Monday, March 02, 2009

Back to Brazos

Deanne and I had planned to spend the weekend at Rockport, seeing the Whooping Cranes. However, the weather didn’t look wonderful for a boat trip and so we ended up staying in Cypress and spending Sunday morning at Brazos Bend State Park instead.

Just outside the entrance to BBSP, we stopped by the roadside to admire a group of perhaps 40 Sandhill Cranes.

Pulling into the 40 Acre Lake parking lot, we noticed that the trees were very busy with birds. Within ten minutes I had seen Northern Mockingbird, Carolina Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmouse, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Orange-crowned Warbler, Red-bellied Woodpecker and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

The picnic area had its usual complement of American Crows but we also came across a Hermit Thrush, American Pipit and Eastern Phoebe.

It was very cold and windy near the lake and perhaps because of this there were fewer birds than usual on the water. American Coots, Blue-winged Teal and Pied-billed Grebes were numerous, but we saw only a handful of Green-winged Teal, Common Moorhens and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, plus a couple of Anhingas and Double-crested Cormorants.

Green-winged Teal

Common Moorhen

As coots and moorhen presumably share the same taste in food, I would have expected them to squabble over territory. However, this Common Moorhen and American Coot appeared to be getting along well together.

This group of Blue-winged Teal was clearly in the sights of a small alligator.

The edges of the lake had dozens of Killdeer, as well as a Lesser Yellowlegs and a Wilson’s Snipe. Also rummaging at the water’s edge were several Savannah Sparrows and many Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Larger wading birds at 40 Acre were Great and Snowy Egrets, White Ibis, Great and Little Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, and Roseate Spoonbills. There were also a couple of Caspian Terns.

We didn’t see any American Bitterns or rails, but the grasses and reeds back from the water had Lincoln’s Sparrows and Common Yellowthroat.

Elm Lake was much quieter than usual, with only a sprinkling of water and wading birds. Hoping to see Vermilion Flycatcher and Cinnamon Teal, I walked right around the lake without seeing either species. As compensation, I spotted my first Tree Swallows of the year and had good views of a Swamp Sparrow and several alligators.

Swamp Sparrow

This alligator seemed happy to pose for photos.

A picnic under the “Tropical Parula” tree didn’t produce any parulas but we were joined there by Tufted Titmice and a flock of Chipping Sparrows.

Overall, it wasn’t a great birding day, with a total of 43 species and no uncommon birds. However, BBSP is always beautiful and we certainly enjoyed our three hours there.


Birdwoman said...

I'm hoping to get "back to Brazos" myself sometime this week. I hope the Sandhills are still hanging around. I don't have them on my year list.

Jeff said...

They have been in the field on your right as you pass through the park entrance. It's easier to see them if you park on the main road 100 yards west of the entrance.
BTW, I think they often leave before/during the afternoon.

Bevson said...

Your pictures are wonderful. I was at Brazos Bend back in Feb. I did get to see the Vermillion Fly, but the Tropical Parula tree was empty for me too. The 2 days I spent in the park were gray and rainy, so my photos are blah. That is a terrific park, if I lived nearby I would bird there often.

Jeff said...

Thanks, Beverly.
From your blog it looks like you had a great time when you were down here. Well done on spotting the Vermilion Flycatcher! I'll see it one of these days.

Isaac said...

That's a big gator. I have yet to make it down to Brazos, in part because my wife's terrified of gators. Your pictures may be the final push I need.