Sunday, February 17, 2013

Murmuration at Brazos Bend

As a child growing up on the gulf coast, I was convinced that calendar makers were strange people. The worst of summer heat might be over by late September, but fall? I don't think so. Similarly, why wait until late March to call it spring when new green was peeking out long before then?

In this context  I can tell you that today was a beautiful spring day at Brazos Bend State Park. The wind was gusty and the air was crisp, but winter was already losing its grip on the Brazos river bottom. While many plants were still dozing, tiny flowers had already begun to dot the grass and fresh green leaves were opening at the tops of the pecan trees.

Still, the main attractions of the day were the birds. During our mid-afternoon walk down toward the Brazos River, we heard (and sometimes saw) birds of all kinds: woodpeckers, chickadees, cardinals, mockingbirds, crows, and even a barred owl!

But the climax of the day's bird show occurred during the waning minutes of the day as we made our way to the observation tower on 40 Acre Lake. As we approached, the treetops were dotted with black shapes and the air thrummed with the call of thousands of red-winged blackbirds.

When we climbed the tower and looked out over the marsh, we could see flocks of blackbirds flying in from all directions, many tens of thousands of them. As they wheeled and turned while always maintaining their spacing, they seemed less like groups of individual birds than some type of coarse fluid weaving is way across the landscape. Now and then a group of birds would land, pause, and then explode into flight once again, starting the process all over as the sky grew darker.

We watched with wonder as the night slowly came on and then finally descended to make our way back to the car in the near darkness. What an amazing sight to end the day!

More Pictures from Brazos Bend

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