25-26 May 2017
Davis Mountains Preserve, Jeff Davis Co.
Big Bend National Park, Brewster Co.
**All italicized text copied from my field notebook. Bold text added to further discussion or add clarification. Underlined text is an active link**
Final morning at Davis Mountains Preserve. Slept in till nearly 07:30. We join the TNC bird survey team (Rick K., Jacquie F., Eric and Maggie C.) for a final ascent to Pine Peak for casual birding and to follow up on possible Pygmy Nuthatch. Grace’s Warbler singing on arrival. Western Tanager and Ash-throated Flycatcher give good looks. Windy conditions going up. Hiked over the peak. Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warblers at the top. Rich says that are likely finished breeding and roaming this late in the season. Mountain Chickadee (a new “year bird”) calling as we wind back down the slope towards the vehicles. Brief but good looks. Birding list here.
Driving south on HW 118 near Elephant Mountain. P. catenifer (Gophersnake) crossing the road at 19:20. Caught by Erin and briefly handled. Female. Measured 48” long STL (snout to tail tip).
Before Big Bend, we take a short detour west to Lajitas. I read a recent report of Gambel’s Quail from this area which would be a life bird for both Erin and I. Heard 2 calling from the River Overlook just west of town; one across the river and one on our side. LIFER! (And species #345 for the year) C. scutulatus (Mohave Rattlesnake) on the road headed east from Lajitas. Took a couple of photos and watched it slither off the road. Finally in Big Bend around 22:00. Headed to make camp at Cottonwood Campground via Ross Maxwell Road. R. lecontei (Long-nosed Snake) on side of road. Photographed. I see 3+ C. brevis (Texas Banded Gecko) on the road. I still find it difficult to see these little lizards but am getting decent at picking them out while road cruising.
Tips for Road Cruising Texas Banded Geckos:
- Go slow
- you have to expect them; when you realize you might have seen one, it’s probably too late to turn back and find out
- keep your eyes peeled for a pale banded tubular shape
- they don’t always move but if they do, they often carry the tail nearly 90 degrees to the body which can be distinct
I didn’t know to look for geckos on the road until after I read Ro Wauer’s book For All Seasons: A Big Bend Journal where Ro mentions being able to see geckos regularly while driving around Big Bend at night.
Recent storms have washed out portions of the asphalt road but fortunately they are now repaired. Some of the arroyos continue to hold water. We discovered a chorus of A. punctatus (Red-spotted Toad) at one wash. S. couchii (Couch’s Spadefoot), G. olivaceus (Western Narrow-mouth Toad), and A. speciosus (Texas Toad) also noted.
Arrive at camp and set up cot for night. A strong chorus of A. speciosus emanates from the direction of the river. Western Screech-Owl calling. At least two individuals. Photographed.
Cottonwood Campground. Western Screech-owls calling throughout night. Joined briefly by Great-horned Owl just before light. Wakened at 06:45 by screaming Gray Hawks in cottonwood tree above my cot. My great friends, Lee K. and Kayla A., found us last night and are camping at next site over, they got in extremely late. After morning hugs, we immediately started to bird the campground in search of Lucy’s Warbler and Crissal Thrasher. Noted Lucy’s song and was put on one by Lee and Erin at the shrubby margins south of the composting toilets. Morning birding list here.
Incredible tracks registered in drying mud along the banks of the Rio Grande. Planning to take photos at noon after late morning siesta (all of us running on less than 4 hours sleep).
Stop by Sam Nail’s Ranch to find Erin a Varied Bunting. And a A. inornata (Little Striped Whiptail). Chisos Basin Campsite full so we’ll stay at Government Springs primitive site I reserved earlier. Before making camp, we take a short hike down to the sewage lagoon. Blue-throated Hummingbird and Lucifer Hummingbird are highlights and new year birds! I believe I see an Indigo Bunting flying but uncertain. I’ve had INBU from this area in the past. Erin and I photograph A. scalaris (Big Bend Spotted Whiptail) along the trail. Dinner at Basin Restaurant.
Erin and I depart from the group to visit Rio Grande Village and look for nesting Common Black-Hawks. We find one near the nest just a short time before sunset. Still no Crissal Thrasher. Observed T. gaigeae (Big Bend Slider) at the wetlands along the Nature Trail. Also note calling H. cinerea (Green Treefrog) and L. catesbianus (American Bullfrog) which are both established introduced species to this site although native to other parts of Texas. Bumped into a few friends from CAMN. Observe a R. lecontei (Long-nosed Snake), 3 H. jani (Chihuahuan Nightsnake; 1 DOR), and S. poinsettii (Crevice Spiny Lizard) on the drive back to camp. The desert is quickly cooling and fairly quiet. Big sleep needed before the climb up to Boot Canyon tomorrow. Hopefully with an early start.
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