Birding at South Llano River State Park

By: Michael Jewell, Travis Audubon Master Birder

South Llano River State Park has become my favorite birding/camping park. It’s an easy drive from Austin through the Hill Country, past the Wildseed Farms, through Fredericksburg, and onto I-10, usually under a three hour drive. Junction is the seat of Kimble County with the courthouse at the town square. The North Llano and the South Llano Rivers meet up here. The population is around 2,500 people, with quite a few gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores and motels– good info, as my tent leaked one night during a storm and I ended up at a clean, dry motel for $45.00 a night.

South Llano River State Park is about five miles out of town to the west. Drive carefully during and dawn due to the large populations of deer in the area. This is fall deer hunting territory; I’ve seen a herd of deer crossing in town.

It is best to make reservations ahead of time for the 58 campsites with electricity, 8 walk-in sites with water, and 5 primitive sites. I camp at one of the sites with electricity and water. I like having a fan in my tent and the ability to charge my phone, laptop, camera battery, etc. Yes, camping is not like it used to be. The reservation system allows you to pick your site. The state park has 4 comfortable bird blinds: Juniper, Acorn, Agarita and Lora’s. All can be good, since it’s all about timing. The Park Rangers usually have good info on current bird sightings and offer informed advice on your best chance to see a specific bird. At the Visitor Center, ask for Rhandy Helton’s book “Finding Birds in Junction.” It is packed full of places to bird around town, the when and the where (goat pens, tennis courts and water treatment), and birds in the area, including Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Bullock’s Orioles, Bell’s Vireos, Cassin’s Sparrows, etc.

This camping trip I had great views of Black-capped Vireos and Golden-cheeked Warblers along with Black-throated Sparrows, Scott’s Orioles, Fox Sparrows, Lark Sparrows, Vermillion Flycatchers, Woodhouse’s Scrub Jays, and a Wild Turkey displaying. I was a little early for Painted Buntings, Bell’s Vireos, Ash-throated Flycatchers, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, but did pick up a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher the second to the last day.

Prairie verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida)

Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus)

Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilinear)

Short-tailed Catbird (Dumetella stubenensis)

Black-capped Vireo (Vireo atricapilla)

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus)

 

Want to visit? The 2nd Annual South Llano River State Park Birding Festival is coming up on April 26-28, 2019.

Photos taken by Michael Jewell

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