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Davis Mtns & Big Bend National Park Birding Trip
May 27th-29th 2006

Band-tailed Pigeons nest with egg On Memorial weekend myself and a group of friends drove west from Dallas / Fort Worth towards the Davis Mtns and Big Bend NP, approximately an 8 hr drive (Depending on your speed)! We left late Friday afternoon and arrived at Lawrence E Woods picnic area at 11:30 pm. We were to bird Mt Livermore preserve the next morning, which had been opened to the public for the holiday weekend. Our main goal was of course the Buff-breasted Flycatcher which was a lifer for one of us, as well as to see what else we could find.

Day 1 - Mt Livermore Preserve, Dugout Wells Big Bend -
After camping out under the stars we were awaken early by Cassin's Kingbirds & Common Poorwill. We rolled up our sleeping bags and headed to the preserve just down the road. Once registered we headed upward to one area where a pair of Buff-breasted Flycatchers had been seen. We found them, flying back and forth between trees & had good looks. We moved on and worked our way up towards Mt Livermore but were not going to go to the peak today but birded along the trail in several areas. At one point two of us decided to scramble up toward the cluster of Aspens just below the peak, which hug the face of the mountain creating a slightly different habitat. It was a steep climb, my short legs not helping and the Talus rock being quite unstable in places! Plus we only had approximately 11/2 hrs to get up, look and then come back down so we could head off for Big Bend that afternoon, so we were also going at a fairly fast pace. A great climb. The views were worth it and the shade of the Aspens was most welcome! We were startled at one point when a Band-tailed pigeon suddenly flew from its nest right over our heads. On looking down we could look straight into the nest which had one very large egg! We continued on. A House wren was heard singing up there and 3 or more Prairie Falcon nestlings were in a crevice on the cliff face, breaking the silence with their constant calls. It wasn't until we were making our way down that the adult female flew in over us. Nothing rare here today, our time was up so we headed back down. We had a good day of birding and had approximately 60 species or so for the day including:
Zone-tailed, Coopers & Red-tailed Hawk, Am. Kestrel, Wild Turkey, Mourning & White-winged Doves, Band-tailed Pigeon, Gr. Roadrunner, Common Nighthawk, White-throated Swift, Blue-throated & Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Acorn woodpecker, Olive-sided, Gray, Dusky, Cordilleran, Ash-throated & Buff-breasted Flycatchers, Western Wood-pewee, Say's Phoebe, Violet-green & Barn Swallow, Bewick's, House & Canyon Wren, Hermit Thrush, Mountain Chickadee, Black-crested Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Steller's & Western Scrub Jays, Bell's, Plumbeous, Hutton's Vireos, House Finch, Pine Siskin, Lesser Goldfinch, Virginia's, Yellow-rumped, Grace's & MacGillivray's Warblers, Hepatic & Western Tanagers, Spotted Towhee, Rufous-crowned, Chipping & Lark Sparrows, Northern Cardinal, Black-headed & Blue Grosbeaks.
At 4pm we headed for Big Bend, arriving there around 6pm or so. After cleaning up we picked out a camping spot, (with just a couple to spare!), set up camp & headed for the restuaraunt! After dinner we drove out to Dugout Wells for a little Owling and located 2 Elf Owls going back and forth to a nest busily feeding young. Lesser Nighthawks and some Turkey Vultures finished off the day. We were tired!
Day 2 - Pinnacles trail to Boot Spring, Rio Grand Village -
At 5:30 am we set off up the Pinnacles trail toward Boot Spring. The pinnacles trail is a steep climb going up but a shorter route to the Spring & which, in my opinion, is an easier route upward than the longer Laguna Meadow trail. Of course, it can be tough on the knees coming down!
There were plenty of Colima Warblers going up the pinnacles trail and into Boot Canyon / Spring along with Olive-sided, Ash-throated & Cordilleran Flycatchers, Dusky-capped Flycatcher (Heard Only), Western-wood Pewee, Violet-green Swallow, Canyon & Bewick's Wrens, Bushtit, Black-crested Titmouse, Hutton's Vireo & plenty of Mexican Jays. Just below the Spring another Dusky-capped Flycatcher was heard & above the spring there was Painted Redstart, Lincoln's Sparrow, Magnificent & Blue-throated Hummingbird, Hutton's Vireo, Pine Siskin, Golden Eagle, Yellow-rumped Warbler & Western Tanager. Futher up the trail we found a singing male Hooded Warbler, rare for here. Violet-green Swallows skimmed the small pools of water above the Spring. A Whip-poor-will also sang a few times at the spring.
The afternoon was a hot one. Three of us decided to hike down the spring itself to see if there was anything interesting while one remained. I wish we had all remained! Not 4 minutes had we left him sitting on a rock he contacted us on our radios to say he was staring at and being stared back at by a big Black Bear not 25 feet from him! Apparently they had both surprised each other and after a few nervous moments the bear moved off. The rest of us were hurrying back up the creek as fast as we could to try to catch sight of the bear for ourselves but it moved too fast. How something that big can move that fast and so quietly is amazing! We enviously missed this one! Apparently this Bear had been seen in this area several times within the previous 2 weeks by several people.
By mid afternoon we had got some nice birds in the Spring area & we then returned the way we came, back down the pinnacles trail and headed towards the store for some much needed ice cream!
At 4:30pm we were at the Rio Grand Village were we birded for about an hour. Birds included Common Black-hawk, Common Ground and Inca Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, several Roadrunners, Vermillion & Ash-throated Flycatchers, Northern Rough-winged & Cliff Swallows, Crissal Thrasher, Verdin, Bell's Vireo, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, Canyon Towhee, Blue Grosbeak, & lots and lots of Painted Buntings feeding off the grass seed in one area along the roadside, under where the Black Hawks used to nest.
After freshening up here we headed back for some dinner and vino!
Day 3 - Cottonwood Campground, Sam Nail Ranch, Imperial Reservoir -
Monday morning we headed out to Cottonwood campground to pick up a few more species for the trip. Grey Hawk was one of them along with Scaled Quail, Black Phoebe & Tropical Kingbird. Other species included Black-throated Sparrow, Indigo Bunting, Bronzed Cowbird, Hooded, Orchard & Scott's Oriole. We then stopped off at Sam Nail ranch where the small well, which for years has attracted many birds to this tiny oasis, sadly has dried up. Just a handfull of birds including White-throated Sparrow, Cactus Wren, Pyrrhuloxia, Cardinal, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Chat and usual numerous Bell's Vireos were all that seemed to be there. Hopefully once the rains come later in the year the well will once again draw water. I hope so.
We headed back to the Chisos Basin to pack up our camping gear and then headed out of the park towards home. We stopped at Imperial Resevoir on the way out and picked up several species. Eared Grebe, Cattle Egret, White-faced Ibis, Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, Turkey Vulture, American Coot, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Killdeer, several Snowy Plovers, Spotted Sandpiper, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Horned Lark, Lark Sparrow & Yellow-headed Blackbird among a few other common birds.
From here we headed home. It was a good weekend with approximately 130 -135 species seen on this trip.

