Northern Cardinal Guadalupe River State Park

While they’re everywhere in San Antonio (everywhere!), cardinals are a welcome sight for a California birder

Birding San Antonio in June

More than two years without the pandemic began. I finally made it to San Antonio to visit relatives. June isn’t an platonic month to visit — migration has come and gone, and it’s 100 degrees every day — but it was long overdue and unconfined to be virtually family.  The birding part of the trip started with an evening walk in Stone Oak Park, a big unshut space with scattered oak trees not far from my parents house. It’s my Dad’s regular haunt. We saw the familiar species like Northern Cardinal and Mockingbird, and Black Vultures and Black-crested Titmouse. I managed to pick a couple of Cave Swallows out from the swirling Barn Swallows. A Crested Caracara was on its usual snag perch. One welter of San Antonio in June is the presence of Painted Bunting. There were at least two vocal pairs in the park, and it is untellable to tire of seeing those insane rainbow males. On the way when to the parking lot, a trio of nighthawks appeared in the sky. I have little wits with these birds, so I couldn’t ID them as Worldwide (more common) or Lesser (possible). A review of photos succeeding showed them to be the less worldwide Lesser Nighthawk (Texas lifer!). Besides location of the white wing stripe, the number of primaries with white is a key “field” mark – here, you see the bird has white on 4 primaries, not 5, indicating Lesser Nighthawk.

The next day we took a trip north to Guadalupe River State Park, in the Texas Hill Country. Besides pleasant rolling hills and picturesque rivers, it’s  notable amongst birders as a tastefulness location for the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler. Our visit didn’t disappoint, as we got point zippo views of multiple Golden-cheeked Warblers at the birding veiling nearest the river.  The veiling zone was full of action. Painted Buntings, an Indigo Bunting, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Parula, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Carolina Wrens, and Black-chinned Hummingbirds moved well-nigh slantingly an uncounted supply of Northern Cardinal. A walk withal the river found increasingly birds, including Red-eyed and White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler (Texas lifer!), Eastern Phoebe, Lark Sparrow, and Summer Tanager. 

An interlude on birding blinds. We don’t have them in California. But in Texas, they love themselves some birding blinds. Maybe it’s the oppressive heat that motivates the construction of a shelter. Or maybe the birding prod skews older in Texas, leading to spots to sit. Whatever the reason, many state parks have birding blinds (it’s throughout the state: there was a unconfined one at Franklin Mountains State Park outside El Paso, and blinds are everywhere in the Rio Grande Valley). And these aren’t half-assed jobs, or tiny hunting blinds. They’re big, sturdy, and elaborate. The birding veiling at Guadalupe River State Park (below, left) has windows that you can flip unshut or closed.  Guides to worldwide species are hanging from the wall. The blinds are full of feeders and water features, enticing hungry and thirsty birds. When you’re traveling with non-birder, or a budding birder, or just want to do some easy birding and get some wicked photos, bird blinds are fantastic. The birds are so many, and so close. You don’t plane need binoculars to make out the birds. There’s a limit to what the blinds vamp – some birds just don’t come to feeders (though they will come to water). And they don’t get the birder much exercise. But it would be unconfined to see a few pop up at some California birding spots.

Our next birding venture was to Crescent Bend Nature Park, on Cibolo Creek in the northeast part of San Antonio. The park was once a residential neighborhood, but frequent flooding from the creek led to the visualization to tear lanugo the homes and turn it into a park. The remains of a street grid, and a few out-of-place palm trees are remnants of the former community. It’s wilt a pretty good spot for birding. My Dad and I got in 90 minutes of birding surpassing the heat caused both birds and birders to wilt. Green Herons and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons lurked withal the creek. There were Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Unconfined Crested Flycatchers, and Western Kingbirds moving about. The bird veiling (of undertow there was one) was oddly quiet, except for (of course) Northern Cardinal. Our weightier find was a flushed Green Kingfisher that we were unable to track lanugo without it flew yonder from us. But it’s tiny size and visionless when made me confident in the ID.

Painted Bunting Guadalupe River State Park

Female Painted Buntings remind me of lime otter pops

Before we crush when home, we stopped at Converse North Park, a vast unappetizing zone next to a lake. We widow a couple increasingly trip birds here, including Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Neotropic Cormorant, Bronzed Cowbird, and a pair of Mute Swans (Texas lifer!) that have theoretically set up shop on the lake. This isn’t unconfined habitat or pleasant scenery. But I’ll take a sighting of the big-cheeked Bronzed Cowbird any endangerment I can get. 

Black-and-white Warbler and Northern Cardinal combo


It was a short trip, but a delightful one.

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