Birds, Bats, & Butterflies at Old Tunnel State Park

6:30 AM – 12:00 PM

Fall is the perfect time to immerse yourself in the wonders of long-distance migration. By early October, many different bird species will be migrating through central Texas on their way to warmer locales in Mexico or Central or South America. Mexican Free-tailed Bats, too, are beginning their southward journey, often waiting for strong northerly winds to help them along on their way. Likewise, many species of butterflies, like the American Snout Butterfly, disperse and migrate short distances in early fall in search of food, host plants, and mates. One species in particular, though, the Monarch Butterfly, is the only butterfly species in North America to undertake a round-trip, north-south true migration, and Old Tunnel SP sits right in the heart of this species’ migration route.

Old Tunnel SP lies in the southeastern edge of the Texas Hill Country. The park supports surprising habitat diversity within its steep slopes and mesic canyons. Live oak-Ashe juniper and Cedar elm woodlands predominate, and a small perennial creek flowing out of the tunnel creates small pools for birds and other wildlife. Over 130 bird species have been reported at Old Tunnel SP.

This unique trip will begin before dawn as the bats are returning to the tunnel from their nightly feast. We’ll watch them plummet down from over a mile high, ripping through the air and into the tunnel at speeds of 60 mph. After the sun rises and most bats have returned, we will bird along a section of the park trail. Butterfly expert and avid birder Patty Leslie Pasztor will co-lead this walk and teach us about the butterflies of the area as well as the plants upon which they depend.

Trail description and accessibility: We will walk slowly for about 0.6 mile on an out-and-back trail. The trail is earthen, with some areas of limestone rock and other areas of smooth dirt. About half of the trail is relatively flat, with a grade of less than 5%. However, the other half of the trail has some short, steeper sections which are between 5%-17%. Handrails are situated along the steeper sections, and hiking sticks or trekking poles can also be helpful if stability is a concern.

Registration is required for this trip and further details for meeting the group will be provided to registrants prior to the date of the trip. Limited to 10 registrants.