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10 Birdy B&Bs

Veteran Texas birders chime in with a few of their favorite bed-and-breakfast destinations.

By Erica H. Brasseux

1. Bluebird Hill Bed-and-Breakfast & Hideaway Cabin

A staggered, 100-year-old cedar picket fence surrounds the two-story stucco home, giving even the bluebirds that splash and frolic in a rock pond fountain in the front yard a sense of privacy. With 11 nest boxes and several baths and feeders, it's no wonder the bluebirds make this their home year-round. Juniper, live oak and red oak are just a few of the trees that canopy the 250-acre ranch just west of Utopia. Also, vermilion flycatchers, golden-cheeked warblers and even a red-tailed hawk, which nests in the top of an oak tree near the cabin, find harbor in Hidden Valley, a box canyon at the back of the property. There is a bluebird trail with nesting boxes and a hot tub downstairs in the garden room that provides a comfortable vantage point for uninterrupted wildlife viewing and late-night stargazing. Between sunset bat tours, guided birding excursions, and nearby Garner State Park and Lost Maples State Natural Area, you, too, could make this your home year-round. Rates per couple range from $95 to $115 a night for the bed-and-breakfast, and $115 for the hideaway cabin. For more information visit Rio Frio Lodging or call (830) 966-2320.

2. The Habitat Vacation Cabins

As you step outside, a bee-like buzzing is the only prelude to the approaching cloud of hundreds of tiny hummingbirds. Feeders are refilled up to eight times a day during September migration, as these tiny bundles of energy will put on two to three times their body weight in preparation for their 500-mile sprint across the Gulf of Mexico. Before dusk, make yourself a sandwich, curl up under an afghan on the screened front porch overlooking the lake - and watch the resident alligator and numerous turtles poke above the surface. Blue herons, kingfishers and egrets rest on the limbs of coastal live oak, as they, too, prepare to turn in for the night. Later, the moonlight may offer a peek at a doe and her fawn drinking from the water's edge, and you immerse yourself in the serenity of the moment. Located in the heart of Lamar Peninsula, Habitat is located a few blocks from St. Charles Bay and a short drive from Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (winter home of the whooping crane). Four log cabins with full kitchens and private baths are available for $75 a night for double occupancy. For more information call (361) 729-2362 or visit The Habitat - vacation cabins.

3. Cibolo Creek Ranch

Perhaps no destination better captures the quintessential spirit of the Old West than Cibolo Creek, in the Chinati Mountains near Presidio. Sprawling over more than 30,000 acres of dramatic vistas, extraordinary mountain ranges and crimson plateaus of Big Bend country, this working ranch - with horses, longhorns and buffalo - provides a picturesque backdrop for boundless birding and numerous other ranch activities. A stretch of riparian woodland on the property is a unique find amid the area's typical desert-like surroundings, and gray vireos, flocks of warblers and other migratory birds frequent this area often. Three towering, 19th-century adobe forts, once used to fend off attacks by Indians and trail bandits, have been meticulously restored and now serve as a luxurious and secluded hideaway from the rigors of city life. Rooms and suites range from $400 to $600 per night for double occupancy, and include three mouth-watering gourmet meals per day. To find out more about Cibolo Creek Ranch call (915) 229-3737 or visit Cibolo Creek Ranch.

4. Brown Pelican Inn

Begin your morning island-style, with alfresco breakfast on the wraparound porch overlooking the turquoise waters of Laguna Madre. As if cued each morning by the smell of gourmet coffee brewing at the inn, a group of brown pelicans and roseate spoonbills soar above the bay in search of an easy meal. Distinguished dinner guests include dolphins, which feed in a nearby channel, and a peregrine that has made its home in the penthouse of the high-rise hotel next door. Go for a stroll along the boardwalk, join a private birding tour, or visit a nearby refuge, and when you return you can settle into a rocking chair for a colorful South Padre Island sunset. Nightly rates for the inn's eight rooms range from $90 to $115 per person, except during peak season (March 1 - Labor Day) and holiday weekends. Group discounts and special birding packages are also available. Visit Brown Pelican Inn or call (956) 761-2722 for more information.

5. Inn at El Canelo Ranch

Nestled amid more than 3,200 acres of rugged South Texas brush land, the hacienda-style Inn at El Canelo Ranch, with soaring ceilings and a stone fireplace, is a big place that somehow seems intimate. Just ask one of the more than 7,000 birdwatchers from all over the country who have come to stay at the ranch - most with hopes of seeing the pair of nesting ferruginous pygmy-owls in the courtyard. Located just south of the famous King Ranch, El Canelo Ranch hosts some 300 species of native and migratory birds, and also offers ample hunting opportunities, tennis courts, bass fishing and a sporting clay range for the outdoor enthusiast. Double rooms are $125 per person/per night, and include accommodations, dinner and breakfast and self-guided birding. Single rate is $150 per night. Can't stay the night? No problem! Day birding rates are $35 per person. For more information visit The Inn at El Canelo or call (956) 689-5042.

