Most recently, Heidi and I were out at the Davis Mountains Preserve (DMP, The Nature Conservancy of Texas) aiding a very cool moth survey. That can be fun enough.
Then this guy twitters a double-tap...triple, and perches...often... but not for long, all the while gnat-catching:
Look out. Where did it go?
There it is, at the bottom left corner:
|White-eared Hummingbird (Hylocharis leucotis)|
Regarding the TBRC, if I am reading the Texas Review Species List correctly this would be the 34th documented White-eared Hummingbird for the state of Texas.
Rich Kostecke of The Nature Conservancy just posted, on TXBirds List-serve, a comprehensive Spring Review of the DMP and also alluded to the up-coming Open Weekend in mid-July.
The following is a copy-and-paste of this evening's post. It is LONG but worth the read. Study up :-)
Dated Thu, 4 Jul 2013....
With field work, holiday travel and the like, I have been incredibly tardy in posting much of anything this year and this is no exception. However, I figured I should post a report on the birds we have been seeing at The Nature Conservancy's Davis Mountains Preserve (Jeff Davis Co.) ahead of the open weekend in mid-July (12th-14th if I recall correctly), especially since last I heard several birders were considering the trip out there. I also figured I'd comment on the Long-eared Owls we found nesting on the preserve. First some set-up. We have been conducting bird surveys on the preserve during May and June during the last couple of years (2012 and 2013) to assess the impacts of both the 2011-2012 wildfires and the on-going drought on the bird community. This is a rare instance when we actually have data prior to the impacts with which to make comparisons. I did a preliminary write-up on the project in the last Texas Birds Annual. Anyway, as some have noted, beetles, drought, and wildfire have had a significant impact on the forest/woodland habitat in the Davis Mountains. The system has definitely been impacted and changed, perhaps for good. If the system has not been nudged onto a different ecological trajectory, we are certainly near that tipping point if drought continues and additional wildfires occur. Large parts of the range could transform from pine forest and pinyon-juniper woodland into a chaparral-type community dominated by oaks and other hardwoods and/or grassland. In many areas, the forest is more open and more exposed. That may be a mixed blessing. Historically (prior to the 1930s), the natural ecological condition of the forest was likely more open with fewer trees. Perhaps the biggest factor limiting recovery right now is precipitation. Luckily, the area seems to be experiencing monsoon conditions a bit earlier than usual. Hopefully these monsoon rains will not only start early, but go late to help alleviate some of the precipitation deficit. If we get some good precipitation, the surviving trees should do alright and with more resources available to them due to reduced competition may actually be able to withstand beetles and drought better. Anyway, so while there have been some significant changes in the mountains, not all is lost. While numbers may have shifted in relation to environmental conditions, pretty much all the expected species are still present. And, while we may not be finding as many exciting vagrants as in the past, there is still the potential to turn up some surprises. The Long-eared Owls are a good example of that. In regards to the owls, a group of us found them in the course of conducting the aforementioned, formal bird surveys on the preserve. We kept things quiet for several reasons. First and foremost, we wanted to reduce disturbance and the potential for nest abandonment. This is a pretty rare and special occurrence, after all. Both nests were located in high traffic areas. The pass-through traffic did not seem to bother them, but after we discovered the nests they were definitely very aware of our presence we when we were looking at them (so, having lots of people stop to gawk at them may not have been a good thing for nest success over the longer term). Second, the owls were not going to be chaseable. The upcoming open weekend is the first public access since the owls were discovered. At this point, as of 6/22, the nests are deserted. We assume that all of the young have fledged. However, keep your eyes peeled for them from just below the mouth of Wolf Den Canyon up to the pipe gates at the end of the Madera Canyon Road as, though they may scatter somewhat after fledging, they may still be in the general vicinity. Please, absolutely no use of tapes or recordings to draw them in!!! Long-eared Owls are not particularly responsive to play back, anyway. Anyway, the mountains are showing well after the recent rains. Everything has greened up, the creek is flowing again, and the tanks have filled. With that said, for those who will be visiting on the open weekend, the roads are a bit more interesting than they have been. High clearance is usually adequate for Madera Canyon Road, but if the rains continue, there may be some spots where 4WD could be needed. High clearance will definitely be needed for the handful of low water crossings on Madera Canyon Road. Upon arrival at the preserve, you will have to check in with preserve staff and/or volunteers. They can provide updated info on road conditions. Also, there may be some closures of certain trails (Tobe Canyon) to protect the resource. Again, check in with preserve staff and/or volunteers for details. Some good birds have been seen in Tobe Canyon (listed below) and a White-eared Hummingbird was recently seen in the canyon, but there are a few other places with equal birding potential. If Tobe Canyon is closed off, perhaps the best and easiest alternative would be the Limpia Chute Trail. Pine Peak can also be good. The bird communities for all of those sites are actually pretty similar. Remember, hiking is involved in getting to all of these sites (4-6 miles round-trip). The recent rains have also resulted in a tremendous hatch of mosquitoes. Finally, if you do bird the preserve, we would appreciate reports on what you observed. Now the recent bird sightings and commentary of some species that are likely to targets for folks. 