Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Birders of Lake Creek Trail

Today is my 42nd birthday and it's a contemplative one. Since late 2006 when I started avidly birding this neighborhood and the area that would become Lake Creek Trail, I've learned a heck of a lot about birds and birding. I've experienced countless treasured moments of wildlife observation and discovery, and I've been so happy to be able to share some of these moments via photography, this blog, and my monthly bird walks. For the past couple years my neighborhood birding and blogging have decreased, but the amount of birding being done on Lake Creek Trail by others has greatly increased. This is immensely satisfying. Lake Creek Trail has become a birding hotspot in the Austin area. On any given day, here are some of the people you might encounter on the trail with binoculars around their necks. Say hi and ask them what they're seeing!

Because it's just barely in Williamson County, the trail has attracted the attention of long-time expert local birders Chuck Sexton, Byron Stone, and Tim Fennell, who are very interested in how bird diversity breaks down by county in the Austin area.

Stephen McDonald and Bill Dodd were early participants in my monthly bird walk. (There were many months when one of them or the other was the only person to show!) Stephen lives near the trail and has accumulated an amazing yard list of likely over 150 species of birds by now. Bill is a board member for the Capital Area Master Naturalists, leads nature walks, does surveys, and probably knows more about the plants on Lake Creek Trail than anyone.

Long-time residents Sue and Steve Whitmer have been birding this neighborhood far longer than I have. They were the first fellow birders I met here, when I encountered them walking down Broadmeade wearing binoculars back in 2007.

Gideon McClure has seen and photographed many birds on the trail. Recently he has embraced the idea of local "patch" birding in his own neighborhood. He blogs about it here.

Travis Audubon members George Kerr, Virginia Rose, Shirley LaVergne, Craig Rasmussen have led beginner bird walks here. Craig discovered the trail while looking for Mourning Warblers on eBird. Shirley is a long-time regular on my monthly bird walks who is just as interested in meeting all of the people who come on the walks as she is in finding the birds.

If there was a "Most Valuable Birder" award for Lake Creek Trail, Barry Noret would get it. He appeared on the scene about three years ago participating all day in both of my Big Sit events. He has been a pivotal member and leader of the new Williamson Audubon Group and has led several of their bird walks here. This past winter and spring Barry has birded Lake Creek Trail more than anyone, finding and photographing local rarities like Lark Bunting, nesting Cave Swallows, Worm-eating Warbler, Hooded Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, and Golden-winged Warbler. He takes better photographs than I ever could, which you can find here. Check out this recent amazing Bronzed Cowbird photo he took on the trail!

In 2011, Capital Area Master Naturalist Sue Anderson started an amphibian watch on Lake Creek Trail. On the second Saturday at sundown you can find her listening for frogs near the last dam, often with Bill Dodd, Kathy McCormack, Patty Collier, Chuck Sexton, and Andy Swain. Recently they heard Narrow-mouthed Toads here for the first time!

Besides the folks I've already mentioned, here are some of the past or regular participants in my monthly bird walk who have really made the walks worthwhile: Michael Pfeil, Laura Lefler, Cheryl Goevia, Greg Crumpton, Aaron & Chloe DaMommio, Gracen Duffield, Sukumar Veena, Carol Lee, Cathy & John Mandell, Brooks Perkins-Jechow, Marc Witmer, Moria Darnell, Midge Norris, Sheri Graner Ray & Tim Ray, Don Markette, Yvonne Daily, Philip Brogden, Barbara & Kim McKnight, Dora Smith, Phillis Hanvey, Randy & Meghan Duncan. When I started this walk in 2006, often 1, 2, or 0 people would show up. Now we routinely get 12-15 people, even in the rain! It blows my mind that so many people would get up early on a Sunday morning to find birds on Lake Creek Trail with me.

Thank you so much, everyone. Writing this post and thinking about you all has been an uplifting birthday present to myself. Your passion for local birding fuels my own!

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