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Visiting birders often begin their search at Caddo Lake State Park, located on FM 2198,
half a mile east of TX 43.
Of more than 230 bird species recorded at Caddo Lake since 1980, 139 of them have been recorded within or over the State Park area.
The terrain along Big Cypress Bayou and around Mill Pond is generally productive. Watch the sky here for Anhinga and Mississippi Kite in summer. Watch also for Sharp-shinned (in migration and winter), Cooper's and Red-shouldered Hawks; Yellow-billed Cuckoo¹ (above right)(summer), Barred Owl (left); Fish Crow; Red-headed, Hairy, Pileated and other woodpeckers; Winter Wren (right)(winter) and assorted vireos and warblers (most in spring, summer and fall).
¹ Yellow-billed Cuckoo photo by Harlen E. Aschen.
The area around the State Park's entrance and headquarters has produced Brown-headed Nuthatch, Pine Warbler, Painted and Indigo Buntings, Eastern Bluebirds and other thrushes, and at dusk in early summer, Chuck-wills-widow.
Northern Bobwhite has also been heard from the park's entrance. Greater Roadrunner has been seen around the headquarters and maintenance buildings.
During breeding season, some of the more visible and vocal songbirds in the park include Wood Thrush; Acadian and Great-crested Flycatchers (right); White-eyed, Yellow-throated and Red-eyed Vireos; Northern Parula; Yellow-throated, Pine, Black-and-white, Prothonotary and Kentucky Warblers; and Summer Tanager.
Many interesting migrants have been recorded passing through the park, including Black-billed Cuckoo; Whip-poor-will; Yellow-bellied and Least Flycatchers; Swainson's and Gray-cheeked Thrush; and Blue-winged, Tennessee, Nashville, Magnolia, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Canada, and Blackpoll Warblers (left) and others.
If you don't find the Brown-headed Nuthatch² (right) in the State Park, you can walk from there across FM 2198 and then a few hundred yards along Old Hwy 134 to a dirt drive or track (on the east side of Old 134) that leads through a stand of pines to an old cemetery. The nuthatches have been found occasionally in these pines as well as in numerous other locations around Caddo Lake, usually in association with pines. A variety of other woodland and edge species have also been found along this drive and around the cemetery.
² Brown-headed Nuthatch photo by Diane Jones.
Follow FM 2198 east to Uncertain, where several commercial establishments offer views of the lake.
One of these, Crip's Camp, overlooks a shallow slough called Goose Prairie.
This is a good spot to find wading birds, Wood Ducks and other dabbling ducks
(primarily winter), and occasionally a few shorebirds, when the water level is
low and the mudflats are exposed. A scope is especially helpful here if
you have one.
In winter Common Snipe (left) are often found on the
grassy mudflats of Goose Prairie. In summer Mississippi Kites
(right) soar over Crip's Camp regularly and probably have nested nearby.
Watching the sky over Crip's will often be rewarded with Anhingas in summer, Bald Eagles in winter, and Sharp-shinned, Cooper's and Broad-winged Hawks in migration. Also during migration, watch for Bank, Tree and Northern Rough-winged Swallows here. Listen here for the distinctive voices of Barred Owls, Red-shouldered Hawks, Pileated Woodpeckers and Fish Crows; and check the trees and shrubs here for passerines.
Johnson's Ranch Marina, Bayou Landing Restaurant, and Shady Glade Marina, on Cypress Drive in Uncertain, also offer views of the water, as well as parking lots where one can get off the road to look around. Inca Doves, Orchard Orioles, Northern Parulas and Yellow-throated Warblers breed regularly in Uncertain and elsewhere around the lake. In winter, check the flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles for Rusty and Brewer's Blackbirds.
Follow Cypress Drive north and turn right on Bois D'Arc Lane. You can park to look for birds at the Caddo Lake Steamboat Company on Bois D'Arc Lane or at the Mossy Brake Art Gallery and Studio on Mossy Brake Drive (both on Taylor Island). At the back of the steamboat company's parking lot, in the vicinity of the boathouse, Waterthrushes and Prothonotary Warblers (left) have been found along the water's edge in spring and early summer. Also look for Red-eyed, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos in this general area. Return to FM 2198 and follow it back to TX 43.
The hill on the southwest corner of TX 43 and FM 2198 (half a mile west of the State Park entrance) has been a productive spot from which to watch the skies, especially during September and October. Besides migrating falcons and hawks, other species recorded here include White Ibis, Wood Stork (right), Black Vulture, Osprey, Mississippi Kite, Bald Eagle, Chimney Swift, Purple Martin, Northern Rough-winged, Bank and Barn Swallows and more.
From the intersection with FM 2198, go north on TX 43 about a mile to Shelly Road (CR 2406), on the left. Turn left here, and then right, to the public boat ramp and parking lot on the south side of the TX 43 bridge over Big Cypress Bayou. This is another good place to check for Brown-headed Nuthatch. The nuthatches have nested in a hollow at the top of a utility pole beside the Waterfront Restaurant here and have frequented the pine trees nearby. Also, the willows under the bridge here have produced a variety of warblers and other passerines, especially during migration.
From the TX 43 bridge over Big Cypress Bayou, drive south about 2 miles on TX 43 and turn east (left) on FM 134 to Karnack. Or from the State Park, you can drive south on Old Hwy 134 to Karnack. Many interesting birds have been recorded on the grounds of the Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant in Karnack (168 so far), but it's closed to the public at this time. On October 21, 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquired most of the Longhorn property and renamed it the Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge. According to current plans, the new refuge should be opened to the public by some time in 2006.
Plant Road (CR 2607) follows the southern boundary of the new refuge from FM 134 east to FM 9. It's dusty in dry weather and muddy in wet weather; but it's also very birdy, especially about midway along its length, where Harrison Bayou crosses under it and forms swampy sloughs and marshes along either side. Look and listen for Wood Duck (above right); herons; egrets; woodpeckers; White-eyed, Yellow-throated and Red-eyed Vireos; Summer Tanager and more. At least thirteen species of warblers have been recorded on Plant Road.
If you miss the turnoff for Plant Road, or if you prefer to stay on paved roads, you can continue south on FM 134 and turn east on FM 1999. The barbed-wire fence lines around the intersection of FM 1999 and FM 9 are good places to find Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in summer. Turn north on FM 9 and watch the skies along here for Mississippi Kites (summer) and other hawks.
On the east side of FM 9, just south of the railroad overpass (and south of Plant Road/CR 2607), a private drive offers a small pull-off at a locked gate where one can scan the field and stock pond beyond the fence. Dickcissel, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo and Painted Buntings (left), and Orchard Oriole have been found here in the brush and roadside trees in summer. The stock pond here has produced a variety of waterfowl (primarily winter) and wading birds (primarily summer). A scope is useful for viewing the stock pond from outside the gate. Please respect private property. Do not trespass or litter.
At the north end of FM 9, Tucker's Camp Road/CR 2609 leads to Tucker's Camp (with a view of the lake) and loops back to FM 9. Check this area for waterfowl, herons, egrets, Inca Dove (above right), Fish Crow, Chimney Swift, various swallows and warblers, Summer Tanager, and Orchard Oriole (male: left; female: right).
photo by Harlen E. Aschen. Brown-headed Nuthatch
photo by Diane Jones.
Wood Duck photo from US Fish & Wildlife Service. All other photos on this page by Bob and Dorothy Metzler.
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