Texas Birding Trip: Davis Mountains Highlights

For years my birding life list has been marred by the notation “BVD” beside the Phainopepla, a silky flycatcher that looks like a black Cardinal.  BVD (Better View Desired) is what I put beside a sighting when I only catch a glimpse, in the Phainopepla’s case, a fleeting look at one as it fled from a roadside fence post when we drove by at 80 mph.  In what has become an annual migration, we return to Big Bend National Park in the Texas Chihuahuan desert for birding with my good friend Carla.  This year we branched out to stay a few days in the Davis Mountains before traveling down to Big Bend. “Good chances for Phainopepla,” Carla assured me “plus we can see Montezuma Quail.”

On our first day at Davis Mountains State Park we got a permit to hike the “primitive area” where campsites have no amenities.  No sooner had we gotten out of the car when Carla spotted the Phainopepla, sitting on a nearby electric wire.  BVD, erased at last!  The bird not only stayed for several minutes but it was there the next day as we drove by.

Phainopepla, at last!

Phainopepla, at last!  Photo courtesy of George Van Der Aue

As to the Montezuma Quail, the park has a new bird blind where we had heard reports of a single quail foraging at various times over the day.  We stopped every time we passed the blind in hopes of seeing him, but after several tries, still no luck.  On our last night there we pulled up and heard someone call sotto voce, “Hurry up!  You’ll miss the quail!”  We rushed up to see him heading out, but suddenly he turned and came back.  We spent the next half hour with the camp hosts watching him scratch and dig around the area.  The more fitting French name for this bird translates as “Harlequin” and it is one of those birds whose plumage makes you smile in confirmation of Mother Nature’s sense of humor.

Montezuma Quail

Montezuma Quail.  Photo courtesy of George Van Der Aue

To crown our experience, the camp hosts mentioned an Elf Owl nest just a few hundred yards away.  We got there, watched the tiny owl in the gathering dusk for a few minutes before it flew from its nest hole, off into the dark to go about its business.


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Carla said,

    What an experience we had. I’m so glad you were willing to add Ft. Davis to our trip this year. 🙂


  2. 3

    Marjorie said,

    Congratulations on the BVD of the Phainopepla! Great picture of the Montezuma Quail…..thanks, George!


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