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Austin Adventure

Day 1:  Lake Travis to Granger Lake

            And what an adventure it was getting here!  The Lord was faithful, though:  one of the songs I happened to catch while channel-surfing was that rollicking one we sang periodically at Tierrasanta Lutheran Church, reciting God’s promise to be with us when we go through the waters, and that the fires would not consume us!  I didn’t make the connection until later, but going through Austin was certainly a “deep water” (ironically, San Antonio wasn’t all that bad this time, and even if I had taken that other loop, it would have dumped me in the thick of the traffic, anyway)!

            MapQuest was pretty good:  it turned out to be almost a six hour drive on the nose!  Got up at five, got the laundry started after the morning routine, and while that was going the Lord suggested I get the car filled up and the ice in the cooler, so that was taken care of, and I got the bills sent off as well, so we ended up taking off about 9:30 actually.  Surprisingly had some decent birds for the list along the drive, the best probably being the White-tailed Hawk going up 281.  The Golden-fronted Woodpecker heard while I was packing the car will be the only one, undoubtedly!  My friend Joan’s soothing CD that she gave me for Christmas is great, only I was a little nonplussed with myself that I didn’t recognize the House Finch in the opening! L  Guess that was a good application of the sermon this one guy was preaching about humbling ourselves, that if we really want to be used in the Kingdom of God, we really need to do that.  That’s a good word for me; he even brought up the point that we are to be child-like, but in the sense of depending on God for our needs, not being whiny and pouting!  I liked that illustration!

            First rest stop was Alice, followed by Pleasanton, and the third stop was actually just south of Austin (Buda), so we were all drained and ready to tackle that, and like I said, it was an adventure (and had the obligatory Parking Lot while we were at it)!  Was glad to get through it, but got turned around trying to find Whiterock Road (I’m probably gonna have a massive bill as I had to get on and off the toll road a couple of times; they’re utilizing the same technique that road in Brownsville does, which is actually kinda nice, as you don’t have to worry about exact change), and the nice lady at the gas station said it was actually FM 1431, so once we got on that we found the Best Western fine.

            I really wanted to crash, but also wanted to check out the road to Travis Lake, so off we went, discovering a chicken place on the way there (which we stopped at on the way back; wasn't real impressed)!  The habitat looked great once you were on Lime Creek Road (great Goldencheek territory, but they’re gone now, of course), and I started checking the mileage for a possible BBS-style birding route.  But pull-offs were few and far between, and after Sandy Creek (with a creepy-looking guy there), it was more civilized with not just homes, but homes!!!  Gadzooks!  Wonder how much those puppies cost!!  A couple were for sale, and I mentally made cracks about chipping in with some friends and buying one!  Since we were losing the sun I didn’t want to explore the whole route, so we managed to find our way back to 183 (passed Cypress Creek Park on the way).  It was awfully quiet (heard a titmouse, but to be honest I’m not sure which type is supposed to be here), so I hope it’s more productive tomorrow (and I timed it:  it took ten minutes to get from the motel to Lime Creek Road)!

            Headed back out to Lake Travis the next morning, doing the BBS protocol along Lime Creek Road to start.  Was deathly quiet, with one American Goldfinch here and a Butterbutt there, but had what I suspect was a flock of Chipping Sparrows at one stop, but just didn’t get a look.  At another stop was surprised to have White-winged Dove after White-winged Dove bat by; turns out they’re not so uncommon up here in the winter after all! 

Lime Creek Road, on the way to Lake Travis

Wheeling in to Sandy Creek I headed down to the boat ramp and listened for five, and was thrilled to hear the Rock Wren that was reported there!  I felt like a gang member, however, as my pants were literally hitching their way down my posterior, so I hightailed it to one of the isolated picnic areas and fixed that, but in the process had a very nice feeding flock consisting of Ruby-crowned Kinglet (showing his ruby crown), Butterbutts, a chickadee, a Hermit Thrush, and a titmouse that had a slaty crest and a white forehead; consulting the TOS book later, it looked as though Black-crested was the expected species here, so that’s what I called it.

Self-explanatory...

A "Bippy was there" shot; I guess with the water level so low they were letting people in for free...

Habitat within the park

Boat ramp area; this is where the Rock Wren was.

Just a few of the mansions in the area...

I was thankful that they weren’t charging to enter the park, as it’s ten bucks a pop!  (Guess since people can’t launch their boats, they figured it wasn’t worth it to staff the entrance kiosk….)  Made a quick stop at the wharf (loved their “end of the road” sign), but that was pretty birdless except for a Coot, I think.  Pulled in to Cypress Park, which is just a little postage stamp, but nevertheless managed to get a Spotted Towhee and Ladder-backed Woodpecker for the trip, although I dipped on the reported Scrub Jay.  There was a little hiking trail there that I was getting ready to explore when a guy pulled up and started heading the same direction; he was dressed in sweats so I assumed he was going for a jog, but just as I was getting ready to leave he was back and fiddling in his trunk, then beat me out of the park! 

Yep--that gets the message across!

Little Cypress Creek Park had a Spotted Towhee.

Bridge into the woods

Windy Point Park was by far the best (and probably why they have it on the Wildlife Viewing Map):  all these Travis County parks charge ten bucks a pop (although they’re good for all the parks), so while I vacillated, the Lord encouraged me to go ahead and support them, so I did so, and was glad I did!  First stop was the lake overlook where three Common Loons were being harassed by a flock of Ring-billed Gulls, and while I was enjoying that an Osprey flew by below eye level!  After that I crawled back where the boat ramp was and scared off a Merlin and a Harrier!  I eventually found the hiking trail the WVM was talking about:  it’s an easy walk that basically takes you past the picnic gazeboes and along the grassy shoreline (although the lake is pretty low).  Best birds along this stretch were the Canyon Wrens who were very cute and cooperative, and while I was shooting them a Song Sparrow barked from the nearby vegetation. Totally dipped on Rufous-crowned Sparrow, but on the way to the main highway a Common Raven sailing over the road was nice!

Windy Point Entrance

Habitat around the park

Picnic area near the trail

           

A very cooperative Canyon Wren pops up along the trail!

Its mate hops over to see what all the fuss is about...

        

Headed out to Granger Lake after that, and while I didn't see any Whooping Cranes at Sore Finger I did see several duck hunters hunkered down with their decoys! This was more of a scouting trip as I wanted to figure out a route where I could get out and listen occasionally the next morning (the habitat looked wonderful for sparrows, but it was really too cold and windy to try and pish anything up), but the various parks were great: had Vesper Sparrows jump up along one road, Western Meadowlarks were out the yin yang, and a mob of Snipe fed right next to the road! Picked up a Red-bellied Woodpecker on one road, and I looked through a huge flock of blackbirds for a Rusty, but then read later that they prefer more wooded, boggy areas.  That night as I was going through e-mail, there just happened to be a post from Sam Fason who had taken a group around Granger the same day, and they had all sorts of stuff!  So there went my neat little road-birding route! J

A Vesper Sparrow along one of the Granger Lake park roads

A Western Meadowlark in the equestrian area at Willis Creek Park

 

A big surprise was about a dozen Wilson's Snipe right next to road, also in Willis Creek Park!

   

They favor wet, grassy areas and are normally very secretive.

 

Being coy...

        

Their cryptic plumage allows them to become virtually invisible in the grass!

An American Pipit makes its way across the road.

Click here to continue to Granger Lake revisited

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