Rickubis Bird Page #1:  Wading Birds!  
This page was born 04/06/2004.  Rickubis designed it.  (such as it is.) Last update: 1/22/2016
Images and contents on this page copyright 2002-2016 Richard M. Dashnau

Here are my other Brazos Bend and/or critter pages:
 ----------------------------------------------------------------                  OR,  FOR OTHER ANIMALS:
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Introduction            Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 1
Snakes-nonvenomous 1-------------------------------------------Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 3
Snakes-nonvenomous 2-------------------------------------------------Insects, non-toxic
Snakes-nonvenomous 3------------------------------------------------Spiders
Snakes-venomous------------------------------------------------------Mammals
Birds- Hawks & Eagles-Anhingas & Comorants ----------------Lizards!--Turtles!
 Grebes  Misc Birds-Herons  Bitterns  Pelicans
Vultures    Owls & Falcons

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Welcome to Brazos Bend State Park. That's me on the trail. One of the most popular reasons for people to visit BBSP is to see the birds. Although *I* started going to the park mainly for the alligators, one cannot be there for long without learning to enjoy the birds. Over the years, I've captured a few pictures and video clips of them, and here they are. 

11/08/2015  I was at the West end of the Spillway Bridge at Brazos Bend State Park. I'd been watching some alligators there when I noticed a Snowy Egret fly to a tree across from me and apparently try to land on a branch.
It seemed to be struggling, and then I saw a large dragonfly (Probably a Green Darner) fly out of its beak. I thought that was interesting, because I thought that the Egret had actually flown after the dragonfly. So I started
watching and filming the Egret when it returned and landed a bit closer. The Egret was still about 15 yards from me, so I couldn't tell exactly what it was doing. But, I watched it as it watched the dragonflies that passed by.
A few times, I could see the Egret poised for a strike at a dragonfly, only to see it relax as the dragonfly moved out of ranged. Finally, it grabbed a dragonfly, and I caught it on film. The first image below is a frame grab from
the one of the clips.  The second image--the animated gif, is made from the clip. I've edited the clips together, and that video clip can be seen here.  

       ------------   ------------   
Snowy Egrets have bright yellow feet, which they use to flush prey out from cover as the bird is wading. The Egret steps forward, and as it puts its foot down, it gives a quick shaking motion. But, as shown today, they will pick
food out of the air, or pluck it from cover (that also happens in the clip linked above .).

January 19 and 26  2014 (This is material I filmed in 2014, but I'm posting it today, 7/29/2015.) Groups of Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata) have been foraging in Pilant Lake
near the Observation Tower.  I don't see them there often...but that could be partly because of their"cryptic" coloration-their colors allow them to blend in with their surroundings. 
They are usually shy, but on these two weekends, the Snipe foraged closer to the trail.  The Snipe use their long, thin bills as  a probe-they plunge it into the mud to look for prey.
They move so quickly, they resemble sewing machines as they walk along.  I tried shooting some digital zoom shots...and then shot some video at high-speed, about 120
frames per second.  
While I was watching the Snipe on the 19th, I noticed that two of them seemed to be displaying at each other. I shot video of most of one "confrontation".
The exchange between the birds lasted about 5 minutes, and then they seemed to relax when they moved far enough apart.
Various reference sources group the Snipe with "sandpipers". Wilson's Snipe was defined as a species separate from the Common Snipe in 2003
(at least according to Wikipedia), so items published on or before that time may not have this species defined. My Sibley's Field Guide to Birds of Eastern America
has them, on page 165.  The light-colored stripes on its back help identify this bird as a Snipe.

                                      
Snipe scratching its head, video here (wmv).                        Video of 2 Snipe facing-off is  here (wmv).


Finally, video of a Snipe finding and "playing tug-of-war" with an earthworm is  here (wmv).

