Posts Tagged ‘Brazos Bend State Park’

Keeping Bird Lists 

Black-bellied whistling ducks at Brazos Bend State Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

I first started keeping a list of all the bird species I saw in 1999. Sadly, that was after I had visited Hawaii and a few other hot birding places or my list might be much longer today. My world list of bird species currently totals 710.

It’s not a particularly awesome number, but it’s still growing. The list pleases me, as I suspect the list President Theodore Roosevelt put together of the birds he saw during his White House occupancy pleased him.

Spotting the pink of a lone roseate spoonbill, as Lewis and I did among a flock of white ibis, was pure delight. — Photo by Pat Bean

I only recently learned of Teddy’s list, which was printed in 1910 by Audubon’s magazine, Bird-Lore.  Of course, I had to check it out, and so can you at:  https://www.birdnote.org/blog/2014/04/president-theodore-roosevelts-bird-checklist-white-house

The White House list contains 93 birds, of which I have seen all but five. I’m still looking for a saw-whet owl, a whippoorwill, an orchard oriole, a Cape May warbler and a Kentucky warbler.

When I first started birding, I kept individual lists of the birds I saw on each field outing, later adding any new ones to my life list. Most of those lists have disappeared, making me as sad as Darwin was about not separating the bird specimens that he collected on the first two Galapagos Islands he visited. He had simply assumed the species would not differ from island to island – but they did.

Wiser now, with 20 years of birding behind me, I add field trip bird lists directly into my journals.* Such a practice let me compare my last two Texas Gulf Coast bird outings with my son, Lewis, who shares my birding addiction.

A flock of white ibis at Brazos Bend State Park. — Photo by Pat Bean

The first field trip was on a very hot July 11th day in 2018, with high humidity and mosquitos, when we birded the Bay City Bird Sanctuary in a golf cart, followed by a quick drive through San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge.  We saw only 19 bird species, the best sighting being that of a Cooper’s hawk circling above the wooded path we were driving on.

The most recent outing took place on May 2 this month, when we briefly explored the Elm Lake Trail at Brazos Bend State Park, drove through Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge (where Lewis and I had our first bird outing and he began his life list with a summer tanager), then watched birds as we ate lunch at Pirates Cove on Surfside Beach. This time our list numbered 47 for the morning, the final bird being a reddish egret at Christmas Bay off the coastal Blue Water Highway between Freeport and Galveston.

While this was a better birding day, it was still nowhere near the record 100 birds Lewis and I once saw in a single day birding the same area. The recordings of these more recent bird days in my journals are alike, however, in one aspect. Both contained entries that noted the best part of the day was simply getting to spend time with my son.

Bean Pat: Cadillac Ranch and Palo Duro Canyon https://anotefromabroad.com/2019/05/22/texas-cadillac-ranch-and-palo-duro-canyon/#like-108774 Two of this native Texan’s favorite places. One for laughs and the other for peace, nature and bird-watching.

*Available on Amazon, Travels with Maggie features a list of birds saw each leg of the journey.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder, Story Circle Network board member, author of Travels with Maggie available on Amazon, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” – Albert Einstein

            “An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” – Henry David Thoreau

Nothing is more enticing to me than a path -- or a road - that leads to a place unknown.  -- Photo by Pat Bean

Nothing is more enticing to me than a path — or a road – that leads to a place unknown. — Photo by Pat Bean

My Answer is Laughter and a Walk

Soul Writing’s blog http://tinyurl.com/keqkm8e this morning asked “What are the two best cures for anything? Before reading more, I looked at my canine companion, Pepper, and said: Laughter and a walk.

And nothing excites me more than when whatever path I've chosen to walk turns up a surprise, like this great blue heron that I cam upon while following the above path at Brazos Bend State Park in Texas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

And nothing excites me more than when whatever path I’ve chosen to walk turns up a surprise, like this great blue heron that I cam upon while following the above path at Brazos Bend State Park in Texas. — Photo by Pat Bean

At the sound of the latter word,  Pepper’s eyes sparkled, her tail waved and she jumped around in a way that made me thing she was laughing with joy. I think Pepper likes to laugh as much as I do.

So I took her for a walk before coming back and picking up reading where I had left off reading. I wanted to see how Soul Writing answered the question. I was 50 percent in agreement with the blogger. She thought laughter and sleep were the two best cures for anything. I don’t know what her third choice would be, but mine would be chocolate.

This wondering-wandering old broad would love to know how you would answer the question.

The Wondering-Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering-Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: List Making http://tinyurl.com/lcndr3p As a person who is a writer, one who daily makes lists – and talks to her dog as well – how could I not love this blog?

