23-24 May 2017
Davis Mountains Preserve, 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**
Assigned 8 survey points along Madera Canyon. Took extra time to become reacquainted with western and montane bird songs. Extremely enjoyable but overcast morning. Survey highlights include GRWA (Grace’s Warbler), PLVI (Plumbeous Vireo), BCSP (Black-chinned Sparrow), and GRFL (Gray Flycatcher). All new species for the year list. MOQU (Montezuma Quail) calling at 2 of our early points. Also heard Parula song near turnoff to Road Canyon Trail. Is this the TRPA (Tropical Parula) that Rich reported earlier in the month? Turn out it was, just a short distance south of where he found it earlier in the month. ACWO (Acorn Woodpecker) common throughout. One of my favorites! A few S. cowslei (Southwestern Fence Lizard) and A. exsanguis (Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail) despite sun mostly hidden in cloud cover. Morning bird list here. Photographed a well-registered elk track along the trail to the Road Tank. Tank is dry. Rich mentioned that COBH (Common Black Hawk) used to nest near the tank but none observed in past few years. Found an antler pedestal of a broken bull elk skull.
Afternoon ride up to Pine Peak Spring with entire survey crew (Jacquie, Rich, John, Erin, Maggie, and Eric). Explored canyon below the spring which held some water despite the exceedingly dry conditions. STJA (Stellar’s Jay) was Erin’s highlight including her first good looks of the species. A bright PARE (Painted Redstart) offered good looks while singing Ponderosa Pine. We eventually hear and see a COFL (Cordilleran Flycatcher). I’m stumbling on sight ID of flycatchers. Everything out here is a WEWP (Western Wood-peewee) despite my trying to make it otherwise. Eric C. gives me a couple notes:
- Primary wing projection: longer on pee-wees and OSFL (Olive-sided Flycatcher) because they are long distant migrants, shorter on Epidonax sp.
- Tail feathers: longer and thinner on peewee instead of relatively broad and short on flycatchers
- Behavior: prominent perches for WEWP, tail-flicking in Epidonax sp.
Took a couple photographs of Mule Deer in a meadow on the way back to HQ. Stay up too late visiting with my fellow naturalists.”
“Assigned 10 points along Wolf Den Canyon. Erin and I agree that the survey is relatively tame since the excitement of yesterday’s new year birds are tempered. WEWP continues to be one of the most abundant birds throughout the preserve. Had great looks at BCSP (Black-chinned Sparrow) at close range but couldn’t get a good photograph. Found an old raptor nest in a pine skeleton. Spotted Towhees calling throughout route. Morning survey list here.
Note: Wolf Den Canyon elbows to the north away from the trail. Someday, plan to explore up canyon to the pine woodland near the canyon head.
A pair of javelina (some folks may know them as peccaries or skunk pigs) stroll by the cabin around midday. We all took great close up photos.
Early evening. We get the group together to check out the high country at night. FLOW (Flammulated Owl) is my primary focus but we also hope to hear or see Spotted and Northern Saw-whet Owl. Both had been recently observed on a nearby private property. Ride up to Bridge Gap with Rich. Spend some time hiking the canyon trail that leads past the aspen grove. PARE is always my favorite to see and hear. Found a small flock of BTPI (Band-tailed Pigeon)!
Continue hike up towards the peak. We note 7-9 GOEA (Golden Eagle) soaring along an adjacent ridge. Most are young, 1-2 years of age. Are they breeding in this area? Eventually, we get to the peak where Rich turns Erin and I loose to find GTTO (Green-tailed Towhee) for our year list. This is the only place in Texas GTTO breeds. On the hike back down to our owling spot. Maggie and Rich noted a dark-morph STHA (Short-tailed Hawk). I nearly passed it off as one of the more common ZTHA (Zone-tailed Hawk). Thankfully Rich and Eric got several photographs and we were all able to get additional looks. Rich and Eric submitted reports to the Texas Bird Review Committee to document this Texas Review Species.
We finally hunker in for owling after 21:00 but the sky is still full of light. Almost 30 minutes pass before several MEWH (Mexican Whip-poor-will) begin to call. I caught the call of WESO (Western Screech-owl) and COPO (Common Poorwill) but none of the other nightbirds we hoped for. Near 22:30 we begin to hike out of the canyon but caught the distant “bhoot” note I had been hoping for. We spent nearly 15 minutes trying to see the FLOW but were never able to triangulate it. Eric recorded its distinct call. Birding list here.
Bed late again but worth it to be able to experience such an amazing place with such wonderful people.”