Sunday, August 14, 2016

Davis Mountains Preserve, 8/12/16

This past weekend I made a last second decision to drive up to the Davis Mountains for the Nature Conservancy's Davis Mountains Preserve open weekend.  Last year at this time a few White-eared Hummingbirds, a species I've never seen in Texas,  were present up in Tobe Canyon.  Although I had heard no reports of the species from this summer, I saw no reason why they would not return to the same area.

After spending Thursday night in Alpine, I was at the gate of the Preserve at 8 AM.  All of this part of the Trans-Pecos was really green and rain was in the forecast for this weekend as well.  But the sky was clear as they opened the gate and I drove up to the McIvor center to register.  Also arriving early were Denis Cook and Greg Lavaty who had made an equally long drive from Houston.  This being their first visit to the Preserve, I was happy to let them follow me up Madera Canyon to the Tobe Canyon trailhead.   I resisted the urge to stop and check out the dozens of Chipping Sparrows that flushed along the roadside, but when we reached the large pines that stand by the steep hillside a little before the trailhead I could hold back no more.  We stopped and I pished and the first bird to come in was a surprise Tropical Parula.  This one has the eye arcs present on most Texas birds.  There's probably some Northern Parula in this bird's ancestry.

Also seen at this stop were Western Wood-Pewee, Gray Flycatcher, Plumbeous Vireo, Lesser Goldfinch and lots of Chipping Sparrows.  We drove on up to the trailhead and followed the sign that pointed toward Tobe Canyon.  More Chippies flushed from the trail and among them were a few young Black-chinned Sparrows.

The second warbler to show up on the day was this Grace's Warbler.  They love the pines.  We also saw Hepatic Tanager, Hutton's Vireo and White-breasted Nuthatch in the area.

A real surprise were the many young Painted Bunting that accompanied the flocks of Chipping Sparrows.

It's good to learn something new and I did on this trip.  The species of red tubular flowers that were attended by swarms of mostly Selasphorus hummingbirds was not a Penstemon or Salvia as I had thought.  It is called Scarlet Gilia  Ipomopsis aggregata.

After a while we reached the large opening with a single tall pine and I remembered this was my rest spot and the narrow trail up to Tobe Spring starts here.  We followed the faint overgrown trail that had seen little use since last year's White-eared Hummingbirds.   We carefully listed as we walked along for the call of Montezuma Quail, but they were quiet.  I wonder if they are nesting now during the fall monsoon season. We reached a stone cairn that I thought might have been a marker for White-ears but they weren't around.  At this point, the clouds were starting to assemble and Dennis and Greg decided they had better start down before the storm started.  But we were just getting to the good part of the trail so there was no was I was quitting at this point.  So I said goodby to them and just a short way up the trail I was looking at my first Mountain Chickadee for the year.

It was at this point where I had the good fortune to meet Chris Runk.  Chris was just voted onto the Texas Bird Records Committee this past weekend and I was happy to finally put a face with the name.  I was even happier to find that he was scouting for next day's Davis Mountains Preserve bird walk and that he had just relocated the White-eared Hummingbirds.   I guess the last time I had seen this species was in 2006 when Honey and I made a trip to Chiapas.  Chris took me to the spot which was off the trail on the hill side.  In a few minutes I was looking at my first White-eared Hummingbird for Texas.

Chris also told me he had seen several Virginia's Warblers and I managed a glimpse of one as I hiked up to the spring.  Also saw a flyby Steller's Jay.  I had them up here last year when I visited in December.  The next bird to pop up was an early MacGillivray's Warbler.

Then at the spring were a couple of mottley young Painted Redstarts.  I bet they nested up here this year.  I was glad to see them as I did not do the hike up to Boot Springs this year.

Thunder was starting to rumble overhead so I knew it was time to make my way back to the car.  I met birders on the way up and told them about the hummers.  I was glad to be on my way down and not up as a few drops of rains started to fall.  Made it back to the McIvor Center and though it ws dripping, I had to stay a bit with the amazing bank of nineteen hummingbird feeders.  Among the common Black-chinned and Rufous Hummingbirds were smaller numbers of Broad-tailed, Lucifer and my favorite, Calliope Hummingbirds.

I heard there were several Lucifers present but I only got a poor shot of this young male.

There were lots of Black-chinned and Rufous Hummers.  I know there were Broad-tails also but I can't find any in my photos.

The cold front was blowing in and it just got colder and wetter so I headed back to Alpine.  Saturday morning was even wetter so I gave in and just headed back home with a White-eared Hummingbird twitch in my pocket.  I hope Sunday was nice for the people that made the long drive out there.

No comments: