Golden-cheeked warblers have a safe space near Leander. Baker Sanctuary, a 714-acre preserve maintained by the nonprofit Travis Audubon Society, is home to the endangered species. The central Texas bird was named an endangered species in 1990, and Baker Sanctuary is the first preserve dedicated to its well-being.
There is no accurate estimate for the bird population, said land manager Christopher Murray, but the sanctuary is trying to change that by tagging every golden-cheeked warbler male. The sanctuary does this in partnership with the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, which is where the sanctuary sits.
For the past eight years, Murray said thousands of bands have been placed on golden-cheeked warblers. Bird watchers in southern Mexico then look for the bands to track migration patterns, but so far only one band has been seen. Murray hopes the bands can provide clues to the species’ population and migration.
“It’s like this huge puzzle,” he said. “It doesn’t really have a good answer.”
Murray and the Audubon Society protect the bird habitat through the removal of non-native, invasive species and by protecting the ashe juniper and Spanish oak trees where the birds make their homes. He builds metal cages around the trees to keep deer away. There are over 200 cages across the sanctuary.
Travis Audubon Society began the sanctuary in 1966 with a 96-acre purchase. Land donations from the Baker family, which the sanctuary is named for, and two other families make up the sanctuary today. The Travis Audubon maintains the sanctuary and three other sanctuaries across central Texas.
The sanctuary also includes the Baker family’s cabin and cemetery, 8 miles of hilly trails and chimney swift bird habitats.
Only Travis Audubon Society members can access the park, which is open from sunrise to sunset. But volunteer restoration days invite the community to clean and preserve the sanctuary.
An education center was added in 2007 so spring youth camps, school trips and groups can learn about the golden-cheeked warbler and the sanctuary.
Future plans for the sanctuary are to renovate the Baker cabin and to continue maintaining a long-term habitat for golden-cheeked warblers.
“You’re essentially gardening for a forest,” Murray said. “You’re not gonna see results right away.”
Baker Sanctuary and Travis Audubon Society
12221 Lime Creek Road, Leander
Hours: sunrise-sunset for Travis Audubon Society members