Friends of
Balcones Canyonlands
National Wildlife Refuge
Celebrating 150th Anniversary of the Golden-cheeked Warbler
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Balcones Songbird Nature Festival
April 25-28, 2014

 14th Annual

Balcones Songbird Nature Festival    April 25-28, 2014

Celebrating Migratory Songbirds! 


Summary of events below. To see details go to REGISTRATION


Flat Creek Estate Winery
Friday, April 25 1:00-4:00pm

Chef Sean Fulford will delight you with exquisite food pairings to complement Flat Creek Estate award winning wines. 

Enjoy raptors up close and personal with Falconers Dustin McCoy and Tim Breen.


This event starts at the winery. DIRECTIONS.


Sunday, April 27 Noon-5:00pm
Family Day Fun Activities! .....More Details 

NATURE TOURS start at the Refuge Headquarters.  

ATTENTION BIRDERS! Be sure to hang around for the COUNTDOWN. If you are attending Friday or Monday, pack in a lunch! If you are attending Sunday, grab a bite at the Vireo cafe and head on over to the COUNTDOWN TENT. 

VISIT THE BIG SIT! Saturday & Sunday 7:00AM-Noon


Premium tours led by professional leaders from some of our internationally acclaimed eco-tourism companies. Naturally Avian, Rockjumper and BirdQuest are participating this year, and their guides have graciously donated their time to support the Friends, the Refuge and the Songbird Festival.

The field trips will be moderately strenuous, and participants should be able to walk for several hours on hill country terrain. It will be worth the effort! If you have never been on a tour led by a professional leader, this is your opportunity to experience it for yourself. If you have been on professionally led tours, you know this is a trip not to be missed.

Birding the Refuge with Naturally Avian

Naturally Avian
Recently ADDED!
Friday, April 25 7:00am-Noon

Lead by Erik Bruhnke

...See Registration for MORE DETAILS!

For more information on Naturally Avian, go to their website at

Birding the Refuge with Rockjumper

Saturday, April 27 7:00am-Noon

Lead by David Shackelford

...See Registration for MORE DETAILS!

For more information on Rockjumper, go to their website at

Birding the Refuge with BirdQuest

Sunday, April 28 7:00am-Noon

Lead by Matt Denton

...See Registration for more DETAILS!

For more information on BirdQuest, go to their website at


The Endangered Ones

Friday, April 25 - 7:30am-Noon (Chuck Sexton)
Saturday, April 26 - 7:30am-Noon (Joe Beach & Jim Giocomo)
Saturday, April 26 - 7:30am-Noon (Bill Reiner & John Chenoweth)
Sunday, April 27 - 7:30am-Noon (Joe Beach)
Sunday, April 27 - 7:30am-Noon (John Harrington) 
This tour will span the refuge in search of its two endangered songbirds.  Experts on the species will take you to shady, relatively moist woodlands of oak and juniper to listen and look for Golden-cheeked Warblers. At the other end of the refuge, we will listen for the raspy songs of Black-capped Vireos in and around thickets of scrubby oaks, sumacs, and greenbriars. Along the way we hope to spot other Hill Country birds, such as Painted Buntings, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, and Cave Swallows. Easy to moderate hiking.

Explore Hill Country Birding

Saturday, April 26 - 8:00am-12:30pm (Randy Pinkston)
Sunday, April 27 - 8:00am-12:30pm (Kathy McCormack)
Monday, April 28 - 7:30-Noon (Shelia Hargis)
Join top Texas birders to look for special Hill Country birds that nest on the Refuge. Painted Bunting, Canyon Towhee, Vermilion Flycatcher, Black-throated Sparrow, and Grasshopper Sparrow possibilities to name a few.

Leaders Choice 

Monday, April 28 - 7:30am-Noon (Chuck Sexton) 
We’re leaving this trip intentionally vague so we can be flexible. Your leaders will be monitoring the birds seen throughout the festival and will use that information to determine the location for this trip. We may decide to try to re-find rarities or we may decide to go birding in one of our favorite Refuge tracts. Wherever we end up, you can expect to see some great Hill Country birds and have a great time. If you’re the type person who likes surprises or likes to go with the flow, this is the tour for you!


Breeding Birds of Balcones

Saturday, April 26 - 7:30am-Noon (Ed Fair)
Seek out some of the birds that breed on the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. This tour will focus on providing a more in-depth understanding of these birds. Aspects of natural history such as distribution, habitat, migration, and behavior of these species will be discussed as well as any conservation concerns. This tour is for those who want to know more about our birds than just the field marks. 

