State Fish Hatchery

(map) (eBird)

Trail Length: .3 mi. entrance road

Highlights:
-Year-round water
-Some of the only publicly accessible shore birding in Hays County
-Great for picking up shorebirds during migration

The Location

The A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery exists primarily to raise sportfish such as largemouth bass, catfish, and trout for stocking public waters. The property consists of approximately 50 small concrete ponds and one larger pond directly along the entrance road. These ponds are filled and drained as needed throughout the year, although it’s unusual for more than about 10 to be empty at any one time. While most of the facility is fenced off and not open to the public, anyone may drive into and walk around the parking lot.

Birding Recommendations

The key to birding this hatchery is the small hill located right next to the parking lot. Walk all the way up to the fence corner and you’ll have an elevated view of nearly the whole property. A scope is seriously useful here, especially when looking for shorebirds, but you’ll see birds with just binoculars too. Just take your time and scan the area.

This location is most valuable during spring migration as shorebirds are moving through. Focus especially on any ponds that are mostly empty but still have 1-3 inches of standing water, the shorebirds often congregate heavily around these.

Past highlights include Marbled and Hudsonian Godwit, Stilt Sandpiper, American Golden-plover, Semi-palmated Plover, American Avocet, Cinnamon Teal, Greater Scaup, Ringed Kingfisher, and Yellow-headed Blackbird.

Other Info
Asking permission to enter the property to look at birds probably isn’t worth the effort. Birders have tried many times and are rarely successful. The managers here seem especially concerned with liability issues tied to people freely walking the grounds.