Seasons of Wildlife
Like much of the area, the refuge's roadsides and prairies transform to brilliant wildflower gardens each spring, accenting the emerald, olive and forest green of the Hill Country. The flowers in turn attract a myriad of butterflies. Songbirds, wearing their colorful feathers for mating season, are nesting or migrating through. Young deer, skunks, armadillos, and bobcats are growing up learning how to make their way in the world.
It’s warmest in the middle part of the day, so viewing wildlife in summer is best in the early morning and early evening. Don’t forget that the refuge is open sunrise to sunset. Look for ring-tailed cats, crested caracaras, and newly-fledged golden-cheeked warblers learning to fly. In summer, at least 37 kinds of dragonflies zip across refuge ponds, streams and meadows in hot pursuit of their insect prey.
Autumn has subtle color changes in the Texas Hill Country. With the heat beginning to subside, you may come across a porcupine or grey fox lounging in a tree. Look for migrating hawks and songbirds and they head south before winter.
Cooler temperatures means the frostweed may be icy. Winter residents of the refuge include over 20 species of sparrows that local and out-of-state birdwatchers try to check off their lists. Coyotes, bobcats, and beaver may be spotted looking for a meal.
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve the unique nesting habitats of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and the now recovered, black-capped vireo. If you would like to catch a glimpse of either songbird during the spring or summer, pack your binoculars and bring your patience. Your chances of viewing the golden-cheeked warbler are best at the Warbler Vista public area on the southern end of the refuge. The Shin Oak Observation Deck was specifically designed to view black-capped vireo habitat. We have also spotted both species on the Rimrock trail at Doeskin Ranch, the public area on the northern side of the refuge.
Many other Texas wildlife species can be seen on the refuge from one of our observation decks or by hiking one of our many trails. Try looking for the small critters too like butterflies, dragonflies, and lizards. Catch a glimpse of a wild turkey, white-tailed deer, or look to the sky for soaring hawks. There’s always something wild to see at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.