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Did you have a spark bird or an experience that got you started birding?

"My wife took ornithology in college. And we were out at Big Bend [National Park] early one morning with her binoculars and came back bragging then she had seen a Varied Bunting. She showed me what it looks like the field guide, and I said I want to see one!"

 

After arriving at South Llano River State Park and paying my entrance fee, I was supposed to end up at the trailhead to hike and find the golden-cheeked warbler. Instead, I accidentally drove down a one-way road into the park campground area. Luckily for me, one of the campground host was a birder and had many feeders around his RV with a lot of the local birds. He was kind enough to point on a map where the warblers had been seen recently, and told me if I ran into a birder named Rhandy that we should talk- he was the local expert finding warblers and vireos and had amazing hearing. With hopes that I would find them before dark tonight, I headed off.  

 

Just along the trail I ran into Rhandy, who was able to stop for a few minutes on his way back from seeing a Golden-cheeked warbler with some visiting birders from Missouri that I knew from a hawk watch field trip. Small world! Rhandy gave a great interview, and also gave me a tip for the Black-capped Vireo I was going to look for the following morning. We ended up crossing paths again at the Vireo spot the next day, when he astounded me by calling it out moments after stepping out of his vehicle. Turns out I had listened to and learned the wrong call, and just needed an expert ear to point it out! 

 

I had some amazing views of the Black-capped vireo, an endangered bird restricted to central Texas. Thanks to Rhandy's keen ear, I had dual success in seeing both birds well! 

 

  

Black-capped Vireo

Black-capped Vireo

Golden-cheeked Warbler  

Golden-cheeked Warbler  

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