An unexpected gathering

From my house to Brazos Bend State Park is about 40 minutes if there isn't traffic or a wreck

From my house to Brazos Bend State Park is about 40 minutes if there isn't traffic or a wreck

Brazos Bend State Park is one of my favorite haunts. For non-locals, it is located in the southwest part of the Houston area. Half the trip is on the freeway, then a nice meandering drive through rice fields and grazing land. By the time you get to the park, you are relaxed and ready to see some BIRDS!

A recent trip was quite memorable. First there was the fog to deal with. More about that in a later post!

Once I got there, I did a bit of birding around 40-acre lake early but nothing much was happening. The water is low with exposed mud flats and dying vegetation. We have had a series of dry years.

But, all things change. I am sure I will be complaining about incessant rain one of these days, too. 

I was getting tired of taking pictures of Ibis and the others were too far away.

My camera is a Panasonic FZ200 bridge camera. It does wonderfully well at mid-range and even in low light, but long distances are better left for the big boys.

I packed up and drove the short distance to a small lake by the observatory called Creekfield Lake.

Adventure at Creekfield Lake

This lake has paved trails and markers explaining the flora and fauna. It is one of my favorites for photographing egrets and herons. It is a small lake so when the ducks take off and swoop around I have a fair chance of capturing one in flight. Still practicing that skill.

Entrance path to Creekfield Lake.

Entrance path to Creekfield Lake.

This bridge crosses the lake and leads up to the Observatory. First time I was here I was on the bridge marveling at a Green Heron that was right at the edge of the lake... when I heard a huge splash. Boy, that must have been a really big fish to have made so much noise, I thought.

Wrong. That was my introduction to alligators in Brazos Bend.

But I digress. This trip I didn't see any alligators close by. I stalked this guy for a long time while he stalked his lunch.

The bird formerly known as the Louisiana Heron, now called the Tri-colored Heron.

The bird formerly known as the Louisiana Heron, now called the Tri-colored Heron.

I wanted to see him spear a fish, a crawdad, a frog. Anything. All the big guys are posting images on Instagram of Herons with their catch; one even has a capture of a Heron with a Vole! But this Tri-colored Heron was not cooperating with my dreams.

While I was following him back and forth I noticed something odd on the pier around the bend.

Black things far away on the pier railings

Black things far away on the pier railings

I had an idea what they were, but no, that couldn't be right. Some were holding out their wings and for a moment I thought I had stumbled on a bunch of Anhingas. but no...

Can you guess?

A buzzard convention!

A buzzard convention!

I have never ever seen so many Vultures in one place. Gawd, are they ever ugly up close. These were mostly Black Vultures.  I did see a few Turkey Vultures mixed in. And they are really filthy. Well, I suppose it is unreasonable to expect a carrion eater to be fastidious, but still. 

They were all over the piers.

Vultures and more vultures

Vultures and more vultures

They were all in the trees, sunning themselves. Occasionally one would fly over me and the shadow and sound was terrifying. These guys are really big - they have a wingspan of 1.5 m or 5 feet. Dang.

Vultures in the sunshine
Vultures in the sunshine
MOAR vultures

MOAR vultures

Turkey Vulture hanging with his cousins, the Black Vultures

Turkey Vulture hanging with his cousins, the Black Vultures

I did talk to the Park Ranger because I have never ever seen so many at one time. He said for the past few winters the vultures have been roosting in the park. I have no idea if we will have to share space with these guys all winter. They are downright creepy.

This is right out of a Hitchcock film...

This is right out of a Hitchcock film...

Have you ever seen great groups of vultures before? They are year round residents of the southeastern US and into Mexico and South America.

So, they didn't seem to make any.. bird noises. I just looked that up and they lack a "syrinx" or vocal organ of a bird. I don't even remember them grunting or hissing. That was another part of the overall strangeness - it was so quiet.

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In the foggy bottoms

A trip to the coast