Birding and Wildflower Society

Highland Lakes Birding and Wildflower Society 

The Highland Lakes Birding and Wildflower Society meets monthly in the Marble Falls, Burnet, Kingsland Texas area and is organized to promote the study, conservation, enjoyment, and public awareness of birds and wildflowers, chiefly in the Highland Lakes area of the central Texas Hill Country. Any person interested in the objectives of this organization is invited to join the group.
The HLBWS meets the first Thursday of each month September to June at the Marble Falls Library meeting room at 9:30 AM for social time and 10 AM for the meeting and speaker. The public is always welcome.

Next meeting on May 4th

Our own world class and world traveled birders, Joan Mukherjee and Sherry Bixler, will be presenting the Thursday,May 4th program for HLBWS. They will be talking about their recent trip to The Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica and from the photos that they have supplied, it’s apparent that we are in for a major treat.

Here are some things you may not already know about these two intrepid explorers. Joan Mukherjee is an organic chemist who worked at 3M for 28 years. She grew up on a Minnesota farm and 3M brought her to Texas. After retirement, she began volunteering by doing taxes for AARP for 16 years. At the same time she became fascinated with the abundance of native plants and wildlife found in the wild areas of the Hill Country so she learned to identify and propagate native plants. From there she migrated to birding and to many other environmental interests. She volunteers at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge as well as at other wildlife venues in the area, and is a member of the Board of the Friends of Balcones, is a Texas Master Naturalist, a Past President of the Native Plant Society, and a Past President of our own organization.

Sherry Bixler lived in New Mexico 42 years before moving back to Texas in 2008. In New Mexico she was an accountant and also owned and managed business and commercial property. Her family were camping, fishing and nature lovers and as she became more and more interested in birds, she began birding in earnest and now has been a serious bird watcher for over 50 years. As any of you who have participated in our 8:30am bird walks on meeting day with Sherry already know, she is a world class birder and has done over 20 world birding trips in the past 5 or 6 years. She has also birded in all 50 states of the USA. Sherry is a Texas Master Naturalist and is on the Board of our organization.

You won’t want to miss this excellent program presented by these two very specialized and expert birders   Advanced Training credit for MN  Social at 9:30 - Meeting and program at 10:00 at the Marble Falls Library.

Flight to Freedom

What happens at the very moment of release to freedom?

Loading on the boat, that gray high fog, cool early morning on Lake Buchanan, our Birding and Wildflower group, 33 strong, was quieter than normal. It had to be on your mind, the thought – these birds were born free, but then were damaged in freedom. How does a bird adapt to the confinement of convalescence and now, after months of recovery, adapt to being released to the uncertainty that is part of a free life? How will these raptors react?

The raptors would be released from the top deck of VTRC’s larger boat, the Texas Eagle. Most of our group piled up the stairs for good visibility while a few stayed below. There were 73 human passengers, and various large crates of raptors on board when we finally all loaded. Tim, our well-informed and pleasant guide of previous trips on the Texas Eagle this club year, would inform re historical and environmental details, the Last Chance Forever Raptor Conservancy (LCF) crew, headed by Kelly Rayner, would handle the avifauna information. And the birds.

It took some motoring before the LCF crew found a likely spot for the first release, and as Capt’n Shawn maneuvered the boat into position, backing it in closer to the area, Kelly brought the first release bird around for all to see, a red-shouldered hawk. The winner of the numbered drawing, set up by LCF, to release the first bird was our member Greg White.

It happened fast! Leaving observers awestruck. No question now how the birds would react. Zooming through the air, over the water, over the trees, tilting, looking, and landing in the top of a tall tree. All accomplished in seconds. Breathtaking!

