|Campsite amid prairie spiderworts|
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Justin and I first visited Palmetto State Park in August 1995 for a dayhike. The most striking aspect of the park is its lush plant life. Dwarf palmettos, clinging vines, spiderworts, and mosses provide brilliant splashes of color beneath a dense forest canopy.
On the drive from San Antonio to Gonzales, Justin and I saw six red-tailed hawks perched in trees along the roadside. We arrived at the park by 2 PM and set up camp at site #34 along the San Marcos River. Initial bird observations from our site included Northern mockingbird, Northern cardinal, American crow, black-capped chickadee, and turkey vulture. After some investigating, we discovered a yellow-bellied sapsucker working furiously on a limb nearby. With our campsite set for the day, we began exploring the park. A crested caracara flew over us at the oxbow lake, and several mallard ducks waddled up for a visit.
While driving to the Palmetto Trailhead, we glimpsed a red-shouldered hawk close-up. On the Palmetto Trail, we found tufted titmouse, green anole, red-bellied woodpecker, and Carolina wren. We also marvelled at the large vulture roost near the artesian well.
Back at the campsite for sunset (6:40 PM), the wildlife kept us on our toes. Shortly after an eastern cottontail streaked by, we heard coyotes howling and the unmistakable and eerie "laughing" call of the barred owl. At dusk, we observed a great blue heron as it landed high in a tree, squawked, and then flew off as quickly as it had arrived. Nightfall brought the barred owls even closer to our campsite, keeping us both awake--we did not want to miss a single call from these beautiful creatures.
Saturday morning brought more sunlight and a pair of wood ducks flying from tree to tree in the campground. Bushtit, tufted titmouse, neotropic cormorant, red-bellied woodpecker, yellow-bellied sapsucker, Northern cardinal, and numerous black vultures rounded out our birding for the day. We packed up our gear invigorated by the sights and sounds of the park. Owl fans that we are, we will definitely be returning to this park.