The birding community was buzzing over spring break at the sighting of a Golden-cheeked Warbler at Phil Hardberger Park.
The endangered bird was seen in a Cedar Elm tree on the Blanco Road side of the park. City of San Antonio Park Naturalist Wendy Leonard spent an hour and a half tracking the Warbler. She also contacted photographer Lora Render, who took the excellent photos below. “Crazy and exciting!” said Leonard in an email to colleagues.
According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, Golden-cheeked warblers come to Texas in March from Mexico and Central America to nest and raise their young. They nest in tall Ashe-juniper and oak woodlands in ravines and canyons, where they eat insects and spiders found on the leaves and bark and use long strips of cedar bark and spider webs to build their nests. Females lay 3-4 eggs during nesting season before migrating south for the winter.
Of the nearly 360 bird species that breed in Texas, the Golden-cheeked Warbler is the only one that nests exclusively in Texas. Golden-cheeked warblers are endangered because many tall juniper and oak woodlands have been cleared to build houses, roads, and stores.
Leonard’s Golden-cheeked Warbler sighting may have been the first at Phil Hardberger Park. Says local historian Patsy Kuentz, “I have been a part of the monthly bird survey at Hardberger for more than two years that has had no such sightings. The group was actively surveying the park for a year or so before we started doing the survey with them, and the group's survey list doesn't include any Golden-cheeked Warblers. So glad that great birder Wendy Leonard found it!”
Kuentz is currently participating in a Golden-Cheeked Warbler survey as part of an effort to get several other natural areas and parks in the area designated as an Audubon Society IBA (Important Birding Area). Perhaps Phil Hardberger Park will be included next year!