Band-tailed Pigeons nest and egg
Nest and Egg of Band-tailed Pigeon.

This was a nest we found while hiking up to the Aspens below Mt. Livermore.

Views of the Davis Mtns
This was just as we reached the first aspen trees.
View from the Aspen trees, Mt Livermore
View from the Aspen trees, Mt Livermore
View from the Aspens, Mt Livermore, Davis Mtns.
Sitting on Talus in the cool shade against the rock face.
Elf Owl at Dugout Wells, Big Bend
One of two Elf Owls which were busy feeding young.
Elf Owl
Top of the Pinnacles trail
Top of the Pinnacles Trail, early morning.
Made it to the top where a nice bench awaited us!
Cactus
This to me was an unusual sight - Cactus growing with moss on top of a rock. Both normaly associated with different habitats, one dry the other moist. Obviously there are exceptions!
Cactus growing with moss on a rock
Western Tanager
Western Tanager
Photo taken just above Boot Spring.
Hutton's Vireo
Perching just above its nest just above Boot Spring
Huttons Vireo
Pair of Carmen Mountain White-tailed Deer
Sierra del Carmen White-tailed Deer
A pair of deer were standing at the base of the Pinnacles trail. They are commonly seen in Big Bend.
Bell's Vireo
One of these days I'll take a better photo of this bird that never stops moving!
Bell's Vireo
Desert Cottontail
Desert Cottontail
Destert Cottontails are smaller in size than the Eastern Cottontail, with slightly longer ears. They'll rarely drink water and get moisture from desert plants and grasses. They'll stay cool by remaining close to burrows during the day, coming out at dark when its cooler. Unfortunatly they are short lived (1-2yrs) and many meet their death on the roads at night from passing cars. They do not rely on speed, but make zig-zag moves to avoid predators such as Bobcats. More information about the Desert Cottontail can be found here - www.desertusa.com
Imperial Reservoir
Imperial Resevoir is located in Pecos Co and is a good sized reservoir to attract a variety of shorebirds.
Imperial Reservoir
Snowy Plover
Snowy Plover
There were several pairs of Snowy Plover at this reservoir.
White-faced Ibis & Yellow-headed Blackbird, Imperial Reservoir.
They were eyeing each other up in this photo but otherwise were quite comfortable feeding alongside each other!
White-faced Ibis & Yellow-headed Blackbird at Imperial Reservoir

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