Tanagers & Parulas at Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne, Texas

This morning’s 40-minute drive over to Cibolo Nature Center marks my second trip there, the first being last weekend. Instead of the usual local park birding trip, my friend and I decided to venture a …

red bird male summer tanager sitting on branch

This morning’s 40-minute drive over to Cibolo Nature Center marks my second trip there, the first being last weekend. Instead of the usual local park birding trip, my friend and I decided to venture a little further outside San Antonio to a smaller city called Boerne.

In our brief visit the previous weekend, we were impressed with the land and wildlife and wanted to revisit it at a more appropriate time of day rather than the peak afternoon.  We arrived at the nature center at 8 AM to find a sky full of friendly clouds which protected us from the impending Texas heat. The moment I stepped out of the car I heard the call of a bird I didn’t recognize. I wandered over to a bush and began recording the song of the Bewick’s Wren (thanks Merlin).

The Cibolo Nature Center is a 100-acre natural area built along Cibolo Creek. Water, trees, prairies, and marshes, come together with six miles of trails to offer an abundance of birds and wildlife to discover.

Departing from the nature center we headed toward the creek, scanning the soundscape with our ears and using Merlin whenever we heard something new. Arriving at the creek crossing where water flows gently across the path, I decided to walk along a row of single stone blocks across the water, terrified I would fall and damage my camera gear. I safely made it across, vowing to just get my shoes wet on the way back rather than take another risk!

Immediately after crossing the creek, we began to hear and pick up the calls of the Summer Tanager. My friend, Kleber, and I scanned the huge trees looking for any signs of movement. Through sheer determination, Kleber found the source of the calls, high up in the trees it sat. A blotchy red and yellow immature male Summer Tanager.

immature summer male tanager in tree

Our bird trek continued on for a few more minutes until we began to hear a familiar trickery. What I thought was a homely House Finch, Merlin was reporting as our first Painted Bunting of the day. We spotted her mellow yellow color far off the path flitting in and out of the trees. Bummed it was a female we pressed onwards.

Our next discovery was a newer bird to me, the Great-Crested Flycatcher. I first saw this bird last weekend at the Mission Concepcion but didn’t have my camera with me. We saw a few of these Flycatchers during our visit and they cooperated allowing for photos and song recordings.

great crested flycatcher sitting in tree

The most frustrating thing about our visit thus far was the fact that Merlin kept repeatedly picking up two species of Warblers, Yellow-Throated and Mourning and we never got a chance to actually see them. Elusive little birds.

Shortly before we hit another fork in the trail, we started picking up the song of the Northern Parula. A bird I’ve only seen a handful of times, I was hoping we’d get lucky today. We followed the song until we got as close as possible and once again scanned the trees. We found the bird after a few minutes of looking, but it was too far away to get a good look. We followed it to a few different trees until it flew to the other side of the trail. This time, it was much closer and provided a great opportunity to snap a photo.

northern parula perched on branch

Close to the edge of the nature center, another Painted Bunting, this time male, made a grand appearance above the trail on a dead tree. Excitedly, I called Kleber over and we watched it sing in the sunlight.

rainbow colored male painted bunting perched on dead tree

On our way back to the car, near the nature center, I saw a small brown bird flying around with a Cardinal. Unsure of what it was, I took a photo of it. I later confirmed it is a female Indigo Bunting. It looks extremely similar to the female Lazuli Bunting but upon close inspection, some slight streaks can be seen on its breast, which indicates the Indigo.

brown bird female indigo bunting clinging to branch

Our almost two-and-a-half-hour trip through Cibolo brought us a grand total of 22 species.

Today’s checklist:

Mourning Dove2
Black-chinned Hummingbird2
Great Egret1
Black Vulture3
Red-shouldered Hawk1
Great Crested Flycatcher1
White-eyed Vireo6
Blue Jay2
Carolina Chickadee15
Black-crested Titmouse2
Northern Mockingbird2
Lesser Goldfinch13
Mourning Warbler1
Northern Parula2
Yellow-throated Warbler5
Summer Tanager2
Northern Cardinal25
Indigo Bunting1
Painted Bunting4

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