Our 10th Balcones Songbird Festival, Friday-Monday, April 23-26, was an unqualified success with great attendance (over 500 people!) and a great array of birds. Despite some windy afternoon conditions, all of the target tours got looks at both Golden-cheeked Warblers and Black-capped Vireos. A total of 108 species of birds was reported in the Refuge area for the four days of the festival. We had a smidgeon of migration of some raptors, waterbirds, and passerines but no concentrations or fallout. Interestingly, the festival bird list started and ended with two of the rarest sightings. Tour guide Judy Bell woke up Friday morning to photograph male Lazuli Bunting at her trailer pad near the HQ, one of fewer than a half dozen reports ever of that species here. (See a link to her blog below.) Then literally the last species added to the list on the last tour on Monday morning was a flyover of about 30 White-faced Ibis on RM 1174 just north of Doeskin Ranch--the first confirmed report of the species for the Refuge. Ironically, the ibis were spotted by participant Don Robinson (I hope I got that right), who purposefully left his binoculars behind so that he could just "look around and enjoy all the diversity" to be found on the tour. Thanks, Don, and thanks to Jim Baines for capturing that flight in digits! Below are some avian highlights:
White-faced Ibis (flyover of 30 on RM 1174 just north of Doeskin Ranch)
Mississippi Kite (a few singles and flocks)
Northern Harrier (two singles, a bit late)
Peregrine Falcon (4/25 at Eckhardt)
Barred Owl (Simons oak savannah)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (4/24; very late)
Vermilion Flycatcher (brief sightings on Saturday)
Black-capped Vireo (cooperative birds at Russell tract -- a CLOSED tract)
Yellow-throated Vireo (nest near HQ over Post Oak Creek)
Common Raven (young being fed in nest on Cow Creek)
Cave Swallow (active colony on 1174 just N of Doeskin Ranch)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (nest building on Post Oak Creek)
Golden-cheeked Warblers (many areas; having a good year)
sparrows - 12 species, but missed Canyon Towhee and Black-throated Sparrow
Lazuli Bunting (one male seen twice on 4/23-24; photographed by Judy Bell)
Painted Bunting (barely arrived in time for festival, but soon abundant)
Yellow-headed Blackbird (one male posed at Flat Creek Winery, Friday evening)
[Great-tailed Grackle - missed. Woo-hoo!!]
A few of the other conspicuous bird misses during the festival: N. Bobwhite, Crested Caracara, Rock Pigeon, Common Poorwill, Belted Kingfisher, Orange-crowned Warbler, Dickcissel, Eastern Meadowlark, Baltimore Oriole.
Our list of herps (amphibians and reptiles) included:
Blanchard's Cricket Frog
Gulf Coast Toad
Texas Earless Lizard
Redstripe Ribbon Snake
W. Diamondback Rattlesnake
The short mammal list (not counting road-kill carcasses) included Eastern Cottontail, Black-tailed Jackrabbit, Coyote, and White-tailed Deer.
The wildflower display and the butterflies were just eye-popping all weekend. (See, for example, Dwayne Litteer's gallery at the link below.) Thank you, Mother Nature!
If you were at the festival and would like to provide a link to your photos, please send the link to me and I'll add it below.
-- Check out Judy Bell's blog, 'Travels with Emma' with photos of the Festival in her April folder on BlogSpot.
-- See more of Jim Baines' photos from the Festival on his BetterPhoto.com page.
-- Dwayne Litteer's extensive gallery of photos from this year on SmugMug.com.
-- A news story on the Festival in the North Lake Travis Log.