White Bird

White Bird

Let's look at some birds!

 You know I have been going to Storey Park, and I told you all about the wildlife in Brays Bayou a few weeks ago.  I have been back there several times (looking for that danged Orange Bishop) and I have also been exploring the watershed for Buffalo Bayou.

Both places involve those steep-sided slopes, patience and plenty of Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets. You know, White Birds. Click on the link and you can listen to that iconic boomer song while you read. Researching the song now, I can see it might be about drugs, or struggling artists, or maybe peace. Who cares at this late date; it is a lovely song. Note: Not responsible for any political ads on the YouTube clip.

View to the North just before Buffalo Bayou goes under Hwy 6.

View to the North just before Buffalo Bayou goes under Hwy 6.

Let's look at Buffalo Bayou first. This is part of Barkers Reservoir on the west side of Hwy 6. There are hike and bike trails all around here and you can see the earthen dam in the background. This dam holds back the results of the torrential downpours and serious flooding I talked about last adventure. There is a spillway just to the left of here that releases the water in a controlled fashion. There is some release now, but just the normal amount. In flood events, we worry that these waterways will fill up.

So, carefully make you way down that concrete slope. Don't freak out, Mom, it really isn't as steep as it looks.  

Great Egret at the bottom of the spillway

Great Egret at the bottom of the spillway

This Great Egret was fishing in the runoff at the bottom of one of the spillways. Most of the time I see birds standing in still water, so this is different. The foamy water makes you think of the coast. 

Other side of the bayou

Other side of the bayou

Here is a Great Egret on the other side of the bayou with a catch. It is a catfish, and it has some serious spines that have to be dealt before it can be swallowed. I did not see him catch the fish, but I watched him work on it for at least 10 minutes. Eventually, he must have de-barbed it, because it went down in a big gulp.

Oh, look closely at the area around his eyes; the lores. They are looking just a wee big green and that is a sign of impending breeding plumage. I am so excited!

Snowy tippy-toeing in the spillway

Snowy tippy-toeing in the spillway

And then the Snowy Egret wanted in on the action. They fish all along the banks, rather evenly spaced. I suppose this spillway spot is sought after; I know I was happy to have such a great background. Look at those feet! There is even a hashtag on Instagram called #ilovebirdfeet!

Fish dinner

Fish dinner

I don't know what kind of fish he scooped up, but obviously not a catfish since he downed it rather quickly.  I just love all those bubbles and foam on the rocks.

Snowy Egret looking well fed

Snowy Egret looking well fed

After all that, he just stood around looking pleased and proud. This one has been edited with Fractalius and Photoshop Oil Paint, in case you wondered.

Another time I went with my fave photographer Bill Maroldo to Storey Park and we made some serious preparations for taking photos. This time we thought to set up on the same side as the culvert, since we could get closer than shooting all the way across the channel. We brought a tarp to sit on, and cleared out the foliage around the culvert on the south side of Brays Bayou. We were ready for birds to land around the inlet for their glamour shots.

That Great Egret on the far side is way too far for lil camera, but not for the big guns.

Actually, I have gotten some really good shots over his shoulder

Actually, I have gotten some really good shots over his shoulder

Eventually a Snowy Egret landed near the culvert where we had anticipated. The line-of-sight foliage had been removed in our pruning exercise, but we did not account for the slow effects of gravity. After about 30 minutes we realized we were ever so slowing sliding downwards...  and weeds that were not a problem before, suddenly appeared in the shots. Repositioning the 'blind' would scare off the birds, so we tried to work around it. I took a lot of shots on my knees, and that isn't as stable.

Snowy Egret on the rocks

Snowy Egret on the rocks

The one above is clear, but I was devastated to find out some of my later shots had serious foreground blurs. We could have done more pruning of the offending foliage, but that would have scared off the birds for at least 30 minutes. The light was chancy that day, and it had sprinkled rain off and on. That isn't a big problem, but a downpour would make climbing back up that slope problematic.

Cooperative Snowy Egret stepping out on tiny island

Cooperative Snowy Egret stepping out on tiny island

But you can't really predict what a bird is going to do. After taking too many shots that I knew would have an obstructed view, the bird suddenly stepped out on this concrete chunk in the middle of the bayou! The wind was blowing a bit, he looks nice and ruffled. The sun came out a bit too much, but hey. You take what you can get.

The ever elegant Snowy Egret

The ever elegant Snowy Egret

And I couldn't resist making this one into a painting.  The foreground blur in the lower right now looks ... rather impressionistic and arty.

OK, who wants to go exploring drainage ditches with me? The water is pretty low right now and the recent rains haven't changed the water level that much. The current is not as swift as just after a few days rain at Storey Park, but they were letting water into Buffalo Bayou early Tuesday morning. That is what is so cool about all these watershed bayous, they are managed waterways and can be different each time you go. 

Let me know what is going on in the comments. Are you happy to see birds again? Are you glancing over at the bayous as you drive past? Can you tell the difference between Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets now?

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