Five Minutes With Pam Owens, Talking Birds and Blooms in Dripping Springs

by Haven Lindsey on June 17, 2020 in Lifestyle, Living Texas,
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Want to discover the best birding in the Texas Hill Country? Read on!

Pam Owens’ love for the region combined with her former business experiences made her a natural fit to lead the newly formed Dripping Springs Visitors Bureau in 2016. A native of southeast Texas, Owens has lived in Dripping Springs since 1983.

We chatted with her about the recently announced program, Birds and Blooms, in the Dripping Springs area.

Away from her day job as President and CEO of the Dripping Springs Visitors Bureau, Pam Owens enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, working in her flowerbeds, feeding her backyard birds, visiting the many wineries, breweries and distilleries, cruising Mercer Street venues and twirling the floor at Mercer Dancehall.
Photo Stacy Berg Photography

What is Birds and Blooms?

It is a new program developed by Destination Dripping Springs to guide visitors to discover the best birding in the Texas Hill Country – specifically during spring and fall migration. During these migratory months, when the wildflowers blanket roadsides and fields, birders can find rare species, or simply become more familiar with the birds in our own backyard.

Dripping Springs has a complex and diverse ecosystem, and Birds and Blooms aims to shed some light on the parks and open spaces that are ideal for birding and enjoying the overall beauty of the Texas Hill Country. We are located right in the central flyway for bird migration, plus have several public parks, and preserves with bird viewing stations that are perfect for birders of all levels.

This small, and somewhat secretive, bird is known for the unbelievably colorful plumage found on the males. Painted buntings spend a lot of time hidden in dense brush, but once spotted, you’ll understand why it’s the gem of the North American songbirds. Photo Karl Ulrich

What inspired you to develop the program?

The idea actually came to us from one of Destination Dripping Springs’ board members, Doyle Fellers. We have always promoted Dripping Springs as a nature lover’s destination that is rich with hiking and biking trails, great swimming holes, and unprecedented natural beauty. We were also seeing a trend during the stay-at-home order that people were becoming more interested in birdwatching.

How will the Dripping Springs Birding Club and Wild Birds Unlimited of Dripping Springs be involved?

We plan to partner with the two organizations to host outings and meet-ups to local bird-viewing stations and area parks.

The City of Dripping Springs is also working on becoming a designated Bird City, a newly created program through Texas Parks and Wildlife and Audubon Texas. This community-focused certification program has been created to help people protect birds and their habitats where we live, work and recreate. The criteria required to attain certification is designed to be impactful and efficient against habitat loss and other harmful factors impacting birds.

Once listed as an endangered species, the black-capped vireo is still considered vulnerable. The degradation of habitat and heavy nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds are to blame for the low population numbers. Black-capped vireo live in oak scrub, brushy hills, and the rocky canyons of Dripping Springs.
Photo Tom L. Hausler

Are you a birder?

Yes, I definitely consider myself a birder! While I don’t compete in the Big Year and don’t necessarily have a life list, I find great joy in birding. Every morning, I watch the birds in my backyard and have created a little paradise for the native and migratory species. I frequent Wild Birds Unlimited in Dripping Springs and am a huge fan of their high-quality birdseed, and the birds are too! I would love to one day see a golden-cheek in my own backyard.

Is there a specific bird that tops the bucket list – one that everyone strives to see?

In the Dripping Springs area and the Texas Hill Country, the birds to see are the highly elusive golden-cheeked warbler, a federally listed endangered species, as well as the black-capped vireo, which was federally listed but has since been taken off the list. These two species can be found, if you are lucky, at Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center, Pedernales Falls State Park as well as Reimer Ranch which are located within the Dripping Springs area. All three of these locations offer guided bird walks and are great opportunities to potentially see the ‘It’ birds in Dripping Springs.

Cover: An early migrant in both spring and fall, the endangered golden-cheeked warbler nests only in the juniper branches of the Texas Hill Country. The loss of habitat due to development is the biggest threat to this small and beautiful species.
Photo Romey Swanson

Haven Lindsey resides in Austin, Texas. She is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience writing on topics including healthcare, addiction, public policy, education, travel, food and human interest stories.