The Guide to
Austin-area Birding Sites

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Good places to see birds in and around Austin

Northwest Areas


22. Northwest Park* - 700 Ardath Street (512) 453-0194
Location: From Loop 1 (MoPac), take the Anderson Ln. exit heading east. At Anderson Ln.’s intersection with Shoal Creek Blvd., turn right onto Shoal Creek and follow it to the park.
Facilities: Restrooms, water fountains, picnic area, swimming. Supports some habitat for birds. Might be best during spring and fall migrations when migrants could make landfall.

Area 23 -- Northern Mockingbird; photo courtesy Bill Horn

23. The Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge - Hartland Bank Building, Suite 201, 10711 Burnet Rd., Austin TX 78758 (512) 339-9432, extension 42
Location: From the U.S. Highway 183/RM 1431 intersection in Cedar Park, go north on U.S. 183 for 9.7 miles to the intersection with Texas Highway 29 in Seward Junction. Turn left (west) onto Texas 29 and follow it 2.3 miles to the RM 1869 intersection in Liberty Hill. Turn left (west) onto RM 1869 and follow it for 8.9 miles. The Shin Oak Observation Deck will be on the left.
Habitat: Oak shinnery. A shinnery is a thicket of stunted oaks – “shin oaks.” In this area, Scalybark Oak is the dominant shin oak species. As many as five Black-capped Vireo territories surround the observation deck during breeding season. Other commonly-encountered nesters include Northern Mockingbird, White-eyed Vireo, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Painted Bunting; Northern Bobwhite are often heard (though seldom seen), especially during May and June. The shinnery is also good in winter, when flocks of sparrows as well as Spotted Towhees and other wintering birds abound. A few feral Emus occur throughout the year.
Note: Black-capped Vireos sing from late March to mid-August. You have to know the song to have a good chance of locating the bird. Do not attempt to lure vireos by using recordings – that is illegal harassment of this endangered species and this will not be tolerated. For familiarization, listen to song tapes beforehand or stop in the interpretive area near the observation deck to play the low-volume song tape at the sound post. Black-capped Vireos are far more often heard than seen, and sightings rarely last more than a few seconds – usually less. Be patient. Stay in marked areas: poison ivy, ticks, rattlesnakes, and other such creatures (plus sinkholes) abound in the shinnery.

Area 23 -- Black-capped Vireo Female

Facilities: Observation deck, bird sightings log, interpretive signs, sound post (often broken), Refuge brochure. Handicapped accessible. A Refuge bird checklist is being developed. Further exploration: The Refuge is also developing a trail system on the Doeskin Ranch (Nagel Tract), with opening projected for the year 2000; call for the latest information. From the entrance to the Shin Oak Observation Deck, continue west on RM 1869 for 1.4 mile to the intersection with RM 1174. Turn left (south) onto RM 1174 and follow it for 2.5 miles. The entrance to the Doeskin Ranch will be on the left. The trails (one of them handicapped accessible) will run through creekside areas along Doeskin Branch and also through native grassland, as well as to the top of Post Oak Ridge – the latter a steep trek of about 3/4 mile (one way). This is typical Balcones Canyonlands habitat; common resident birds include “Black-crested” Titmice, Bewick’s Wrens, Northern Cardinals, Rufous-crowned and Field sparrows. A few Golden-cheeked Warblers nest along the edge of Post Oak Ridge; Black-and-white Warblers nest in the same habitat. There is a hawk watch at Doeskin Ranch during National Wildlife Refuge Week in October; good numbers of southbound Turkey Vultures are usually recorded, along with a scattering of other species. From September through mid-October, stands of Frostweed often provide excellent butterfly habitat (especially for migrating Monarchs). See also Site 24.

Area 24 -- Great Blue Heron

24. Cow Creek Rd. - Lago Vista Area Chamber of Commerce: P.O. Box 4946, Lago Vista TX 78645 (512) 267-7952 or toll-free (888) 328-5246
Location: Go north on U.S. Highway 183 to the RM 1431 intersection in Cedar Park. Turn left (west) onto RM 1431; follow it for 17.8 miles to the intersection (on the right) with Cow Creek Rd. Cow Creek Rd. is 8.6 mostly unpaved miles in length, much of it running along Cow Creek.
Habitats: Areas along the creek are heavily used by both migrants and summer and winter residents. Great Blue Heron, Wild Turkey, Greater Roadrunner, Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Phoebe, Canyon Wren, and Lesser Goldfinch are present year-round. Summer residents include Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, and Summer Tanager. American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, a number of sparrow species, and American Goldfinches are often abundant in winter. Unusual wintering raptors found along the road have included Zone-tailed Hawk and Merlin. Many stretches of the road run through cedar breaks (stands of Ashe Juniper); this habitat is relatively ‘bird-free’, though resident Western Scrub-Jays are fairly common. Eastern Bluebirds occur year-round where the roadside borders fields. In years with adequate rainfall, the roadsides have outstanding spring and early summer wildflower displays.
Facilities: At present, none along Cow Creek Rd. itself. Hiking and biking trails are under development in the Lago Vista area and may eventually extend to the road; a bird checklist for the area and a spring birding festival are in the works. Contact the Lago Vista Area Chamber of Commerce for current information. Gasoline, food, and other requirements are available in Lago Vista, about 7 miles east of Cow Creek Rd. on RM 1431; food is available at Cow Creek Lodge (1.2 mile east).
Further exploration: Cow Creek Rd. ends at RM 1174. Turning right (north) onto RM 1174 will bring you, after 1.3 mile, to the Doeskin Ranch tract of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge (see Site 23). In some years, Cassin’s Sparrows nest along RM 1174. The Lower Colorado River Authority’s Primitive Recreation Areas at Gloster Bend and Turkey Bend are worth investigating, especially during winter and the spring migration. Both front on Lake Travis. Gloster Bend is accessed via Singleton Rd., approximately 6 miles west of Lago Vista off RM 1431. Turkey Bend is accessed via Shaw Dr., approximately 9.5 miles west of Lago Vista off RM 1431. Both areas have entrance fees. For more information, call (512) 473-4083.

