We met before sunrise in the greenhouse parking lot in the rain and drove to Brazos Bend State Park. It was cold, about 46 degrees F, or 8 degrees C, and wet, though the rain abated by about 9 AM. We saw great egrets in the ditches as we drove to the park, and American crows on the wires. From the van Debbie saw a belted kingfisher on a wire over a ditch. As we gathered outside the vans for the first hike, about 7 white ibises flew slowly overhead, with their curved red bills and black-tipped white wings. We walked towards the fishing pier and saw American coots in the water, their white bills black against their dark bodies. A pair of northern cardinals, the male redder than the female, flitted close to the water hunting. We heard a Carolina wren before we saw it, noting the distinct eyeline. Cin-Ty spotted an American pipet bobbing its tail close to the waterline.
Everywhere yellow-rumped warblers foraged, darting down, and up, sometimes chasing each other. Cave swallows flew low and up over 40 acre lake, though it was hard to imagine they were catching much in the cold. A single tree swallow with startling colors green over a white belly also flew over the lake. Ruby-crowned kinglets foraged actively among the branches and Spanish moss near the water. Golden-crowned kinglets were scarcer and higher, but just as active. The blue-winged teal were generally paired up, the males distinct with the white crescent behind the eye. They were foraging in dense vegetation in the water. Swamp sparrows were low in the vegetation, foraging, and a lone American goldfinch ate seeds from a weed. Later we saw tens of goldfinches foraging on the ground. The uncommonly seen field sparrow quickly disappeared from view behind a log, but not before we saw its diagnostic pink bill. Sixty snow geese flew overhead in a v, talking and calling to each other. The sora were unusually visible from the tower, foraging nearly in the open. One chased the other away. The red shouldered hawk sat high above 40 acre lake eating something rat sized and bloody. The reddest birds were the vermillion flycatchers, hawking insects from their reedy perches. Most active in the reeds were the blue-grey gnatcatchers, hardly staying still as they flashed their long tails and white outer feathers. A roost of 10 turkey vultures had not yet flown when we drove past on the way to our lunch spot.
Total for the trip was 45 species, 711 birds. By lunchtime we were warmer, and enjoyed a feast of cheese and hummus sandwiches with pickles and chips, washed down with hot chocolate. Debbie gave a challenging bird quiz. Fortunately one van had studied on the way down and got 100% for the van. By the time we got back to Rice around 2:30 it was blazingly sunny for the first time in over a week.