Bastrop County Birding Hotspots
Description: Perhaps one of the best kept secrets in Bastrop County, this unassuming 0.8 mile dead end country road changes with the seasons and during Fall-Winter months, can be a source of continual surprise, as waterfowl and shorebirds utilize the shallow wet season marshes.
By October, sparrows, meadowlarks, and raptors have returned to the fields and roadside brush to join the year round residents. Savannah, Vesper, Chipping, Song, White-crowned, White-throated, Grasshopper, and Lincoln's Sparrows are all along the roadside. Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks can be seen year round, and during the Winter, we can spot American Kestrel, Merlin, and Northern Harrier. Being so close to the Colorado River, Bald Eagles are always possible.
If the wet season marshes are full, November signals the arrival of waterfowl and shore birds. Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal are common, as well as Northern Shoveler. Other waterfowl include Ruddy Duck, Redhead, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, and Gadwall. Shorebirds observed include Greater and Lesser Yellow-legs, Solitary Sandpiper, Wilson's Snipe, Black Tern, and Wilson's Phalarope. And, just recently, White-faced Ibis was added to this road's life list. Great Blue, Little Blue, and Green Herons are not uncommon at this time, as well as Great Egrets.
The roadside Hackberry trees are normally loaded with red berries in the Fall, and so are very attractive to Cedar Waxwings, Robins, and the resident Mockingbirds.
Spring migration heralds a changing of the guard. Water birds are leaving, Spring-Summer residents are returning, and migrants are passing through. Flycatchers begin returning during March and April. If you're lucky, a five flycatcher day is possible; Eastern and Western Kingbird, Great Crested and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, and Eastern Phoebe. Dickcissel return, and are most active in the April-May timeframe. When you hear their song for the first time, you will know how they got their name. Purple Martins return, and you can see Cliff, Cave and Barn Swallows chasing down insects, along with the occasional Northern Rough-winged Swallow. The roadside fields are mostly pasture, so there are no woody areas to serve as a migrant trap. However, further down the road the fence lines include some tall Hackberry trees, and if there is still some water in the marshes, Common Yellowthroat, as well as Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, and Yellow Warblers are possible. You might find Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting and Indigo Buntings during Spring and Summer. Spring and spring migration heralds a changing of the guard. Water birds are leaving, Spring-Summer residents are returning, and migrants are passing through. Flycatchers begin returning during March and April. If you're lucky, a five flycatcher day is possible; Eastern and Western Kingbird, Great Crested and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, and Eastern Phoebe. Dickcissel return, and are most active in the April-May timeframe. When you hear their song for the first time, you will know how they got their name. Purple Martins return, and Cliff, Cave and Barn Swallows can be seen chasing down insects, along with the occasional Northern Rough-winged Swallow. The roadside fields are mostly pasture, so there are no woody areas to serve as a migrant trap. However, further down the road the fence lines include some tall Hackberry trees, and if there is still some water in the marshes, Common Yellowthroat, as well as Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, and Yellow Warblers have been seen. Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Painted Bunting and Indigo Buntings are sometimes found during Spring and Summer.
Summer is hot and dry, and the birding slows down quite a bit. But there is still fun to be had. This road is perhaps the most reliable location for Northern Shrike in Bastrop County. A breeding pair has been resident for the last few years. Within the first one hundred yards of the road, there will be a shrike on the power lines on the right side of the road about fifty per cent of the time. Dove tend to like this location, and it's fun to try for a five dove day on this road; Mourning, Eurasian Collared, White-winged, Inca, and Common Ground Dove. And, as mentioned before, you are near the river so you never know what may be flying over.
So, there you have it, Earhardt Road. A road of many seasons. And, on the right cool Fall morning, if you have parked your car well short of the marshes and walked down quietly to the marshes using the trees for cover; stop, look, and listen. Hundreds of ducks are probably quacking, and flying from pond to pond. Killdeer and Yellowlegs flit from bank to bank with high pitched "deee-deee-deee" calls. Scan the shoreline for Wilson's Snipe feeding, looking like small long-billed sewing machines as they waddle the banks. Cardinals, titmice, and chickadees are chipping in the trees, while Cedar Waxwings "zeeee-zeeee-zeeee" and snack on berries. Perhaps several flights of Sandhill Cranes are overhead, bugling their way South. On a morning like this, you might find a little magic on Earhardt Road.
