Thursday, March 11, 2010

Brazos Bend: 40 Acre Lake

I took the morning off work yesterda
y to visit Brazos Bend State Park and I arrived to find the park blanketed in thick fog.

As I walked down to 40-Acre Lake through oaks shrouded in Spanish moss, I noticed movement in the picnic area. A family of wild pigs! The mother quickly led the piglets to safety at a gallop.

The lake itself looked beautiful in the fog.

As usual, the water's edge was busy with wading birds.

Glossy Ibis

Little Blue Heron

Further out, the water w
as crowded with other birds but it was often difficult to make out what they were.

Birds would appear silently and suddenly out of the fog and be lost to sight again a few seconds later.

White Ibis

Tricolored Heron

As I started to walk the trail around the lake, I was surrounded by birdsong: Northern Cardinals, Great-tailed Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds sang out incessantly, while American Coots and Common Moorhen frequently added their less melodic contributions.

Red-winged Blackbird

Great-tailed Gracle

Then a very different and much more dramatic sound drowned out the singing. It was the bellowing of a large male alligator to my left.

A moment later, there came the reply from an even larger alligator on my right, and for several minutes I stood there in thick fog while the two males bellowed at each other. Their calls were so loud and so deep that I could literally feel them vibrating in the pit of my stomach. It was truly awe-inspiring.

More male alligators bellowed out their
calls as I walked further along the path. However, even though they were fairly close, the thick fog stopped me from getting good photos. As consolation, I took pictures of some of the smaller alligators that were lying peacefully in the water.

When I turned my attention back to birds, I was surprised to see that most of them did not seem to be at all bothered by my presence. Northern Cardinals and Vesper Sparrows calmly explored the path only feet away from me.

Even American Pipits and Tufted Titmice - birds I always find difficult to photograph - stopped and posed for me.

American Pipit

Tufted Titmouse

A Snowy Egret strolled
nonchalantly across the path ...

and a White Ibis walked
a few yards ahead of me for several minutes.

Even many of the Coots, Moorhens and Blue-winged Teal at the water's edge waited until I was very close to them before sailing away across the lake.

American Coot

Common Moorhen

Blue-winged Teal

I suppose they were all so mellow because the fog deadened the sound of my approach and made me less visible. Whatever the reason, it certainly made for a great birding experience.

Elm Lake and more male alligators


Pam said...

Some fantastic photos in there, really looked quite an eerie place especially with the Alligators! The Little Blue Heron is a beautiful bird.

Jeff said...

Thanks, Pam. It was really eerie standing the fog with the gators booming. Plus you have to watch the trail carefully to make sure you don't step on one!

Sharon said...

I don't know where to start first! The family of wild pigs... the little Blue Heron... the fact you have a lake called 40-acre... all the birdlife you encountered... the lovely photos you took... or the fact you have alligators either side of the path bellowing at each other! Have you any idea how jealous I am?! :-)

Jeff said...

I feel very lucky to live here, Sharon - except in the summer when it's 40C with 95% humidity and lots of mosquitoes! Then I start feeling nostalgic for northern England.