Folks in the Field - Dawn Houston

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Folks in the Field - Dawn Houston

We recently caught up with Dawn Houston, a Dripping Springs resident, who is a biologist and doctoral student of bird migration.

Destination Dripping Springs: Would you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your background?

Dawn Houston: I am an avian biologist and have lived and worked in Central Texas for 20 years. Even though I have worked primarily with endangered species, I have a keen interest in migratory songbirds. I am currently a Ph.D. student focusing my research on identifying important stopover habitat for songbirds during migration. I also serve as a board member at Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center, and I am on the Dripping Springs Birding Club steering committee.

DDS: What made you decide to get involved with Dripping Springs Parks and help start DS Birding?

DH: Central Texas has an incredible mix of birds from both the eastern and western regions of the US and there is a vibrant community of birders in the area. The Dripping Springs Birding Club is a way to join all these people together and invite others that are interested in getting involved. Birdwatching is not just about the birds, but about the community of people who come together with the common interest and appreciation for these fascinating creatures.

DDS: What’s your favorite park in the DS area and why?

DH: This is a hard one to answer! All the parks in the area have something unique to offer. Within Dripping Springs, Charro Ranch Park is my favorite for taking walks or birding. It’s a fun park to explore with surprising features, such as the solstice circle, and it also has a plethora of native trees and wildlife. Just outside Dripping Springs, Westcave Preserve and Hamilton Pool Preserve are truly magical places to visit with grottos, waterfalls, and plenty of birds.

DDS: What tips would you offer to someone who is getting into birdwatching?

DH: If you are just starting to birdwatch, put up a feeder and get a bird field guide. Become familiar with the birds around your home. Notice that different bird species have different “personalities,” so to speak. When you are learning to identify birds, don’t just look at the physical markings. Look at the bird’s behavior. Is it singing boldly at the top of a tree or is it shy and skulking in the brush? What does the song sound like? What type of habitat is it in? All these attributes are pieces of the puzzle that will help you identify a bird.

Also, bring your binoculars with you whenever you venture outdoors. The more you use them the more it will seem like second nature to you when you are trying to locate a bird. Above all, birdwatching should always be a source of joy. Whether you know what you are looking at or not, enjoy just watching what the birds are up to.

DDS: Is there a specific bird that tops your bucket list – or a bird that everyone strives to see?

DH: In the Texas Hill Country, the most coveted bird to see is the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler. It is a beautiful migratory bird that breeds only in Central Texas and attracts birders from around the country. We are fortunate to have them right here in Dripping Springs.

DDS: What would you tell others who are not familiar with Birding or the DS Parks and Trails?

DH: Join us or hit the trails by yourself! You don’t need fancy binoculars to explore the Dripping Springs Parks and Trails or to join the Dripping Springs Birding Club. I guarantee, you will feel more connected with nature, others birdwatching with you, and yourself.

DDS: Thank you for sharing your passions and talents with us, Dawn!

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