And some photos are below.
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December 22, 2013 (added 11/21/2015) Wading Birds hunt in many ways, and catch and eat all kinds of prey. Snowy Egrets are no exception, but they have a unique tool-their bright, yellow feet! Although
Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula) will ambush prey, or chase it, they also walk slowly in shallow water with odd, vibrating steps. They are shifting their bright feet through the mud and 
material under the surface and flushing out prey--which they can snap up.  This video clip shows a Snowy Egret hunting with this method. I filmed clips at normal speed (30 fps) and at
high speed (120 fps--for slow motion playback at 30fps) and edited them together. The image below is a fram grab from one of the clips. 

         

December 26, 2010 The three images below are frame captures from video clips I shot that morning, and which I edited into this movie clip (25 mb).
The morning of Sunday, December 26, 2010, had temperatures low enough for a skin of ice to be on low, shaded water, and frost shaped by the shade of the rails on the Spillway Bridge. Although the sun came out,
the air didn't get much above 45 degrees. The day was cold--at least by Brazos Bend State Park standards.   I was out on the trails anyway, looking for Eagles and Otters. I couldn't find either one. While I was at
40 Acre Lake, I noticed a Crow hovering near the surface of the water next to one of the islands. Then, I saw a Great Egret doing the same thing. It would hover close to the surface of the water, and sometimes
stab down with its beak. Occasionally I thought I saw something splash under the surface.
I assumed that the Egret was harrassing Pied-Billed Grebes if they surfaced with prey. I've seen this before, and figured that's what was going on. I decided to try to film this activity. First, I tried to follow
a Grebes as they dove and surfaced--but it's difficult to see where they are going to surface.  So, I decided to watch and film the Egret instead. I shot a few high speed clips of the Egret taking off, hovering,
and stabbing the water. After reviewing these, I couldn't tell if the Egret was stealing from a Grebe or not. I never noticed a Grebe surface from where the Egret grabbed a fish.I edited together some of these
clips, so I could watch this magnificent Great Egret hovering and flying in the early afternoon sun. I hope you enjoy it as well.  A couple things really caught my attention. First, the shadow of the Egret's head and
neck as it shows on the wings. Then, the effort of the Egret as the wing beats keep it airborn at such low speeds. 

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    GREAT EGRET HOVERING 1
                  GREAT EGRET HOVERING 2                       GREAT EGRET HOVERING 3                                     THE SHADOW!

11/30/2008 As a last experiment, I took some photos and video clips of some White Ibis foraging. I was able to shoot some video of a White Ibis taking off. I shot the video at 420 frames per second. When I reviewed
that clip, I was amazed. The Ibis' wings unfolded and went straight UP to meet over the Ibis' back. Then with just ONE downward flap, the Ibis becomes airborn. The images below are some frames pulled from the clip. 
The clip can be seen here (wmv 4.0 mb).

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                   WINGS GO STRAIGHT UP!                                             WINGS PUSH DOWN                                                           IN THE AIR!

12/03/2006--As I hurried back to lead my hike, I saw a group of White Ibis in some trees, and this one posed for me. I just liked the picture, which you can see below.
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------------------------NICE IBIS!-------------------------------------------------                                 -------NICE IBIS CLOSER!

08/06/2006--BBSP finally got some rainfall about 4 weeks ago. There was enough water in Pilant Lake to allow some filling of 40 Acre Lake by opening the floodgate between them. When the water levels equalized,
the gate was closed, and a diesel-fueled water pump was set up to continue filling the lake. The first image below (FILL THAT LAKE!) shows the pump in action.
The two images below show the improved appearance of
the lake.  Compare them with the two images from 06/18/06 further down on this page.

