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Quickie West Texas

Day 2 Davis Mountains and Lake Balmorhea

Headed out the next morning before dawn, and by the time I got to the “starting point” it was just barely light enough to see!  Fort Davis really reminded me of Julian, and I felt a pang of homesickness (not the first one this day as the rolling golden oak savannah would remind me of central California)!  But what shocked me was the amount of traffic—it was almost constant!  I did manage to pick up a Spotted Towhee at the first stop, and subsequent stops added Rock Wren, Cardinal, Common Raven, House Finch, kinglets, Butterbutts, Flickers, and a Robin.  While stopped at Prude Ranch I was pretending to read the Historical Marker to assuage any suspicions from the locals, and when I slammed the car door, that got a pair of Acorn Woodpeckers going!

Scenes heading up SR 118

Great Montezuma Quail habitat, but they weren't singing now...

Subaru commercial...

Hazy view of the oak savannah

Despite what I heard, the park looked like it was open, but I resisted the temptation to go in and just continued to road-bird, which I didn’t have time to finish up anyway; more gorgeous stops added Scrubbies, Cassin’s Kingbirds, White-winged Doves, Bewick’s Wrens, and a flyover Brewer’s Blackbird.  Ravens played in the grasslands, and at one stop heard some funny twittering going overhead that I couldn't place, but looking at the TOS Handbook I realized I could have had longspurs and just wasn't paying attention! L  Up at the Lawrence Wood Picnic Area I hiked a little of the Madera Canyon Trail and had a nice flock that consisted mainly of Chipping Sparrows, but also had some Lincoln's, a Canyon Towhee, and a fleeing junco.  Other mountain birds included Flicker, Western Bluebird, and White-breasted Nuthatch (it kinda threw me to hear a Ladder-backed Woodpecker up in this stuff...).  A stroll around the picnic area itself added Rufous-crowned Sparrow, and at least one of the juncos showed itself to be a Pink-sided.


Lawrence Wood Picnic Area


Bewick's Wren


In winter many Chipping Sparrows resemble Clay-colored because of the streaky crown and contrasting brown ear patch against the gray collar, but the transocular line (the line extending from behind the eye and straight to the base of the bill) gives it away!


Here the transocular line is more visible.

Here a Chippie seeps while a White-breasted Nuthatch calls near the end of the recording.

I really should have started for Balmorhea at that point, but I just had to drive the whole loop, as it's such a gorgeous route!!  One stop had some action that included Black-throated Sparrows and Cactus Wrens, and at the last picnic area a Canyon Wren beeped while finishing some wonderful grilled meat from a BBQ at work

More scenes coming down the mountain...

Finally headed up to Balmorhea and made my way to the store, which was closed for lunch; I was getting ready to stick an envelope through the door saying I'd be back because I only had a $20 when the proprietor drove up, and he was very nice and polite!  He kinda showed me where the birders go, but since I only had a few minutes, I opted to scope the lake from there and then explore those roads I drove past that warned you’d get fined if you didn’t get your permit! 

I felt like I was back at Lake Hodges in San Diego:  the air was filled with the cries of both Clark's and Western Grebes!  What fun to see these beauties again!  Poking along the shore and around to the back area (which really reminded me of some of those fresh-water lakes in the Imperial Valley in California) added several trip birds including American Pipit and a Belted Kingfisher that seemed to be spotting me, but the most interesting were two Snow Geese that were scared up by a dog, a big group of Long-billed Curlews, and a flyover Sandhill Crane!  Gobs of ducks were out there as well—mostly Gadwall, but a few other dabblers as well.  On the way out had a floppy Say's Phoebe.

View of Lake Balmorhea from the store area


Spotted Sandpiper (in mid-teeter on the left and in flight on the right)


Belted Kingfisher, hovering at left and starting his nose-dive in the middle...

Puffy-rumped Pied-billed Grebe


In winter, the best way to tell Clark's Grebe from the similar Western is by the golden tone of the bill, as some birds can show a dark area around the eyes like a Western would.

Both Western and Clark's Grebes are calling in this recording:  Westerns have a syncopated song, while the Clark's gives a long single note (forgive the wind...).

Scenes of the lake and village from the back side


Say's Phoebe

That got me into Junction about an hour later than planned, but it was well worth it! 

Click here to continue to South Llano River SP, here to go back to the drive to Alpine.

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