Although it's nearby Matagorda County that's popularly known as the "birding capital of North America," Brazos Bend State Park is a much closer drive—and a great place to start for bird-watching beginners. Thanks to its diverse variety of landscapes, from marshes to lakes to thick forests, an equally diverse range of avian species—over 300 at last count—can be spotted throughout the park's 5,000 acres.
Hoppy little sandpipers and elegantly angled herons can be found along Elm Lake, while red-shouldered hawks and white-tailed kites soar above the tall, moss-draped live oaks. But if you don't know the difference between a blue-winged teal and a northern shoveler, Brazos Bend State Park can show you where to start.
This Memorial Day weekend, learn the basics at the park's Bird Watching for Beginners class. It runs from 8:30 to 10 a.m. on Monday, May 30 and includes a brush-up on your binocular skills. Don't have any binoculars of your own? The park has loaners for you. After learning how to zoom in and out and whatever other binocular skills exist we're not currently thinking of, you'll head out on a half-mile hike to spot a few of those 300 species for yourselves.
Into the idea of spotting somewhat larger creatures? Possibly a mammal or an amphibian? Brazos Bend State Park is also offering a Wildlife Walk on Monday from 10 to 11:30 a.m., which takes a 1.2-mile path around 40-Acre Lake. While the park is best known for its alligator population, a number of other animals call its marshes, woodlands and grassy prairies home, including feral pigs, otters, foxes and bobcats. And on the off-chance you run into the latter, remember: No matter how big a UH fan you are, no selfies with real bobcats please.