One of our favorite trips is what I call the Brazoria Loop. It varies in the order depending on the light and available birds, but we check out the areas around Surfside (under the Intracoastal Canal Bridge), some side streets and sometimes down the Bluewater Highway even to San Luis Pass. We also cross back into Freeport proper to get to Quintana, the jetty and the ponds behind Bryan Beach. Sometimes we go to Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge first, but often it is the final destination before heading cross country back to Hwy 288 to come back to Houston.
The starting point for this is Buc-ee's at the southeastern corner of Hwy 332 and 523. It is a great place to stop for gas or snacks and they have the cleanest bathrooms EVAH. Google can find this Buc-ee's for you if you are interested in checking out some of the places we like to go.
These photos are from Sept 10. The forecast promised "Cloudy skies. A stray shower or thunderstorm possible".
Well, it was cloudy. And sprinkling rain by the time we got to a favorite place under the Intracoastal Canal Bridge at Surfside. This juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron was waiting out the shower. I took this hand-held from the passenger seat out the driver's window. I have a small space between Bill Maroldo's giant 500mm lens and the door frame. I often have to tell him to stop talking with his hands; he is blocking my shot.
One little road out to the canal in Surfside has been the best place for Clapper Rails. We saw those early this year doing all that mating stuff (see Randy Clapper Rails) and almost every time we stop by we see them scurrying around in the reeds. Lately they have been coming up on the road to check us out. Often they get closer than minimum focus distance for Bill (13 feet) and even for me (6 feet).
This was probably the best light we had all day. Soft and diffused, but still bright enough. After we left Surfside, we stopped on the side of the road at some abandoned piers. I have photographed White Ibis and Yellow-crowned Night Herons there; even a hunting Great Blue Heron last Spring.
This Great Egret was just standing on a high beam. Standing, not even moving. We took a few shots and started to leave. Birds are better if they are doing something and it was obvious he wasn't fishing or hunting. But, then he did this wild shake and fluff for us. I wish the white feathers had more detail, but this was all such low contrast with the bird and the sky.
So, we are driving down Hwy 1495 toward Quintana and Bill suddenly stops, pulls over to the shoulder and backs up.
Across the road in front of one of the refineries is a White-tailed Hawk sitting on the barbed-wire fence. Of course, we aren't sure what kind of hawk it was at the time, but that isn't important. Right then we were concerned with getting the shot and keeping from getting run over by a big truck. This was taken from inside Bill's truck; the hawk flew off before either of us could get out.
Fall is migration time for hawks. Many of them come to stay along the coast for the winter; others are on their way further south. But, the White-tailed Hawk is here year round.
By the time we got to the ponds behind Bryan Beach it was sprinkling again.
We sat around with towel-draped cameras in the rain for a while taking way too many photos of a Western Sandpiper. It was the only bird along the shore.
The Big Puddle at the Quintana Jetty had a few more birds but nothing spectacular. Bill took a lot of shots out the window of the truck; I caught up on the news and FB. Did I tell you how much I like having a smartphone? Why was I so stubborn for so long?
We headed out for Brazoria Wildlife Refuge although a friend we had run into said they had only seen Grackles and Yellow-crowned Night Herons. That is the way it goes; the birds (and the weather) are so unpredictable.
We saw a Loggerhead Shrike (too far) and even a Caracara (too far) but mostly juvenile Yellow-crowns that flew as the truck approached. We were coming out of the park, counting up the good shots we did get (especially the hawk) when Bill suddenly stopped in the middle of the road.
Birding (and photography) is like that. I think there is even a bumper sticker to warn close followers.
It wasn't a bird, but a really young alligator laid out on the pavement. He was maybe 2 feet long; probably about 2 years old since they grow a foot a year. We got out and moved a bit closer. He didn't move and we were feeling particularly brave. He was a couple of miles from any big ponds, but the whole area is marsh and lagoons. After checking the area for siblings or parent, we got busy making photos. I did some panoramas; Bill got his tripod out and took a lot of shots. The little guy was just laying there on the warm pavement, but his eyes were wide open.
After a while he must have had enough and he raised up a bit and hissed at us. And then he scooted off into the grass at the side of the road. I was shocked at how quickly the grass hid him and vowed to be a bit more careful when I am traipsing around in the weeds.
So goes another exciting adventure of your wildlife photographer. Have you ever stopped and pulled off the road for an animal? Any alligators on your street? How about snakes? Let me know your adventures in the comments below.