Top 10 Public Birding Hotspots

Bastrop
Cedar Creek
Elgin
Other Communities
Smithville

We invite you and your family to be out in nature to find, see, and hear our feathered friends in their natural Central Texas habitat! We’ve got the Top 10 list of places to go in the Bastrop County, Texas, located just east of Austin.

Bastrop County is the ideal place for birding. The county has two forested state parks, lots of water, and is located on the Central Flyway, which is one of the four North American migratory paths. Over 350 different species have been spotted and counted throughout the year, including the rare Bald Eagle, Ring-necked Duck, Swallow-tailed Kite, Red-Headed Woodpecker, and the Great Kiskadee. Many species also choose to winter in the area to enjoy the milder climate.

Due to a large number of birding enthusiasts along with an abundance of birds, Bastrop County was established as a home to one of Texas’ 16 Audubon Society chapters.

For basic birding you’ll want to bring: binoculars, a field guide of birds, and a notebook/pen or phone app (ebirds is recommended and can also help you ID the birds) to record the birds you see and hear. Also bring sunscreen/bug repellant, water, and a snack. Other options include a good camera with zoom (Better Bird Photo Tips from Texas Parks & Wildlife) and a lightweight chair for added comfort, though many of the places listed are great hikes, too.

The list below gives you the Top 10 public places for avian wildlife watching and listening to the bird sounds in Bastrop County. Each listing has a printable checklist for the birds sighted at that location. How many birds can you spot?

 

Bald Eagle, Photo by Nicholas Cowey
Bald Eagle, photo by Nicholas Cowey.

No. 1 Bastrop State Park

100 Park Road 1A, Bastrop, TX
30.108699, -97.247217

For more than 70 years, people have visited the historic 3,503-acre Bastrop State Park in central Texas. While areas of the park are going through a rebirth, birds still flock to the Loblolly pine trees and large oaks in the forest. Try sitting near one of the trails to listen and spot the variety of birds making the park their home.

Listed on the Texas Parks & Wildlife trails’ East Austin Loop of the Heart of Texas East Wildlife Trail (HOTE 033). There are three locations shown on eBirds – Bastrop SP-old golf course, Bastrop SP (HOTE 033), and Bastrop SP-Alum Creek at Park Rd 1. Admission, swimming pool and camping fees apply.

Print a checklist for birds sighted at Bastrop State Park.

 

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher by photographer Dale Hichens
The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, photo by Dale Hichens.

No. 2 Buescher State Park

100 Park Rd 1-C, Smithville, TX 78957
30.062408, -97.175568

Forested with Loblolly pines and old oaks near the serene lake waters, this hilly historic park (pronounced Bisher, like fisherman, and named after Emil and Elizabeth Buescher who donated the land in the 1930s) has plenty of feathery friends visiting and living within the trees and along the trails. Stay overnight to hear the early morning songs. This park is listed on the Texas Parks & Wildlife trails’ East Austin Loop of the Heart of Texas East Wildlife Trail. (HOTE 033) Admission and camping fees apply.

Print a checklist for birds seen at Buescher State Park

 

Red-winged Blackbird, photo by Katja Schulz
The Red-winged Blackbird, photo by Katja Schulz.

No. 3 McKinney Roughs Nature Park

1884 TX-71, Cedar Creek, TX
30.136554, -97.459416

The 1,140-acre treed McKinney Roughs Nature Park is just 13 miles each of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and listed on the Texas Parks & Wildlife trails’ East Austin Loop of the Heart of Texas East Wildlife Trail (HOTE 034. It has multi-use trails and a portion is along the Colorado River, making it easy to spot and hear the numerous birds that live and stop in the park. Fees apply to admission, lodging, water recreation, horseback riding, and zip-lining.

Print a checklist for birds seen at McKinney Roughs.

 

Mute Swan, photo by Bengt Nyman.
Mute Swan, photo by Bengt Nyman.

No. 4 Lake Bastrop – North Shore

603 FM1441, Bastrop, TX 78602
30.161900, -97.290287

At this 182-acre park, the North Shore boasts wide open lake area with shade trees set back from the water. While this is the recreation side of the lake with water sports, fishing and swimming, many species call this either home or a pitstop on their migration. Further back from the water, the park has trails for hiking. You can reserve an airstream or tent campsite on location. Admission fees may apply.

There are two birding locations on the northern side of the lake on eBirds map – Lake Bastrop-North Shore Park and Lake Bastrop. The western-most birding spot has a hiking trail down to Lake Bastrop – South Shore Park.