We were fortunate to be able to watch the whole scenario two more times, motoring to a good place, meeting the bird that would soon be free, watching it be released. All told, it took about two and a half hours to accomplish. In the meantime LCR staff brought other raptors around that would not be released so all could have a close look. And back at the dock, as we got off the boat, a bald eagle 4 year old still displaying some brown streaks in the white neck feathers, was waiting for those who wanted individual candid shots. “Make sure you stay to the left of the bird!” Remember?

It was a remarkable day. These comments come from some of our members and guests who were there:

“… experiencing the exhilaration of setting raptors free to their natural habitat was the highlight of the cruise.”

“…the best thing about the trip for me was to be up close & personal with those raptors and to look them in the eye! Second best was being with like-minded people who also enjoyed every minute of the trip.”

“It was thrilling to see the release of the hawk and owls. The opportunity to see the plumage, heads and talons of these birds close-up was amazing.”

“It was a privilege to participate on such a gorgeous day with the amazing team from Last Chance Forever, aboard the Vanishing Texas River Cruise, talking with the crew of the boat and like-minded people during the journey, but most of all seeing, sharing, and feeling the rehabbed birds as they spread their wings and found their new homes, and knowing that I have played a small part of that.”

“Aside from the great feeling of watching the rehabbed birds fly away to new homes, I'd say that the best part of the trip was the willingness of everybody in the Last Chance group and Tim to answer any and every question we had. They were patient and happy to explain anything. They spoke from experience and with general love of the birds and the area. There was also the moment of excitement for me when they called the number My number was 70 and Greg White was 71. He got to release the hawk. It was great that passengers were randomly chosen to do the releases.”

Thanks to all who took this trip and responded with your photos and comments. This was one for the books, wasn’t it?

Comments from Freedom Flight Field Trip participating HLBWS members and guests.

By Margy Butler

VTRC - Freedom Flight

Single click

on picture

to see 

"Freedom Flight"


"Plants of the Llano Uplift"
Our Thursday, April 6th program was:
You know, there are botanists in the world of flora, and then there are BOTANISTS! Our speaker at the HLBWS meeting on April 6 will be Bill Carr, BOTANIST, who has spent 25 years doing field work for Texas plant conservation programs, first with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and later with The Nature Conservancy of Texas. He is held in high regard by botanists near and far, often being called on for plant identification issues that have stumped the experts. And as one participant remarked last late summer on a Field Trip that Bill led for the HLBWS Flying X Plant Taxonomy Class, “Bill is the experts’ expert. It’s not only knowing plants but it’s that he takes the time to explain how he identifies a plant and how to tell the difference between very similar species.” Bill received his B. S. in Botany from The Ohio State University in December 1978 and wasted no time moving to Texas, settling in Alpine in January 1979 before eventually relocating to Austin, working with TPWD and then later with The Nature Conservancy. Since leaving TNCT in 2011, he has been working with private landowners to help identify the special plants and habitats on their properties. He has contributed about 25,000 specimens to the herbarium at the University of Texas at Austin, and since spring 2015, he has been employed as one of the part-time assistant curators of the herbarium at the Plant Resources Center at UT. Bill’s presentation will explore the relationship of surface geology to plant distribution, or more specifically, The Botany of the Llano Uplift of Texas. It’s sure to be a most interesting presentation to all of us here who have the privilege of experiencing the geology and the botany of the Llano Uplift on a daily basis. In addition, Bill will be leading a field trip that same afternoon for HLBWS, to an area that is close by, to see in this exquisite wildflower season, what we can find. Watch your email and the Yahoo Groups Site to learn further Field Trip and signup information. April 6 is meeting day AND Field Trip day, Marble Falls Library, 8:30 AM bird walk, 9:30 AM Meet and Greet, 10:00 Meeting and Program. We hope to see you there to hear this notable speaker!        (by Margy Butler)

Thursday, March 2nd - Meeting of the Birding & Wildflower Society at the Marble Falls Library.  Meeting and public program at 10 AM. "Ornithology! Migrating birds, with special attention to the Golden-cheeked Warbler and the Black-capped Vireo", our two Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge protected birds.  Program speaker is Dr. Craig Farquhar, TPWD ornithologist extraordinaire

Damselflies and Dragonflies
Our February 2nd speaker was Greg Lasley, nationally known naturalist and photographer.  
You will really enjoy his website at    Advanced Training for MN and MG.

