Where to go birding in the Highland Lakes
All you need for spectacular birding in the Highland Lakes in Burnet County is a pair of binoculars and a bird guide or an app on your mobile phone. The area is a birder’s paradise due to its location along numerous migratory routes, plentiful water, and diverse habitat. Migratory birds from the north, east, and west funnel through Central Texas on their way to winter homes in Mexico and Central and South America.
The Highland Lakes has added to its attraction by building bird blinds, which are kept clean and regularly supplied with food and, when necessary, water. An active local birding group, the Highland Lakes Birding and Wildflower Society, teaches beginning birders, helps maintain the blinds, and surveys the bird population on a regular basis.
The area even has its own exclusive species, which nest nowhere else in the world: the black-capped vireo and the golden-cheeked warbler. The endangered migratory songbirds can be easily spotted in the spring at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.
Another great place to bird is at Canyon of the Eagles on Lake Buchanan, so named because of the number of wintering American bald eagles that can be spotted there. The resort features guided walks and hikes (must be booked in advance), along beautifully maintained trails through the Highland Lakes wilderness. The resort also offers cruises up the Colorado River, which empties into Lake Buchanan, where many eagles and other raptors settle for the winter. Canyon of the Eagles is located at 16942 Ranch Road 2341 in Burnet Texas. Call 512-334-2070 for more information and reservations.
The Vanishing Texas River Cruise is another great way to head by boat up the Colorado for eagle spotting. The cruise launches from 443 Waterway Lane in Burnet. Call 512-756-6986 for reservations. You can also order tickets online.
You don’t have to go to a bird blind or refuge to see beautiful, rare, or unique birds. Some of the best birding, according to the local experts, can be found in Johnson Park in Marble Falls and Haley-Nelson Park in Burnet. Haley-Nelson Park is home to a family of great horned owls, while the Marble Falls park features a variety of waterfowl. It was recently visited by a least grebe, a water bird rarely seen in the United States.
Winter visitors to the area include the rufous hummingbird, house wren, cedar waxwing, song sparrow, Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, spotted towhee, and the American bald eagle.
To connect with the Highland Lakes Birding and Wildflower Society, visit its Facebook page @HLBWS.
BURNET COUNTY BIRD BLINDS
Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery
345 Clay Young Road
Hoover’s Valley near Burnet
Open to the public 10 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays (with the exception of federal holidays). Admission is free.
Quarry Park Bird Blind
2221 Phillips Ranch Road
Follow signs off of Phillips Ranch Road to the City Hall complex. Admission is free.
3630 Park Road 4
Hoover’s Valley near Burnet
Easy access to a large variety of birds. Accessible by car off of Park Road 4 or a hike starting at the Devil’s Backbone Trailhead. Park entrance fees are $6 for ages 13 and older. Ages 12 and younger get in free. Admission to the bird blind only is free. Reservations necessary for access to the park. Call 512-793-2223 or visit the website.