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West Texas Adventure

Part 2a:  Davis Mountains State Park

Got up early and on the road well before dawn, hearing Barn Swallows chattering on the way to the car!  Stopped at a picnic area on the way up, hoping for some night birds, but it was quite breezy and the day birds were tuning up already (notably Western Kingbird and Summer Tanager), so I shot that idea and headed straight for the point on SR 17 20 miles north of Fort Davis.   

Barn Swallows chattering around the Best Western in Alpine pre-dawn

Actually, I think the book has it wrong, as Balmorhea is only 37 miles north of Fort Davis (not the 70 the book says), and I was getting the impression that Wild Rose Pass was the start of the good birding area, which was only about 11 miles north of Fort Davis, but we went the full 20 just for the heckuvit, and I think that turned out to be a good choice, as we covered a lot of grassland by stopping every mile, and not only did I pick up Cassin’s Sparrow and a pretty Painted Bunting, but at one stop was a churring Montezuma Quail!  So regardless of whether I see the fat little buggers or not, I at least have it for the trip!  I also had a Scaled Quail near there, so that was great.

Cassin’s Sparrow country along SR 17

More roadside scenes...

These were all taken pre-dawn, hence the washed out quality…

   

Bridge that housed Cliff Swallows, with tarantula at right.

The road had the usual desert-grassland fare:  Black-throated and Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Cactus Wrens, Ash-throated Flycatchers (I swore I heard a Brown-crested, but they evidently don’t occur here), Canyon Towhees, Blue Grosbeaks, Common Ravens, and a Common Nighthawk while it was still dusky.  Heard a Pyrrhuloxia doing its “quail chatter” on the fly, and taking the recommended stops at the bridges yielded Cliff Swallows.  At the pass where the rocks were, picked up both Rock and Canyon Wrens, and where the cottonwoods started showing up I added noisy Cassin’s Kingbirds, a singing Bell’s Vireo, a couple of titmice chasing each other, and a young Orchard Oriole trying out his song!  Alas, no Black Hawks, but I gave it the good ol’ college try (aside from the fact that there aren’t a whole lot of places where you can pull over on those roads)!  I even had a Mexican Duck fly by at one stop at a picnic area!

 

Wild Rose Pass

First of the cottonwoods, home of the Common Black Hawk (usually…)

More roadside scenes...

The picnic areas were recommended stops

More cottonwoods along Limpia Creek

Getting into the craggy stuff

 

More scenes...

   

Ash-throated Flycatchers were more conspicuous than the cottonwood-loving Common Black Hawks!

More roadside scenes...

Quaint ranch

Nice back yard!

Continuing on...

Perfect place for a Black Hawk!

Headed in to the state park where I asked the nice ranger where the quail feeding area was, and it was still where it always was: at the camp host’s spot!  I hiked a little of the Headquarters Trail, but it was pretty rocky with nothing but a few Cactus Wrens to show for it, so I headed back, shooting a cooperative Canyon Towhee at the feeder at the headquarters!  Pulled in to the camp host’s spot, not quite sure where I should be parking, and as I was walking towards the viewing area the hostess herself greeted me from her truck that was parked there!  She said to go ahead and park where she was, as she was leaving, and the guys from Indian Lodge apparently barrel in to the area I was presently parked without looking (I was at the storage area, and the spot was rather hidden).  So after she basically told me that the quail had minds of their own and could show up any stupid time they pleased (she was getting ready to post a sign saying as much), she took off, I moved Bippy, then sat at the viewing area for 15.  She said the quail had been in at nine, and it was ten now, so I figured they wouldn’t be coming back any time soon, but still enjoyed fighting White-winged Doves and Black-chinned Hummers, along with Lesser Goldfinches and House Finches.  I was getting ready to leave when the Black-headed Grosbeak wheeled in for a turn at the PB feeder!

Information kiosk at the headquarters

Headquarters Trail

   

White-winged Dove along the trail and vultures along the ridge.

   

Tree-studded hillside is great Montezuma Quail habitat!

   

Feeder area near the park host’s spot, where Montezuma Quail often come down to play, but Canyon Towhees (left) are more likely!

             

More "usual suspects" include Black-chinned Hummingbirds (female at left).   

   

Black-headed Grosbeak chows down on PB   

         

At the park host’s place, Lesser Goldfinches  have their heads crammed in the seed feeders!  Young males have green backs.

After that I poked around Indian Lodge and the nearby roads, but the trails all looked pretty steep (sure don’t remember that last time), so I crawled through the lovely campground and found a couple of young Blue Grosbeaks in the creek (one was getting his “manly” plumage already)!  I eventually wound up at the other visitor’s center that also had a viewing area, so a 15 minute sit there brought in more of the same, plus a Lark Sparrow.  It was amusing watching a fully-grown Lesser Goldfinch still trying to be fed by Daddy, as Daddy kept hopping around the bird feeder trying to hide and Baby would just keep following him around, fluttering and cheeping!

     

Creek Crossing in the campground

   

Young Blue Grosbeaks (female left, male right)

Campground

Picnic area

   

Feeder area along Skyline Drive

       

House Finches (juvie in center)

   

Black-headed Grosbeaks

   

White-winged Dove considers raiding the feeders...    (aggression call)

   

“Baby” Lesser Goldfinch chases daddy around the feeder!

   

Lark Sparrow (left) and House Sparrow (right), totally unrelated!

The butterfly garden had several things in bloom, but no butterflies to speak of except a couple of Sleepy Oranges.  I checked out the overlooks along Skyline Drive and enjoyed the views, but there wasn’t much bird-wise.  I was getting in the car to leave when a huge Black Swallowtail batted by, along with something else that looked suspicious, but I couldn’t refind it.

 

Butterfly garden with "Bippy"

   

Sleepy Oranges

Scenes along Skyline Drive

View of Indian Lodge

Overview of the park

   

More scenes

   

Scenes around the overlook

   

Click here to continue on the Scenic Loop, or here to return to the drive out...

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