Friday, December 11, 2015

West Texas, 12/5-6/15

The Nature Conservancy had an open house at their Davis Mountains ranch on Dec. 5 so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to access this wonderful piece of habitat.  After checking in I drove up through Madera Canyon to the trailhead parking area.  This smart Rufous-crowned Sparrow posed  nicely along the way.

My goal was to see if there was any interesting wintering birds and maybe add a few west Texas birds to my year list.   I found nothing really unusual but it was still a beautiful day.  Near the parking area for the trail to Tobe Springs I saw this Northern Flicker of the red-shafted variety.

An explosion of wings signaled a flock of Montezuma Quail.  They have a bad habitat of standing invisible still till they are almost underfoot so getting a photo is really tough.  I ran into the flock of five again on the way down and this fleeing female was the best photo I could muster.

Bewick's Wren was common.

Mountain Chickadee and Steller's Jay are resident in Texas in only the higher elevations of the Davis Mountains and Guadalupe Mountains.  Luckily I saw both of them in Tobe Canyon.

Canyon Wrens can be invisible but are usually betrayed by their curiosity.

After exiting the preserve, a stop at the nearby Lawrence E. Woods picnic area turned up Western Bluebirds, White-breasted Nuthatches and a nice Acorn Woodpecker.

I spent the night in Alpine and drove back up towards Fort Davis again the next morning.  A stop along Musquiz Creek was successful.  Phainopelpla was a new year bird for me.

This Belted Kingfisher waited in the frosty air for a meal.

Ruddy Ducks are not usually worth a photo but I liked the reflection on this one.

On two trips to Big Bend this year I had missed Bushtits so I was happy to find a nice flock.

A sapsucker turned out to be a surprise Yellow-bellied.

From there I drove through Fort Davis and up toward Balmorhea.  I had seen reports on eBird of Sagebrush Sparrow at the cemetery in Balmorhea so I thought I would give it a try.  I didn't find much in the cemetery but turned up my sparrow in the creosote and sage desert habitat across the north fence.  Rather than escape by flying these drab little sparrows run between clumps of vegetation like little roadrunners.

Other desert sparrows included Black-throated and Brewer's.

The lake at Balmorhea had nothing unusual.  I got my Clark's Grebe for the year and saw a Horned Grebe with the many Eareds.  It was nice to get a decent photo of Scaled Quail.

And then it was 600 miles back home.  Pretty nice little three day trip.

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