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Take a Bird Walk at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

Spring means birds are migrating through the Highland Lakes donned in their best colors such as this painted bunting. Courtesy photo by Melissa Cheatwood/USFWS volunteer

MARBLE FALLS — One of the toughest things for beginner bird-watchers is keeping your eyes on the prize. Before you can dig out your field guide to identify a bird flitting around you, it takes off again.

It’s darn frustrating.

Jennifer Brown, visitor services manager at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, knows what you’re going through.

“It is challenging when you’re first starting out,” she said.

So the refuge came up with a way to help. It’s hosting guided bird walks throughout the month of May.

“We have a skilled birder who is volunteering to hike some area — they’re all easy walking hikes — on our public access areas and give guided bird walks,” Brown said. “We’ll supply gear (binoculars and field guides); you just have to show up.”

The first guided bird walk was May 12, but three more are scheduled. All the walks are 8:30-10:30 a.m.

The next walks are:

• Friday, May 18, at Warbler Vista, 21646½ RR 1431 East near Lago Vista;

• Friday, May 25, at Doeskin Ranch, 10645 FM 1174 south of Bertram;

• and Saturday, May 26, again at Warbler Vista.

“We want to encourage people to visit the refuge,” Brown said. “We encourage families to come — bring your kids or your grandchildren. It’s a great chance to get outside, check out the refuge, and learn a bit about birds.”

On a guided bird walk, the experienced birder will share tips and tricks to identifying birds.

“They’ll give you little hints about what to look for that will help,” Brown said. “With an experienced birder guiding you, it’s a lot easier to pick things up than trying it on your own. And once you begin to learn how to identify birds, it’s almost a game: ‘Hey, I got this one. What one next can I identify?’ It really becomes fun.”

While the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge guided bird walks are great for beginners, birders of all skill levels are welcome. The walks are also a great way to introduce people to the refuge.

And spring, Brown said, is the perfect time for bird-watching.

“This time of year, birds are migrating through Texas, so you’ll have the chance to see a lot of different birds,” she said. “And since it’s spring, many of them will have their colorful mating plumage on, so there’ll be some colorful birds out.”

Brown recommends wearing a hat and closed-toe shoes and bringing sunscreen and water. Also, if you have your own binoculars and/or field guide, toss them in your kit and bring them.

Call (512) 339-9432 for more information about the walks.

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