Monday, December 28, 2015

Headed West

A Gray Hawk soars over San Felipe Creek in Del Rio
At first light I headed for the site of the Rufous-backed Robin in Del Rio. The bird was not found during the state wide blender of Sunday's winds. I had my fingers crossed that it was still there.

I arrived on site and Shepdawg was already there along with several others. Lots of activity though. There were several Kiskadees chasing around. A large group of Chihuahuan Ravens chased over head. Good numbers of Ring-billed Gulls streamed over head. A Gray Hawk screamed and soared over. No Rufous-backed Robin yet.

Two city officials came by, Shepdawg thought that one identified himself as the City Manager, I heard the other say he was from the Parks and Recreation Department. Shepdawg and myself took the opportunity to enthusiastically endorse the birding ecotourism potential of Del Rio. The city is developing a parks system along San Felipe Creek. With Gray Hawk and White-collared Seedeaters resident it is worth a stop for many birders. Its not too hard to imagine another mega-rarity like Mottled Owl, Spot-breasted Wren, or Blue-gray Tanager showing up in Del Rio (hey I dream big when I dream of rarities!). More observers would help make that happen and Del Rio is in such an interesting place geographically. There must be a few Rufous-capped Warblers there somewhere. And its one the way to Big Bend.

About 11 am I decided to call this an official dip and headed west. My original plan was to head straight for White's City NM and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. It sounded like the roads where not in good shape from the glizzard that roared through though (Winter Storm Goliath I think the weather channel called it), I had in-laws stuck on I10 near Van Horn for 12 hours my wife texted me. I decided to tag alone with Shepdawg and look for Baird's Sparrow near Marfa.

Anna's Hummingbird, Judge Roy Bean
Visitor's Center
Speaking of interesting places, Lee Hoy recently became the supervisor at the Judge Roy Bean Visitor's Center and since I was going to pass through I stopped to say hello and to bask in the glory of his Anna's Hummingbirds. Lee has had hummingbird feeders up just a few weeks and already has a pair of Anna's. Lee has plans to make the cactus garden there more bird friendly and I can't wait. I got my life Scott's Oriole here. You can literally see Cerro el Colorado 50 miles away in Mexico and its about a mile high. I just know I'm going to be chasing something from there in the not too distant future.

Wolf Camp Hills near Marathon
Westward Ho! outside of Marathon we see the mountains covered in snow for the first time. Wow! is all I can say. I've seen the western mountains a lot this year, but never like this. We stop for pictures.

Our goal is to bird FM2810 out of Marfa and we pull onto the road about 3 pm and start working it for Baird's Sparrow. I've never been on this road and in its present state its stunning. We find plenty off sparrows just not our target. One gets me excited but Shepdawg convinces me its a Grasshopper Sparrow. We go until almost sunset. The snow is disappearing fast and I decide to make the drive to White's City, NM and bird the Guadalupe Mountains in the morning.

FM2810 West of Marfa
Snow Bunting?
My route takes me through Valantine and Van Horn. Van Horn is a little bit crazy when I stop to gas up. I head north on TX54 to Pine Springs. After I leave town I don't see another car for more than 60 miles. I try not to imagine how long I might be out there if I have a problem. I pass only 4 cars in total for about 80 miles.

Surprisingly there is no snow I can see until I get with in a half mile of the motel. I pull into the parking lot and its piled up more than a foot deep. The poor guy behind the desk is one of only two staffers there and looks tired but is very helpful. He even helps break the ice seal on my room door when it won't open. Unlike last night this room is nice and warm and I get some rest for tomorrow, dreaming of Juniper Titmouse and Sagebrush Sparrow.

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