Sunday, September 5, 2010

Birding Marathon, TX

This is a brief overview of birding locations within a 15 minute drive of Marathon- as a general rule, each location should be given as much time as possible, with consideration to weather conditions and local activities (Gage Gardens, Marathon Motel and Post Park occasionally host events).

Click here for the 'bird conversion chart' of local species.

Listed in distance from the center of town (Hwy 90/Ave. D intersection):

Hwy 385 Prairie Dog Town (15 mins, 10 miles)
Post Park (10 mins, 5 miles)
Marathon Cemetery (~1/2 mile)
Top Street (~1/2 mile)
Marathon Motel Grounds (~1/8 mile)
Gage Gardens (~3 blocks)


Hwy 385 Prairie Dog Town
Located 10 miles north of the 385/Hwy 90 intersection, unmarked gravel pullout on both sides of the road.

Drive or walk the area and be alert to prairie dog burrows - they come right up to the road!

Look for Ferruginous Hawks, Golden Eagles, longspurs and mixed sparrow flocks in winter, Burrowing Owls in summer and various raptors year round.

Hazards: sun, wind, cold, heat, prairie dog holes.


Post Park
Located 5 miles south of Hwy 90 on Ave. D/Post Road - it's the main intersection in Marathon - stay left at the fork/dead end.

Walk the perimeter, the cottonwood/pecan grove, and along the pond.

Look for thrashers, wrens, towhees, and arid habitat loving sparrows along the fence line (note: the park is surrounded by private property, do NOT trespass!). Scan the pecan/cottonwood groves for owls, warblers, vireos and tanagers (latter two in summer only). Check the pond for Marsh Wrens, Lincoln's Sparrows and rails.

Hazards: sun, wind, cold, heat, occasional off-leash dogs.
Perks: bathrooms!


Marathon Cemetery
Located on the south side of Marathon, take Ave. D/Post Road just past the edge of town - there should be signs indicating the entrance road on the left.

Drive or walk the grounds slowly, but avoid the NW corner if driving due to narrow plantings and fence lines.

Look for Say's Phoebe, Black-throated Sparrows, meadowlarks and raptors year round, both nighthawks, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers in summer.

Hazards: sun, wind, cold, heat, burials.


"Top Street"
Located at the eastern end of North 8th Street (only a few blocks long), the road curves north and becomes an unpaved ranch road that dead ends after a few miles. The 'dead end' is a private ranch gate - DO NOT ENTER.

Drive or walk the road and listen for calling birds (as well as ranch trucks!) wear bright clothing in the evenings.

Look for Black-throated Sparrows, Cactus Wrens, Pyrrhuloxias, raptors year round. Note flocks of Lark Buntings and Brewer's Sparrows in winter, Cassin's Sparrows and both nighthawks in summer.

Hazards: sun, wind, cold, heat, ranch trucks, uneven terrain (4WD not required though).


Marathon Motel Grounds
Located on the very western edge of town, north of Hwy 90. (~1/8 mile west of Ave. D)
*Please tell office staff that you are birding!

Walk the courtyard and western fence line/pond area for best diversity.

Look for Canyon Towhees, Curve-billed Thrashers and Cactus Wrens year round, orioles, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Western Kingbirds in summer. Cave Swallows nest on the property along with Barn and Cliff Swallows in summer.

Hazards: sun, wind, cold, heat.
Perks: public bathrooms located near coin-operated washing machines.


Gage Gardens
Located one block south and ~three blocks east of Hwy 90/Ave D intersection.

Walk the paths or sit on benches that face feeders and/or water for good concentrations of birds. Be sure to check the back meadow as well (there's a bridge that connects it to the rest of the gardens).

Look for an abundance of diverse species year round. Waterfowl tend to lurk on the pond in the far east corner of the meadow and large flocks of wintering sparrows can be found on the back side of the gardens. Summer brings orioles and hummingbirds in addition to year-round residents.

Hazards: sun, wind, cold, heat, the paths are made of crushed glass - open shoes may result in cuts!
Perks: bathrooms are sometimes open!

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