Greg Lasley, birder extraordinaire, environmentalist, wild life photographer, conservationist, world traveler, tour leader, Odonata expert, will be the guest speaker at the February meeting. Greg is well known for his striking photos of wild life in Texas and across the world. If you’re interested in looking at views of Texas wildlife, his book Greg Lasley’s Texas Wildlife Portraits, published in 2008 by TAMU Press is an outstanding place to start. Eminent naturalists John and Gloria Tveten, in their Introduction to this book, stated “In our minds, one Texan best personifies the combination of expert naturalist and consummate wildlife photographer. That person is Greg Lasley.”

Greg was in the Air Force in 1971 when he took his first picture of a bird. By 1976 he was photographing, tape-recording, documenting rare birds, and by the late 1970’s and 1980’s he was presenting talks to nature oriented groups, including photos of the many rare species he had photographed. Later in the 1980’s Greg and Chuck Sexton, then Biologist at Balcones Canyonlands NWR, took over editorship of American Birds, a publication of the American Birding Association which is now known as North American Birds.

Serving two terms on each of two separate and important Bird Records Committees, the Texas Ornithological Society’s, and the American Birding Association’s (these committees authenticate rare bird sightings) Greg has been at the forefront of exceptional bird species discoveries in Texas and across America.

Greg spent 25 years in law enforcement, retiring from the Austin Police Department in 1997. After retiring, he spent much of the next ten years leading bird-watching trips over the western hemisphere for Victor Emmanuel Nature Tours (VENT), and his time currently is spent on studies, and photo-studies, of a wide range of flora and fauna

throughout the world.

Greg will be presenting a program in February on damselflies and dragonflies. If you would like to know more about Greg and to see some of his excellent photography, please visit his website at

Meetings of the Highland Lakes Birding and Wildflower Society are held on the first Thursday of each month (except July and August) at the Marble Falls Library meeting room at 101 Main, Marble Falls. Meet and Greet is at 9:30am, meeting starts at 10:00am. Meetings are open to the public and we hope to see you there!

 AT CREDIT for MN and MG.

Ecological History of the Edwards Plateau and the Texas Hill Country

Our last program was on Thursday, January 5th.  The speaker was Lisa O'Donnell. A native Texan, Lisa has lived in Texas most of her life and has devoted the major portion of her life-work as an Endangered Species Biologist to investigation of the ecological history of the Edwards Plateau and the Texas Hill Country.

This presentation is the product of over 25 years of research. Today, as Senior Biologist and rare plants expert for the City of Austin’s Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, Lisa provides historical research and evidence based ecological criteria as a foundation for land management decisions, including those concerning the protection of the Golden-cheeked Warbler, Black-capped Vireo, karst invertebrates, aquatic salamanders, and rare plants that occur within the Preserve. 

In 1991, soon after the listing of the Golden-cheeked Warbler on the Endangered Species List, Lisa began working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hearing frequent claims the Hill Country was originally dominated by grasslands, Lisa began researching this issue and has been compiling historical accounts and documents relating to the botanical diversity of the Edwards Plateau ever since. Her research concerning the botanical species juniperas ashei, known locally as ce
dar, has been particularly informative in view of recent efforts to de-list the Golden-cheeked Warbler from the protected species status. 
With unprecedented growth in our area, with important habitat regularly under challenge from development and with many different confusing opinions being forwarded about various flora and fauna positions in the grand scheme of environment, this an opportunity to listen to scientific research and to learn the facts in making wise decisions for your own corner of our world.
All are welcome at the meetings of the Highland Lakes Birding and Wildflower Society which meets monthly, first Thursday of each month except July and August. Meet and greet starts at 9:30 a.m., meeting and program at 10:00.  We hope you will join us. AT CREDIT for MN and MG.

