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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Birding Brazos Bend

Brazos Bend State Park is one of the many accessible birding hotspots that are easy day trips from my home. I am fortunate to live in the center of one of the birdiest regions in the country, and I really don't take as much advantage of that fact as I should. But at least a few times a year, I do attempt to make the tedious hour-and-a-half drive down to Brazos Bend, because it is one of my favorite birding spots. Yesterday, we made that trip again.

We spent a good portion of the day exploring the park and looking for birds. They were a bit harder to find than usual because the vegetative growth this summer has been amazingly dense. Most of the water on the lakes was covered with gigantic lily pads and other water plants. Easy then for all the water birds to hide among the green stuff. And it's really mainly the water birds that I look for here. Most of the song birds and raptors are birds that I can more easily see in my own backyard, so I want to see something different at Brazos.

Brazos Bend is famous for its alligators and that is what many visitors go there to see, and it's certainly something that I wouldn't see in my backyard! We saw only a couple of 'gators on this day. This one was about a six-footer.

But I came to see things with feathers, not leather!

 At this time of year, there are plenty of young birds around, many of them still tagging along with their parents, like this Common Gallinule and her chick.

Or this American Coot with chick.

A young Common Gallinule on his own reaches for something in the duckweed covered water.

Among the water birds, there were also blackbirds with their young, like this female Red-winged Blackbird, top, who was feeding two young ones who were as big as she was, one of them shown here. She was gleaning tiny caterpillars that were feeding on the lily pads and taking them to her hungry, demanding chicks.

A Yellow-crowned Night Heron considered himself (herself?) hidden among the vegetation at the edge of Elm Lake. I love the piercing stare of those eyes.

This young Yellow-crowned Night Heron may not look much like the adults yet, but he's got the stare already!

 A Snowy Egret, still in his breeding plumage, hunts for dinner at the edge of the lake.

A Green Heron - there were plenty of those around - balances on a lily pad.

There were plenty of Anhingas around as well. This one sat on a dead tree limb and attempted to cool himself.

 A Common Gallinule searches for morsels on a lily pad.

 This pair of White Ibises were the only ones of their kind that I saw this day.

This sweet young Tufted Titmouse perched in a tree near the wildlife observation deck where I was standing.

A Little Blue Heron perched on the railing of the deck itself. Incidentally, I did not see a single Great Blue Heron at the park on this visit. That may be the only time in recorded history that that has happened.

A Pied-billed Grebe showed itself briefly among the lily pads and then disappeared under the water's surface once again.

Isn't this Great Egret an elegant beauty?

When I go to Brazos Bend in the summer, there is really one bird that I'm looking for - the Purple Gallinule. This colorful member of the gallinule family spends summers along the Texas coast and one of the places it often stops is Brazos Bend. I looked in vain for any adult Purple Gallinules on my latest visit, but they had been there. In fact, there could have been hundreds of the birds hiding among the thick vegetation even today, but at least there was some indisputable evidence of their presence - babies.

I got lucky with this young Purple Gallinule who was not very wary and let me snap away with my camera. That leathery frontal shield on its head will one day be pale blue. You can perhaps see a hint of that already.

And as the bird stretched his neck to look for something tasty under the lily pad, I could see that the feathers at his shoulder already contained just a hint of the purple they will become.

So even though I was a little disappointed to have missed his colorful parents, seeing this and some of the other babies that were still present was definitely worth the trip.

If you live in this area and love birds - otherwise why are you reading this blog? - then a day trip to Brazos Bend is highly recommended.


  1. Lovely photos! You obviously had a very good visit to BBSP.

  2. Dorothy, wasn't it hot? I salute you and I thank you for these wonderful photos! I hope there will still be some lovely sights to see when I go in cooler weather!

    1. It was in the mid 90s and very humid and my camera is very heavy, so, yes, I was completely drenched in sweat after a couple of hours. But then that happens every day in my garden so I'm used to it.