Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Houston Area from the Holidays: Brazos Bend State Park

Less than an hour drive from where we were stay in Missouri City, TX when we visit family, a big beautiful park has been hiding right under our noses. A lovely drive down some country roads, much like the back roads we drive around here in Oregon, led us to Brazos Bend State Park.

Oaks and Spanish Moss

Cypress tree

Little Yellow

As soon as we stepped out of the car, a bright male Vermillion Flycatcher greeted us as he flew back and forth from his little stand of branches in the lake, catching some tasty, Texas-sized bugs for sure. Although we had recently seen a female VEFL at Bear Creek Park a couple of days before, it’s really quite breathtaking to see a gorgeous, vibrant male.

Just moments after we saw this little guy, we were graced with the presence of our lifer Least Grebe! They were actually in the same field of view. I just kept zooming in and out with my binoculars and scope to toggle between checking out the handsome flycatcher to ogling the adorable Least Grebe! I could have just wiped my hands together in a satisfactory manner and said, “Well, we’re all done here!” But of course, we had just gotten started.

Least Grebe in the background, and that splotch of red is a Vermillion Flycatcher!

Least Grebe

Least Grebe

Least Grebe (chased by a Pied-Billed Grebe)

Here's that mean Pied-Billed Grebe

This is a big park, but we did not have all day, so we had to prioritize where to go. We decided to first walk the 1.7 mile loop trail around Elm Lake. We were on the hunt for some Eastern warbler species that had recently been seen there, but we didn’t have luck with those. But the Little Blue Heron, Common Gallinule, and Eastern Phoebe were kind to us.

Little Blue Heron

Eastern Phoebe

Common Gallinule (Still want to say Moorhen)

Common Gallinule

"I'm so pretty, oh so pretty!"

We also had quite an exciting moment when we had a fly by Crested Caracara!! It happened all so fast that we didn't get any photos. These are such handsome birds, and we had not seen them since our South Florida days. And even then, we had only seen them a couple of times. This was also a target bird for us once we saw that there were recent sightings for it. We couldn’t believe it was so close and accessible to us! Since I have no photos to share, enjoy these lovely Blue-Winged Teal and Alligator instead. :)

Blue-Winged Teal

Blue-Winged Teal

Blue-Winged Teal


Walking around the lake, we had some nice views of some other old friends, like Anhingas and White Ibis. They politely posed for us as we strolled around the trail. Also, it was an eerie sight to see the waterline from when it had likely flooded during the recent Hurricane Harvey. It’s good to know that these natural spaces can bounce back, especially with the help of dedicated employees and volunteers.

Evidence of how high the flood waters rose 

Notice the dark layer showing the flood line across the trees

White Ibis
White Ibis checking his pulse

Anhingas (aka Snakebirds) are really quite striking, especially when they are spreading their wings. And contrary to what many believe, Anhingas do have an oil gland! We saw it! I've read that the spread-wing posture may be more for thermoregulation rather than drying off.

We had a little bit of time to check out Creekfield Lake before heading out. We heard a Barred Owl asking, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” But as hard as we tried, we could not find him up in the tree to answer him! Along the swampy area, we mostly heard more of the appropriately named Swamp Sparrows. We really could only see obstructed views of them in the tall grasses. They know just how to fly high enough to get us excited, but duck down low again just enough to frustrate us. Just let us love you and see you!

Swamp Sparrow

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Headed Vireo (such a cutie!)

Well, at least another handsome male Vermillion Flycatcher was much more obliging – leading us along the trail and posing ever so nicely for us as we crept up on him.

This place was so special, and we will definitely be back!


  1. Hey I've been to Brazos Bend SP! Cool!

    Some copious crushing going on here! The waders are all excellent but my fave is the Teal--dunno I've ever seen Blue-winged like that.

    Moorhen is just a cooler word than Gallinule, more cultured than simply scientific.

    Interesting to note the Least Grebe having seemingly red eyes? The ones I have seen have always been yellow.

    1. Thanks, Laurence! We knew of a guy that called Moorhens "morons," which is kinda mean, but kinda appropriate. It was a really cloudy day, so maybe that's why the Least Grebe's eyes look red? Either that or he's been smoking up a little something. ;)

  2. I dig that BWTE with the white "v" on the crown/nape, not sure if that is something I've seen/noticed before. Cool bird!

    1. Yeah, it's cool, isn't it! He looks so distinguished. :) It's the first time I've noticed markings like that on a BWTE, too.

  3. Seems like a great spot - so many cool birds! A couple of them look very familiar as they have quite similar Aussie counterparts ;)

    And the photos showing the high water marks are really interesting, thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks! Indeed, it is a great spot! That's cool that you have Aussie counterparts. We hope we can someday see some of those for ourselves! Thanks for stopping by. :)