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                        FILL THAT LAKE!                                                                          BETWEEN HOOT'S BENCH AND OBSERVATION TOWER                              

 
                                                     NEAR THE OBSERVATION TOWER

That's some improvement, right? This changed over 4 weekends.
Many of the animals that live in the lake were taking advantage of the water, and the food that was growing. In an odd turn of events, the primary water level rise (from opening the floodgate) caused many of the 
larger fish remaining in what was left of 40 Acre Lake to die. General opinion is that there was an oxygen depletion (perhaps caused by silting). Only the larger fish were affected, as there were many, many small 
fish remaining.
On the morning of August 6, I stood on the 40 Acre Lake fishing pier, and watched a group of Great Egrets catching fish. They were soon joined by a number of alligators. I thought it interesting 
that although an alligator occasionally swam towards an Egret, it didn't seem to be interested in catching the bird. Instead, the alligator seemed to be watching the area around the Egret--perhaps looking for fish
the Egret had dropped, or for fish that it learned would be near a hunting bird. On the other hand, sometimes (less frequently than the first case) an Egret would go near an alligator, and they would both be facing
the same spot in the water. Perhaps the Egret was watching for fish disturbed or distracted by the alligator's passage.  The series of images below are single frames from some
short video clips. 
The first  clip 4519 KB (OOPS...), starts with an Egret trying to un-spear a fish...which it drops. Then it seems to be looking straight at me (I was at least 20 yards away) like it's MY fault that it dropped breakfast.
Then the camera pulls back and pans across to show the group of Egrets (and one Great Blue Heron). The splashing sound in the clip is from alligators pouncing.

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                    OOPS, AND SLOW PAN ACROSS                                  PARDON ME, EXCUSE ME                                  HEY!, CATCHING ANYTHING?                                           HOW A PRO DOES IT
                           VIDEO CLIP 4519 KB                 VIDEO CLIP 14,621 KB                   VIDEO CLIP 4027 KB               VIDEO CLIP 9035 KB

The next clip 14,621 KB (PARDON ME...) shows a larger alligator as it swims through the group of Egrets. Notice how each Egret steps aside very delicately as the alligator approaches--except for one, which makes a short
hop of a few feet. It landed in the path of the alligator though, so still has to step aside. By the end of the clip, the alligator has gone near two other alligators. One of these, then another, pounces, but without apparent success.
The next clip 4027 KB (CATCHING ANYTHING?) is a closer view of two alligators passing. One does a sideways snatch after the passing, while the other one passes some Egrets.
The final Egret clip 9035 KB (HOW A PRO...)
shows a successful catch and swallow. Notice how the Egret repositions the slippery fish before tossing it that final time and swallowing the fish.  I think the number of Egrets, and Alligators hunting; and the large number of fish
are good indications that the lake will have a good population of fish before long.


07/16/2006--From time to time, a park visitor will come up to me and ask about the "flamingos" that they've seen in the park. While larg, pink wading birds do visit the park occasionally, they aren't flamingos. They are
Roseate Spoonbills (Ajaia ajaja). I've seen them from time to time, and there was even a group of them staying on the 40 Acre Lake island for a few weeks. But I've never been able to get close enough to watch them. Until today.

We had been favored with a little rain, and the corner of Pilant Lake near the Elm Lake water station had filled nicely. A few Spoonbills were foraging in the water, and to my great satisfaction, they allowed me to take some
pictures and video.
A look at the Spoonbill's head will immediately tell how it got its common name. The end is flattened horizontally and rounded. The bird sweeps its bill from side-to-side in the water, catching the small
creatures that it eats. Although the bill may look a little odd in air, its shape allows for efficient work in the water. According to The Encyclopedia of American Birds-by Michael Vanner, Roseate Spoonbills mate for life and lay
two or three eggs per nesting.
The image directly below is cropped from a frame of the video of two of the Spoonbills together.

