This year, the Travis Audubon staff decided to join forces and compete as a Birdathon team. Here are the highlights from team Don’t Quit Your Jay Job, who together saw 102 species:
“I went to McKinney Falls SP. Was walking along the Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail on the west side closest to Onion Creek just as an adult Red-shouldered Hawk dove down from a nest and out of sight. Looking back to the nest, there were two white-ish fluffy heads that had popped up – babies! So precious.
Basically made my year right there.”
“When planning my Birdathon day, my number one goal was to see a male Painted Bunting—a lifer that has evaded me since I moved to Texas in 2019 (embarrassing, I know!) Using eBird and the Travis County Birds Facebook group, I decided Commons Ford was the best place to be with so many reports of Painted Buntings, Summer Tanagers, Blue Grosbeaks, and Indigo Buntings… just the thought of so many cool birds makes my head spin. I set out from my home in Buda, taking the backroads and scanning the telephone lines along long stretches of pastures, counting several Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. To my surprise, I counted about as many species on my way to Commons Ford as I counted at Commons Ford… what a treat!
I parked near the mouth of prairie trail loop at Commons Ford, stepped out of my car, and immediately noticed a red-and-blue bird blasting its song at the top of a tree. The moment I landed my binoculars on him, he turned his back to me—a flash of green—as if to say ‘I know you think it’s too good to be true, but make no mistake!’ My Painted Bunting! I could have packed it up then and the day would have been a success. The day only got birdier. I saw several more Painted Buntings, an Eastern Bluebird feeding its babies along the fence near the barn, and another birder pointed me in the direction of a male Blue Grosbeak—another lifer! I’m still a beginner, so I heard songs that I couldn’t identify, and wondered about several high-in-the sky raptors. The beauty of beginning birding is that with every exciting ID, there are two ‘mystery birds’ that keep you up at night. It is a joy to know my learning has only just begun, and there is so much more to discover! I look forward to beating my list next year.”
“I birded at Caddo Lake State Park. A highlight for me was getting eyes on a Northern Parula. I could hear them singing in the canopy but those tiny buggers can be tricky to see!”
“I went out to Big Bend National Park for four days of birding and exploration with my sister, Katie. We were worried that the wildfires would ruin our experience, but all turned out to be well, thanks to a lot of very brave and dedicated firefighters.
Favorite species included a Rock Wren in the parking lot of the fossil exhibit, a very vocal Scott’s Oriole at a river overlook, and Common Black Hawks nesting at the Rio Grande Village. So many Wilson’s Warblers we lost count, and ocotillo and prickly pear in bloom everywhere! We were greeted every morning by this Curve-billed Thrasher (pictured) working on its nest at our favorite burrito place in Terlingua Ghost Town.
Spring in West Texas is magical!”
“First I went to Baker, where I helped my husband see his first-ever Golden-cheeked Warbler! There were so many that day that we both heard and saw, and since we were at Baker it was a really quiet and peaceful experience. Then I went to Mills Pond, and with the help of other excellent birders (especially Sharon Richardson and Christy Esmahan), saw a bunch of exciting birds, including Prothonotary Warbler, Ovenbird, and Common Yellowthroat.”