Al Kohutek


(Report any new findings to the Web Author and it will be posted)



Person Posting & Notes 




Black-bellied whistling duck


Al Kohutek 
Greater Canadian Goose


Al Kohutek 
Hooded Merganser 12/2000 Al Kohutek  
Gadwall 11/2000 Al Kohutek 
American White Pelican 2001 Tom Root
Ring-necked Duck 01/2001 Al Kohutek 
Lesser Scaup 01/2001 Al Kohutek 
Purple Martin  04/21/01 Al Kohutek
Greater Canadian Goose   02/24/03 Al Kohutek
White Wing Dove  02/22/03 Al Kohutek
Snow Goose  03/09/03 Al Kohutek
House Finch  05/20/03 Al Kohutek - nesting in back yard
Barn Swallow 04/21/01 Al Kohutek


Croc 08/15/01 Behind Marty's dock
Snake - EASTERN YELLOW BELLY RACER 06/20/06 Jim Ferguson
Graham's crayfish snake 08/15/01 Caught in a minnow trap by Al
Mediterranean Gecko 2001 Al Kohutek
Texas Spiny Lizard  05/06/01 Al Kohutek
Diamondback Water Snake 05/09/01 Al Kohtuek
Great Plains Rat Snake 
(Elaphe emoryi) sometimes called a chicken snake
05/06/03 Al Kohtuek
Ground Skink (Scincella lateralis) 05/24/03 Al Kohutek
Common Snapping Turtle 08/19/04 Steve Martin
Red-eared Slider Turtle  09/18/04 Al Kohutek
Soft-shelled Turtle 09/02/03 Al Kohutek
Mud Turtle 08/07/03 Al Kohutek


Texas leopard frog Frog 05/17/03 Al Kohutek
Toad 09/27/03 Al Kohutek
Greater Siren (Siren lacertina) 09/199/02 Steve Martin 


BRYOZOAN 05/2019 Al Kohutek




Al Kohutek 
Cotton Tailed Rabbit  2001 Al Kohutek - Very numerous 
Nutria 2000 Al Kohutek - Very numerous
Beaver  2002 Al Kohutek
Skunk  2002 Beverly Root

All the fish listed below have been identified in the Lake Vilbig fish surveys or reported by areas anglers or reported in lake records page.

Fish  Scientific name, then person who first described the species in ( ) and other facts about the fish.
Largemouth Bass (Black Bass)* Micropterus Salmoides (Lacepede).  Stocked by the Vilbig Bass Club.  See lake records page for current record and fish stocking page for more info.
Warmouth (Goggle-eye)* Lepomis gulosus (Cuvier).  See lake records page for current record.  This fish can get up to 1.3 pounds in Texas. 
Green Sunfish (Rock Bass)* Lepomis cyanellus (Rafinesque)
Redear Sunfish* Lepomis microlophus (Cuvier)
Longear Sunfish* Lepomis megalotis (Rrafinesque)
Bluegill (Bream, Perch)* Lepomis macrochirus (Rafinesque) Stocked by the Vilbig Bass Club
White Crappie* Promoxis annularis (Rafinesque) See lake records page for current record. 
Black Crappie Promoxis nigromaculatus (Lesueur). Stocked on 3/19/98 
Sand Bass (White Bass)* Morone chrysops (Rafienseque) See lake records page for current record.    Spawing occurs either near the surface, or in midwater in early spring.  It is common to catch fish in the 3 pound range in Lake Vilbig.    
Yellow Bass (Bar Bass)* Morone mississippiensis (Jordan and Eigenmann). A trophy fish may not exceed one pound.
Flathead Catfish (yellow cat, opelousas) Pylodicts olivaris (Rafinesque).  50-pounders are not unusual, some exceed 110 pounds.  These pictures are from an actual Vilbig Flathead
Bullhead (mud cat, polliwog) Ameriurus melas (Rafinesque).  The largest specimen reported in Texas is 4.53 pounds. 
Channel Catfish* Ictalurus punctatus (Rafinesque) See lake records page for current record.  At one time Lake Vilbig was a Catfish Farm. 
Blue Catfish* Ictalurus furcatus (Lesueur)
longnose gar* Lepisosteus osseus (Linnaeus)
Freshwater Drum* (Gaspergou) Aplodinotus grunniens (Rafinesque) See lake records page for current record.
Common Carp* Cyprinus carpio (Linnaeus) See lake records page for current record
Golden Shiner Notemigonus crysoleucas (Mitchill)
Blacktail Shiner Cyprinella venusta (Girard) Maximum size is about 4.6 inches
Red Shiner (Red-horse minnow) Cyprinella Lutrensis (Baird and Girard) Maximum size is about 3.5 inches
Western Mosquitofish Gambusia affinis (Braird and Girard).  Livebearers with a 21-28 day gestation period and the number of young in a single brood may range from a few to over 300.   Length: about 1-2 inches 
Inland Silverside* Menidia beryllina (Cope) The normal life span appears to be less than 1.5 years, however, two-year-old females are occasionally collected.  Length: maximun size is about 3 inches.
Blackstripe topminnow Fundulus notatus
Flathead Minnow Pimephales promelas (Rafinesque).  May lay as many as 12,000 eggs and may spawn 12 times during a single summer.  Length: 1-2 inches
Gizzard Shad* Dorosoma cepedianum (Lesueur). Gizzard shad usually easily distinguished form threadfin shad by the fact that the upper jaw projects well beyond the lower jaw.  Amateur ichthyologists can run a finger underneath the mouth forward, and if the fingernail catches on the upper jaw and opens the mouth, in most cases the fish is a gizzard shad rather than an threadfin shad. Length: 9-14 inches some have been reported to exceed 20 inches.   
Threadfin Shad* Dorosoma Petenense (Gunther).  Threadfin shad are usually easily distinguished from gizzard shad by the fact that the upper jaw des not project beyond the lower jaw.  Temperature sensitive with die-offs reported at temperatures below 45 f, and may continue into the summer.  Length: rarely exceed 6 inches. 
Darter* Etheostoma lepidum (Baird and Girard). Winter spawners beginning sometime in October and end in May.  They grow to about 2.5 inches
Madtom Catfish Texas madtoms are usually less than 2 inches as a maximum sizes.


Fresh Water Grass/Glass Shrimp*  Palaemonetes kadiakensis
Crayfish*  Stocked on 7/29/95 also reported in the lake survey 

* Identified in one of the Lake Surveys (1995 or 2000)


Click here for more information on Lake Vilbig's zooplankton


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