A city park in central Lubbock famous for hosting a Gyrfalcon for two and a half months in 2002.
By Cameron Carver | Published: 2/15/2013
In Texas bird lore, Clapp Park is most famous for a raptor that visited in 2002. Astoundingly, a Gyrfalcon, a bird of arctic and subarctic regions, stayed for nearly two and a half months — possibly the farthest south the species has ever been recorded. Vagrants like it draw lots of attention, but I make a daily stop simply to see what’s new.
Two playa lakes and a great variety of deciduous and evergreen trees provide habitat for migrating passerines and wintering waterfowl. In the southernmost area, a shrubby patch nicknamed Shrubhenge is a great spot for warblers.
The park attracts western and eastern migrants, as well as birds from the south. In May 2009, I was amazed to find a Common Black-Hawk hunting on the bank of the larger lake. Each May, large flocks of Mississippi Kites are common, as are Yellow, MacGillivray’s, and Wilson’s Warblers.
We see Painted Buntings from July to September, sometimes dozens per day. The first half of September offers the most diversity. Right after a cold front, every tree drips with songbirds, hummingbirds, and waterbirds, easily turning a quick stop into a half-day affair. — Cameron Carver
Cameron Carver is the president of the Llano Estacado Audubon Society, an independent biologist, and one of the most active birders in the Texas Panhandle region.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location: 33°33’17.30″N 101°52’7.41″W
Deciduous trees, wetlands, and gardens.
Predominantly flat and easy to walk.
More than 210 species. Cackling and Canada Geese, American Wigeon, Mallard, Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Osprey, Mississippi Kite, Common Nighthawk, Chimney Swift, Black-chinned, Calliope, Broad-tailed, Ruby-throated, and Rufous Hummingbirds, Belted Kingfisher, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Barn, Bank, and Cliff Swallows, Hermit and Swainson’s Thrushes, Northern and Louisiana Waterthrushes, Nashville, MacGillivray’s, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Townsend’s, and Wilson’s Warblers, Chipping, Clay-colored, Vesper, and Lark Sparrows, Summer and Western Tanagers, Painted, Indigo, and Lazuli Buntings, Bullock’s Oriole, Rose-breasted, Black-headed, and Blue Grosbeaks, Lesser Goldfinch.
When to go
Best in first half of May, all of September, and first half of October. Can be good all year depending on drought conditions.
Restrooms in Garden and Arts Center. Lubbock Memorial Arboretum, located in Clapp Park, features gardens that attract butterflies and birds. A bird-feeding area and a wheelchair-accessible platform are in the works.
City park. No fees. Open 7 a.m. to sundown.
Bring binoculars; spotting scope not necessary. Closed-toed shoes recommended. Texas weather dictates that you always bring rain gear and a light jacket.
For more info
Mae Simmons Park
About a 15-minute drive northeast of Clapp Park, at East 23rd St. and Oak Ave. The woods are good for passerines, and the lake is great for waterfowl.
Buffalo Springs Lake
Nine miles southeast of Clapp Park on High Meadow Rd. A great place for canyonland species such as Rock Wren and Rufous-crowned Sparrow. Use caution on the steep but rewarding Audubon trail.