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Cedar Waxwing at Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory. Photo by Bill Thomson/Flickr

Exploring Nature: Hornsby Bend

Sometimes the best things in life are free.

Just consider birding at Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory. This 1,200-acre facility is the best and most frequently birded site in Central Texas. And there’s no admission fee.

Located just east of Austin, this sprawling sewage treatment facility includes several lagoons, open fields and some three miles of trails along the banks of the Colorado River. Birds love the place.

July is a relatively quiet month at Hornsby, but things pick up as migration gets underway, and loads of ducks and waterfowl show up for the winter. Rarities have included magnificent frigatebird, whooping crane, northern jacana, ruff and black skimmer.

In summer, you can expect red-shouldered hawks, loggerhead shrikes, indigo buntings and lots of warblers.

Start looking for birds at the expansive parking lot – I’ve seen a scissor-tailed flycatcher and painted buntings in the nearby trees.

There’s a bathroom and water fountain and a helpful kiosk on the property. You can either drive around or get out and walk, especially along the banks of the Colorado River.

Do bear in mind, this is a sewage treatment facility and, while not overpowering, there can be a smell in the air. But that’s a minor thing when it comes to the avian riches of more than 350 species which have been recorded here.

For information, visit Hornsby Bend's website or call 512 979-1000. The site is open year round from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily and on the third Saturday of each month, there are free guided birding walks from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666