MARCH 2, 2021: RARE BLUE BUNTING IN SAN ANTONIO
Local birders doing a survey for the San Antonio River Authority in Concepcion Park, south of downtown, discovered a Blue Bunting along the San Antonio River on February 24, 2021. The bunting is normally found in Mexico and occasionally appears in the Rio Grande Valley in deep South Texas. The Blue Bunting is a life bird for much of the San Antonio birding community, so the visitor attracted abundant attention. My photo was taken on March 2 across the river from where the bird perched in a tree branch. I used a zoom lens, and the photo is not great, but I was happy I was able to see this beautiful rarity. Concepcion Park has numerous water fowl, shorebirds, raptors, and songbirds. I was thrilled to see a male Belted Kingfisher enjoying a crustacean for lunch, along with an elegant Snow Egret and a Greater Yellowlegs (standing on one yellow leg with the other tucked underneath) nearby.
FEBRUARY 15, 2021: SAN ANTONIO SNOW BIRDS
A very unusual event occurred in San Antonio last night, with 6" of snow falling and temps dipping to just 9 degrees. This morning, we woke up to a winter wonderland, as did our feathered friends. For the first time ever, a Hermit Thrush appeared in the backyard and sat for a bit at the birdbath, which had thawed with the help of a bucket of hot water. A Pine Siskin visited the snowy thistle feeder.
DECEMBER 2020: LAND BRIDGE NOW OPEN AT PHIL HARDBERGER PARK
Included in the original master plan for Phil Hardberger Park, the Robert L. B. Tobin Land Bridge spanning Wurzbach Parkway opened to the public on December 11. The bridge is 150 feet wide by 150 feet long and connects the two sides of the park as a crossing for people and wildlife to travel from one side of the park to the other. Native trees, plants and grasses will provide landscaping on top of the bridge, where you'll also find two wildlife viewing blinds and two water features.
NOVEMBER 2020: EXCELLENT SAN ANTONIO BIRDING
The extraordinarily dry weather in Texas, combined with wildfires in the West, may be bringing a greater number of wintering birds into San Antonio this year looking for water and food. I've also been lucky enough to hear and see large flocks of Sandhill Cranes and American White Pelicans flying over. Hermit Thrushes and Meadowlarks have been present in Hardberger Park several days in a row. The first half of November brought Ruby-throated and Rufous Hummingbirds to the backyard for an extended stay.
OCTOBER 15, 2020: SAN ANTONIO FALL MIGRATION
Flurries of warblers have been passing through the backyard lately and visits to local parks have been productive with Lark Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow and Sage Thrasher sightings. The Cornell Lab's Birdcast radar map is a great tool for viewing the nightly bird migration forecast so you can plan the next day's adventure!
AUGUST 6, 2020: ONLINE PRESENTATION ABOUT PHIL HARDBERGER PARK & BIRDS
San Antonio Audubon Society featured member Patsy Kuentz, an avid birder and Alamo Area Master Naturalist, in an online program August 6. Patsy discussed Phil Hardberger Park, a 311-acre natural treasure in the city's rapidly developing North Central area, and the bird species that have been found in various locations within the park.
JULY 21, 2020: CIBOLO NATURE CENTER & FARM, BOERNE, TEXAS
Just 45 minutes northwest of San Antonio, Cibolo Nature Center is a 100-acre wildlife preserve with riparian, prairie and marsh habitats, allowing for diverse bird species. Summer Tanagers, American Robins, White-eyed Vireos, Western Kingbirds, Northern Parulas and Green Herons are around during the summer. In winter, it's a great place to find native sparrows.
JUNE 30, 2020: CANYON LAKE, TEXAS
Canyon Overlook Park is on the eastern edge of Canyon Lake, at the lake's dam. The park is about an hour northeast of San Antonio. At the end of August 2012, birders began reporting a Brown Booby sitting on a concrete structure near the dam. The story goes that an employee who works at the lake asked what everyone was looking at when hordes of birders descended on the lake to see the bird. When he was shown the bird of interest, he said the bird had been there all summer. The Brown Booby is normally found off the coast of southern Florida and is sometimes seen off the coast of Texas. Now, in the summer of 2020, the booby is back at Canyon Lake! Since the Brown Booby can live to be 16 years old, it's quite likely that this is the same individual who enjoyed the summer of 2012 at Canyon Lake. Birders can find other interesting species around the dam, too, including Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Eastern Bluebirds. The Guadalupe South River Natural Trail across the road from the dam is also a good birding location and is where the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron photo was taken.
APRIL 2, 2020: SPRING MIGRATION IN SAN ANTONIO
Backyard birding in San Antonio during spring migration is always interesting because you never know what you'll see. On a cloudy, drizzly day, several warbler species appeared, the wrens were singing, a Northern Cardinal was bathing, Chipping Sparrows were foraging, and a Cooper's Hawk dropped by for a brief visit.
FEB-MARCH 2020 WINTER BIRDING AT SAN ANTONIO BOTANICAL GARDEN
The presence of a Red-naped Sapsucker drew big crowds at the San Antonio Botanical Garden for several weeks from late January to mid-February. The young female bird was first identified on January 25 and last seen on February 22. She was frequently seen on a Thornless Mesquite tree, which is the same tree a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker later visited for many days.
JANUARY 4, 2020: ACEQUIA PARK
Birding in Acequia Park along the San Antonio River at Mission Espada, 18 members of a San Antonio Audubon field trip saw more than 50 species during a very chilly winter morning. Highlights were Ferruginous Hawk, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Pied-billed Grebe, Least Grebe, and a Little Blue Heron foraging with a Snowy Egret.