Young Beginning Birders (12-18 yrs)

Sunday, April 27 - 8:00am-Noon (Bryce Hardway & Jim Giocomo)
Birds are fascinating creatures to study because of their accessibility, their vitality, and their extraordinary life strategies. Furthermore, birds are great teachers that give us insight into the natural world around us. In this workshop we will focus on how to unlock that world by learning strategies for how to find, identify, and observe birds. First we will review the tools of the trade that we can use to identify a bird. Then we will go on a walk to see what we can find! (talk/walk)

Learning to Bird by Ear

Sunday, April 27 - 8:00am-12:30pm (Jeff Patterson) 
Wherever there are birds, there are bird songs!  And springtime in Central Texas is certainly no exception.  Bird songs and other vocalizations provide a wealth of information that birders can use to quickly identify familiar birds, distinguish between closely related species and perhaps to decipher some of the complex communications that go on between birds.  Join Jeff Patterson for a brief introductory lecture and hike intended to introduce you to the springtime bird vocalizations of Central Texas.  Learn some of the keys to identification, the purposes of birdsong, digital resources and responsible use of recordings, while taking a hike through the beautiful hill country of the Refuge. Easy to moderate hiking. (talk/walk)


Canyons, Blossoms, and Butterflies at Candlelight Ranch with Lynette Holtz

Saturday, April 26 - 9:00am-12:30pm (Lynette Holtz)
Lynette will conduct a workshop on wildflowers and other plants of value to birds and butterflies at Candlelight Ranch. You'll will stroll through the wildscape on a hike to identify both host and nectar plants for butterflies and learn about the Native American tribes that lived in this area and what plants they used to survive. You'll be hiking down into a 84 foot canyon and will see a variety of plants in different micro ecosystems complete with ferns and fossils. Bring your binoculars and your favorite wildflower field guide if you have them.

Native Plants on the Refuge

Saturday, April 26 1:00pm-5:00pm (Bill Carr & Diane Sherrill)
Balcones Canyonlands NWR was created to save the endangered bird species, Golden -Cheeked Warbler and Black-Capped Vireo, but these birds do not live in a vacuum. Without the plants, and the insects those plants sustain, we wouldn’t have these marvelous birds, or anything else in nature. It really IS all connected! Bill Carr will be conducting a plant tour with co-leader Diane Sherrill. Bill has recently retired from The Nature Conservancy to open his own consulting business. He has been called “the best field botanist in Texas”, and if you care about native plants, you NEED to take a walk with him! (talk/walk)

Nature Photography Workshop

Saturday, April 26 1:00pm-5:00pm (Karen Kilfeather)
Karen will emphasize basic outdoor photography in this workshop. Film or digital cameras are welcome. Karen will cover composition, lighting, depth of field, and some basic field tips for bird and nature photography. The use of settings for greater control of your images will be covered. All cameras are different, so be sure to bring your camera manual with you to class! (talk/walk)

Exploring the Backcountry * strenuous 

Sunday, April 27 8:30am-12:30pm (Jean & Seay Nance)
Explore one of the most beautiful parts of the Refuge as we walk along Post Oak Creek and venture into the backcountry in an area normally not open to the public. We'll talk about everything we come across, from geology to local wildlife and native plants to weather's influences on habitats. Difficult hiking: wear ankle-supported, waterproof shoes as uneven footpaths and stream crossings will be encountered.

Join Friends 

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The Newsletter

The Retreat at Balcones Springs has cabins available for Saturday & Sunday nights! PET FRIENDLY!!!

We've changed the Friday Wine & Star Shine to an afternoon event with a speaker and live raptor show!

BIG SIT - FREE Saturday & Sunday mornings!

Saturday afternoon Biker's Bend is hosting a social event! Great place to eat after your field trip! Win door prizes with a free ticket to registered participants of the festival who attend. BRING YOUR NAME TAG.

New giveaway to our registered guests! BRING YOUR OWN WATER BOTTLE!

We've got T-SHIRTS & BASEBALL CAPS this year!! 

FLEDGLING FEST activites are finalizing! Check out the lineup here.

Improved Vireo Cafe and snacks! Kona Ice Sno-cones will be there on Sunday!

All tours leave by van from the Refuge Headquarters. Please check-in with the REGISTRATION DESK at least 15 minutes before your 1st scheduled tour. 

Nature tours will follow the birds, so please come prepared to get off the beaten trail when needed. Closed-toe shoes and long pants are recommended on our walks, due to primitive trail conditions. Be sure to bring your sunscreen and hats!

There are no guarantees with respect to Hill Country weather. WE WILL SEND TOURS OUT REGARDLESS OF RAIN OR TEMPERATURE. Some may be delayed but we will keep the tours within the same day of the event. Call 512 965-2473 for an update, but be prepared to leave on schedule.

Nature Tours are not recommended for children. Please bring them out Sunday afternoon for a full schedule of fun-filled kids activities. (exception-Sunday Young Beginning birders, 12-18 years).

The Vireo Cafe will be serving Sunday so stay for lunch! Don't forget to spend some time in our MarketPlace.



  Listening to a Blue-Headed Vireo on Cow Road with Byron Stone's group, seeing a group of Cave Swallows punctuated by a surprise flock of White-faced Ibis flying over with Chuck Sexton's group after capturing a picture of a GC Warbler and learning to get more out of photographing birds with Karen Kilfeather, all of these were very special experience. Wonderful.
Pam, Liberty Hill
 The staff of the Balcones NWR are among the finest people I know. Everything they do is first rate. They are outstanding, experts, and a joy to know. Keep up the great work.
Jeff, Austin
 This was one fantastic event for me. The Raptor Show was spectacular and so was the Endangered Ones with Chuck Sexton. People and Staff were friendly and outgoing. Everything was done very professionally. I will be sure to attend future events and continue to support Friends of Balcones. Thank you all so much!
Jim, Copperas Cove

We are proud Recipients of  Every Day Grants which support our events and contributed to the new kiosk!

You're in good Company!


Flat Creek Estate

City of Lago Vista


LV/JT Chamber

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