Saturday, February 19, 2011

Brazos Bend: 40 Acre Lake

The other morning I managed to fit in a quick visit to Brazos Bend State Park, a site I never tire of visiting. I was hoping to see some new year birds - American Bittern, Northern Pintail and Yellow-crowned Night Heron. As it turned out, I didn't see any of these species but there were plenty of other birds around to keep me occupied during my visit.

As usual, I started off with a walk around 40 Acre Lake, where an Anhinga was silhouetted against the rather gloomy morning sky. Quite a contrast from the first time I ever saw an Anhinga, on a very hot and humid afternoon in the Everglades.

The lake was busy with American Coots.

Common Moorhens added a touch of color to the scene.

The only ducks were a few Blue-winged Teal, most of which were moving around in pairs.

I was disappointed not to see any Night Herons on the opposite side of the trail to the lake - there were plenty there when I visited in late December - but I enjoyed watching a Little Blue Heron prowling through the shallow water.


There were adult White Ibis everywhere.

Now and then I came across a juvenile White Ibis, too. This one walked ahead of me along the trail for several minutes.

Mixed in with the White Ibis was an occasional juvenile White-faced Ibis. The latter can be distinguished from the very similar juvenile Glossy Ibis by its red eye.

The trees along the path were fairly birdy also. Eastern Phoebes were busy flycatching and a Belted Kingfisher flew off protesting loudly at being disturbed by my approach. Northern Cardinals flitted back and forth, while male Red-winged Blackbirds perched on branches and reeds filled the air with their beautiful mating calls, a sound that I never tire of hearing and that always reminds me of our birding outings in California.

Small groups of Savannah Sparrows were picking through the short grass, the yellow above their eyes making them easy to identify.

The swampy areas had several solitary Swamp Sparrows, easily overlooked because of their superb camouflage.

As almost always happens when I visit Brazos Bend, I was so busy watching bird that I came within a couple of feet of stepping on the head of an alligator stretched out by the path. 

It was sound asleep and didn't notice me. Even if it had been awake, I doubt it would have reacted to my coming so close - alligators don't normally eat between about October and March.

After rounding the observation tower and heading back towards the parking area, I stopped to watch a male Downy Woodpecker working its way up a tree trunk.

While I was checking out the Downy to make sure it wasn't a Hairy, a sudden movement on the next tree caught my eye. A Golden-crowned Kinglet.  What a pretty little bird!


Most years we don't see many Golden-crowned Kinglets in our part of Texas but this winter they have been plentiful. I had already seen several in Bear Creek Park and on Galveston.

As I still had a little more time to spend in the park, I decided to drive over to Elm Lake, dropping in for a quick look at Creekfield Lake on the way. But now it's time to get out in our yards and refill the feeders, so I'll leave the rest of my report on Brazos until tomorrow or Monday.

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