Golden-Cheeked Warbler? Yes!

If you’re a bird watcher in central Texas, one of your goals is to see an endangered golden-cheeked warbler in its native habitat. Up to now, I’d never seen one, even though I’ve been places where they are found. No wonder I vowed to attend the golden-cheeked warbler walk sponsored by the State Park where I’m staying!

I was also hoping to see some new plants. This is Buckley’s oak, new leaves.

I almost missed the hike, because I didn’t realize it was on a trail we can’t get to in the motor home. Luckily, Mike and Kim, in the site next to us, also were going and gave me a ride.

The trail goes through the highest part of Meridian State Park, so there are different plants.

The hike was led by Aaron, a fellow Master Naturalist and expert on the flora and fauna of this park. It made the experience much better, because he had so much knowledge of what interesting plants, insects, and geological formations we’d see. Oh, and he knew what the warbler’s call sounds like.

Aaron shows us a plant.

There were around 15 people in the group, ranging from kids to elders. Most knew something about birds, and a couple were experts. Even the woman who runs the Waco Wetlands (where we went on a field trip once), was there. Everyone shared their knowledge, helped each other out, and was respectful.

Our fellow Master Naturalists.

Thanks to the expert guidance, I learned so much about new plants. There was native yellow clematis, bedstraw that isn’t sticky, and many varieties of galls on plants (with baby wasps or beetles in them). It was a truly beautiful mixed oak and juniper forest to explore.

A rare gall. I think.

All the while we walked and stopped to investigate things, in typical naturalist fashion Aaron was listening for the warblers. About halfway through the trail, we heard one. It sang and sang, so we all got quite familiar with its very interesting sound.

It was there somewhere.

We found the area where it was, thanks to its helpful tweeting. Imagine my surprise when I was the first one to spot it! It looked just like a photo of a golden-cheeked warbler! Glad I had the good binoculars.

A photo of a golden-cheeked warbler by the great Greg Lasley, from iNaturalist.

I would love to share my glorious photos, but all I got was these. I uploaded a sound file to ID it.

It was fun to watch it in person. The little fellow sang and sang for us, so everyone got a good view. We heard another one later, too. Eventually we moved on to looking at more interesting plants and insects. My new friend Mike found the shiny caterpillars, while a younger guy with a great camera found the ones on the leaves. I found the red bug and exciting moths.

Apparently I found a rare plant for this area, a Western Rick jasmine. It was one of many that I’d never seen before.

It’s tiny.

I was sad to see the hike ending. I learned so much about the ecosystem here at the place where east meets west in the US. Aaron was a great exemplar of what a Master Naturalist should do as they help interpret the land they’re sharing with others.

Happy hikers

Here are some more things I observed today. This was a most interesting place!

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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