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They paved paradise and put up a birding spot.

“Parking Lot Birding.” Who wudda thought? It’s an idea from Texas in a recent book with that title, highlighting parking lot opportunities in the Lone Star State. A guide to Texas birding isn’t useful up here (unless you plan a birding trip to Texas, a very good place to see interesting birds). It’s the idea that has potential anywhere.

There might be more birds in the woods that the parking lot serves, but as author Jennifer L. Bristol says, you often can see them better from the pavement. Parking lots also are ideal for people with mobility issues.

Bristol’s suggested parking lots, filling more than 200 pages, favor places already known as birding destinations, like parks, reserves, preserves, refuges and such.

That makes sense.

A very good choice here, for instance, particularly at this time of year, would be Colvill Park on the southern outskirts of Red Wing, with access from Hwy. 61. It has a huge riverside parking area, where you can view eagles through your windshield.

This is what the...

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March 28, 2021

A review by Danielle Belleny- American Bird Association

Jennifer L. Bristol’s Parking Lot Birding gives birders of all experience levels a passport to birding anywhere. Initially, I was skeptical of the idea that “good” birding can be accomplished in a parking lot. Then, I remembered all the birding trips I spent unsuccessfully looking for a specialty species on trails only to find the bird in the parking lot as I was leaving. Bristol can sympathize with me and many other birders who continue to experience this same phenomenon. Readers are encouraged to ditch the dated notion that quality birding is only accomplished by spending hours searching confusing trail systems while wearing khaki head-to-toe and using top-shelf binoculars. Have birders been overthinking this hobby? Perhaps birding is much simpler than we have made it appear. Parking Lot Birding neatly summarizes a curated selection of destinations where simplicity, inclusivity, and birding coexist. The book gives a succinct and immersive tour of birding hotspots across Texas. As the title...

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Right before 9 a.m. on March 6, five or six purple martins swooped acrobatically in the wind above the Austin Water Center for Environmental Research at Hornsby Bend.

It was a good sign. The first migratory birds of spring had begun to arrive in Central Texas.

To prepare for this annual feathery visit, which peaks in late April, I hit some of the area’s top birding spots on multiple mornings not long after the winter storms.

Given the travel deficits imposed by the pandemic, this 12-day tour — actually 15, but one was spent hopelessly lost and another two were harried by rain — felt like 12 liberating road trips with a natural wonder waiting at each destination.

Although I visited Hays, Bastrop and Williamson counties during this tour, I spent most of my time in Travis County. All by itself, the county makes up a big stretch of ecologically varied land....


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As appeared in the Austin American Statesman in May 2020

By: Michael Barnes

Binoculars hung from Jennifer Bristol’s neck as she stood in the shade a few yards from the mostly empty parking lot.

That’s how I knew who she was.

Me: “What are we looking at today?”

Bristol: “This oak mott is hot right now with migrants. Then we can stroll down to the waterfront. Beyond there’s a meadow and a line of mixed trees.”

I met up with Bristol, a former park ranger and business owner and now author of the delightful new book “Parking Lot Birding: A Fun Guide to Discovering Birds in Texas,” at Devine Lake Park in Leander for a bit of physically accessible birding. This sort of activity — reasonably safe under pandemic directives if done right — can take place at a park or other attraction without hiking deep...

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Birding has proven to be a popular activity during the COVID-19 outbreak. It's a way to have meaningful interactions with nature while not venturing far from home. Novice and avid birdwatchers alike can participate in a little friendly competition courtesy of the24th Annual Great Texas Birding Classic, October 1 - 31.

Although typically held in the Spring, the Classic has been moved to October to take advantage of the fall migration. It's also modifying some categories and rules to make participation easier while quarantining or limiting travel.

And you don't have to hike the forests of East Texas or climb jagged Hill Country cliffs to engage in birding and enjoy the great outdoors. As it turns out, you can find these moments in your everyday life, as Jennifer Bristol explains in her new book,...

Vermillion Flycatcher

It may come as a surprise that guidebook author Jennifer L. Bristol, a former park ranger and erstwhile coordinator of the Texas Children in Nature program, is not a lifelong birder. It took a horseback riding accident in 2007 to slow down the hard-charging, conservation-minded Austin resident to the point where she was willing to pick up a pair of binoculars and start watching Texas birds. This spring, Texas A&M University Press published her first book, Parking Lot Birding, which catalogs easy-to-reach birding sites from the Panhandle to the Hill Country to the Gulf Coast. Her forthcoming book on birdwatching in cemeteries is due out in 2021.

TH: What makes Texas such a special places for birds and birding?

JB: Texas has front row seats twice a year to the greatest bird migration in the world. Both the central flyway and the Mississippi flyway pass right through Texas, bringing everything from shorebirds to flycatchers to raptors to ducks. You name it. They’re passing through Texas....