2023-07-04~08 In The Davis Mountains

Sunrise on Skyline Drive - Scenery
I spent much of my stay at Davis Mountains State Park working on images and stories from earlier episodes from my expedition. But on my final morning in the park, I drove up-slope to Skyline Drive and looked again for Montezuma Quail. Again, I ‘heard’ them, but did not see any. However, I enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and a couple of ‘early birds’.
Scott's Oriole - Icterus parisorum
Up on the ridge, sparrows, towhees, flycatchers, and orioles were easy to find.
Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
Montezuma Quail were ‘heard’ but not seen. Barn Swallows feeding babies were more accessible.
My Thursday “Wild Goose Chase”.

I stayed four nights at Davis Mountains State Park. For $20 a night with electricity, it was a bargain. I hoped it would give me a chance to make progress on my blog backlog. I had been working through my recent images, and much work had been accomplished. But High Island and all the stops since, awaited publication. The steady grind of the road was wearing me down.

Tuesday and Wednesday nights, I camped at space #38 at Davis Mountains State Park. Before settling in to my assigned spot, I stopped at their “Wildlife Viewing Area”. I have spent time there on past visits, and found the seed feeders, shade and water feature attracted a lot of birds. This Tuesday’s visit was productive, even if the light was not ideal. Despite my ambition to keep up with my blogs, I now found myself deeper under my backlog than ever. Aside from the High Island episode, there were several stops, plus two visits to Kickapoo Caverns, and here I was piling on the Davis Mountains images.

Once I settled in at my camping spot, I plugged into the power provided, and never got out of the van until Thursday morning, when my lease on this spot ran out. Wednesday night I realized I was wasting opportunities by leaving the park so soon. So I booked two more nights in space #55. It was the only spot available in the park for those nights. 

Wednesday morning, after breaking camp following my second night’s stay, I drove up to Skyline Drive on the ridge between the park and the town of Fort Davis. I wanted to try finding Montezuma Quail up there. It was a clear and bright beginning to the day, and the sun was just beginning its journey into the morning sky. I had the road to myself for the first 30 minutes, and I stopped at several places along the ridge to listen for quail. Far away, in the valley between me and Fort Davis, I could hear calls from the quail. But my wish to meet them and capture images was in vain. Rather than being discouraged, I worked on the birds that were more cooperative. Scott’s Orioles, Canyon Towhees, Black-Throated Sparrows, and Say’s Phoebes posed for me. Montezuma Quail are no easy targets. With two more nights here, I planned to give them another try before leaving the park.

Thursday morning I had an appetite for an omelet. I found a place online in Marfa 25 miles from camp. It was called Bun’s n’ Roses. I drove there, but It ended up being a wild goose chase. When I got there, the sign on their door said they were closed until mid-July. The towns of Marfa, Fort Davis and Alpine are arranged in a 20 mile triangle. I knew of a diner in Alpine called Penny’s Diner where I had eaten in the past. So I set out east, only to discover Penny’s was doing TakeOut and was not seating guests. I needed gas and groceries, and Porters in Alpine was a nice grocery store I had shopped at before. They were in a new location now, but were still the same charming country store.

After re-stocking my pantry, I met an admirer of my RV, and he turned out to be a nature photographer too. I learned his name was Jeff, and of all places, he lived in Edinburg in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. We swapped stories for a half hour and then I located a breakfast restaurant called Magoo’s, a quarter mile away, and settled in to nurture myself. The omelet they served me was one of the best I had in a while.

Despite the misdirections about breakfast destinations this morning, it was good to see new sights. I had not driven the road between Fort Davis and Marfa before, nor the road between Marfa and Alpine. The Marfa to Alpine road was especially scenic. I had never heard of the “Marfa Lights”, but when I passed a rest area named for the phenomenon, it piqued my curiosity. I found several online accounts about these ‘ghost lights’. There are many theories about the cause of these lights, including paranormal origins. If any readers here want to hear more about these lights, you can start by looking <HERE>.

I paid up through Friday night at the state park, but Saturday morning I would continue my journey. I looked at my options for the road ahead, and I considered passing by Bitterlake NWR outside of Roswell New Mexico. The route would give me an opportunity to revisit Guadalupe National Park at Pine Creek. By crossing New Mexico west out of Roswell, I could pass by Bosque del Apache, and then visit friends near Datil, New Mexico. Still under consideration were the Chiricahuas, the Huachucas, and the Santa Ritas. A visit again with my friends in Safford Arizona might be nice, too.

When I hit the road again Saturday morning, I had other Davis Mountains locations I wanted to visit. I got up early and took another run at Skyline Drive on the off-chance I might meet Montezuma Quail or other species. McDonald Observatory is a stop worth making. And the camping/picnic area called Madera Canyon Trailhead I have visited in the past could even serve as an overnight place to stay. With my Starlink and viable generator, it could be ideal for me to catch up with my ever-growing backlog of stories to tell.

I wound up my stay at Davis Mountains State Park and drove to the Madera Canyon Picnic Rest Area to settle in for the evening. I paid a quick visit to the facilities at the McDonald Observatory, but found nothing to hold my interest. I studied my options for heading west. Ultimately, I decided that Guadalupe National Park, Bitter Lake NWR, Bosque del Apache NWR, and my friend’s digs near Datil NM were beyond my endurance. When I looked at the route required, it started to feel overwhelming with all the miles it added. I had been on the road for almost four months, and I was getting weary. 

I settled on a route I traveled last year through Portal AZ that is much shorter. It provided me with an opportunity to meet some birds I had not met before, and others I haven’t seen for a long time. I planned to re-evaluate my endurance/ambition quotient when I got to Portal. I would either continue exploring the sky islands, head directly home, or pay a visit to a few more locations on my route home.

 Last year, when I passed through Portal, storms were drenching the upper slopes of the Chiracahuas, and I didn’t feel much like lingering. If it feels right this year, I hope to linger longer. At the top of my list of birds I would like to meet, are Mexican Chickadees. I have had eyes on them, but failed to collect any images. Perhaps I can catch them on this trip. Portal and the Chiracahuas are my best hope for such a meeting. From where I am having breakfast in Socorro, east El Paso, it is about a 3½ hour drive to Portal. Last year I didn’t have Starlink, and my generator could not support my a/c, so my options for ‘lingering’ were limited. This year, neither of these restrictions will apply. Plus, I know where to refuel and where I can park overnight. 

Click map markers to reveal further information