Spring in South Texas: Hill Country Extension Apr 11—15, 2018
Posted by Barry Zimmer
We arrived at Neal’s Lodge in midafternoon on the first day of the Hill Country Extension. We checked into our cabins and had a short break before meeting to do our checklist outside the leaders’ cabin and to discuss the evening plans. As we started the checklist, a Yellow-throated Warbler began singing in an oak right above us. We quickly located the bird and had wonderful views of this handsome species. Resuming our checklist session, we started hearing other chips of a mixed species flock in the nearby trees and once again became distracted. A bit of movement in a close tree caught my attention, and I raised my binoculars. I was stunned to see a male Golden-cheeked Warbler no more than 30 feet away!
We quickly got everyone on this special Hill Country bird and obtained fantastic views for all. Other birds began to appear in rapid succession—a Carolina Chickadee popped into view followed quickly by a Yellow-throated Vireo. A Hutton’s Vireo (somewhat localized in the Hill Country) joined the parade, then a Carolina Wren, a male Summer Tanager, and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. The Golden-cheeked Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler were now right over our heads, almost side by side, just fifteen feet away, demanding our attention. This flurry of activity was quite the auspicious beginning to our Hill Country tour, and it proved to be an omen of the great things to come.
Over the next three days, we tallied a record-setting (for this extension) 151 species, finding virtually every target and more. Late on our first day, we visited the Frio Bat Cave, where we witnessed one of the great natural history spectacles in the world, as over ten million Mexican Free-tailed Bats poured forth out of the cave entrance before dusk. Additionally, we added Canyon and Rock wrens, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Black-throated and Rufous-crowned sparrows, and Canyon Towhee. Owling ensued, with Eastern Screech-Owl, Elf Owl, and Common Poorwill all seen spectacularly well.
Read Barry’s full report in his Field Report.