Free Bird Walk

Birding expert Sherry Bixler will again be leading her birding walks before our regular HLBWS meetings. Everyone will meet in the church parking lot kitty-corner from the library on Main, at 8:30 AM  before our meetings, the first Thursday of each month.  AT credit for MN

New Location for the Book Group

Book Group - Fourth Monday, September - May at the Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce room, 916 2nd Street, 11 AM. Take advantage of an exciting opportunity to explore topics and share ideas about plants and nature. Second Street is just north of the library. Turn left at 2nd and walk a half block. It is opposite the Thai Restaurant. Parking may be a problem at lunch time, so you may want to park at the library and walk. 

We will be talking about hummingbirds at our next book discussion, a timely topic for our area. The book is The Thing With Feathers. The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human, by Noah Strycker. It is contains many chapters on different birds, and we will read selections from the book over the next season.  For the next meeting, read the chapter on “Hummingbird Wars.” Homework?  Keep an eye on your feeder. Do you have one species that lords it over others? How about gender differences? Have you found a way to keep things calmer? Does the time of day or location make a difference in their behavior? Got a great photo?

Just to leap ahead, members Sherry Bixler and Joan Mukherjee will be speaking about their birding trip to Antarctica at the June meeting, so our May 22 reading will be from The Thing with Feathers, “Fight or Flight. What Penguins Are Afraid of.”

 For more information, call Betsy Bouchard, 847-302-3879.


Public Program Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thinking about native plants and the ecology of our earth? October’s HLBWS program promises to be a great treat. Bill Neiman, founder/owner of Native American Seed, Junction, TX is our speaker and if you have been wondering about the particulars of native plants, or are considering a rain water containment system for your place, or if you want to know more about harvesting native plants seeds, OR if you want to know more about how you can help improve care for our earth, you won’t want to miss this program. 

Bill Neiman started his first company, Neiman Environments Landscape Construction Company, in 1974 when he was nineteen years old. He borrowed a shovel, a rake, and lawn mower and advertised in the local garbage collector's monthly billings offering "total outdoor care." Six years later the company was big enough to take on large-scale commercial projects. From 1979 to 1990, Bill also operated Neiman's Native Plant Nursery in Flower Mound, Texas, one of the first outlets for native plants in the North Central Texas area. He also farmed numerous sites certified by the Texas

Department of Agriculture for organic food and seed production.* In 1989, Native American Seed (NAS) was formed, and in 1995 the corporate headquarters was moved to Junction, TX. 

Native American Seed publishes a unique catalog twice a year, Spring and Fall, and if you aren’t already on the mailing list, contact NAS at to order a hard copy, or simply download the catalog. You’ll find planting suggestions and outstanding photographs that will guide you in a design or redesign of your own landscape. There are instructive articles about non-native invasives, and ideas for equipment selection. The catalog is beautiful, is full of valuable information for naturalists and gardeners, and will prepare you for Bill’s presentation to our group.

We hope to see you when Bill Neiman is here at our October monthly meeting, October 6, 2016, at the Marble Falls Library; 9:30 AM Meet and Greet, 10:00 AM Meeting.

* Courtesy of 

 “Fall Migrant Raptors of Texas,” presented on September 1st - Read about a field trip below.
The speaker who will open our new club year on September 1st is nationally known raptor and sparrow birder, Byron “Doc” Stone. Doc is an Austin physician and naturalist with a lifelong affinity for the outdoors. He has been an avid birder for over four decades, and has traveled widely in Texas and other states to observe birds and wildlife. He teaches classes for Travis Audubon Society on sparrows and raptors, and was the creative force behind the development of SparrowFest, a winter celebration of sparrow abundance and diversity at Balcones Canyonlands NWR. He is an eBird reviewer, serves on the Texas Bird Records Committee, and is President of the Texas Ornithological Society.  His talk for HLBWS is titled “Fall Migrant Raptors of Texas,” and will feature photographs, identification tips and observations about behavior, conservation and biology of the nearly two dozen diurnal raptors that are regularly seen in fall migration in central and south-central Texas.  This program is approved for AT credit for MN.