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Yesterday's use of paper included adding a kestrel painting to my sketchbook, writing down dates to remember in my diary calendar, which is full of paintings and quotes, and writing in my to-do journal, which includes a hodgepodge of notes and ideas to myself. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Yesterday’s use of paper included adding a kestrel painting to my sketchbook, writing down dates to remember in my diary calendar, which is full of paintings and quotes, and writing in my to-do journal, which includes a hodgepodge of notes and ideas to myself. — Photo by Pat Bean

            “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with meaning.” – Maya Angelou

I’m So Sorry My Beloved Trees

            I love paper, crisp new pages in a book, cold pressed and textured artist sheets, fanciful stationary, designer pages for my scrapbooking and even the thick block of white for my printer.

But I especially love the blank pages that fill new journals, even more so when their artistic creators have filled bits and pieces of the pages with fairies, flowers, dragons or animal images, and even more when they have left words behind to tickle my little gray cells.

Like these words, which I came across yesterday:  “Let’s talk about mountains. You start climbing one, you toil, you sweat, you finally reach the top, and what do you get? Well, along with a sense of accomplishment, of peace, of a job well done, along with the satisfaction of doing what you set out to do … you get a great view of the next mountain. Looming, Challenging, Calling your name.”  These words were left me behind to ponder from the journal creators, Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers —  And ponder I did.

I wonder if the spirits of trees like this beauty in Brazos Bend State Park in Texas are infused into the paper I touch and use daily.

I wonder if the spirits of trees, like this beauty in Brazos Bend State Park in Texas, are infused into the paper I touch and use daily.

These days, I usually have several journals going at once, the most used being a daily journal in which I write to-do lists (Things I want to keep from this journal get rewritten into my computer journal, which I began several years ago to preserve my writing fingers from cramping),  and  a  journal that I keep beside me when I read, and use to write down quotes and a mishmash of thoughts and ideas.

Even though I love computer journaling, which these days includes this blog, I can’t imagine a day without putting my hands on real paper. It’s an oxymoron for me, because I also love trees. Sometimes I wonder about the origin of the paper I write on, and almost feel the trees talking to me. I hope they forgive me.

The Wondering-Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering-Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

Bean’s Pat: The Blood-Red Pencil http://tinyurl.com/lm2k2pg This is for all the writers who have procrastinated until the deadline monster is close enough to bite off our noses.

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“I never was one for rushing through a country. I like to take my time breathe the air, get the feel of it. I like to smell it, taste it get it located in my brain. The thing to remember when traveling is that the trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you travel for. “ Louis L’Amore

A coot and a turtle inspect each other. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

The mile and a half walk around 40-Acre Lake at Brazos Bend State Park is one of my favorites. While I’ve walked it many times, each time around is different.

Some days the stroll to the observation tower is filled with black-bellied whistling ducks. On other days its egrets and herons that dominate the shallow shore line and swampy wetlands.

Brilliant common yellowthroats like to hide in the reeds, and a northern harrier or two can usually be seen circling in the sky above. One day I had to turn around because the path ahead was lined by huge alligators. I had Maggie that day and I decided I didn’t want her to become just a tasty morsel for those toothy jaws, not to mention that I didn’t want to become dinner either.

Observation tower midway along the hike around 40-Acre Lake. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This past week, it was the coots that dominated the lake. While not the most glamorous of birds, I love watching them. On this day, perhaps because I felt I was one with nature as I had the trail all to myself on this off-season, week-day, the coots let me get close enough to see the glow in their red eyes.

Bean’s Pat: The Fairy Tale Asylum: My Miss Havisham

 http://thefairytaleasylum.wordpress.com/ It’s Margaret Michell’s Scarlet O’Hara for me. I had read the book, “Gone With the Wind.” four times by the time I was 12.

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 “As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream, the great door, that does not look like a door, opens.” Stephen Graham, “The Gentle Art of tramping.”

Black vultures claimed the deck that jutted into Creekfield Lake -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

Come. Take a walk with me around Creekfield Lake at Brazos Bend State Park. Bring your binoculars and camera.

It’s a cool, gray morning here at the park, where Maggie and I are spending a couple of days to hike and bird-watch.

The walk begins, continues and ends with cawing crows and dee-dee-deeing chickadees providing background music. Their not unpleasant cacophony is occasionally punctuated by the rat-a-tat-tat of a downy woodpecker.

I was surprised at how close this great blue heron let me get before it flew off. -- Photo by Pat Bean

I was surprised at how close this great blue heron let me get before it flew off. -- Photo by Pat Bean

The robins, titmouses, warblers and mockingbirds also occasionally add a note or two to the melody.

There’s a sign at the beginning of the loop around the lake that says “Don’t feed or molest the alligators.” You can be assured I won’t. I hope someone told the alligators not to molest the hikers. At least Maggie wouldn’t be their dinner. I left her back in the RV after taking her for an earlier morning walk.

Near the swampy, dark-water shore, three white-ibis are feeding. In deeper water, common moorhens are holding a large meeting, their shrill, screeching making it sound as if a dispute is going on.

But by far the most numerous bird I see this day is the black vulture. They have claimed a small island in the lake, many trees, a deck that juts into the water, the top of the park observatory and even the paved trail. They wait until I am almost upon them before they move, then only reluctantly and only to the closest tree, where they sit and watch me pass beneath them.

