Brazoria NWR Texas - August 2010

 

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

 

I took a quick business trip to the Houston area in late August and was able to sneak in a quick trip down to the Gulf Coast to do a bit of wildlife viewing and photography at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge.   I chose this are mainly because I have been there before and was familiar enough with the area to be able to find stuff in the limited amount of time I had available.   I finished my business meetings early in the afternoon on August 25th and drove to a hotel I had booked not too far away from the site.   I was able to take on pass at the area before dark and then the plan was to get up at the crack of dawn the next morning and spend about a half a day there before driving back to Houston to catch my afternoon flight back to San Diego.

Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge is about an hour drive from Houston near Angleton and Lake Jackson if you are familiar with the area.  It’s a freshwater slough with salt marshes and inland native bluestem prairie habitats.   While this was the “off season” for the area (in the winter this is one of the most productive areas during the annual Christmas Bird Count where over 200 species are regularly reported) there are still a number of interesting species that can be found here.

After checking into my hotel around 2:00 in the afternoon I drove over the refuge arriving there around 3:00 PM.  The place was completely deserted, I was the only one at the entire refuge for the remainder of the day.   The weather was warm but not uncomfortable with a light wind and pretty good conditions.   The wind was just enough to keep most of the biting insects at bay and allow me to walk around a bit.  I recall that the last time I visited here,  I was pretty much eaten alive by mosquitos so it was nice to not have to defend myself from them on this particular instance!

Basically I just drove around the refuge for the rest of the afternoon, stopping whenever there was something interesting and taking some shots.   The refuge has a nice dirt road look that takes you completely around the sloughs and through a couple of different habitats.  You always have to keep your eyes skyward as well though as many birds are passing by either on their way to or from the Gulf.

I was out the door slightly after 3:00 AM and as soon as I got near the refuge the frogs started showing up and in large numbers!   There were basically three species, all abundant.  Gulf Coast Toads, Southern Leopard Frogs and Green Treefrogs - literally hundreds and hundreds of them.   I cruised quite a bit looking to get lucky finding a snake or two but all I came across was a dead Western Diamondback Rattlesnake and a badly crushed Cottonmouth (I think).   There were also tons of insects out and unlike the previous day, there was no wind blowing whatsoever and this meant that the mosquitos were out with a vengeance!   I made the mistake of standing outside the car a little too long while taking pictures of one of the Leopard Frogs that I found and I was glad I had on my long sleeved shirt and cargo pants or I would have been carried away and eaten alive!   I also came across a very large Alligator in the middle of the road that showed surprising agility and quickness when it realized that my car was slightly bigger than he was and he ran/lunged into a side canal and out of sight.

I finally got back to the entrance to the refuge a little before first light and drove down to an area that I thought would be interesting to be at when the sun rose.   There was already a tremendous amount of bird activity with just the slightest hint of daylight starting to make its presence known on the distant horizon.   You could start making out the myriad of different species congregated in a shallow lake including just about every Heron and Egret species you can think of along with a handful of one of my favorite wading birds, Roseate Spoonbills!   This is why I had positioned myself here as the previous afternoon I had spooked a small flock of them in the same location, they flew off to parts unknown before I had been able to take any shots of them.    I was hoping that by getting there before sunrise I could settle in and become part of the surroundings making it less invasive for me to be taking photographs.    The strategy seemed to work and over the next hour or so I was able to photograph a myriad of wading birds and their allies.   Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Green Heron’s, Tri-colored Heron’s, Snowy Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, and even Least Bittern’s were present and some in great numbers, not to mention the Lesser Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, etc. that were everywhere.   It was a great start to the day.

Another highlight for me was when I spotted a raptor perched in a tree at a great distance.   I at first thought it was an Osprey but after taking several photos and zooming in on the subject I realized that it was something different and after a little more looking I realized that I had my first “lifer” bird of the trip, a White-tailed Hawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was pretty tired at the end of the day so I headed back to my hotel, grabbed a quick bite to eat and hit the sack, setting the alarm clock for 3:00 AM so I could cruise the roads a little bit before sunrise in the hopes of finding something interesting besides the birds.

I was out the door slightly after 3:00 AM and as soon as I got near the refuge the frogs started showing up and in large numbers!   There were basically three species, all abundant.  Gulf Coast Toads, Southern Leopard Frogs and Green Treefrogs - literally hundreds and hundreds of them.   I cruised quite a bit looking to get lucky finding a snake or two but all I came across was a dead Western Diamondback Rattlesnake and a badly crushed Cottonmouth (I think).   There were also tons of insects out and unlike the previous day, there was no wind blowing whatsoever and this meant that the mosquitos were out with a vengeance!   I made the mistake of standing outside the car a little too long while taking pictures of one of the Leopard Frogs that I found and I was glad I had on my long sleeved shirt and cargo pants or I would have been carried away and eaten alive!   I also came across a very large Alligator in the middle of the road that showed surprising agility and quickness when it realized that my car was slightly bigger than he was and he ran/lunged into a side canal and out of sight.

 

 

 

I finally got back to the entrance to the refuge a little before first light and drove down to an area that I thought would be interesting to be at when the sun rose.   There was already a tremendous amount of bird activity with just the slightest hint of daylight starting to make its presence known on the distant horizon.   You could start making out the myriad of different species congregated in a shallow lake including just about every Heron and Egret species you can think of along with a handful of one of my favorite wading birds, Roseate Spoonbills!   This is why I had positioned myself here as the previous afternoon I had spooked a small flock of them in the same location, they flew off to parts unknown before I had been able to take any shots of them.    I was hoping that by getting there before sunrise I could settle in and become part of the surroundings making it less invasive for me to be taking photographs.    The strategy seemed to work and over the next hour or so I was able to photograph a myriad of wading birds and their allies.   Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Green Heron’s, Tri-colored Heron’s, Snowy Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, and even Least Bittern’s were present and some in great numbers, not to mention the Lesser Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, etc. that were everywhere.   It was a great start to the day.

Another highlight for me was when I spotted a raptor perched in a tree at a great distance.   I at first thought it was an Osprey but after taking several photos and zooming in on the subject I realized that it was something different and after a little more looking I realized that I had my first “lifer” bird of the trip, a White-tailed Hawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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