If you want to bone up on raptors before Doc’s presentation, his recommended guide is Hawks in Flight, Second Edition, by Pete Dunne, David Sibley, and Clay Sutton, which is available at Amazon and other book sellers.

Doc will also lead our first fall Field Trip to the Smith Point Hawk Watch and Anahuac NWR in mid October. If you are interested in knowing more about this trip, which is a limited size trip, email Margy Butler at   See below Raptor Field Trip for more information.
If you’d like to get familiar with many of the species that we may see on this trip, visit Doc’s flickr site at

Raptor Field Trip

The second HLBWS Field Trip of our club year is all about raptors and shore birds. Byron Stone, MD, nationally known raptor expert and speaker at our opening meeting in September, will guide us on this fall trip to the upper Texas Gulf Coast in search of raptors in migration.

Our destination is the Smith Point Hawk Watch, on the point of land that separates Galveston and Trinity Bays, which is one of the premier raptor watching spots in the nation. We’ll also visit the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, we’ll go by High Island for a quick check (the famous stop-over place for migrating passerines) and should the raptors not keep us totally engrossed, we’ll migrate ourselves to the Gulf to see what shore birds we can find.

Trip dates are October 14, 15, and 16, 2016. Rooms are blocked at good rates at a local motel, trip fee is $60, board and room are on your own. Guide book recommended by Doc Stone is Hawks in Flight: Second Edition by Pete Dunne, David Sibley, and Clay Sutton, available at Amazon and other book sellers. This interesting 3 day, 2 night Field Trip has a very few openings left, so if you are interested, or if you need further information, email Margy Butler at at your earliest convenience.  

Have you wanted to see a raptor migration, masses of raptors so dense that their progress can be charted on radar?   If there is sufficient interest, we may also add an additional day of travel on the 17th to the Quintana jetties for those interested in seeing more shorebirds.

This trip is approved for AT for MN.

Here are some pictures from our recent field trip to Balcones National Wildlife Refuge and the Wildflower Exhibit during the Bluebonnet Festival.  Thanks to Fran and Steve Goodmon, Joan Mukherjee and Lori Greco and the many volunteers who helped put on this great exhibit.  Single click on the arrow to see all the pictures.

Past Speakers

June 4th, 2015 Meeting
Cathy Downs from NPSOT presented on "Monarch Butterflies and Milkweed"  AT for MN and MG
Each fall, hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies migrate from the United States and Canada to overwintering areas in Mexico and California where they wait out the winter until conditions favor a return flight in the spring. The monarch migration is truly one of the world's greatest natural wonders, yet it is threatened by habitat loss in North America - at the overwintering sites and throughout the spring and summer breeding range as well.  Learn what you can do to help.

Cathy was born and raised in New England. She retired to Comfort, TX in 2004 from a 30 year career owning and operating her own retail businesses from coast to coast.

She currently chairs the Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas (BBMT) program. The BBMT is a developing monarch habitat project in cooperation with Native Plant Society of Texas and Monarch Watch. Cathy is also a certified Monarch Larval Monitoring Project educator and teaches Monarch biology, habitat and migration at various locations throughout Texas.

Since certifying as a Master Naturalist in 2005, she has been teaching children and adults about native Texas butterflies and their host plants with an emphasis on Monarch biology and migration. Cathy raises Monarch caterpillars for education as well as propagating native milkweeds. She hosts live Butterfly Pavilions at Nature Centers and State Parks throughout the Hill Country area.

