Things to Do

Stillhouse Hollow Preserve in Austin

By  | 

We hate spam too, we'll never share your email address

 

 

Stillhouse Hollow Preserve in Austin

Photo: austinexplorer.com

I took a little birding class from Jane Tillman, a member of Austin’s Travis Audubon Society, and I really enjoyed being around that handful of folks who enjoyed the outdoors and God’s little tweety friends. Jane took about a dozen of us budding birdwatchers on field trips to the backyard of her Northwest Austin home and to Stillhouse Hollow Preserve, right in the heart of her hilly Austin neighborhood.

Stillhouse Hollow Preserve in Austin

Photo: austinparks.org

Jane’s backyard, which borders on yet another urban greenspace, Barrow Preserve, is a Best of Texas Certified Wildlife Habitat, lush with Texas native plants for birds and butterflies. Early on an overcast Saturday morning proved to be a good time to see and hear goldfinches, cardinals, Carolina chickadees and downy woodpeckers. But it was the trip to Stillhouse Hollow Preserve that wowed me. Tucked into the middle of one of my nearby neighborhoods is this wooded, creekside canyon of a secret spot-the kind of no-adults-allowed places that we all had when we were kids. You know the ones, where the trees lining the path grow over the path and hide you from everything so you think you’re in some magical, away-from-it-all spot. But there I was, in the heart of a part of Austin that I travel through every day.

Stillhouse Hollow Preserve in Austin

Photo: austinparks.org

We walked through a small, sunny meadow across the street from homes into the 19-acre preserve and got off to a birdy good start as the beginning birders saw swifts flying from house to house. We walked through stands of cedar and oak, part of what designates this preserve as endangered species habitat for golden cheeked warblers and black capped vireos. And we were visited on our walk through by neighbors pushing strollers and walking dogs, bicycle riders and kids fiddling around as they headed down to the lookout over one of the creeks. Really, though, bikes and dogs are on the list of no-no’s in the preserve. Still, it was good to see folks out and about on a Saturday morning.

Stillhouse Hollow Preserve in Austin

Photo: austinparks.org

Man alive, I tried to keep my eyes up in the trees as we wandered through this beautiful area, but I’m a long-time plant person and I loved seeing the native blooms in the preserve: lantana, turk’s cap, rock rose, Eve’s necklace. We saw Texas mountain laurel, cedar sage, wafer ash, spicebush and lots of maidenhair fern, as well. And deep into the half-mile-or-so trail we saw some huge karst features-limestone sinks and ledges. Several springs in the preserve feed into streams in the Bull Creek watershed. At the wooden overlook that drops down into a dramatic ravine, we heard water below us and on this day that was turning sunny and hot the coolness of the ravine lookout was welcome.

FYI • Stillhouse Hollow Nature Preserve is one of about a dozen City of Austin preserves, some accessible and with trails, some open to the public on only a limited basis. Stillhouse Hollow is at 7810 Sterling Drive off Burney close to Mesa Drive in Northwest Austin.