Highland Lakes bird blinds
Five public bird blinds and viewing stations in the Highland Lakes each have three distinctive features that make them prime locations to spot birds and wildlife. They offer food, water, and natural habitat for cover and protection from predators, all essential for enticing a variety of species year-round.
“Viewing stations are perfect for beginning birders because many different species of birds are attracted to the area and the viewers can see these birds up close,” said Phil Wyde of the Highland Lakes Master Naturalist chapter, which takes care of several area bird blinds. “In addition, most of the viewing stations have bird field manuals and images of the birds that commonly visit the area. These help make identification of the birds seen easier.
“Intermediate and advanced birders come looking for uncommon and exotic birds,” he continued. “One never knows what birds, butterflies, or wild animals will show up.”
Bird blind visitors are expected to stay quiet and limit sudden movements to keep from startling birds.
“You can talk, but in a low tone,” Wyde said.
Also prepare for the weather. While several of the blinds are fully or semi-enclosed, they don’t have heaters or air conditioning. Dress appropriately and bring water for yourself.
“I think that the best way to enjoy the bird viewing stations is to come prepared to stay for a while,” Wyde added. “Wear comfortable clothes, bring water and snacks, and be prepared to relax and enjoy whatever appears. Certainly bring binoculars, notebooks and/or a camera.”
HIGHLAND LAKES BIRD BLINDS
Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery
345 Clay Young Road in Hoover’s Valley near Burnet
Sits on the shore of upper Lake LBJ; features a covered blind. Also has a monarch way station, a native plant area, and hiking trails. The hatchery is open to the public from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays (with the exception of federal holidays) while under COVID-19 restrictions. Admission is free. Call 512-793-2474 for more information.
Quarry Park Bird Blind
2221 Phillips Ranch Road in Granite Shoals
An enclosed bird blind next to a pond. Easily accessible by following the signs off of Phillips Ranch Road into the City Hall complex. Proximity of feeders to the viewing station makes it ideal for photographers. Leo Manzano Hike and Bike Trail nearby for wildlife strolls. Admission is free.
3630 Park Road 4 in Hoover’s Valley near Burnet
One of the most popular bird blinds in the state because of its easy access to a large variety of birds. Accessible by car off of Park Road 4 or a hike starting at the Devil’s Backbone Trailhead. You’ll need to check in at park headquarters if you plan to drive there. Park entrance fee is $6 for ages 13 and older. Ages 12 and younger get in free. Admission to the bird blind only is free. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, people must reserve passes online to access the park. Call 512-793-2223 for more information.
2585 Park Road 6026 in Johnson City
Parking just a few feet away. Blind is enclosed with large windows facing the feeding areas. Also features open areas where photographers can take photos without a glare. Volunteers keep the windows clean and the feeders full. Park entrance fee is $6 for ages 13 and older. Ages 12 and younger get in free. As of Nov. 2, 2020, the park is open Wednesday-Sunday for day use; camping open all week. Online reservations are the best way to ensure a day pass. Call 830-868-7304 for more information.
101 Park Road 23 in Blanco
The Blanco River flows through this small park, which offers excellent birding and fishing as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stocks several thousand rainbow trout each winter. The park does reach capacity, especially during the spring and summer, so make reservations online. Park entrance fee is $5 for ages 13 and older. Ages 12 and younger get in free. Call 830-833-4333 for more information.
Two other options for bird watching, though they don’t have bird blinds, are Vanishing Texas River Cruises and Reveille Peak Ranch. VTRC offers regular trips on upper Lake Buchanan and the Colorado River, where the American bald eagle winters. Visit the website or call 512-756-6986 for more information or reservations.
Reveille Peak Ranch, 105 CR 114 west of Burnet, offers miles of hiking trails. Near the main entrance, a small, private lake attracts birds throughout the year. Reveille Peak Ranch hours vary, but it is often open during the week for hiking. Check the website or Facebook page for current hours and events. Day-use entrance fees are $10 for ages 12 and older and $5 for ages 6-11. Ages 5 and younger get in free. Cash or check only. Call 512-914-9411 for more information.
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