Friday, May 13, 2016

West Texas, 5/5-8/16 Part II

After a good night's sleep I checked out Kokernot Park in Alpine and picked up some Pine Siskins and headed north out of town where I soon found my first Cassin's Kingbird.

The drive up TX 118 to the Davis Mountains was beautiful as always.  A check of the pond on Musquiz Creek turned up a few ducks and a surprise Least Grebe.  It's a Jeff Davis County first for this south Texas specialty according to eBird.

A stop at the rest area a couple of miles up the road turned up a pair of Common Black Hawks.

And a Say's Phoebe.

Next stop Davis Mountains State Park and the popular bird feeding station.  This has to be one of the better designed feeding station I have ever seen.  And one of the busiest.  Here are some of the customers starting with a Scrub Jay.

Rufous-crowned Sparrow

House Finch

Also present was Canyon Towhee, Black-headed Grosbeak, Scott's Oriole, Summer Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Greater Roadrunner, Lesser Goldfinch and lots of Pine Siskins.

My favorite was the Acorn Woodpecker.  I got my best photos ever.

It was afternoon now and the hoped for Montezuma Quail were proving to be "no shows" so it was time to move on.  A run up to the McDonald Observatory was interesting but turned up few birds.  I was hoping for Western Bluebirds there and along the highway nearby but no luck until  I reached the Lawrence E Wood picnic area where a beauty posed for me.

A Gray Flycatcher hawked for insects nearby.

A couple was leaving when I arrived and told me of a vireo they had heard singing and concluded it was a Gray Vireo after listening to the song on their phone.  I suggested the possibility of Plumbeous Vireo and they were steadfast in their identification.  They also mentioned that this was a site for Gray Vireo according to eBird.  Well I've never seen a Gray Vireo here and as I suspected when I soon found the singing vireo it was indeed a Plumbeous Vireo. 

Also seen at the picnic area were Western Wood-Pewees, White-breasted Nuthatch and Bushtits.  Dinner time was approaching so I drove back towards Fort Davis and some good Mexican food.  What to do now?  It was late but there was still a couple of hours of light so how about a drive up to Lake Balmorhea?  I stopped at the state park where I hoped to camp and was told it was full so I ran over to the lake.  The wind was blowing hard, a boat was speeding around the lake, people were camping along the shores and splashing in the water and the birds were all gone.  Well, that didn't work out.  So I drove over to Fort Stockton for the night.

Well my wife will be happy if I get home a day early but I have one more stop on the way.  The little stretch of TX 290 west of Ozona runs though perfect habitat for Gray Vireo and a famous picnic area overlook where they are often seen.  I exited I-10 at Sheffield onto TX 290 and crossed the Pecos River into Crockett County.  Nothing along the river but plenty of Painted Buntings, Bell's Vireos and Yellow-breasted chats as I dove towards the rocky juniper covered hills that harbored my quarry.  The highway climbed through perfect Gray Vireo habitat of junipers and mesquite so I stopped and listened.  I could not hear any but a Black-capped Vireo sang nearby.

It didn't take long till a Gray Vireo soon started to sing and was easy to track down.

At the picnic area on the top of the hill were Verdin, Scott's Oriole, Black-throated Sparrow and a surprise Phainopelpla which I had missed on this trip.  A stop at the cemetery in Ozona proved very birdy but nothing in the way of any interesting migrants.  After that I called it quits and headed for home.

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