SEPTEMBER 17, 2019: SAN ANTONIO BOTANICAL GARDEN
Most birders hear White-eyed Vireos long before they see them. Today at the botanical garden, however, these vireos were singing, calling and posing! Other birds seen today included Black-and-white Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Red-shouldered Hawks, lots of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and a female Wood Duck.
SEPTEMBER 6, 2019: BRACKEN BAT CAVE
Join Bat Conservation International and with your membership you'll receive a trip for four to visit the Bracken Bat Cave just outside of San Antonio. Millions of Mexican free-tailed bats emerge at dusk over the course of several hours during summer months, streaming overhead as you watch in awe. Check out the video below and you'll see why the emergence is called a "batnado"—it really is like a tornado of bats!
2019 FALL BIRD MIGRATION SAN ANTONIO
The fall migratory birds began appearing in the backyard in mid-August, with a surprise visit by a male Hooded Warbler. Yellow Warblers, Summer Tanagers, Bullock's Orioles, Orchard Orioles and a Black-throated Green Warbler followed. The week of September 8, a male Baltimore Oriole appeared and stayed for several days, repeatedly visiting a container full of grape jelly. And two Gray Catbirds visited for a week in October to feast on American Beautyberry fruit! The Black-chinned Hummingbirds that breed here are now gone until next March, but entertaining Ruby-throated hummers chase each other around the feeder as they prepare to depart for destinations to the south for winter.
2019 SUMMER SCENES IN HARDBERGER PARK
Early mornings in Hardberger Park are best for seeing the greatest number of bird species, but butterflies appear a bit later in the day. The Demonstration Garden on the NW Military Highway side of the park has proven to be an excellent location for finding birds, butterflies, deer and lizards.
APRIL 6, 2019: LOVE CREEK PRESERVE
Love Creek Preserve is a 2,508-acre preserve near Medina, Texas, on land that was once part of a private ranch and now owned by The Nature Conservancy. Access is restricted, but an event on April 6 for volunteers included hiking and birdwatching. Golden-cheeked Warblers and Black-capped Vireos were seen and heard throughout this wildflower-rich Bandera Canyonlands landscape.
MARCH 4, 2019: BEST PLANTS FOR BIRDS AND BUTTERFLIES
Provide food and nectar for birds and butterflies in San Antonio with these three plants, even if you have limited space and need to keep them in pots. During a presentation at the Witte Museum recently, Lee Marlowe from the San Antonio River Authority recommended Texas Frog Fruit (Phyla nodiflora), Mealy Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea) and Four-nerve Daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa).
JANUARY 22, 2019: SAN ANTONIO RIVER WALK
During a Bexar Audubon Society field trip to downtown San Antonio, we found a male Peregrine Falcon on the AT&T building at N. St. Mary's Street and Brooklyn. A female Peregrine Falcon was sitting in the starburst logo of the old Frost Bank Building at 100 W. Houston. The falcons have bands on their legs and are not a mating pair. The male, Triumph, spends the breeding season in Minneapolis. The female, Radisson, returns to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada for breeding. We also found a Yellow-throated Warbler (photo by Mariana Outlaw) on the River Walk at N. St. Mary's and Crockett near Selena's bridge.
JANUARY 19, 2019: SA BOTANICAL GARDEN
The Third Saturday Bird Walk at SABG started out cold (38 degree wind chill) and very windy (gusts to 37 mph), but the sun was shining and the sky was clear. We saw 26 species of birds, including American Robin, Cooper's Hawk, Loggerhead Shrike, Red-shouldered Hawk, White-throated Sparrow and Long-billed Thrasher.
DECEMBER 14, 2018: CATHEDRAL PARK
Tucked into a residential neighborhood in Alamo Heights, Cathedral Park is truly a hidden gem for birdwatchers. The park is part of the Bishop Jones Center, the headquarters of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. Springs of the San Antonio River flow through the property when rainfall is abundant. Birds seen here on a December walk included Yellow-rumped Warbler (photo by Mariana Outlaw), Blue-headed Vireo, Black-and-white Warbler and Summer Tanager.
APRIL 1, 2018: STONE OAK PARK
Stone Oak Park is a refreshing green space in the midst of surburban development in north central San Antonio. The park is a reliable location for wintering wrens along the dam, Rufous-crowned Sparrows, and the Curve-billed Thrasher. Two caves are located in the park, Bear Cave and Cub Cave, but neither are open to the public. However, you can work out at the exercise stations located throughout the trail network.
SEPTEMBER 29, 2018: BLUE HOLE AT HEADWATERS SANCTUARY, UNIVERSITY OF THE INCARNATE WORD
The Blue Hole is considered the source spring of the San Antonio River and is located in the 53-acre Headwaters nature sanctuary on the campus of the University of the Incarnate Word. Headwaters is a non-profit sponsored Earth care ministry of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. Headwaters is adjacent to but not part of the University. Abundant rainfall in September raised the Edwards Aquifer level above 672 ft., causing the Blue Hole waters to flow again following a long period of drought.
OCTOBER 6, 2018: HARDBERGER PARK WEST
Groundbreaking for the Robert L. B. Tobin Land Bridge took place with former Mayor Phil Hardberger speaking to the public, along with several City of San Antonio representatives and Parks and Rec personnel. The bridge will span Wurzbach Parkway to connect the two sides of the park.
OCTOBER 8, 2018: HARDBERGER PARK EAST
The Bird Water Feature is a small pond fed with recycled water and surrounded by rocks. It's located on the east side of the Salado Classroom building near the Blanco Rd. parking lot. A cedar post fence with cut-outs for viewing and photography stands in front of the water feature.