My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Favorite Places Revisited: South Llano River State Park

Since distances in Texas are so vast and since I was going to the Hill Country to visit my daughter's family, then had a week off before going to Three Rivers, between Corpus Christi and San Antonio,  I decided to spend a week camping, rather than running a few hundred miles back and forth.  The weather had other ideas and winter, which had been laying around lackadaisically, all it's due six weeks,  chased our Texas Spring, which usually arrives mid February, right off the planet, and commenced blowing cold, wet air on us. So I lived mostly in a week of cold drizzle with one lovely break at South Llano River State Park.

I whimped out of camping for the planned two days at Pedernales Falls State Park and spent the night in a motel in Junction so I could arrive at the park at sunrise.

Sunrise portends iffy weather, but it was good for this day

South Llano has everything I love; birds and a beautiful river with several paddling opportunities, and lots of hiking trails.  The river usually remains paddle able, even in dry times and birds usually abound.  Volunteers who loved birds, came here after Benton Rio Grande State Park, where they lived and volunteered,  removed all the camping sites, including those for volunteers,  and became a World Birding Center. They worked to build up the bird enjoyment here and made three more observation blinds, for a total of four blinds with natural feeders and water features.  The park is adjacent to a state wildlife refuge and visitors are allowed to use the trails in there, as well as trails in the park.

The park also hosts a huge turkey roost,  with over 500 wild turkeys wintering there each winter. The entire day use area used to be closed all all winter, until April, but now I think you are allowed to be there from 10:00 A to 3:00 P, when the turkeys are scattered out foraging.

As I have been finding wherever I bird, bird numbers and species are way down. Here, I normally run into several groups of turkeys, but only saw one group too far away to photograph. There were low numbers of birds at the blinds and almost no birds on the trails. I missed most of the wrens, most hawks, ravens, western scrub jays, and some of the sparrows normally there.

American Goldfinch  and Pine Siskin

Pine siskins and American goldfinch

Bath time for American goldfinch and house finches

Greater Roadrunner hunting

Field Sparrow

Chipping sparrow

Another chipping sparrow with eyebrow turning white

Spotted towhee

Black-crested titmouse at waterfall

White-crowned sparrow

White-winged dove
Feeding green-winged teal at the wastewater plant ponds

Sunset from the  Scenic Overlook

But there were still enough birds there to keep me busy.  I also finally went to the wastewater treatment plant and Texas Tech University at Junction.  Both were great sites and yielded added species. The only phoebe I saw was on the university site.  The university now has four blinds and is working on making the area more attractive to birds.  I should be full of migratory birds in April and early May.

There were a lot of eastern bluebirds at the university

Sleeping porcupine at the university

Here is the link to the birding loop I was following from the Great Texas Birding Trail.

I stopped birding around noon and ran back to camp to eat lunch and pack up my gear.  Then I drove under cloudy skies to Choke Canyon State Park where I met up with friends.

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