Exploring southwest of Houston, most of the time I do a loop around Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, then the beaches, jetties and Bird Sanctuary at Quintana and then a tiny area around Surfside. This is mostly 4-wheel truck territory (except for the wildlife refuge), and is often really productive. This last trip the Surfside area was just superb.
Do you get orientated with maps? I do. This is highway 332 into Surfside and the great birding occurred under the highway overpass at the Intracoastal Canal, off the small gravel roads near the marshland and ... behind a bait shop.
You never can tell where great birding happens in Texas.
I am pretty sure it was still misting rain when I took this from the truck. As long as the rain isn't blowing on your lens, a bit of rain shouldn't slow you down. If you look closely, you can see the rain pelting on the surface of the water. That is a Great Egret hunting for his lunch. Rain doesn't stop them from getting out.
Rain didn't bother the Osprey, either. Remember I found one at Texas City Dike a few weeks ago? He was at the edge of the surf. This one looks as though he took his prey up top of the utility pole to dine in solitary splendor. I saw several that day, but this is the only one that was still. My BIF (Bird-in-Flight) skills are not well developed.
Roseate Spoonbills are such a great color, it is always fun to see one. You know they sift the water with that great bill and eat crustaceans, small fish, frogs and water insects. Most of the time they have their heads down, working the water for prey. This is the second one I saw in the area, he was just fluffing up his feathers and then continued poking around in the muddy water.
This Snowy Egret was working the edges of a tidal pool under the highway overpass near the Spoonbill. There were Willets and Great Blue Herons in the area while the tide was out and the water was shallow.
Also, a Reddish Egret was dancing around. Most of the time he was back in the shadows but he did come out for a while. These guys are so fast and move sideways and make quick turns. Remember, I saw a lot of these on the trip to Rockport and Corpus Christi. They hang out in salt water, so tidal pools are great opportunities to find them.
This is a flipped reflection shot of my fave photographer, Bill Maroldo. The crate he is sitting on is standard equipment for bird photographers as it gets tiring to stand all the time. Also, you can get better shots if you are eye-level with the birds. He is checking his photo now for exposure; I think he was working on a Snowy at this time. I have learned a lot about birds and photography from him, and especially patience.
We were in the truck when we spotted this Tri-Colored Heron in a small pool of water at an intersection. These guys are so skittish; I took my shot from the vehicle window while Bill walked around trying to get closer.
I was watching him; the bird was blocked by some weeds for me at that time. And when I looked up.... a Snowy Egret had come to investigate. He stayed on the Stop sign watching us for a long time. Finally, he flew over to a post and began to harass the Tri-Colored Heron. They compete for the same food, and the Snowys generally win in a stare-down.
Later in the afternoon I walked down to the end of the road at the underpass. There is a sign that says "Road ends in 9/10 mile" that I always intend to photograph. I love the preciseness of our Texas Highway Dept.
At the end of the road is the Bridge Bait Shop and the Intracoastal Canal. I walked down to a really rickety pier to shoot that amazing building across the way. It is a boat storage facility; I have never seen it from the other side. The Bait shop has a funky look to it and the patrons were friendly and waving to me. I watched the barges go up and down the waterway and even saw some dolphins.
I was exploring the area and ...
This guy was perched on a post behind the Bait Shop. He wasn't spooked and I got up really close. He did do a bit of moving around, but stayed in the area for a ton of shots. This is a juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron. They do hunt at evening and night, but I have seen them active during the day as well. Closely related is the Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron and I have photographed them often at Brazos Bend. The Black-Crowned was a new bird for me.
OK. A little rain and mud are not detrimental to good photographs. The sun was intermittent that day, once in a while it made everything sparkle.
Do you ever go to Surfside? Did you know most of it was underwater during hurricane Ike? Did you know a boy was attacked by a shark at the Surfside Beach this past June? First time in 20 years according to the authorities. I don't get in the water... yet.
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