Every spring, as sure as the sun warms the cedars and the birds flock back from Mexico, Lee Clauser leads a stealth group of intense adults dressed in khakis and boots to the edge of a wild thicket near his house in north central Texas.
They creep into the brush, quietly unloading their weapons of mass observation.
Putting binoculars to eyes, they look, and listen, for the brilliant Golden-cheeked warbler, and for the reclusive Black-capped vireo. Both songbirds are listed as endangered in the United States, their nesting grounds having been narrowed to a strip of Texas Hill Country that supplies just the right shrubbery and old-growth cedars. The birders, who come from Fort Worth, Dallas, New England, the Pacific Northwest and beyond, know that catching a glimpse of one of these delicate creatures is a rare treat.
“People have come from Europe to see those birds, both species. For birders all over the world, it’s a huge deal,” says Clauser, a retired banker and life-long bird rescue and rehabilitation expert.