Texas native plants are the stuff of love and legend. In spring, hundreds of thousands of Texans hit the road to take in the Bluebonnet Trails. Much of the credit for awareness of Texas native plants is due the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, located in Austin and a wonderful place to visit if you enjoy native plants and gardens.
One and a half million Mexican free-tailed bats, the largest urban bat colony in North America, make Austin their home during late summer. The little mammals live underneath the Congress Avenue bridge over Town Lake, where hundreds of people gather each evening to watch them flutter off for their nightly insect hunt. Bat Conservation International, an Austin-based non-profit organization, estimates that the city's colony consumes 15 to 30 thousand pounds of insects nightly.
The bats usually arrive in Austin by late March, after spending the winter in Mexico. They begin their southern migration in early November when the city begins to get cooler. Free-tails are just one of 33 different species of bats found in Texas. Although they are the predominant species in Austin, ten or more kinds of bats can be found in the area.
The endangered golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo, wading birds, red-tailed hawks, wild turkeys, and great blue herons all live in the Austin area, and many are easily accessible to birders. The two endangered birds are best seen between April and July in Emma Long Park, the Barton Creek Greenbelt, and the Balcones Canyonlands Refuge and Bioreserve. This refuge is located along one of the major migratory flyways in North America, and was established to protect the habitat of migratory birds.
The area around Hamilton Pool offers opportunities to spot bald eagles, osprey, red-tailed hawks, eastern phoebe and canyon wren. Another prime location for birding lies north of Austin, around Lake Buchanan. This Highland Lake offers opportunities to spot bald eagles, osprey, cormorants, red-breasted mergansers and many other species. Common loons, horned grebes, Bonaparte's gulls, great blue herons, and kingfishers also call this area home.
Mammals and Other Creatures
Southwestern U.S. species like the bobcat, roadrunner, coyote, armadillo, and diamondback rattlesnake reside in the Austin area, along with more Eastern animals like the wild turkey, white-tailed deer, red fox, opossum, and raccoon. The Hamilton Pool Preserve area offers excellent opportunities to view deer, fox squirrel, fish, and turtles.
A bit south of Austin, in San Marcos, glass-bottomed boats allow visitors incomparable views of the large springs that create Spring Lake and the San Marcos river. Large blue catfish, Rio Grande perch, and largemouth bass are easily observed, and the endangered San Marcos salamander and fountain darter are also present. The springs are located in a private resort and amusement park called Aquarena Center.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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