Nestled in the heart of Texas Hill Country is a gem of a property called Flat Creek Crossing Ranch. Owned by Child Inc, a nonprofit that provides early childhood education and support to thousands of kids, the Ranch currently plays host to mountain bikers, swimmers, hunters, and a few sundry events throughout the year. Not much information is available on the natural resources on the land, so on Sunday morning, the field trip committee from Travis Audubon got together to scout the property for birds. The Ranch shares a border with Pedernales Falls State Park, and shares much of the same landscape and habitats.
We set off in our cars and started working the grassy chaparral dotted with Ash Junipers (a.k.a "cedars"). Our first visitor of the day was a Woodhouse's Scrub Jay, perched prominently at the apex of a dead snag. We only saw scrub jays that morning, no Blue Jays at all. A close observation of a small Live Oak tree near the path rewarded us with Lark Sparrows, Field Sparrows, two Nashville warblers, and one Wilson's Warbler that showed off its greenish back.
Next we walked down to the creek. There is a swimming hole here, and the creek water is fresh and clear. Our trip leader saw a Green Kingfisher at this site a few weeks ago, however, we did not see any kingfishers. The limestone bluffs were tall and lovely, and cast a welcome shade over us as we took in the view. A small House Wren came out of the scrub to study his strange audience.
Next we drove to the western edge of the property onto a looped road surrounded by dry, shrubby brambly trees. Shin oaks, I learned, is the name given to those small shrubs that don't grow higher than your shin. A bit of patience here revealed a trove of Eastern Phoebes, a Ladderbacked Woodpecker, some first-of-the-season Ruby-Crowned Kinglets.
A small path near the apex of the loop led us up to a lovely round meadow dotted with cheery yellow Broomweed flowers, a different habitat entirely. We were able to see some vultures soaring over this field, and a speedy pair of kestrels performing some aerial display way up in the sky.
We ended the morning with a list of 23 species, and I don't believe we could have had a better group to do the survey. I was so enamored by the fact that many of them were not only birders, but skilled naturalists who were familiar with plants, fossils, butterflies, and ants! I found myself walking through, wide-eyed, asking, "What's this? What's this?" like a broken record. I left the grounds feeling a special sort of inclusion with the wonders of the natural world, and the many layers that comprise it.
Til next time,
Texas Bird Lovers are friends and lovers of nature and birds. Here are stories, essays, poems, drawings, inspirations, and musings about birding.
Links to Selected Texas Audubon Society Web Pages:
Bastrop Audubon Society
Coastal Bend Audubon Society
Dallas Audubon Society
El Paso Trans Pecos Audubon Society
Fort Worth Audubon Society
Houston Audubon Society
Prairies and Timbers Audubon Society
Rio Grande Delta Audubon Society
Travis Audubon Society