Red-winged blackbirds are pretty common in Texas, although it’s not that easy to get a good shot of the red patch on the wings. These were reasonably obliging at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas.
If you don’t see the red patch, they’re easily confused with grackles. If you look at the wikipedia entry, the females are rather different, with fairly dull marking. We saw some hiding in the trees, separate from the males.
The wide range of birdlife is usually the main attraction at Brazos Bend State Park, but this time we were welcomed by this rather large butterfly resting in the bushes. It turns out to be a giant swallowtail.
According to Wikipedia, this is the largest butterfly in North America (5-8 inch wingspan), and is abundant in parts of the Eastern states.
Just catching up with photos from our March visit to Houston. This butterfly at Brazos Bend State Park took a bit of identifying. It’s similar to some European fritillaries, but this one is called a phaon crescent.
The wing patterns are quite striking. Apparently these are quite common in the Houston area and much of Texas.
This white ibis at Brazos Bend Texas State Park was just asking to be photographed. In my experience this resting pose on one leg is less common that their habit of foraging in the vegetation in marshy areas.
UK dragonflies tend to be so active that they are difficult to photograph. But these North American green darners at Brazos Bend State Park in Texas, March 2019, were just basking on the footpath in the sun.
They are so-called because of the supposed resemblance to a darning needle. Any young readers will probably say ‘What the heck is that?’.
There are usually a good number of American alligators, locally called gators, at Brazos Bend State Park in Texas. Most lie in the water, as in the featured image. A few warm up in the sun on the banks of the lakes/swamp, sometimes just feet away from the visitor path. They are pretty docile, and probably well fed, but it is well to be wary.
This proximity does give the opportunity for close-ups of those craggy reptilian bodies.
I think that the open mouth was just a convenient resting position, and not the anticipation of a good snack!
These animals can grow to 4 metres long and weigh over 400 kg.
We’ve been fortunate to visit Brazos Bend State Park in Texas a number of times over the years. Apart from the more exotic birds (from a European perspective) there appeared to be plenty of coots and moorhens, just as on most lakes in the UK.
However, the loquacious and overactive ‘moorhens’ did not appear to behave at all like those in UK. Yes this was usually the mating season around March, but surely these were not the same species. A web search shows that they are common gallinules, which were given a separate categorisation from moorhens only in 2011. Their mating behaviour is quite spectacular!
Looking back to March, just before transatlantic air travel became pretty impossible, we were lucky enough to get to Brazos Bend State Park. It was a delight to reacquaint with the subtle colour variations of the little blue heron.
This heron is medium-sized, much smaller than the great blue, and more blue.
I always think Brazos Bend Texas State Park contains just a little bit of paradise. Apart from all the wonderful American birds you see there, the setting is magnificent – like this view from a shady bench, just the thing to cool you on a hot day, which they often are!
This crop centred on the bench has greater resolution, but which do you prefer?
The northern cardinal is very common in Houston and other parts of Texas we’ve visited. You can often hear it singing, see a flash of red go by, or see it perched on a high telephone wire (too far away for a good picture). It may be closer, on tree branch, but get the camera out, and it immediately hides behind the nearest twigs. They KNOW.
So it was a pleasant surprise to see this one at the magnificent Brazos Bend State Park, singing away in a tree and not rushing off. It had clearly seen us, but carried on regardless.
Another memorable and beautiful bird from last month’s visit to Brazos Bend Texas State Park was the Purple Gallinule, a member of the rail family. In my experience, the most commonly seen rails, in both US and UK, are the ubiquitous coots and moorhens. But these American gallinules, less often seen, are much more colourful – a superb gradation of shading from white to grey through greens and blues to the deepest shades, completed by the red-yellow beak and yellow legs.
As you can see from the top featured image, they have enormous feet (blurred) that enable standing on water plants and in mud.