Travel Directions: Earhardt Road is located off FM 969, about 1.3 miles east of the Colorado River bridge. From Highway 71, take County Road (CR) 1209 north until it dead ends into FM 969, about 3.6 miles. Turn right onto FM 969, and in about 0.9 miles you will find Earhardt Road on your right side. It will be just past the large white ranch house with white fencing. You will see a sign for Hope Valley Tree Farm. Start looking for that Shrike.
Alum Creek Road and Gotier Trace (Update 11/03/15: This site likely was affected by the Hidden Pines forest fire in October.)
Description: Alum Creek is an eBird hotspot, with 128 different species reported to date. Two creek locations are good spots for Pine Warbler, Northern Parula, Black and White Warbler, Summer Tanager, Waterthrush, Wild Turkey, Vireos, and many species of woodpecker. These spots can be good locations for warblers during migration. Red-headed Woodpeckers have been observed at the Alum Creek Road and Park Road 1C intersection since 2014. Check the northwest quadrant with the burnt Loblolly Pines. This intersection is also good for raptors such as Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks, Mississippi Kite, and American Kestrel.
Travel Directions: Alum Creek Road is located off Highway 71, east of Bastrop, roughly 5.5 miles east of the Highway 71 and Highway 95 intersection. Turn north on to Alum Creek Road. You can car bird along the way, and about 1.8 miles in Park Road 1C crosses Alum Creek Road. Park off the road at this intersection and you can bird both roads walking, and Alum Creek itself is 20-30 yards East on Park Road 1C. Load up and continue North on Alum Creek Road until it ends at Gotier Trace Road. Turn right and continue for about 0.4 miles and you will find Alum Creek again. There is good parking on the left side of the road. Bird the area around the bridge, and the road both directions. During warbler migration be sure to cross the bridge going East and bird the pecan grove. You can return to Park Road 1C, and East takes you to Buescher State Park, and West leads to Bastrop State Park. You can also continue down Gotier Trace for a few miles. There is good habitat for sparrows in season and a great deal of open range for raptors.
Bastrop State Park
Description: Bastrop State Park (HOTE 033) is another local eBird hotspot, with 224 species of birds having been observed. The 2011 Bastrop Complex Fire burned a large part of the park, and in 2015, heavy rains led to failure of the park lake dam. But don't be too quick to write this location off. First, the acres of dead pine trees have created a woodpecker heaven. During the Winter months when Northern Flicker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker are resident, eight species of woodpecker are possible within the park boundaries. Redheaded Woodpeckers have become much more common since the fire, with your best chances at Alum Creek (above,) or the last two miles of Park Road 1C before reaching Alum Creek Road.
As you drive through the park, you can see the forest coming back. There are millions of 6-8 foot tall Loblolly Pine and assorted oak trees growing, as well as brush and native plants that have not been commonly seen in the park recently. The insects are returning, and there's room to fly. Yes, flycatchers! Western and Eastern Kingbird, Great Crested and Brown Crested Flycatchers, as well as Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Peewee, and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher are common in season. The last two years, a Vermillion Flycatcher has been reported during the Jan. 1st Christmas Bird Count, both occasions near the park entrance. Last year he hunted the small pond on the golf course near the entrance for two months.
Warblers, sparrows, tanagers, raptors (including Peregrine Falcon), owls, vireos, Gray Catbird and many more can be seen and heard in Bastrop State Park. And, if you enjoy watching Chimney Swift, park near the intersection of Park Roads 1A and 1C during the summer. The large concrete tank on the hill is their summer home.
Travel Directions: The Bastrop State Park main entrance is located at the intersection of Highway 21 and Loop 150, near the eastern outskirts of Bastrop. Both Highway 21 and Loop 150 can be accessed from Highway 71 near the city of Bastrop. A daily use fee of $5/person (as of 2015) is charge for entrance to the park.
Additional Hot Spots:
Bob Bryant Park
Buescher State Park
Cedar Creek Park
Colorado River Refuge (Tahitian Village)
Lake Bastrop (North Shore)
Lake Bastrop (South Shore)
McKinney Roughs Nature Park
Old Sayers Road
Vernon L. Richards - Riverbend Park
Wilbarger Bend Road