If you hang around Central Texans long enough, you will learn that we are fond of bestowing our own pronunciation on the names of some of our favorite local places; confounding out-of-towners, I’m sure.
One of those place names is “Pedernales” – the name of a river, a series of water falls, and a state park. Take note: locals refer to it as “per-din-al-iss.”
Whether or not you can say it right, you must go see all three. I took a day trip and visited Pedernales Falls State Park today. I enjoyed visiting their bird blind, walking down to the Falls, scoping out birds while hiking, doing a little geocaching, and taking in the beautiful scenery on a gorgeous day.
I discovered a lovely park, right off Loop 360 and Spicewood Springs Road. The trail head for the Irving and Hazeline Smith Memorial Trail is on the northwest corner of the intersection. You can park right nearby. It’s an easy, flat, 1.5 mile loop through woods, grassland and near the creek. No dogs permitted, though.
I had an unexpected morning free, so I headed to the Bull Creek Preserve again to go explore the trails. Note that entrance to the the Preserve is restricted between March and July each year. You’ll need to apply for an entry permit to enter during those months. Today my goal was to catch a glimpse of the endangered golden-cheek warbler that nests in the preserve after migrating here in early March from Central America. I went out on Monday and had a great 3 hour hike, and heard their calls everywhere, but I didn’t see the little bird – they were very elusive.
Today, I tried some different trails in the Preserve, and I finally saw several of them! Next, I pulled out my camera to try to get a decent shot. I took many more than these few photos, but together they might give you an idea of how hard it is to get a good shot. Most of these won’t look like much unless you can zoom in on them…
I saw one sitting on the power line. Right. Above. My. Head. But, by the time I got the camera up and focused, zoooom, he was gone. See the little bullet-shaped bird with a yellow head exiting the frame on the right?
A while later… I saw one in a shrub about 30 feet away! See him in the center of the frame? But, darnit, he wasn’t facing me.
And then… zoooom, he took flight. See the little yellow headed torpedo coming toward the camera?
Then several miles and about 2 hours later…. one popped out of a cedar branch at eye level about 10 feet away! He even posed for a minute. I got several shots. This is the clearest. Success! I’ll be back for more, though. 🙂
I visited Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park today. There are some short trails that go down by Lake Austin, through a bit of woods, and around a beautiful, recently re-established prairie with native grasses and flowers. I saw about 10 different species of birds, including my first Eastern Bluebird. The bluebonnets are everywhere.
After a very rainy weekend the sun finally came out Sunday afternoon. We decided to check out a couple breweries nearby. Austin Beerworks has a new and expanded tasting room and patio area that opened recently — kid and dog friendly. My Pearl Snap was great!
Just down the road, Circle Brewing Co. was serving up some good brews. I had the Alibi blond ale. Monte tried a flight.
We’re lucky to have so many local breweries nearby. We’ll hit a few more next time.
In a post earlier this year, I shared a visit to the Blanton Museum that we took, to see an Andy Warhol visiting exhibit that ended in January. When we went, we didn’t know that the museum’s permanent exhibits were temporarily closed, due to a total revamp of the permanent gallery areas upstairs. Even so, we enjoyed the visiting exhibit.
The museum’s permanent collection galleries are now open again, so I stopped by this week to check it out. They have an interesting mix of art – Latin American, early American Western, Contemporary, European, Native American, Modern, Spanish American, Ancient Greek and Roman, Film and Paper/Documents. The gallery remodel was nicely done.
I recommend a trip to the museum. I enjoyed it. Check out their website for days & hours. And keep in mind that every Thursday admission is free, and every 3rd Thursday the museum is open late – until 9pm. Parking is easy at the nearby Brazos garage. If you bring your parking stub into the museum, they can give you a discounted parking rate.