Serendipity, a residence on heavily wooded acreage east of Lago Vista, is open by reservation (512/259-0299). Guided tours focus on native plants and wildlife. Hummingbirds abound, especially during migation (mostly Black-chinned and Ruby-throated hummingbirds, with the occasional Rufous Hummingbird in fall and winter; Green Violet-Ear has been recorded once).
Notes: Use caution in parking along Cow Creek Rd.. Watch for flooding at low-water crossings and also for loose cattle. Be sure not to trespass (virtually no public land fronts on the Rd., and basically all of the creekbed is private property). This road is definitely worth a site-seeing drive even if there is no place to hike.

Area 25 -- Golden-cheeked Warbler

25. Travis Audubon Society's "Baker Woods" Wildlife Sanctuary - 12219 Lime Creek Rd., Leander TX 78641 (512) 219-8425
Location: See notes below. Go north on U.S. Highway 183 to the intersection with RM 1431 in Cedar Park; turn left (west) onto RM 1431. After 1.8 mile, turn left (south) onto Lime Creek Rd. Follow Lime Creek Rd. for 2.4 miles; the Sanctuary parking lot will be on the left.
Habitats: Oak-juniper woodland and riparian areas. Excellent for Golden-cheeked Warblers from mid-March to mid-June: about 50 pairs nest on the Sanctuary’s 680 acres.
Facilities: Three trail systems, two on the Sanctuary’s south side and one north of Lime Creek Rd.; initial stretches of the Hatfield (Orange) and North (Green) trails are handicapped accessible. Information kiosk. Bird sightings log (part of the visitors’ registration book). A trail guide booklet is in preparation. Open house with guided tours in late March. No entrance fee; donations accepted.
Notes: The Sanctuary is closed part of the year; to avoid disappointment, call in advance. Be sure to sign the visitors’ registration book, located near the entrance to the parking lot; for safety reasons, indicate the trail you plan to take. Some stretches of trail are steep and rocky; wear appropriate footgear. The Hatfield Trail is the easiest and shortest of the three trails (at 2 miles round trip); the North Trail the longest and most difficult; the Baker Springs (Blue) Trail is the most heavily traveled. Please observe all posted rules. The address shown above is expected to change sometime after 1999.

Area 26 -- Golden-cheeked Warbler

26. St. Edward's District Park* (Upper Bull Creek District Park); Forest Ridge Preserve*; Bull Creek Greenbelt*; Bull Creek District Park* - Bull Creek District Park: 6700 Lakewood Dr.
Location: This complex extends discontinuously along Bull Creek for about 6 miles. Not all areas on the Greenbelt are readily accessible. The parking lot for St. Edward's District Park lies on the west side of westbound Spicewood Springs Rd., 2.3 miles north of its intersection with Loop 360 (Capital of Texas Highway). Forest Ridge Preserve: Call the Preserve Office (480-3060) for directions. Bull Creek Greenbelt: From the Loop 360/eastbound Spicewood Springs Rd. junction, go east 0.1 mile on eastbound Spicewood Springs, then turn right (south) onto Old Spicewood Springs Rd.; follow it 0.1 mile to the parking lot, on the right. Bull Creek District Park: From the Loop 360/RM 2222 junction, go east 0.1 mile on RM 2222. Turn left (north) onto Lakewood Dr. and follow it 0.5 mile to the Park.
Habitats: Riparian woodlands along Bull Creek. Oak-juniper woodlands. Open fields. Golden-cheeked Warblers nest in the Forest Ridge Preserve; special permission is required before entering the Preserve during nesting season.
Facilities: Trails. Restrooms, water fountains, and picnic tables in Bull Creek District Park.

27. Emma Long Metropolitan Park* (City Park) - 1600 City Park Rd. (512) 346-1831
Location: From the Loop 360 (Capital of Texas Highway)/RM 2222 (Bull Creek Rd.) junction, go west on RM 2222 for 0.5 mile to the intersection with City Park Rd. Turn left (south) onto City Park Rd. and follow it to the Park.
Habitats: Oak-juniper woodland. Lakefront and open lake. Turkey Creek Trail, about a mile in length, is a good area for Golden-cheeked Warblers from mid-March to mid-June. The trailhead is on the right (north) side of City Park Rd., 4.8 miles west of its intersection with RM 2222 (and 1.5 mile east of the Park’s fee-collection booth); there is a parking area 0.1 mile west of the trailhead. The lakefront area is often crowded and seldom particularly birdy, though waterbirds may sometimes be present (especially in winter).
Facilities: Trail; picnic area. There is an entrance fee for the main portion of the Park (though not for Turkey Creek Trail): the fee-required portion of the Park offers restrooms, water fountains, swimming, and camping.


For Additional Information write to:

Austin-area Birding Sites
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
or send a message to: nature@tpwd.state.tx.us

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