It’s a bit eerie, but not discomforting. I know they prefer dead things for dinner and I am very much alive.

That the vultures didn’t budge until I was almost upon them didn’t surprise me. The lone great blue heron that let me get closer than normal before flying off did surprise me. They usually fly at the first appearance of a human.

I had the trail to myself, and I was constantly lingering to look about at everything about me, the lingering red leaf, the mushrooms growing on a fallen tree, the feather floating in the water.

A small bench nicely situated beneath a large live-oak tree beckons to me. I sit and soon am being entertained by a small flock of bluebirds that just happen to be passing by. When they move on, I get up to follow. The bluebirds stick together in male and female pairs and I decide they are courting. As I watch a crow flies to a nearby tree with a stick in its beak. I assume it’s for starting a nest.

All too soon, I’ve completed the walk around the lake. What a great morning.

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“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber


American woodcock. The one we saw at Brazos Bend had a beautiful red belly but flew away too quickly for me to get a photograph. -- Wikipedia photo


Travels With Maggie

The best option I’ve found to dump the holding tanks in my RV when I’m visiting my son in Lake Jackson is Brazos Bend State Park. The compensation for making the 80-mile round-trip drive is that the Texas park, known for its alligators, is one of my favorite places to bird.

I announced my intentions of making the drive to my son, Lewis, asking if he would like to make the trip with me. He passed the word along to his wife, Karen.

“Mom needs to take a dump at Brazos Bend,” is how he put it, which suddenly became a standing joke among us.

Saturday, the two of them, also birders, joined me for the adventure. Arriving at the park, I renewed my annual Texas State Park pass, then took care of Gypsy Lee’s business while Karen and Lewis walked Maggie and watched a flock of cedar waxwings.


But this red-eyed fellow, a black-crowned night heron, posed nicely for me. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Ten minutes after I had put on plastic gloves, hooked up a sewer hose and pulled levers, Gypsy Lee’s holding tanks were empty and I was ready to join the birding party.

We decided to hike the Hoots Hollow trail near the park entrance. It was a good choice.

One of the first birds we saw as we entered the moss-dripping forest was an American woodcock. It was cause for great joy as the bird was a lifer for all three of us. It brought my list of species seen up to 699.

But the benefits of having to drive to Brazos Bend to dump didn’t end there. Just as we were about to exit the trail, I got my 700th species, a Swainson’s thrush. It had been quite awhile since I had added any new bird species to my life list, and to get two in one day was fantastic.

Our continued birding around Forty Acre Lake was also great. We ended the day with 57 species, our final one being a black-crowned night heron that posed for my camera.

The day left me looking forward to my next “dump.”

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“Looking back, you realize that a very special person passed briefly through your life, and that person was you.  It is not too late to become that person again.”   ~Robert Brault

Self Portrait

As I frequently point out, I’m a writer not a photographer. It’s a conscious decision to prioritize my life, which is already too full of the many things I do.  I’ve always wanted it all, but finally had to accept that each thing I do takes a chunk away from something else. 

Since writing is at the top of my important list,  I spend more time with a notepad than a camera.  To assure that I continue doing this, my only camera is a small pocket point-and-shoot. It’s a Canon PowerShot with a decent zoom and image stabilizer that is almost alwaays with me. It has no straps and I carry no tripod so it fits quite nicely in the right-hand pocket of my cargo pants.

Without any extra equipment, however, I was a little perturbed at this week’s photo challenge. I wasn’t sure I could take a decent  self-portrait. 

The problem must have been fermenting in my brain when I visited Brazos Bend State Park yesterday.  While I was standing on a pier that jutted into the water, taking photos of common moorhens and a big old alligator watching them from his tiny island outpost, the solution suddenly appeared below me.

Can you see me?

Self-Portrait -- Photo by Pat Bean

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The big baby guarding the road. I estimated his length at about 12 feet, the smaller ones I passed at about six feet. ... Photo by Pat Bean

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” Abraham Lincoln

Yesterday was a first for me. While rain, sleet and snow have occasionally cut a hike short, I have never before been turned back by an alligator. This day I was.

I had  passed three smaller snoozing reptiles on the narrow dike trail around 40-Acre Lake at Texas’ Brazos Bend State Park before coming across the big guy. He had stationed himself facing the trail. I would have to pass within 10 feet of him to continue on. This was far less than the 30 feet distance a sign at the start of the trailed warned hikers to maintain when spotting alligators.

I was actually considering sneaking past him until he opened his eyes. One look at those dark orbs, which sit atop its head and act like a periscope when his body is submerged in the water, stopped me in mid-step. I backtracked past the smaller reptiles, one of which didn’t look so small at a second look, and detoured to do the Hoots Hollow trail.

I saw fewer birds here than I would have on the lake, but the peacefulness of hiking without having to fear losing a leg to the big guy soothed away any regrets. As Scarlett O’Hara said when not getting her way, “ … tomorrow’s another day.”

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