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The images below are cropped from larger photos I shot, and from frames pulled from the video clips I caught. Links to the video clips are below them.
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                        STANDING TALL                                                        WALKING A LOG                                              WALKING A LOG, CLOSER    

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                          TWO OF THEM                                                        THE SPOON-SHAPED BILL                                              SPOON DIPPING

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                      DRY OFF FOR A BIT                                                   CLOSEUP OF THE FACE                                       THIS IS MY BETTER SIDE      
                                            SWEEPING 4000 kb wmvWITH LITTLE BLUE  2700 kb wmv  FACE TO FACE 2700 kb wmv 

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                                 SWEEPING                                                     A LITTLE BLUE HERON                                                 FACE-TO-FACE

The first clip (SWEEPING) shows the sweeping motion of the bill. You can see that when it grabs something, the Spoonbill tosses it up and swallows it. The second clip (BLUE HERON) shows a Little Blue Heron passing, and then 
more Spoonbill sweeps seen from the rear. Keep in mind that all of these beautiful birds are free. That is, not in a zoo. The birds are in their own habitat and come and go as they like. And I'm lucky enough to see them.  Even with
the dry conditions (and now heat over 90 degrees) Brazos Bend State Park is a joy to visit! The third clip (FACE-TO-FACE) shows a pair of the Spoonbills. There seems to be a moment when they look eye-to-eye, and the one on 
the right seems to signal with a slight opening of its bill.  While the Spoonbills, and other birds I've mentioned in these pages, can be sometimes be found easily if you know where to look elsewhere in Texas or the United States--
almost ALL of the birds I've shown have been seen within a mile and a half radius around the observation tower! And they are ALL WILD!

June 25, 2006--This is actually one of my last sightings of this striking bird. The first time I noticed one was a few weeks earlier, on 5/28/06. I was walking along the North side of the 40 Acre Lake trail when I saw this visually
-arresting black-and-white bird. Something about the colors, or the way they are arranged pleased me, and I stopped immediately and just watched the bird. When I returned to the VC/NC, I described the bird to Beth, and she
immediately identified it as a Black-Necked Stilt. The Black Necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) is not common to Brazos Bend State park, but has started feeding there because the water level at the lakes has dropped so much.
Stilts eat water insects and even snails, according to The Encyclopedia of American Birds, by Michael Vanner.
Since I liked them so much, I tried to take pictures when I could get close enough. They seemed rather shy. Eventually,
there were young Stilts walking around.
Below, I have some pictures and links to video clips of these interesting-looking birds. Look how long their legs are, and watch that odd "sitting" position they attain by bending their legs and
resting on the their shins.

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                                                                                                              5/28/2006                                                         6/04/2006                                
                                                                                        5\28\06 clip 5800 kb wmv  6\04\06 clip pt1 2800 kb wmv   6\04\06 clip pt2 3400 kb wmv  

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                               6/04/2006                                                         6/18/06 with alligator                                             6/18/06  past alligator
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  6\18\06 clip pt1 4400kb wmv    6\18\06 clip pt2 6200 kb wmv

In the clips from 6/18/06 above, I noticed the alligator only after I'd been watching the Stilts through the camera for a while. The parent Stilts, however, appear to be very aware of the alligator.  The Stilts are very protective, 
and I like how the two parents walked--in the last clip--along with the young one between them.
Below, I have some pictures and more pictures from photographs (those above are frames from video clips) . The first one shows the
two aduly Black-Necked Stilts with the young one, and the alligator behind them, taken on 6/18/06. The remaining 4 show the young Stilt with the parents walking around on what used to be the bottom of 40 Acre Lake.

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                JUST KEEP GOING, YOUNG'UN                                            PARENT AND YOUNG                                            CLOSEUP OF YOUNG       

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                         THE PARENT STILT                                             ADULT AND CHILD WALKING

Those Stilts were walking on mud that alligators were swimming over just a few months ago. The alligator with the Stilts above was forced to push its way through that muck. This must tire the alligators, plus it makes foraging difficult.

May 15, 2004; I took this picture of the Purple Gallinule just because they have such brilliant colors (see Purple Gallinule, below).
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                                                         PURPLE GALLINULE

If you'd like to know more about the park follow these links:

Brazos Bend State Park   The main page.

Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer's Page  The volunteer's main page.
 

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