Cathy has served as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Butterfly Theater at Kerrville Schreiner Park for 6 years. The 11,000 sq. ft. garden is a certified Monarch Waystation and Monarch Larval Monitoring Project site.

She is the compiler for the North American Butterfly Association July 4th count - Boerne Circle. She participates in the Nature Box Program with Cibolo Nature Center bringing Natural Science topics to elementary schools in the Boerne area.

Cathy recently participated in the Tx. Wildlife Association Distance Learning Program. She presented her program, The Magic of Monarchs, which was simulcast to 179 schools in 12 states. 6,300 children in 1st through 5th grades tuned in bringing her Monarch education client totals to over 14,000 children and adults.

The June 4th HLBWS meeting will be followed by a picnic lunch at Johnson Park where one of the Monarch Way Station Butterfly gardens exists. This garden was prepared by the Highland Lakes Chapter of NPSOT.

"Attracting Bluebirds"

Thursday, May 7th, 2015 - Meeting of the Birding & Wildflower Society  
10:00 AM at the Marble Falls Library.   Pauline Tom is our speaker for May.  She will tell us how to attract bluebirds.  
Pauline is a wife, mother, and grandmother who delights in spreading the joy of bluebirds and making memories.

Co-founder of Texas Bluebird Society, Pauline Tom envisioned an organization to give out Texas-specific bluebird information and to spread the bluebird population to new locales.  

TBS President 2001 – present.  She hopes someone will take the reins really soon.

North American Bluebird Society Board of Directors, 2001 – 2007. Recognized by NABS for leadership in bluebird conservation and for contributions to the organization.

 Expert Arlene Pearce presented an interesting program on "Bird Rehabilitation"  

Arlene Pearce does expert rehabilitation work with wild birds.  Some have been hit by cars, found abandoned in their nests, attacked by family pets or even electrocuted from outdated electrical wiring.  Most come to the center thanks to concerned citizens such as yourselves.  Since 1999, she has mended countless wings, hand-fed fledglings and even raises mealworms to feed her patients.  Working closely with local Texas Parks and Wildlife rangers, veterinarians and local ranchers, she treats and releases over 100 birds each year.   In 2013, she rehabilitated and released 20 screech owls.  This program is approved for Advanced Training for Master Naturalists.

Check out Sheryl Smith-Rodgers  website. 

Plant Taxonomy Class
 (the science dealing with the description, identification, classification and naming of plants)
The Flying X Plant Taxonomy Classes will not be available during the 2016 – 2017 school year due to the teaching schedule of our excellent botany professor, Flo Oxley, Ph.D. But stay tuned for further notices.

Check out future HLBWS and other programs on the

The photo below is of Prairie Verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida), a common wildflower in our area, that blooms from March to October.

Please check out the main part of our website for information on other gardening eventsgardening tipsMaster We will be talking about hummingbirds at our next book discussion, a timely topic for our area. The book is The Thing With Feathers. The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human, by Noah Strycker. It is contains many chapters on different birds, and we will read selections from the b


ook over the next season.  For the next meeting, read the chapter on “Hummingbird Wars.” Homework?  Keep an eye on your feeder. Do you have one species that lords it over others? How about gender differences? Have you found a way to keep things calmer? Does the time of day or location make a difference in their behavior? Got a great photo?

We are a bit cramped in the library, so Marjorie Dearmont obtained the Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce room, 916 2nd Street. Second Street is just north of the library. Turn left at 2nd and walk a half block. It is opposite the Thai Restaurant. Parking may be a problem at lunch time, so you may want to park at the library and walk.

Just to leap ahead, members Sherry Bixler and Joan Mukherjee will be speaking about their birding trip to Antartica at the June meeting, so our May 22 reading will be from The Thing with Feathers, “Fight or Flight. What Penguins Are Afraid of.”

BetsyGardener activities, wildflowers and many other interesting pages from Sheryl's Garden Page.