I am sometimes available to help guide you in finding birds locally.
Send an e-mail with dates, type of party, number of people, and what
you'd like to see (if you have any special preferences).
In general I recommend a walk at Lost Maples SNA to see the
Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. It is a
half-day, up to the ponds area and just beyond, as pretty and
about as birdy a walk as you will have ever taken. The
warbler is along canyon sides and floor, the vireo up on the
bluffs atop canyon walls, roughly 300' up. The trail
is an easy moderate for the warbler part up to and around ponds,
which is a mile.
But the 1/3 mile trail for the 300 foot elevation gain to the bluff-tops
where there are lots of easy to see Black-capped Vireo is steep
and really almost requires a hiking pole, most importantly for the way
down. Lots of loose rocks, and steep, if you are a mountain
goat, no worries, otherwise I use a pole. I'm old and slow
but I get there. If you have physical limitations it might
not be an option. Sometimes you get them low in canyon, rarely,
or on the way up to the bluff tops if you get lucky.
Also you/we can drive to Kerr WMA for the vireo (few or no warblers there
at the main vireo spots) and not have any hike involved, just
moderate walking. But the Shin Oak patches there are much
larger and harder to see in to, the birds are much harder to see
there. On the bluffs above pond at Lost Maples, the Shin Oak
patches are 3' tall, the birds sing on top of them, you will get
much better views more easily if you can do the 300' climb up a
rocky trail. Sometimes you can get them just a quarter or
half way up the trail as they cross it, but extended leisurely
point-blank, crushing, stonking, mind-blowing views are easily had
up on top. And you might get to look down on a Zone-tailed Hawk
if you are lucky.
My fee is $150 for 6 hours, which usually runs from 7-1. I give
an hour of wiggle room in case we see too much and can't stop.
Can start earlier if you like. I prefer to be picked up at my place
a couple miles south of town, or to meet at the park on the river in town,
which is always worth a look (about 250 sps. on park list, probably
including some things you'd have liked to have seen - ;) ). Often
we will check the park when done with Lost Maples, on return to Utopia.
You can then grab lunch in town. Bring munchies and drinks for
the walk up the canyon for the warbler and vireo though, as it will
take a few hours to get up the canyon and back to the car.
There is a bird feeding station where we park for the walk, so at start
before going up canyon, and at return, a bit of time may be spent there
where often close views of all the local stuff can be had, and is the
best spot for texana Scrub-Jay, great for Rufous-crowned Sparrow views,
and some years in spring Varied Bunting, White-tipped Dove has been
regular, or anything else that might be around.
One last thing since I just saw a big thread about it on the ABA blog,
I do not expect a tip. They are gratefully accepted and greatly
appreciated, but please know I don't expect one. Besides some
crazy Californians (I'm one) that gave me a ridiculously large tip,
the neatest one I ever got was a couple nice sharp ladies from Vermont
that gave me a juglet of Maple Syrup from one of their trees!
It's long gone and I am still thrilled and excited about it!
But I do not expect anything whatsoever even if I get a warbler to
sing on your shoulder and a vireo to dance on your shoes. :)
I can also do a Uvalde County tour, which can be 8-10-12 hours
depending how long and hard you want to go at it. I prefer these
start and finish at Utopia. We'll bird some hill country here,
and then bird the brush country to Uvalde, where there are some
great wet spots like Cook's Slough, the fish hatchery, Ft. Inge,
a few Nueces River crossings, and perhaps Chalk Bluff Park or
Concan, if you want to go all day. Many to most days of
the year 100 species is doable in a day spent pillaging Uvalde County
~ ~ ~ a brief bio ~ ~ ~
A little about me.... please note I am not crazy about
this part, but since there are some barely past beginner
level "bird guides" locally, that I've yet to see actually
out birding, I feel it important you understand something about
the level of the guide you hire.
Unlike some of the "bird guides" locally, I study
birds, write about birds, and go birding with my free time.
I've been birding since I could walk, and published records
of my rare bird finds date back to the late 1960's, photos to 70's.
I can ID most calls and songs instantaneously, and do record a bit.
If you want a guide you can discuss molt, ageing, early and
late migration dates, Type B songs, feather tracts,
county, state or continental status and distribution, that
level of stuff with, there is only one serious birder locally.
There is no other local guide that can ID silent migrant Empidonax
flycatchers or nocturnal passerine flight calls. One
for pay "bird guide" here I heard call a Cardinal
to others "redbird", and another says "buzzard"
when they see Turkey or Black Vulture.
I led Los Angeles Audubon field trips, and wrote the bird
report column for Palos Verdes-South Bay Audubon for over
a dozen years. I was a contributor the the Texas
Breeding Bird Atlas in the 1980's, and the Los Angeles Co. BBA
in the 1990's. I have been a participant on the San
Antonio, New Braunfels, and Uvalde Christmas Bird Counts,
and co-compiled a count in California (Palos Verdes Peninsula)
for much of two decades. I published a (340+ sps.)
bird list for a park in L.A., CA, that I was vice-chairman
of the advisory board of for a dozen years, as well as a
study "Avian uses of tule habitats during the nesting season
at Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park, in L.A., CA."
I was a California Fish & Game approved biological monitor,
and helped advise them with wetland restoration projects.
I worked for the City of Los Angeles and private firms in
that capacity as well. At one time I held the precious
U.S. F. & W. Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo
endangered species research permits.
I was the first person to publish (web posting) about the
Texas hill country Yellow-throated Warblers being vocally distinct
(song) from all others in the U.S., and how to tell Turkey Vulture
from Zone-tailed Hawk in spring and summer from long distance,
I found the first U.S. winter records of Philadelphia Vireo and
Mourning Warbler in L.A., CA back in 78 and 80 respectively, ID'd
in plumages not in the books. In 1991 I broke the 300 LA Co.
year list record by over 10% and raised the bar to 340 species.
In 1981 I was the discoverer of the L.A. River as a major shorebird
site. From 1991-2003 I re-wrote the book on socal pelagic birding,
running the first socal public trips to find Murphy's Petrel,
Dark-rumped (Hawaiian) Petrel, Red-TAILED Tropicbird, Streaked Shearwater,
Besides the birds which I know fairly inside out, I can ID
over 200+ species of local wildflowers, all the trees,
dragonflies, and the butterflies found locally, most insects
to family on sight, as well as most of the fish down to and
including native minnows, reptiles and amphibians, and even
the occasional fungi. The real deal nature nerd.
I've received multiple awards from the California State Senate,
and Assembly, the City of Los Angeles, and the Palos Verdes-
South Bay Audubon Society for my volunteer conservation work.
I have birded Lost Maples over a hundred times dating to 1986.
I probably have the highest bird list for Uvalde (350) and
top 2 or 3 in Bandera (250+) Counties, and have seen 500 species each
in Texas and California, and though I quit chasing birds almost two
decades ago, I've seen over 700 species in the lower 48, NIB,
with no introduced species. I would be happy to teach you some
techniques and show you some birds.
What you get with a good guide is unparalleled local knowledge, and
though many can and prefer to find the birds without help, you would
still likely see much more with a knowledgeable local crack expert.
I don't think Richard Crossley would mind if I repeated what
he wrote in a copy of his great "Crossley ID Guide" he gave
me after a day of birding: "I learned a lot, and look forward
to corrections in the western guide."
beak geek, feather freak, and bird nerd
mitch @ utopianature.com