22 May 2017
Black Gap Wildlife Management Area, Brewster Co.
Davis Mountains State Park, Jeff Davis Co.
**All italicized text copied from my field notebook. Bold text added to further discussion or add clarification. Underlined text is an active link**
“Made it to Black Gap Road (FM 2627) around midnight after a half day of driving through rain storms of varying intensity. Temperature too cool for reptiles. Erin and I performed an impromptu road-cruise survey along the first 5 miles of Black Gap Road and counted:
- 45 Anaxyrus speciosus (Texas Toad)
- 3 Anaxyrus punctatus (Red-spotted Toad)
- 4 Scaphipus couchii (Couch’s Spadefoot)
- 3 unidentified anuran (frog or toad) sp.
Camped at Black Gap HQ campground. Simple; backed bed of truck below shade structure and bedded down in the bed of the truck. Great-horned Owl calling.
Up at 05:30. Breakdown quickly and head to old La Linda Crossing (this is the bridge at the end of Black Gap Road). Begin BBS (breeding bird survey) route at 06:20. The BBS route is 50 stops, 3 minutes per stop, along a 24.5 mile route. Each bird observed during a stop is recorded. Documented 39 species along the BBS route. Highlights included many nesting Rough-winged Swallows at La Linda Bridge over the Rio Grande, Bronzed Cowbird at Stillwell Store, and a flyover Great Blue Heron in the desert away from the river. As expected and in order; Black-throated Sparrow, Scaled Quail, Northern Mockingbird, and Cactus Wren are the most abundant birds observed. Overall numbers appear to be up compared to past years. See this blog from 2015 for more details on Black Gap WMA.
Made Davis Mountains State Park in Fort Davis in time for a happy hour at the park’s birding blinds. Discreetly enjoyed our adult beverages while visiting with other folks. Offered some ID assistance and ecological interpretation which seemed well received. Our first trip West this year, Erin and I ticked a good number of new year birds: Black-headed Grosbeak, Hepatic Tanager, White-breasted Nuthatch, Acorn Woodpecker, and Western Wood-peewee. Took a couple photos of a bright Yellow Warbler bathing at the drip. The blinds at this park are top-notch. No Montezuma Quail. Full list of species here.
Made drive towards the preserve (The Nature Conservancy’s Davis Mountains Preserve) during late evening. Quick roadside stop in the grasslands west of park looking for Western Bluebirds (we found a few) and Phainopepla. Spotted an outstanding male Western Tanager. While enjoying the Tanager, Erin flushed a male and two female Montezuma Quail. Got a brief view of the females walking up a slope, disappeared into a brush pile.
Spent a few minutes at the Lawrence Wood roadside park adjacent to the preserve. Added Cassin’s Kingbird as a year bird (I ended this day at #326 species for the year). Western Screech-Owl calls at the Preserve at dusk. Erin and I joined Rich K., Eric and Maggie C. for a brief night hike, flipped a few rocks. Eric flipped a Chihuahuan spotted whiptail. Air crisp and cool, stars bright. WE’RE HERE!!!