The Guide to
Austin-area Birding Sites
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Good places to see birds in and around Austin
Falls State Park -
5808 McKinney Falls Parkway,
Austin TX 78744, (512)
Location: From the U.S. Highway 183/Texas Highway 71 junction, go south on U.S. 183 for 4.3 miles to the intersection with FM 812 (Dee Gabriel Collins Dr., formerly known as Scenic Loop). Turn right (west) onto FM 812 and follow it for 2.2 miles to McKinney Falls Parkway. Turn right (north) onto McKinney Falls Parkway and follow it 0.4 mile to the Park entrance, on the left.
Habitats: A mixture of Edwards Plateau and Blackland Prairie ecosystems--wooded zones interspersed with grassland. Riparian corridor along Onion Creek, where migrants often congregate (among them such locally rare to uncommon species as Olive-sided and Yellow-bellied flycatchers, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Gray Catbird, Philadelphia Vireo, and Mourning Warbler). Barred Owls and Chuck-will’s-widows nest near the Creek. During spring migration, the Park is often excellent for warblers – as many as 13 species have been seen in a day (including such local rarities as Cerulean and MacGillivray’s warblers). Onion Creek sometimes hosts a Green Kingfisher or two, especially during fall. American Woodcock have been reported during winter in wet, heavily vegetated areas.
Facilities: Visitors’ center, map, trails (some of them handicapped accessible), naturalist programs, bird sightings log, restrooms, water fountains, picnic area; also camping and swimming. Bird checklist available. Entrance fee. Often crowded on weekends.
9. Richard Moya County Park -
(512) 473-9437 (General
number for Travis County
Location: From the U.S. Highway 183/Texas Highway 71 junction, go south on Highway 183 for 2.6 miles to the intersection with Burleson Rd. Turn left (east) onto Burleson Rd. and follow it for 1.2 mile or 1.6 mile to either of the two park entrances (both of them on the right). The area accessed via the second entrance usually has more birds.
Habitat: Riparian woodland along Onion Creek. Also Pecan orchards. Good for landbirds during spring migration (up to a dozen warbler species have been seen in a day). Possibly the most reliable spot in Austin for the always-elusive Barn Owl (breeds). Eastern Kingbird, an uncommon breeder in the Austin area, also nests here. Up to 10 sparrow species have been observed in early March; Swamp Sparrows sometimes overwinter.
Facililties: Trails (handicapped accessible), restrooms, water fountains, picnic areas. Often crowded on weekends. The Park opens at 8 a.m. from May 1 to September 9; at 9 a.m. the rest of the year.
Further Exploration: Southeast Metro Park, farther downstream along Onion Creek, is scheduled to open in November 1999. Nature trails and an observation blind are planned. Call the number given above for more information.
Roughs Environmental Learning
1884 State Highway 71 West,
Cedar Creek TX 78612,
Location: From the main entrance to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, go east on Texas Highway 71 for 13.8 miles. The entrance to McKinney Roughs will be on the left.
Habitats: Contains some of the westernmost natural stands of Loblolly Pine. Also Post Oak, Blackland Prairie, and riparian woodland ecosystems. McKinney Roughs is within the narrow zone of intergradation of the Eastern and Black-crested forms of the Tufted Titmouse; the resident birds found here show a blend of characteristics of both parental forms and are sometimes called “Brown-crested” Titmice. Common Ground-Doves are sometimes encountered along the trails. During nesting season, the riparian area hosts Northern Parulas and Hooded Warblers.
Facilities: Environmental programs, learning and visitors’ centers with restrooms and water fountains, map, trails (some of them handicapped accessible). Naturally Curious bookstore (512) 303-5073, extension 8032. Bird checklist available. Entrance fee.
11. Bastrop State Park and Buescher State Park -
Bastrop State Park: P.O. Box
518, Bastrop TX 78602, (512)
321-2101 Buescher State
Park: P.O. Box 75, Smithville
TX 78957, (512) 237-2241
Location: To get to Bastrop State Park: From the main entrance to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, go east on Texas Highway 71 for 24.9 miles. Turn left (north) at the intersection with Loop 150/Texas Highway 21, and follow Loop 150/Texas 21 for 0.8 mile to the Park entrance. To get to Buescher (pronounced “Bisher”) State Park via Texas Highway 71/95: From the Bastrop State Park entrance, turn left (south) onto Loop 150/Texas Highway 21 and follow it 0.8 mile to the intersection with Texas 71/95. Turn left (east) onto Texas 71/95 and follow it to the exit for Buescher State Park. Following this route, it’s 10.2 miles from the Bastrop State Park entrance to the entrance of Buescher State Park. Or: Follow Park Rd. 1 east from Bastrop State Park for 6.2 miles.
Habitats: Bastrop State Park contains many of the “lost pines” – Loblolly Pines isolated far to the west of the species’ main range. Pine Warblers are common year round. Generally not so common are several other birds of the southeastern woodlands, such as Pileated Woodpecker. In winter, this is the best area in the Austin region to seek Red-breasted Nuthatches (not present every year). Buescher State Park, connected to Bastrop State Park by the winding Park Rd. 1, contains fewer pines and more oaks. During the nesting season, look for Northern Parulas in areas where there is Spanish Moss. Alum Creek, on Park Rd. 1 approximately midway between the two parks, has attracted locally uncommon birds over the years; nesting species in this area include Hooded and Kentucky warblers. The sandy soils of Bastrop State Park constitute the largest protected area for the endangered Houston Toad, most readily observed during its mating season in early spring; other toad species are also found here.
Facilities: Visitors’ center, maps, trails, restrooms, water fountains, picnic areas. Also cabins, camping, showers, swimming. A bird checklist (which includes reports from Lake Bastrop) is available. The entrance fee for one park allows entrance to the other.
Further exploration: The parks on Lake Bastrop are worth a visit, especially during winter. To get to the South Shore Park from the Bastrop State Park entrance: Turn right and then immediately right (east) again onto Texas Highway 21. Go east on Texas 21 for 1.1 mile to the flashing light at South Shore Rd. Turn left (north) onto South Shore Rd. and follow it for 1.4 mile to the Park entrance on the right.
To reach the North Shore Park from the Bastrop State Park entrance: Turn right and then immediately left (west) onto Loop 150/Texas Highway 21. Follow Loop 150/Texas 21 for 0.8 mile to the intersection with Texas Highway 95. Turn right (north) onto Texas 95 and follow it 3.4 miles to the intersection with FM 1441. Turn right (east) onto FM 1441 and follow it 2.5 miles to the Park entrance, on the right. Both parks provide views of Lake Bastrop, which hosts thousands of American Coots and other waterbirds during winter. Ospreys are usually conspicuous in winter; Bald Eagles are sometimes present. Wintering landbirds such as Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Yellow-rumped Warblerare often abundant. Rarities have included Blue-footed Booby (once!). Both parks have restrooms, water fountains, and picnic areas; the South Shore Park also has camping. Entrance fee. For more information, call (512) 303-7666.
Austin-area Birding Sites
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
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