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This weekend I made a trip to the Davis Mountains. Originally I had
planned on going from there to the Guadalupe Mountains, but I got some
of my target birds for the Guadalupes in the Davis Mountains, so I opted
for Big Bend instead.
on my way to the Davis Mountains, I took a detour off I-10 onto 290,
which makes a loop back to I-10 (I think this is all in Crockett Co.).
Had Gray Vireo in the canyon below the picnic area about 9 miles from
I-10. At Fort Lancaster Historic Site I had Curve-billed Thrasher,
Black-throated and Lark Sparrows, and Orchard Oriole.
While driving along Limpia Creek between Balmorhea and Fort Davis I
spotted a Common Black Hawk perched in a tall cottonwood. I stopped to
check it out, and watched it fly to a nest in another cottonwood. There
was at least one downy chick in the nest.
The bird blinds at Davis Mountains State Park were attracting a lot of
birds. Montezuma Quail have been coming to the bird blind on the right,
just before the campgrounds. According to the log there, they have been
seen almost daily, usually in the morning or late in the evening. On Thursday evening they were a no-show. I stopped there again at 8:30
the next morning, and a pair of Montezuma Quail were already there.
Some people approaching the blind scared them off, but they returned
briefly at 9:14.
Other birds coming to the feeders/running water at the blinds included
Acorn and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Cassin’s Kingbirds, a pair of
Hepatic Tanagers, Blue and Black-headed Grosbeaks, Canyon Towhee, Lesser
Goldfinch, Rufous-crowned, Chipping, and Black-throated Sparrows, and
Scott’s Oriole. Only hummingbird species I saw at the feeders was
Walking from the park entrance back through the campgrounds I saw
Greater Roadrunner, LOTS more Cassin’s Kingbirds, Western Wood-Pewees,
Say’s Phoebe, Western Scrub Jay, Cactus and Bewick’s Wrens, Summer
Tanager, and more Blue Grosbeaks. At night it was really quiet in the
park – didn’t hear Common Poorwill or any owls.
On the afternoon of 6/5 and early morning of 6/6 I birded the Lawrence
E. Wood Picnic Area. Birds seen there and at the beginning of the Madera
Canyon Trail included Cooper’s Hawk on a nest, Gray Flycatcher, Western
Wood-Pewee, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Cassin’s Kingbird, Plumbeous
Vireo, White-breasted Nuthatch, Western Bluebird, Grace’s Warbler,
Hepatic Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Chipping Sparrow.
Driving 118 from Davis Mountains State Park toward Mt. Locke, where the
road starts a winding ascend through patches of brush with flowering
agaves, I had Scott’s Oriole and Rufous-crowned and Black-chinned
Sparrows. Farther upslope, in a more wooded area, I saw a Hepatic
Tanager singing alongside the road.
On the afternoon of 6/6 I hiked the Pinnacles Trail up to Boot Canyon in
the Chisos. The ascent to the trail summit was a three-hour ordeal (not
fun, felt like I was gonna have heat stroke). Did see Bushtit on the
way up, and had a brief look at a Zone-tailed Hawk from the trail’s
summit. Spent the night in Boot Canyon. Right at dusk the Mexican
Whip-poor-wills started calling...everywhere...at times there were 3 or 4
going simultaneously. Joined a group of birders from Kingsville for
owling, and in about an hour and a half we managed to see
Whip-poor-will, Western Screech-Owl, and Flammulated Owl. Later I heard a
pair of Western Screech-Owls dueting near my campsite, and the Whips
were still calling – sometimes sounding like they were only a stone’s
throw from my tent - when I finally fell asleep.
On the morning of 6/7, after the Whips finally shut up, I hiked the
Juniper Canyon Trail from Boot Springs to the South Rim. The very orange
probable Hepatic x Western Tanager was singing right above Boot
Springs, with a pair of Hepatic Tanagers nearby. Along the Juniper
Canyon Trail I had 4 Band-tailed Pigeons, Blue-throated and Broad-tailed
Hummingbirds, Cordilleran Flycatcher, about a half dozen Colima
Warblers, and an adult Painted Redstart with 3-4 recently fledged young
(saw another redstart at Boot Springs, and one was heard singing down by
the campgrounds). Had a Crissal Thrasher where the Juniper Canyon Trail
meets the South Rim Trail.
Returned to Chisos Basin via Laguna Meadows – another grueling ordeal,
but at least this time it was mostly downhill. Had another Hepatic
Tanager down the trail, which made a total of 8 or 8.5 Hepatics for the
trip, depending on how you count that weird hybrid at Boot Springs.
The group from Kingsville told me that they had Lucifer and
Blue-throated Hummingbirds the day before near the water treatment plant
below the Chisos Basin Campground. After recovering from the the long
hike down to the Chisos Basin I went to check it out. There is a little
drainage lined with reeds below the water treatment plant, and I saw a
male Black-chinned and female Lucifer coming to the yellow flowers of
the tree tobacco growing along this drainage. Other birds I saw there
included a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and male Indigo Bunting.
In the desert scrub around the ranger station at Panther Junction I had Verdins, Black-tailed Gnatcatchers, and Pyrrhuloxias.
On Highway 385, about 6.8 miles north of Marathon, I found Susan Foster
and her birding posse scoping a prairie dog town for Burrowing Owl.
Lucky for me they were there when I drove by, because the approximate
mileage I had to this site was incorrect - if I hadn’t seen them on the
side of the road I would have driven right past the spot. Got to see the
owl through their scope, and a little farther north, in the same
prairie dog town, I had a pair of Scaled Quail. Farther north there were
Cassin’s Sparrows singing in the grassland, and at about 22 miles from
Marathon I saw a male Bronzed Cowbird on the roadside.
Special thanks to Sheridan Coffey for directions to some of my target
birds, and to the birders from Kingsville (wish I could remember the
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