Of Alligators, Ducks, and a Sunset

Brazos Bend State Park is roughly an hour southwest of Houston, Texas. In this park are many alligators, which is surprising to many people. After all, this is Texas, home of cowboys and The Alamo…

Actually, there are alligators all along the Texas coast, from Louisiana to Corpus Christi, but this State Park may have the largest population per acre in the state. They’re in the lakes and swamps, and they love to lie in the warm sun on the trails.

Gayle looks forward more to photographing the alligators than the birds in the park – and this is one of the best places I’ve seen for birds!

On this trip, we had just arrived, and as soon as we were settled, we headed out to the trail around Elm Lake. Gray clouds filled the sky, and although not dark, they weren’t the kind you wanted to have behind your subject. As we walked the trail, I saw several Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in a dead tree not too far away. I stopped and took some photos, trying to silhouette the ducks against the gray clouds.

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in a dead tree, silhouetted against gray clouds, Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

Gayle had kept going down the trail, but she was within my sight. After I took a few photos, I headed her way. When I was close enough, I could see she was set up near an alligator…

Gayle, photographing an alligator, Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

She got some pretty good images, including this one.

Brazos Bend Alligator

Alligator at Brazos Bend State Park, by Gayle Millican

After photographing the gator for a while, I saw that the clouds were beginning to break up. I dragged Gayle away from the alligator, telling her that we were about to be blessed with a great sunset. We headed back to the spot where I had photographed the ducks earlier.

Sure enough, after we had barely set up our tripods, the sun began to make its appearance.

Gayle’s first photo of the sunset, her zoom lens set to about 200 mm

We each took about 20 photographs, then it was over…

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks at sunset, Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

Lessons learned: Keep your eye on the sky, and always be ready, for anything!

Cameras used were Sony Alpha, with Tamron lenses.

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A Morning at the Nature Center

The Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, actually.  That’s a mouthful; so those of us in the area simply say “The Nature Center.”  Regardless, it is a marvelous nature resource for the Western Arkansas region.

Recently, Jim Nieting and I spent a few morning hours walking some of the trails at the Nature Center, with cameras in hand.  Once again, I was amazed at the resource this is for us.  We saw or heard a number of bird species, numerous butterflies, a cottontail rabbit, and more…

At the Visitor Center, the staff has installed housing for Purple Martins, and it is very active.  Here are a couple of nestlings looking for their parents.

Purple Martin Chicks

Looking for their next meal on the wing

Also, near the Visitor Center, are a number of Canada Geese.  Most of us have more photos than we’ll ever need of this species, but I usually cannot resist taking another.

Canad Goose at the Nature Center

Canada Goose at the Nature Center

From the Visitor Center, we headed out on the Beaver Creek Trail, where we heard and eventually found probably the highlight of the morning:  a pair of yellow-billed cuckoos.  Here’s one of them.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, with snack

Lots of butterflies, including this Pipevine Swallowtail:

Pipevine Swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtail, enjoying the sun

On the Wells Lake Trail, we found this Cottontail Rabbit, very near Wells Lake.  He posed for us for quite some time.

Cottontail Rabbit

Cottontail Rabbit, near Wells Lake

Among the butterflies, we saw Hummingbird Moths.  Hard to photograph, because they never stop moving – and they move fast!  🙂

Hummingbird Moth

Hummingbird Moth at the Nature Center

Finally, as I was heading home, I saw this Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher on a high-line wire.  Technically, not at the Nature Center, but close enough to count as part of my morning adventures…

Scissortailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, near the Nature Center

The Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center is one of 4 the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission has built across the state of Arkansas.  In Western Arkansas, we are appreciative of and thankful for the facility.  As you can see, there is a large variety of fauna as well as flora to be seen here; I’ve only touched on a small portion of it.

All photos were taken with a Sony Alpha 77, and a Tamron 200-500 lens.  Yes, I used a tripod, built by Manfrotto.

Also, a big thank you to my fellow photographer, Jim Nieting. Definitely a better birder than I; several he saw and identified before I knew they were around. 🙂