'Mexican' Mallard 2 (pair) on Madera Creek 6/24, but others were seeing them throughout 6/23-6/25; responding to the sudden availability of water in the creek and tanks. Montezuma Quail 1 heard near Jones Tank on 6/24; other birds heard calling along Jones Tank Road/Trail Wild Turkey 5-7/day Turkey Vulture 4-8/day Cooper's Hawk 1-5/day; several active nests (at least 1 with nestlings) throughout Madera Canyon, Right Hand Canyon, and Tobe Gap Road Common Black-hawk 1 Madera Canyon Road on 6/25 (somewhat sparse this year? Nesting habitat may have really taken a hit from the fires and drought) Zone-tailed Hawk 1 over Tobe Canyon on 6/25, but recent reports (fly-overs) from the lower parts of Madera Canyon on the Preserve and Jones Tank Road/Trail area Red-tailed Hawk 0-2/day White-winged Dove 1-8/day Mourning Dove 9-26/day Western Screech-owl 0-2/day (throughout Madera Canyon) Elf Owl 1 heard on 6/23 from the McIvor Conservation Center or MCC (historically, they have been found in the LE Wood picnic area) Common Nighthawk 1 on 6/23 Common Poorwill 1-5/night (several around the MCC and cabin) Mexican Whip-poor-will 1 female with chick on 6/24 (usually fairly reliably found in the upper parts of Madera Canyon; also recently found in Pine Canyon and last year I had them in Tobe Canyon) White-throated Swift 0-20/day (can be heard/seen overhead just about anywhere, but I have had best luck with them in the pinnacles above Tobe Spring and the rock outcroppings and walls around Mount Livermore) Magnificent Hummingbird - none seen this trip, but I have recently had 1 at Tobe Spring, which might be the most accessible spot to try for the species Black-chinned Hummingbird 0-6/day Broad-tailed Hummingbird 2-17/day (most up Madera Canyon and in the higher country) Acorn Woodpecker 2-3/day Ladder-backed Woodpecker 1-5/day Northern Flicker 1 on 6/24 American Kestrel 0-3/day (pair have nested around the buildings just west, up-canyon, of the MCC and have successfully fledged young this year) Peregrine Falcon 0-3/day (pair have successfully fledged 3 young from a nest in the pinnacles in upper Tobe Canyon; they are all very vocal right now) Western Wood-pewee 8-13/day Gray Flycatcher 1-10/day (throughout Madera Canyon - the default empid during the breeding season) Cordilleran Flycatcher 0-4/day (high country and mesic canyons) Buff-breasted Flycatcher - none seen this trip, 1 was seen in late May in lower Wolf Den Canyon and may still be around, but is likely moving around extensively and is likely to be extremely difficult to locate) Black Phoebe 1 on 6/24 at the tank by the cabin; responding to the recent availability of water in the creek and tanks Say's Phoebe 1-3/day Dusky-capped Flycatcher 0-1/day (Tobe Canyon, but can be found at other sites - Bridge Gap/Limpia Chute Trail, Pine Peak, etc.) Ash-throated Flycatcher 7-24/day Cassin's Kingbird 5-10/day Plumbeous Vireo 5-8/day Hutton's Vireo 1-4/day Stellar's Jay 1+ on 6/25 (the higher you are, the better shot you have at them; spots like Tobe Canyon the canyon heads below Mt. Livermore, the Limpia Chute Trail, Pine Peak) Western Scrub-jay 1-4/day Common Raven 1-4/day Violet-green Swallow 0-2/day Barn Swallow 0-2/day Mountain Chickadee 1-7/day (can be found along Madera Canyon up-canyon from the facilities, Right Hand Canyon Road, and the higher country) Black-crested Titmouse 2-11/day Bushtit 2-6/day White-breasted Nuthatch 7-10/day Canyon Wren 2-6/day House Wren 0-2/day (best shot is the higher country) Bewick's Wren 2-12/day Western Bluebird 0-2/day (best shot is in lower Madera Canyon) Hermit Thrush 1 on 6/25 upper Tobe Canyon Northern Mockingbird 0-1/day Orange-crowned Warbler 1 on 6/25 upper Tobe Canyon Colima Warbler 1 on 6/24 upper Tobe Canyon (looked good for a pure Colima, though note that a hybrid swarm of Colima x Virginia's warblers are suspected in the mountains; rare but can stumble across any of the Colimoid-type warblers in any of the high country areas) Virginia's Warbler 0-2/day upper Tobe Canyon and other highland areas Grace's Warbler 2-4 day (mostly upper Madera Canyon, Tobe Gap Road, Tobe Canyon, Limpia Chute Trail, and other highland areas) Painted Redstart - Maybe once a breeder, but seemingly more of a fall migrant in recent years with birds beginning to show up in August Spotted Towhee 10-25/day Rufous-crowned Sparrow 1-4/day Canyon Towhee 0-2/day Chipping Sparrow 7-13/day Black-chinned Sparrow 2-6/day Lark Sparrow 0-3/day Hepatic Tanager 1-15/day Western Tanager 0-4/day Black-headed Grosbeak 4-6/day Blue Grosbeak 1-4/day Indigo Bunting 1-2 males on territory in Tobe Canyon on 6/24 and 6/25 'Lilian's' Eastern Meadowlark 1-2/day (in the meadow by the MCC) Brown-headed Cowbird 1-3/day Scott's Oriole 0-1/day Lesser Goldfinch 2-13/day Richard Kostecke, Ph.D. The Nature Conservancy 318 Congress Ave., Austin, Texas 78701