6. Hummer House

Think you have a sweet tooth? At the Hummer House, located about 20 miles south of San Angelo, hummingbirds consume more than 700 pounds of sugar each year! In early spring up to 3,000 hungry hummers - the largest concentration in Texas - migrate to this private cottage, darting from feeder to feeder as they fuel up for the flight south in late summer. The ranch's natural setting of live oak and pecan also harbors more than 100 different species of birds, including up to 300 wild turkeys during the September to April breeding season, and a large number of white-tailed deer in the fall. With two bedrooms, two baths, a complete kitchen and a living area, this self-catered guest house is stocked for a light breakfast and lunch. Nightly rates Monday through Thursday are $125 per couple; $150 Friday through Sunday. For reservations call (915) 255-2254 or visit Hummer House.

7. Inn at Chachalaca Bend

You'll think your mind is playing tricks on you as you wander along the 1.5-mile hiking trail through this 40-acre park. About the time you stop at one of the many birding stations to rest your gaze on an Altamira oriole, a buff-bellied hummingbird or a ringed kingfisher, you'll spot something else - hopping through the trees - and quickly lose sight of it again. Wild chachalacas are abundant on the property, but with their dull brown color, are well-camouflaged and sometimes tricky to spot against the South Texas landscape. But you can always rely on their morning chorus of chaa-chaa-laa-kaa to alert you to their presence. The Inn at Chachalaca Bend is just a short drive from South Padre Island and the Rio Grande Valley's largest refuge, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Rooms at this nine-bedroom retreat range from $100 to $350 per night and include a country buffet breakfast. Special event discount rates are available. Contact the Inn at Chachalaca Bend at (888) 612-6800 or visit The Inn at Chachalaca Bend for more information.

8. Cygnet

Leave the Sounds of Nature CDs at home. At this secluded country cottage in Rockport, you can sink back in the overstuffed chairs and let the sound of water flowing from the handmade bird fountain filter through the open window. Or, fall asleep to rain tapping the tin roof during a late-night shower. With feeders hanging outside every window, you'll be birding before you ever step out the front door; spring brings as many as 25 varieties of warblers and other songbirds, and front porch rockers are an ideal venue for hummingbird viewing during fall migration. A stocked snack cupboard and fully equipped kitchen leave you with plenty of options for a brown bag lunch or midnight snack. This spacious hideaway with redwood walls, a beamed ceiling and tile floors rents for $72 a night and $480 a week for double occupancy. Call (361) 729-7009 or visit Cygnet House for more information or to make reservations.

9. B-Bar-B Ranch Inn

Located on 80 acres just eight miles south of Kingsville, the B-Bar-B Ranch provides access to more than 400 avian species in the surrounding Rio Grande Valley. Mild year-round temperatures, abundant wildlife and genuine South Texas hospitality make this bed-and-breakfast a favorite among birders, hunters and anyone who likes homemade biscuits and gravy for breakfast and steak for dinner. Located on a working ranch, this 16-room lodge was originally part of the historic King Ranch. It is a stop on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail and a pick-up spot of the King Ranch Birding Tour. Room rates for double occupancy range from $85 to $125 per night, and day birders and dinner guests are also welcome by reservation. For more information call (361) 296-3331 or visit B-Bar-B Ranch Inn.

10. Queen Anne Bed-and-Breakfast

A three-story, 1905 home with original stained-glass windows, 12-foot ceilings, exquisite inlaid wood floors and fine antiques throughout, Galveston's Queen Anne Bed-and-Breakfast truly is fit for a queen. And its proximity to Bolivar Flats, High Island and the free ferry landing make it ideally situated for birders. For early risers who don't want to waste a minute of prime-time birding, the innkeepers will provide breakfast-to-go in lieu of the traditional full gourmet breakfast, which is served on antique china and crystal stemware. If you miss out on the candlelight breakfast, you can make up for it with the daily afternoon tea or wine-and-cheese hour, followed by a little R&R on the screened porch or back deck. Weekend rates range from $115 to $180 per night for double occupancy and $100 to $165 per night for midweek. Reservations can be made online at Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast or by calling (800) 472-0930.

For more information:

For links to other Texas bed-and-breakfasts, visit one of the Web sites below or contact the chamber of commerce in the area you wish to visit.

Bed & Breakfast Lodging Information:

  • www.bbonline.com.tx
  • www.bedandbreakfast.com
  • www.virtualcities.com/vacation/tx/txvacdex.htm

Historic & Hospitality Accommodations of Texas:

  • www.hat.org

When inquiring about reservations, keep in mind that many B&Bs require a minimum two-night stay. Also, consider booking off-season (usually fall and winter) and weekdays, when rates are often lower and the properties are less crowded. Cancellation policies can be strict, and vary from place to place, so make sure you do your research before sending in your deposit.

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