© Bert Frenz, 2001
For a relatively small body of water, Lake Bryan attracts a wide variety of aquatic, marsh and woodland birds. Situated a few miles north of Bryan, the reservoir abuts the Danvers Power Plant. The recreational lake supports picnickers, boaters, bikers, fishermen and campers. Among birders, it is known for accidentals including Bairds Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone and Tundra Swan. A maintenance worker assigned to the park on a daily basis claims a long list of unusual sightings and he keeps a record of the many times he has sighted Bald Eagle on the lake. On a regular basis, Lake Bryan is a good location to find Marsh and Sedge Wren, Swamp and LeContes Sparrow and American White Pelican.
To reach the lake, set your odometer at zero at Texas & University Avenues and travel west on University for 2.5 miles. Turn right on FM 2818 and continue north until milepost 9. Turn left on Sandy Point Rd (FM 1687) and turn right into the Lake Bryan entrance at milepost 13. On weekends an attendant collects a $5.00 entrance fee per vehicle.
Turn left and park in the lot between the lake and woods. For marsh birds, walk the shoreline to your left. The nests in the cattails show evidence of active breeding. Check the woods for Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Brown Thrasher and the usual wintering warblers, including an occasional Pine Warbler. Spotted Sandpipers patrol the shoreline and, with a spotting scope, you should see a variety of ducks near the opposite shore. Back in your car, cross the bridge, scanning for aquatic species frequenting the channel. Then turn right into the camping area. The smaller lake on this side is a favorite for wintering American White Pelicans. American Pipits frequent the shoreline and, in the grassier areas, are Field, Song, Savannah and probably other sparrows. In summer, both lakes support a variety of nesting herons, egrets, Wood Ducks and sometimes moorhens.
Continuing on the main park road, enter the picnic area on your left. The wooded area often supports a dozen species within the perimeter of a few trees. On posts near shore in winter, Double-crested and Neotropic Cormorants perch. The exposed shoreline bordering the picnic area attracts migrating shorebirds, including Semipalmated, Western, Least, White-rumped, Baird's and Pectoral Sandpipers. Finish your birding at the far end of the park, near the boat stalls. Although the going can get rough and rubber boots are recommended, walk parallel to the shoreline for 1000 feet. A path of sorts sometimes wanders nearer to the trees. Along the walk you should scare up lots of sparrows that quickly disappear. The light backed sparrows are probably Savannah and Song while the dark or rusty backed ones are Swamp Sparrows, which are abundant here. If you see more elusive and secluded birds, you have probably come upon a LeContes Sparrow or a wren. Within a few hundred yards you can find Carolina, House, Marsh and Sedge Wrens, although probably not on the same visit. Continue through the thick grass at least until the sharp left bend in the bay shore. The greatest concentration of marsh birds is at this bend and the shallow water is a favorite of teal and other dabblers.
Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Eared Grebe, American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, White-faced Ibis, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Greater White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose, Tundra Swan, Wood Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, White-winged Scoter, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Bobwhite, Sora, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, American Avocet, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Wilson's Phalarope, Franklin's Gull, Bonaparte's Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Common Tern, Forster's Tern, Least Tern, Black Tern, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Inca Dove, Chimney Swift, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, White-eyed Vireo, Bell's Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown Creeper, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Sedge Wren, Marsh Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Wood Thrush, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, American Pipit, Cedar Waxwing, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Pine Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Le Conte's Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, Dickcissel, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, American Goldfinch, and House Sparrow. (139 species).
From Lake Bryan, you can either double back the way you came or make a large loop through the Brazos Bottoms that eventually returns you to College Station. To get to the bottoms, turn right as you exit Lake Bryan and reset your odometer to zero. Continue west on FM 1687, crossing OSR at milepost 1.4 and the Little Brazos River at milepost 2.5. Turn left on Sims Lane Cut-off at milepost 3.2. The cotton and sorghum fields support wintering sparrows, primarily Savannah, as well as huge flocks of blackbirds occasionally including Brewers Blackbirds. Look particularly at the areas to your left about a half-mile down the road. Either follow Sims Lane Cut-off as it winds through the bottomland or double back to 1687. Either way you will soon intersect FM 50, heading south (left) toward Clay. When you hit Hwy 21, FM 50 follows the highway southwest for a half-mile and then turns left toward Independence. At milepost 13 or 14, stop at the pecan orchard at the intersection of FM 50 and Burleson Co. 227. You never know what may turn up in this orchard, but in the past it has produced migrating Swainsons and Broad-winged Hawks, Merlin and, in adjacent fields, Franklins Gulls. Continue on FM 50 until you reach FM 60 at milepost 19 or 20. (From here you can return to College Station on FM 60 which becomes University Ave). Read the section on Brazos Bottoms Birding for more information about birding this area.