Davis Mountains Loop
- The Pecos Area Chamber of Commerce, 432-445-2406, www.pecostx.com
- Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce, 800-524-3015, www.fortdavis.com
Balmorhea State Park
Park is located 7 miles south of I-10 (exit 206) on Hwy 17 South.
Balmorhea State Park boasts a 1.75-acre spring-fed pool and 5 acres of desert wetlands. The abundance of fresh water and large trees are a virtual bird and wildlife magnet. Common nesting birds during spring and summer include Orchard Oriole, Bullock's Oriole, Painted Bunting, Blue Grosbeak, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Western Kingbird. Birds seen during spring migration include Western Tanager, Spotted Sandpiper, buntings and several species of warblers. Year-round residents include Black Phoebe, Sora, Virginia Rail, Green Heron, Greater Roadrunner, Black-throated Sparrow, Curve-billed Thrasher, Scaled Quail, Pyrrhuloxia, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, and Lesser Goldfinch. Winter residents include Belted Kingfisher, Snowy Egret, many species of ducks, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, Green-tailed Towhee.
From Hwy 17 (North Main St.) in Balmorhea, turn south on Houston St. and travel 2 miles.
Balmorhea Lake is a 500-acre reservoir built in 1917 to capture water from San Solomon Springs (Balmorhea State Park). The lake attracts large numbers of waterfowl including Ross's Goose, American White Pelican, herons, and gulls. This is one of the few locations in the Trans-Pecos to observe shorebirds, although it takes some effort to carefully comb the shoreline.
Sandia Springs Wetlands
From Balmorhea, head 2.5 miles east on Hwy 17 to Reeves CR 313, then 0.8 miles south on CR 313 to the site.
Sandia Wetlands' five acres are designed to attract migrant birds during spring and fall. This managed wetland attracts waterfowl, shorebirds, and waders that normally stop at Balmorhea Lake. Due to the smaller size of the wetland, birders are able to enjoy a closer look. The wetland provides shallow water and mudflats throughout the year.
Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center
Located 4 miles south of Fort Davis on Hwy 118. The center is one mile in from the highway.
The center sits on 507 acres in the foothills of the Davis Mountains. The botanical gardens, a protected canyon with perennial springs, grasslands with mixed desert scrub, and seasonal tanks provide several habitat zones for birds and bird watching. Hummingbird feeders are maintained around the center and primarily attract Black-chinned, but Rufous, Broad-tailed and maybe the occasional Calliope can be seen in the fall. The center offers many nature programs to the public and maintains hiking trails on the center's property.
Davis Mountains Education Center
From intersection of Hwy 17 and Hwy 118, near the Jeff Davis County Courthouse, take Hwy 118 south for .8 miles to the entrance on the left.
Mountain Trails Lodge & Outdoor Learning Center organizes and leads outdoor education programs, including regional birding tours. The 10-acre campus is home to several species whose nests can be found around the property: Black-chinned Hummingbird, Say's Phoebe, Cactus Wren, and Curve-billed Thrasher. The natural setting attracts endemic and migrating species, and sightings include American Kestrel, Cassin's Kingbird, Scaled Quail, Canyon Towhee, and many finches and sparrows. Horned Lizards, javelina, ringtailed cats, fox, deer and mouflan are often spotted on the property.
Davis Mountains State Park and Indian Lodge
From Fort Davis, proceed north on Hwy 118 for 4.1 miles and turn left onto Park Road 3.
A total of 365 bird species are known to occur within Jeff Davis County and Davis Mountains State Park provides a convenient location to see many of them, particularly during spring and fall migration periods. Commonly seen birds include Montezuma Quail, Acorn Woodpecker, Cactus Wren, Phainopepla, Pyrrhuloxia, Canyon Towhee, Black-crested Titmouse and Curve-billed Thrasher. Davis Mountains State Park has been identified as being significant for world bird conservation and officially designated a globally important bird area by the American Bird Conservancy. The park offers 20 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails and special interpretive programs. Nestled within park boundaries, Indian Lodge is a unique adobe-style full-service hotel and restaurant constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
Visitors traveling east on I-10 from El Paso may take Hwy 118 south at Kent for the 39-mile scenic drive to the observatory. Visitors traveling west on I-10 may take Hwy 17 south at Balmorhea to Fort Davis, then Hwy 118 north 16 miles to Mt. Locke.
Birding and wildlife viewing is limited to daylight hours and along public roads on observatory property. Species commonly seen at elevation in the Davis Mountains can be observed on the observatory grounds, including the Montezuma Quail. The Visitors' Center Caf_ has hummingbird feeders for easy viewing by visitors. Birding and wildlife viewing is free; fees charged for astronomy programs.
Madera Canyon Trail
Proceed northwest from Ft. Davis on Hwy 118 for approximately 24 miles to the Lawrence E. Wood picnic area adjacent to the highway on the left (about 10 miles past the McDonald Observatory.) The 2.5-mile trail is a loop that begins and ends at the picnic area's east side and is marked by a sign and wooden split-rail fence.
Hikers will walk through stands of stately ponderosa pines, pinion-juniper woodlands and grassy meadows. Wildlife that may be present, particularly at dawn or dusk, includes gray fox, ringtail, Western Scrub Jay, Acorn Woodpecker, Montezuma Quail, Golden Eagle, Davis Mountains cottontail, javelina, white-tailed and mule deer, mountain short-horned lizard and, rarely, mountain lion. At dawn, visitors may listen for the bugeling of elk in the fall or the chorus of coyotes any time of year. The Williamson's Sapsucker has been sighted along the trail in winter.
Sunset Park (Marfa)
From the Hwy. 90 (San Antonio Street) head north two blocks on Hwy. 17 (Highland Street). The park is near the corner of Oak Street and Highland Street on the east side, behind the U.S. Post Office. It runs most of the length of Oak Street between Highland Street and Russell Street.
Mature trees attract birds and other wildlife to this downtown park. Possible birds for the park include Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Cassin's Kingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, migrant warblers and tanagers that use the trees in the park as stopover habitat. Chihuahuan Raven is common in town during migration and in the surrounding grasslands throughout the year.