Bird Watching at San Angelo State Park
What San Angelo birders lack in rare sightings they make up for in their raring-to-go attitudes. On any given weekend‚ a band of intrepid enthusiasts can be found trekking the area’s hot spots – slathered in sunscreen and bug repellant‚ binoculars in hand – in search of feathered finds.
Interest is so high that longtime enthusiast Delbert Tarter has taught more than 60 classes on the topic at the San Angelo Nature Center. He classifies the birds as “winter residents‚” “spring and summer residents” and “permanent residents‚” and cites scissor-tailed flycatchers and all three species of bluebirds – Eastern‚ Western and Mountain – as popular species that frequent the area.
Wide Variety of Birds
“There is enough variety of birds to keep things interesting‚” Tarter says. “People of all ages come‚ and several birders come in to the Air Force base and make sure they make time to go birding while they’re here.”
Terry Maxwell‚ an ornithologist at Angelo State University who frequently writes newspaper columns about birds‚ says birding is increasingly popular in the area – even without exotic species.
“We don’t hold any records or anything‚” he says. “We just have a nice assemblage of species that comes with having a crossing of two geographic regions.
“Fortunately‚ most birders are just thrilled with getting out there.”
San Angelo’s location – part prairie‚ part desert – means a good variety of birds in a relatively small area. The area’s three lakes are popular stopping spots‚ particularly in the winter. And Maxwell says the state park’s mesquite trees and prickly pear cactus attract desert-dwelling birds like pyrrhuloxia‚ curve-billed thrasher‚ Bullock’s oriole and cactus wrens.
The area is also on the migratory path of birds heading to or from warmer southern climates: wood warblers‚ least flycatchers and Eastern kingbirds.
Rare Bird Sightings
Russell Wilke‚ an associate professor of biology at Angelo State University‚ says a rare-bird sighting does generate a lot of interest. The name and location of the sighting is e-mailed to other Texas bird enthusiasts via a statewide list-serve.
“People will come from all over the state to see it‚” he says.
Newcomers interested in birding should head to the nature center‚ where Tarter sells his guide to hot birding spots‚ the culmination of his years of continuing-education courses. The nature center itself ranks high on his list‚ along with the state park – which has birding blinds – and the nature trail on Spillway Road along the North Concho River.
Terry Richmond‚ a leader in the local birding club‚ says she got hooked on the hobby after taking a continuing education class a few years ago. The retired teacher has become the informal information director for the club’s 50 members‚ sending out notices of outings and keeping the Web page updated. “You always hope for a new sighting‚ but the main reason you go is just for the pleasure of getting out there and seeing what might come along‚” Richmond says.
“It’s a marvelous hobby‚ and it’s one that doesn’t require any special knowledge or equipment. You can take a book and some binoculars if you want‚ but those aren’t necessary. Even people who can’t see can enjoy it. They just bird by ear.”
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