Brazos Bend

State Park

Getting There
Trail Map
I had only just recovered from the hair-raising experience of driving on the Houston freeways by the time I arrived at Brazos Bend State Park. One of the first things I saw after leaving the car, and heading for the fishing pier on 40 Acre Lake, was a sign warning of alligators. As I followed the path to the pier, I was scared half to death by a flurry of activity practically under my feet, as an alligator exploded out of the long grass beside the path and splashed into the lake. He watched me for the entire time I was on the pier! What a start to my first day alone in the wilds of Texas!
A later sign said: "Poisonous snakes found in tall grass in
this park"!

Alligator Observation (him observing me....)

As I was leaving the car, I remembered all the dire warnings about bugs in Texas. So I grabbed the green spray can that I had carefully brought from Canada, and began strenuously applying what I thought was Deep-Woods OFF. It somehow didn't smell quite right... to my disgust, I realized I had carefully packed a can of Right Guard deodorant! I guess the bugs didn't think much of it, since I wasn't bothered with insects for the entire trip.
40 Acre Lake
Looking back toward the parking area
From the end of the fishing pier, it was clear why 40-Acre Lake was a popular wintering destination for waterfowl. However, except for a few coots, moorhens and, in the distance, MUD (Many Unidentified Ducks), the lake was fairly quiet.  40 Acre Lake
Looking toward the Observation Tower
Brazos Bend Observation Tower
Observation Tower
It was a peaceful, beautiful walk to the Observation Tower, around 40 Acre Lake. I had forgotten how handy it was having Duncan around to carry the scope and camera bag. The temperature reading on the way out of Houston earlier was 94 degrees, and I am sure the humidity was approaching 100%. So, when I finally reached the top of the tower with my scope and camera bag, the shade and seats were very welcome. Then I realized I had to get back... 

A sign on the side of the tower showed the high water mark (noted on the photo) during the floods resulting from the recent hurricane. 

Pliant Lake
Pliant Lake from the Tower

Female Anhinga - Photo copyright Don DesJardin
Female Anhinga
Photo copyright Don DesJardin

Just behind the trees beside the Observation Tower is an area of dead trees and undergrowth that is a heron and egret rookery. There were many Cattle, Snowy and Great Egrets around, with Anhingas drying their wings in the sunlight. On a dead snag, I also spotted an immature Red-Shouldered Hawk, which a friendly pair of Houston birders passing by helped me to identify. They became quite exited by a passing flight of White-faced Ibis, saying that was a "very good" bird for Brazos Bend! White Ibis are quite common in the general area. 40 Acre Lake from the Tower
40 Acre Lake from Tower
Little Blue Heron - Photo copyright Don DesJardin
Little Blue Heron
Photo copyright Don DesJardin

Common Moorhens
Common Moorhens in the Duckweed

Although I didn't come close to walking all the trails, I did get to explore a lot of the area close to the roads. And there were birds everywhere I looked closely. The hordes of geese and ducks normally found at Brazos Bend in the winter had not yet arrived or were waiting out the heat in the reeds. But there were a few life birds around for me - my first Little Blue Heron was spotted on the Pliant Slough Trail, a Common Grackle and a small flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were spotted near Elm Lake, and every "wire" held a Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher Across a pond - a great egret
A Great Egret roosting across a pond
As I was leaving Brazos Bend, my Lane Guide suggested a trip down the Davis Estate Road, a left turn after driving north for 2 miles on Farm Road 762 from the park entrance. After negotiating a rather pugnacious rooster and his flock at the start of the road, I drove 3.8 miles on the dirt road until I reached the large pond on the far side of the cattle guard. Although I was too early for the flocks of Snow Geese (which were still munching on the fields back home in Alberta), I did spot my last life bird for the day - a Black Vulture, standing in the middle of the road, and then taking off, displaying his lovely white under-wing patches. That made six life birds for the day!
Wildflowers at Brazos Bend
Wildflowers at Brazos Bend
But, I had to get back to Houston. This time, there were no chickens barring the way, just a large flock of domestic geese who had replaced the chickens in the middle of the road before I could get back to the highway. I was not looking forward to the freeways - but, hey, if I could survive alligators, I could survive anything! And there was more birding to come... 

P.S. - the temperature sign read 97 degrees when I got back to Houston. I have never wished for that lovely Alberta snow more in my life!