Cactus Tunas

Cactus Tunas
Cactus Tunas

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Birding with Laurel: South Llano River State Park

January 2- 4, 2020

Laurel and I made our last camp at South Llano River State Park. This is another favorite park, both for birding and paddling on the South Llano River. Friends and I usually spent the first weekend in May there where we caught the lingering sparrows, year round specialities, and the peak of spring migration. I remember it for the hoards of singing Bell's vireos, painted buntings, sparrows and many other species. But it is also a fun winter camping place because it used to be the winter roost of 800+ turkeys.

But alas, it too is suffering bird decline. We saw only seven turkeys, when I was used to seeing them everywhere and having a trio of Toms strut down the trail toward us in full display. When I asked, I was told that the staff only knew of the seven Tom turkeys.

But there are four blinds where birds are fed,  and where there is usually moving water, so even in times of few birds, they are concentrated at the blinds, making for lots of entertainment.

One of the seven Tom turkeys - taken near our camping area

A blackbuck antelope, an exotic species, at the neighboring ranch

View of a put-in the park on South Llano

A bathing field sparrow

House finch

A black crested titmouse

Black throated sparrow


Another cute field sparrow

House finch

Female and male house finches getting a drink

We had lots of these fast moving guys - black crested titmouse and I finally started getting better pictures of them

View along river trail

I think this is Old Man's Beard, (Clematis drummondii)

One of my favorite views of South Llano River from the river trail

We found several donkeys in the land adjacent to the park at the end of the River Trail

Cardinal and house finch sharing a feeder

A very snappily dressed black-throated sparrow

Carolina wren - we had Bewick's also but I didn't get to capture him

Love these guys

Chipping Sparrow

I was lucky to get this very distant view of a tiny verdin while coming back to camp from a blind

I only saw this one fox sparrow - but I took maybe fifty pictures of him in very dim light

A field sparrow deciding to try some peanut butter mix

Our water faucet was stripped and wouldn't turn off to the delight of birds and this armadillo

Our last night at South Llano State Park was the coldest night we encountered. I got up the next morning and dressed in my long John bottoms and a heavy fleece shirt plus jacket and hat. I took my tent fly to the bathroom and ran the hand drier to melt the ice on it and start it drying. We had to stop several times to go warm our hands while taking down the tents. I had the foresight to pack everything else up with plans to get coffee and breakfast in a warm cafe. When we stopped to eat mid morning, I had to change to a short sleeved shirt and remove my long Johns. It was 70° when we reached Natalie's house in Houston.

Camping is over but the fun isn't done. We have three days of birding and one day of canoeing to go before Laurel has to leave. We just get to sleep in Natalie's beds at night.


  1. Ah, one of my favorite state parks in Texas! We always seem to visit in winter but I need to get out there in spring sometime.

    1. It is TOTALLY amazing the last of April and the first of May.

  2. Looks like a great place. I love your bird photos, esp the black-crested titmouse. Have never seen one of these guys. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for the kind words. The black crested titmouse is easy to find but hard to "shoot". And it intergrades with the tufted titmouse along I-35 in Texas. We look for the hybrids which have a black dod on their foreheads.