Yesterday, I participated in the 118th annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for an area around the Pedernales River out in the Texas Hill Country. This was my second time doing it. The first time, last year, was my first real birding experience and I enjoyed it immensely. In the year since, I must admit that I have officially caught the birding bug and have many hiked many miles and logged hundreds of hours seeking out and identifying birds.
So, yesterday, I was a much better birder. And because of that, I enjoyed it more, and saw some new (for me) birds – aka “lifers.” Thankfully, while the collective consensus weather forecast was for downpours all day long, it only rained a bit in the morning, and we were left with just fog and humidity for the rest of the day. We hiked through woods, canyons, river and creek-side trails from about 8AM to 4PM. Our group logged 40-50 species, most of which I was able to spot in my binoculars.
Yes, the birding was nice, but it is just good for my soul to get out and experience places like this…
A damp and foggy overlook above the Pedernales River:
A sparrow-laden native prairie on an uplands section:
Snow flurries began at sunset tonight all across Austin. I know it won’t stick but just seeing these little flakes falling turns me into a middle-aged kid. It’s not enough snow for snowballs but it is enough for hot cocoa!
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.
We’ve been busy! This past weekend, we made a roadtrip out to west, stopping first at William Chris Winery, where we caught up with a friend of ours that we ran into, by chance; then we hopped over to Wildseed Farms to pickup a bunch of seed; then made it over to one of our faves, Becker Vineyards, where we had a tasting, a picnic, and checked out their new field of zinnias. Just beautiful.
On the way home we headed over to the Real Ale Brewery in Blanco. We took the river road south/southeast from Hwy 290 to Blanco, and stopped along the way several times to check out the now lazy river that was uncontrollably raging just 4 months ago, tragically sweeping away homes and families over Memorial Day weekend.
At Real Ale, Monte sampled a flight, and I sipped my favorite – Hans Pils.
Then Sunday rolled around, and we headed out to see the Anderson Mill historical site, near its original location at Cypress Creek on Lake Travis. The Anderson Mill Gardeners do a wonderful job of preserving the site and its history.We made it to the boat in time to cheer the Seahawks on to their first win of the season, enjoying the recently repaired air conditioning on Nirvana (yay!).
About an hour before sunset, Kurt, Barbara, Dakota and little Leila joined us on the boat, and we motored out to the body of the lake to drift and watch the supermoon lunar eclipse.
Have I mentioned taking photos of the moon and stars on a moving boat is hard? I didn’t get any good shots. But I thought this one was kinda cool… you get the idea.
I have been challenged in posting the last two weeks. We are in the middle of a 3 week set of back to back visits from family. Which we absolutely love, but it means a little less time to tend to my photoblog. The real challenge though is that the WordPress for iOS app that I use primarily for quick posts is broken and completely useless since the last 2 updates (both updates ver 5.4 and 5.4.1) of the app. So I’m using the browser version of the app for this post. I hope they get it together and fix the problem in the next update.
One set of guests were unaccompanied minors, so I had to get a pass to go through security and accompany them to their gate to pick them up and drop them off at the airport. As I was strolling along the concourse on the west end of the ABIA terminal, I spotted some lovely, colorful prints on display from a Texas artist that I hadn’t seen before. The artist is Margie Crisp, and her prints are simply beautiful. I took a picture of one – couldn’t avoid the reflections from the lights in the airport. This one is called In the shadow of Buchanan Dam. Inks Lake is in the foreground, with images of all the things I love about the Central Texas Hill Country.
I googled her to learn more about her and found that she has produced a book called River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado, which features many of her river prints. As I’ve come to love the Colorado myself, I’m going to order one.
You might want to check her out, too.
As for me, i need to get moving… we are headed to the lake to raft-up overnight.
One of many familiar images of Austin is of the Pennybacker Bridge at Loop 360, overlooking a stretch of beautiful Lake Austin. The 360 Loop drive and its Hill Country views are one of my favorite parts of Austin. I crossed off one of my must-do’s by hiking up the cliff overlooking the bridge to take in the view for myself. In the panorama above, you can just see the downtown skyline peeking over the hill on the left of the image. I’m not afraid of heights, but I have to say my heart skipped a beat or two as I stood on the rock on the edge of the cliff.
For reference (from google streetview):
I think I like this shot better. It’s taken from a vantage point slightly farther west, down the trail along the top of the cliff.
Just another gorgeous day in my little corner of paradise.
For the last 15 years, Becker Vineyards has had a Lavender Festival. Its been one of the things on my todo list. This year, i put it on my calendar several months ago, so I wouldn’t miss it. And, it worked! Today we headed out for a long drive through the hill country, in the miata with the top down. And we had a really great day…
We walked out through the lavender fields. They have several different varieties. It didn’t look quite like I had expected – i was imagining endless rows of deep purple, like in Provence. But it was pretty, nonetheless.
They also grow their own artichokes. I have never seen them in the wild before!
We walked through the vendor booths. Lots of lavender goodies, flowers, herbs, nibblies and such.
Then one more walk through the fields, this shot is looking back at the winery.
We packed a light lunch and ate it at the festival while sipping wine and listening to the Raggedy Cats (we really enjoyed them).
Then a winery tour. Lots of new factoids. Becker has been here 20 years or so, and in that time, they’ve increased the amount of their wine that they make from grapes grown at the winery to 85%. The rest come from Lubbock.
Can’t wait for the Fredericksburg peach harvest!
On the way home we decided to dodge the brewing thunderstorms and buzzed over to Der Lindenbaum in Fredericksburg for some German home cooked food for dinner.
The festival is open tomorrow, too. Get out there if you can, this year or next!