Printable checklist of birds found at the North Shore of Lake Bastrop

 

Purple Finch, photo by Jean Guy Dallaire
Purple Finch, photo by Jean Guy Dallaire.

No. 5 Lake Bastrop – South Shore

375 S Shore Rd, Bastrop, TX
30.139078, -97.284279

With the serene lake, high grasses and the nearby oaks, the South Shore of 900-acre Lake Bastrop is a perfect birder’s spot to sit on by the water and watch for birds. The park not only has a designated bird viewing area, but it also has spots available for camping. So, bring your RV, or stay in cabins overnight. Entrance and lodging fees.

Print out the checklist for birds seen at Lake Bastrop – South Shore.

 

Barred Owl, photo by Nicholas Cowey.
Barred Owl, photo by Nicholas Cowey.

Nos. 6 Colorado River Refuge / Bastrop County Nature Park

315 Riverside Drive, Bastrop, TX
30.079864, -97.315607

The combined area of the Colorado River Refuge and the adjoining Bastrop County Nature Park (formerly the Lost Pines Nature Trail Park) is 89 acres of beautiful riverside forests and upland meadows located in Tahitian Village just south of Bastrop. The refuge has approximately 10 miles of trails perfect for hiking, bird watching, and relaxing. There is ample Colorado River access, a paved trail for ADA access, and a picnic table overlooking the river.

Print a checklist for birds sighted at the Bastrop County Nature Park area. 

 

Winter Wren, photo by Roger Shaw.
Winter Wren, photo by Roger Shaw.

No. 7 Bob Bryant Park

600 Charles Blvd, Bastrop, TX
30.121309, -97.338020

This park is one of Bastrop’s largest community parks, residing on the Colorado River. With treed areas and a half-mile nature trail, it’s wonderful for city birding. The park includes several entities, including a large playscape, canoe dock, fishing pier, pavilion, barbecue pits, picnic tables, sand volleyball court, basketball court, multi-purpose sports field, and bathrooms.

Further down and across the Colorado River is Fisherman’s Park, 1200 Willow Street, where ducks and geese can be found in the river. Located on the north end of the popular River Walk and the start of the El Camino Real Paddling Trail, the 20-acre park is known to hold numerous community events.

Print a checklist for sighting birds at Bob Bryant Park.

 

Mississippi Kite, photo by Nicholas Cowey.
Mississippi Kite, photo by Nicholas Cowey.

No. 8 Vernon L. Richards “Riverbend Park”

107 TX-71, Smithville, TX 78957
30.1063278,-97.2976626

High open lands and hidden treed nooks down along the Colorado River create a natural habitat for birds in Riverbend Park. It is just shy of 50 acres and is located within the Smithville city limits. There’s even an island near the fishing pier and sandy shores. Trees tower over the RV and campsite area at the back of the park. The park includes a playscape, rodeo grounds, baseball field, picnic tables, bathrooms, and an 18-hole disc golf course.

Print a checklist of birds sighted at Riverbend Park.

 

Black-bellied Whistling Duck, photo by Nicholas Cowey in Bastrop County, Texas
Black-bellied Whistling Duck, photo by Nicholas Cowey.

No. 9 Cedar Creek Park

5540 FM 535, Cedar Creek, TX
30.083931,-97.486885

Yes, there is a meandering creek near the 46-acre park, which gives the community its name. Cedar Creek Park is Bastrop County’s first county park, located near the intersection of FM 535 and Highway 21. The park provides sports fields, a large pavilion for family gatherings, walking trails, and a Butterfly Discovery Garden courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Print a checklist of birds sighted at Cedar Creek Park.

 

Greater Roadrunner, photo by Juan Zamora.
Greater Roadrunner, photo by Juan Zamora.

No. 10 Thomas Memorial Park

411 Maddison St., Elgin TX
30.343730000, -97.363230000

Thomas Memorial is a 12-acre park built in the 1970’s. The park consists of a baseball field, playground, restrooms, pavilion, picnic tables and shelters, concession area, nine-hole disc golf course, new volleyball court, new playground equipment, expanded trails system, two additional practice fields, an expanded parking lot, bathrooms, barbecue areas and much more. Additional property has been acquired to expand the park at a later date.

Print a checklist of birds sighted at Thomas Memorial Park.

Above all, in the woods and the prairies or on the water, enjoy the relaxation of outdoors while you Explore Bastrop County. Enjoy our Friendly Nature!

 

Special thanks to the photographers for sharing their photos under a limited copyright; your images are stunning! Thanks also to eBird.org for their hotspot listing order, and to iNaturalist.org for hosting the photographers’ nature observations.