West Texas Travel Diary|
17 April 2006
Photographer and friend Duncan Hill is visiting from the UK. We've driven to West Texas to Jerry and Freida Davenport's ranch, a.k.a. Ranch for the Birds, which is about 100 miles from... well, hardly anywhere. Two hours southwest of San Angelo, if that helps. The ranch is 12,000 acres of mesquite, juniper, and cactus, but depressingly little grass for their sheep, owing to an 8-month drought.
Freida greets us with iced tea, which we sip as we watch her backyard birds. The southwestern specialties, including Pyrrhuloxia, Canyon Towhee, and Scaled Quail, illustrate an ecological principle: animals, including birds, of grassland and desert tend to be more pale than their forest counterparts.
LATER - Freida takes us to one of the bird blinds that she has built near a stock pond. This being semi-desert, nearly everything comes to drink. A seed feeder that she has added attracts the handsome Black-crested Titmouse. Once considered a race of the Tufted Titmouse, it's recently been promoted to full species status.
18 April 2006
Duncan & I stay in a separate house on the ranch, with a well-stocked kitchen. We rise each morning before dawn. He makes a bee-line for the tea pot, naturally, and I to the coffee-maker. After breakfast, Freida drives us to another blind for more photography. She stays with us and uses her keen eyes to spot goodies like a migrating Wilson's Warbler. I think she's also there to make sure we don't wander off never to be seen again, and to prevent close encounters with ill-tempered javelinas.
A winter resident that has molted into its breeding plumage before migrating north is Yellow-rumped Warbler. Even after all these decades, most old-time birders like me still prefer the original name, Audubon's Warbler, for this, the western race.