Last weekend, I went for a 3-hour group hike with one of the biologists that does research for the City-of-Austin-managed Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. It was really interesting. We hiked a short loop along the preserve at Bull Creek. Along the way, I learned much about the native Ashe junipers throughout the hill country that I had previously come to detest, due to my annual cedar fever allergy symptoms. But I came away with a new appreciation for the tree and the role it plays in the ecosystem of the Balcones Canyonlands. I also learned about the other native grasses and shrubs that make up the understory of the woodland. And about the endangered golden-cheeked warbler that will soon make its annual trek from Central America in early March to nest in the woodlands of the preserve until returning south in July. I’m looking forward to more hikes out there. Stay tuned.
Bull Creek is flowing nicely since the drought has broken.
And, I caught a tiger swallowtail butterfly taking a break along the creek.
On Valentine’s Day we stopped by Cypress Creek Park while on a winding drive through the hill country. As we walked down to the water, I spied a male belted kingfisher – the first I had ever seen in person. I’m kinda getting into this birding thing, so I was very excited. But, I didn’t have my camera with me. So, being the budding-but-persistent-bird-photographer, I drove out there again the next day with my camera and spotted him again; holding court in a tree on the bank of the creek. I couldn’t get very close, but I did come away with a photo of him. Success! A tad fuzzy, but my first, for the archive. 🙂
The next day, I flew to Seattle to meet my sisters. We went together to eastern Washington to visit our aunt; one of the last living siblings of my parents’ generation. It was a nice weekend. We shared laughs and memories and a few tears. I enjoyed it. I also snapped way too many pictures. This one was of the ice crystals on the plane window next to my seat.
Spokane has gotten much snow this year. The nearby rivers are flooding and raging. This is a picture of upper the Spokane River falls on our last night there.
I’m back in Austin, now, and will try to keep the posts a tad more frequent. Have a good week!
Several girlfriends and I made a roadtrip last week to Enchanted Rock state park, about an hour and 45 minute drive southwest of Austin. I have been there several times, and have hiked to the summit, but love to go back anytime. This was the first visit for my friends. We hiked to the summit and enjoyed the views. Then we hiked a couple of the other trails, which I had never done before. I recommend taking the time to do it, if you can. Remember to bring along drinking water for your hike. You’ll want it. 🙂
A survey marker atop the 1823′ summit
Make sure you check out their website before heading out for trail / park closure information and rules about pets, camping, parking, etc.
Looking SW at neighboring Little Peak from the S side of Enchanted Rock
Well, our guests have gone back home. I had a really wonderful time with them. I took many photos during our visit, but have not yet sorted through them.
Today, I went to the woods for some photos of birds. Doray and I headed out at about 7:45am. It was chilly, for a change.
We stalked them. Or they stalked us. Not sure who won. But we did get a few good bird shots. I have been playing with longer exposure shots of moving water. I like this one. You can see water bending around the leaves and the rocks in the stream, and the flow of the water.
We have out-of-town family visiting us this week, and today we headed to San Antonio. It has been a long time since my last visit to the Alamo. So, it was nice to visit again to get a Texas history refresher.
The rain finally let up, the sky cleared and the sun came out, making for a nice afternoon.
We took a roadtrip to Fredericksburg today – one of my favorite Texas Hill Country haunts. This trip we toured the National Museum of the Pacific War. And, let me tell you, this is one amazingly detailed set of museum exhibits. We spent about two and a half hours walking through the museum, and we still didn’t see everything. You must go.
On the way home there was a rainbow on the horizon, after a few late afternoon rain showers had rolled through. I was taking some random photos out the window as we drove. When I got home I scrolled through the photos I captured, and liked this one in particular, which has been significantly cropped. I liked it because I can see the faint colors of the rainbow through the branches of this tree. But, it wasn’t until I zoomed in that I noticed the hawk perched at the top of the tree, and the two gravestones underneath its branches.
Today took me to Westcave Preserve with my friend, Doray, to participate in the annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. I’m still learning how to identify the many bird species beyond those that frequent my own backyard. There’s much to learn, but I am enjoying the time spent out in the beautiful hill country of central Texas immensely.
We counted birds that we saw or heard. The counts get rolled up for each locality and are used to monitor bird populations from year to year. A very nice day spent in a place that I love.