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Birding the Colorado

Written by , published July 22, 2008

A few years ago, I joined a group that conducts surveys on the lower Colorado River. I joined partly to acquire volunteer hours for my Master Naturalist certification, but mostly because it combines birding and being near (and in) water—two of my favorite pasttimes.

On the survey we kayak (or canoe) different sections of the Colorado between Longhorn Dam on the east side of Austin to the Lost Pines Recreational Trail east of Bastrop. It's a non-extreme paddling experience, which is fine by me. My kayaking skills are pretty basic and I can create plenty of excitement for myself simply by trying to stop the boat to "get" on a bird. This has probably provided some Lucille-Ball-style entertainment for many fishermen along the way.

Still, I love how quickly I can get away from urban Austin onto the quiet of the river. Being able to bird by ear comes in very handy on these trips, and seeing nature from that point of view has shown me a side of Central Texas that I never noticed before. You can find birds (as well as plants and animals) that aren't often visible from the shore. Last Saturday, we spotted all three Kingfishers—the Belted is common in the Austin area, but we also regularly see the more rare Ringed and Green Kingfishers, as well. Bald Eagles and Osprey often make appearances. And fall and spring migrations are always full of surprises.

For the surveys, we've had to make some special arrangements for put ins or take outs, but there are parks along the river that provide easy public access. Little Webberville Park to Big Webberville Park makes a good starter trip.

For more information on paddling the Colorado, check out Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Web site.

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