Birding in Boerne

160 acres in the heart of Boerne, Texas, the Cibolo Nature Center offers miles of trails through five distinct ecosystems. In 1988, Carolyn Chipman Evans, her husband, Brent Evans, and a handful of friends envisioned a place to connect their community with nature. Beginning with a segment of the Cibolo Creek and its neighboring land and wildlife, this group of advocates worked tirelessly to ensure the creek’s preservation.

eastern bluebird on barbed wire boerne texas cibolo nature center

San Antonio has several small towns around it such as Fredericksburg, Kerville, and Boerne. The previous weekend I went to the Cibolo Nature Center around midday to see birds on an unplanned trip while we were visiting Boerne. (Pro tip: Most everything in downtown Boerne is closed early or completely on Sundays)

160 acres in the heart of Boerne, Texas, the Cibolo Nature Center offers miles of trails through five distinct ecosystems. In 1988, Carolyn Chipman Evans, her husband, Brent Evans, and a handful of friends envisioned a place to connect their community with nature. Beginning with a segment of the Cibolo Creek and its neighboring land and wildlife, this group of advocates worked tirelessly to ensure the creek’s preservation. With the City of Boerne’s support, Carolyn’s leadership and enthusiasm brought a rebirth to the land and a renaissance of public concern for conservation of the area’s natural resources.

Cibolo Center for Conservation

I saw a few impressive birds during our first visit, like the Summer Tanager, so we made plans to go again last weekend. We arrived around 8 AM and made our way toward the creek. Birds could be heard all around us: the spaceship sounds of the Northern Cardinal, the melodic sounds of the Carolina Wren, and the sweet melody of the Painted Bunting.

The creek we arrived at has a walkway across it that is always slightly covered in a current of water. Your options are to walk along a series of small blocks above the water and risk falling in, or cross the shallow current to the other side. I decided to slosh through the water with my walking shoes to avoid ruining my camera.

We began to hear the callof the Summer Tanager again in the same trees as the previous weekend. The three of us scanned the trees for a couple of minutes and spotted it up at the top of a very large tree.

We used Merlin’s Sound ID pretty consistently throughout our visit. It always gives us a heads up on what to look for before we even realize what is hiding in the trees. A Blue Grosbeak started popping up in our scans and I found it on a nearby tree. I captured this photo of it for the first time.

male blue grosbeak on top of tree in boerne texas cibolo nature center
A male Blue Grosbeak enjoying the view from atop a tree

We approached a fork in the road and opted to take the path we took the previous week, as we were hoping to spot a Painted Bunting so our friend Paul could get a new lifer. This path took us along the creek’s edge and through dense forest, so it was a prime but challenging choice for birds. Several kinds of Warblers kept popping up in our sound scans, Yellow-throated Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, and Nashville Warblers, but we only got a good look at the Nashville. It was frustrating knowing the birds are there but being wholly unable to locate them in the canopy.

A cute Nashville Warbler clings to a twig

Continuing our pursuit for a glimpse of the Painted Bunting we approached the edge of Cibolo Nature Center next to Herff Farm. Paul spotted a small bird on a distant snag and we discussing what it could possibly be. It is sometimes hard to see necessary characteristics with binoculars when the bird is far away, so I took a few photos of it and zoomed them in. We confirmed it was a Eastern Wood-Pewee, a lifer for me! I captured a small, blurry photo of it for a keepsake.

Eastern Wood-Pewee perched on a snag

We spotted several flyovers during our visit, Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures, Neotropic Cormorants, Great Egrets, and doves galore.

Looping back, we took a trail called Cooper’s Crossing which is where we saw the Painted Bunting the previous week. A few minutes we walked down the path and through some tall grass following the song of the bunting until we got lucky. Spotted in the branches of a tree next to the trail, the male Painted Bunting’s bright colors could be seen standing starkly against the green foliage.

We continued past the end of the trail and off the Cibolo property until we hit a sidewalk leading back to the nature center entrance. As we made our way that direction, we saw a large hawk burst out of the bushes next to us and land on the ground about 20 feet away. It was busy eating a meal and watching us to ensure we didn’t get too close to its prize. It got spooked again shortly after and flew off into the trees and landed amongst the bushes.

red shouldered hawk on ground with prey in bushes in boerne texas
Red-shouldered Hawk with its meal on the ground

We then made our way back to the entrance of the park and spotted a handful of Eastern Bluebirds hanging out on the barbed wire the lined one of the fences next to Herff Farm.

eastern bluebird on barbed wire boerne texas cibolo nature center
A cute Eastern Bluebird juxtaposed against burly barbed wire

Bonus: After leaving the Cibolo Nature Center we made one final stop at a local park near our neighborhood and stumbled upon a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher nest in a tree next to the pond.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher panting in her nest in the Texas heat

Today’s checklist

SpeciesCount
White-winged Dove1
Mourning Dove2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo1
Black-chinned Hummingbird1
Neotropic Cormorant8
Great Blue Heron1
Great Egret1
Black Vulture7
Turkey Vulture1
Red-shouldered Hawk2
Downy Woodpecker1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker2
Eastern Wood-Pewee1
Least Flycatcher2
Great-crested Flycatcher2
White-eyed Vireo6
Red-eyed Vireo2
Carolina Chickadee6
Black-crested Titmouse4
Carolina Wren10
European Starling4
Northern Mockingbird10
Eastern Bluebird4
House Sparrow6
House Finch3
Lesser Goldfinch1
Lark Sparrow2
Bronzed Cowbird1
Brown-headed Cowbird1
Nashville Warbler1
Northern Parula1
Yellow-throated Warbler4
Black-throated Green Warbler1
Summer Tanager3
Northern Cardinal20
Blue Grosbeak1
Painted Bunting5
Total Species37