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History of Birding at Hornsby Bend


The first birders found the "Platt" ponds at Hornsby Bend in 1959. Rob Fergus gives this account in his 1999 thesis on birds of Hornsby Bend, "G. Frank 'Pancho' Oatman, a young birder from Austin who was visiting relatives in Del Valle for the Thanksgiving Holiday, noticed ducks flying across the Colorado River. Guessing that there must be ponds nearby, Pancho explored the area and became the first birdwatcher to discover the sewage facilities at Hornsby Bend. On his initial visit, Pancho spotted waterfowl in large numbers-unusual for the Austin area-including four female common goldeneyes and a single Bonaparte's gull-both firsts for Travis County. Pancho excitedly phoned other birders with his news. Local experts Edgar Kincaid and Fred Webster joined Pancho at the ponds the next day with John and Rose Ann Rowlett. The rare birds were still there. Oatman and the Rowletts visited the facility again on 27 November and discovered two additional Travis County firsts-a dunlin and two lapland longspurs​.

Since that time, there have been many more exciting birds found on the property to keep the birders coming.  A couple images below, the first of some of the regular Hornsby birding crowd in the 1970s and the second is a similar crew who are way too intent on a Ruff that visited the ponds in April 2008.

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