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USA - West Texas Summer... before Fan-tailed Warbler - June 23rd - August 24th, 2007

Published by Forrest Rowland (rowbird2005 AT gmail.com)

Participants: Makenzie Goodman, Forrest Rowland - Hack Site Attendants for the Aplomado Falcon Restoration Project, Peregrine Fund.

Overview - Makenzie Goodman and I arrived at our home for the Summer, on the Baeza Ranch, the afternoon of June 23rd. We took the posts as Hack Site attendants for this particular release site, hosted by the Peregrine Fund. The Baeza Ranch encompasses a little over 30,000 acres, approx. 9 miles, as the crow flies, Southeast of Van Horn, Tx. The only access points are from I-10, via 18 miles of dirt road, or, the route we most commonly used, 10 miles of dirt road to Highway 90, 14.3 miles South of Van Horn.

Our daily duties took up the morning hours of around 7am through 11am, during morning observations and feeding, and again, in the evening, from 6pm through 9pm. The other hours of the day we were left to hike, run, cook, and basically do whatever we wanted. I was able to get out often, walk around the area, look for wildlife, etc. in the near vicinity of the house (~ 3 miles radius). Makenzie and I also got out on a few night walks, and drives, on the roads of the ranch.

The 5 final days of our duties hacking the Falcons allowed us to feed every other day, during the last week’s fasting period for the birds. We made a day trip to Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. We also overnighted at Davis Mountains State Park. Earlier in the season, one of our supervisors was generous enough to cover us for two days, while we took a short vacation to Big Bend National Park, as well.

The habitats we visited varied greatly from place to place. The Baeza Ranch is at an elevation of just over 4000 feet, and is mostly desert grassland, with the predominant plantlife being Creosote, Cholla, Sumac, Acacia, Ocotillo, Prickyl Pear, and Mesquite, along with many species of grasses. The areas we visited at Big Bend National Park varied from as low as 2000 feet near Boquillas and Castolon, up to 7000 feet near Emory Peak, and the Boot Spring area.

The Davis Mountains, though ranging higher, only allowed for access up to just over 6000 feet, the predominant habitat being grassland, while the higher elevations of both Big Bend and the Davis Mountains contain montane species such as Gambel and EmoryOak, Red Maple, Alligator Juniper, Arizona Cypress, various Ash, Ponderosa Pine, and other species typical of Southwest desert mountains. Endemism on the subspecies and species level is high in the area, and evident as different species can be encountered in the different microhabitats of the area.

In summation, we spent most of our time in Chihuahan lowland and highland desert habitats, with a few days being spent in montane woodlands. The heavy Spring and Summer rains had a definite effect on the wildlife, with many species being more evident than past years, such as Spadefoot Toads, Kangaroo Rats, and some grassland bird species. Temperatures varied, but were lower, on the average than normal/expected, making for a very pleasant, exciting Summer. Migration held some surprises from an ornithological standpoint, and the Herps were great. Just a wonderful experience, overall. And, with regards to the Falcons..a higher than 80% success rate!

Species Accounts - The accounts here are terse, and give no insight into commonality or occurrence. I’ve made a separate account, called Wildlife of Baeza Ranch, that I have sent to the Peregrine Fund staff to be given to next year’s attendants, in the hopes that, over the years, the accumulated sightings might give some insight into the densities and movements of the little studied wildlife of the area.

After the common and Scientific names given for each species, will be a coded listing of where the species were encountered. For accuracy, the dates of the area visited area, and their codes, are as follows:

Big Bend National Park - BB; August 8th-10th, our arrival to Chisos Mountains around 3pm in the afternoon allowed us to hike the Windows Trail, down to the pour off, and back. The morning of the 9th we began hiking at 6:20am, up the pinnacles trail, cresting to the Emory Peak junction by 9am. We hiked the Boot Canyon Trail, to the Southwest portion of the South Rim trail. We descended out of the Oak habitat favored by Highland species of the Chisos around 1pm, after having reached the Laguna Meadow Trail, and eaten lunch. We made it back to our Cabin by 3:30pm, having hiked a total of 13.5 miles. On the morning of August 10th we left, after breakfast, to bird the lowland areas along the Rio Grande, including a stop at Dugout Wells, and Panther Junction, to report our interesting finds.

Carlsbad Caverns/Guadalupe Mountains National Park - CG; August 19th, we arrived to Carlsbad by 8:30am and were the first ones down the cave, going through the Natural Entrance. We were out of the caves by 11:30am. We hiked McKittrick Canyon from 2:20pm to 5:15pm. WARNING: McKittrick Canyon Road is closed from 6pm until 8am, MST, daily, and not opened on Sundays. Plan visits accordingly.

Davis Mountains State Park- DM; August 20th - 21st, We made it to the State Park around 5pm, in a hailstorm, so we decided to treat ourselves to a roof, rather than a tent, over our heads, by staying at the Indian Lodge. We checked out the following day at 12:15pm. We relaxed mostly.

Midland Co. - MI; August 22nd-24th, I stayed three nights with my family in Midland, and birded the mornings of the 23rd and 24th, once with a good friend, Rose Marie Stortz, and again with the entire Midland Naturalists club (MidNats) and my mother, Trinia Rowland, on the following morning. The habitats were mostly agricultural fields known to accrue water after rains, good for shorebirds and waterfowl. We also birded, briefly, both mornings Harris’ Tank, a local pecan orchard, farther south than the agricultural areas, near the borders of Midland Co.

Baeza Ranch - BR; We spent all the remaining time, not listed in the three above visit, on the ranch, or driving to either Van Horn, Valentine, or Marfa, for our weekly provision runs.

I have only recorded the species of Reptiles, Birds, and Mammals encountered. I’m still learning the Butterflies, Dragonflies, an bounty of other insect life of the area. Such an interesting place. For verification of any species reported, feel free to contact me for details. If anyone would like further information on the numbers encountered, frequency of sightings, etc., please feel free to contact me at rowbird2005@gmail.com

Species Lists

Reptiles and Amphibians

Plains Spadefoot Scaphiopus bombifrons BR
Western Spadefoot Scaphiopus Hammondi BR
Green Toad Bufo debilis BR
Red-spotted Toad Bufo punctatus BR
Texas Toad Bufo speciosus BR
Yellow Mud Turtle Kinosternon flavescens BR
Western Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta belli MI
Red-eared Slider Trachemys scripta elegans BB
Desert Box Turtle Terrapene ornate luteola BR
Southwest Earless Lizard Cophosaurus texanus scitulus BR
Texas Earless Lizard Cophosarus texanus texanus BB
Chihuahan Collared Lizard Crotaphytus collaris fuscus BR
Leopard Lizard Gambelia wislizenii BR
Texas Horned Lizard Phryonosoma cornutum BR
Round-tailed Horned Lizard Phrynosoma platyrhinos BR
Desert Short-horned Lizard Phrynosoma douglassi ornatissimum DM
Twin-spotted Spiny Lizard Sceloporus magister bimaculatus BR
Big Bend Canyon Lizard Sceloporus merriam annulatus BB
Crevice Spiny Lizard Sceloporus poinsetti BR
Southern Prairie Lizard Sceloporus undulatus consobrinus BR
Common Tree Lizard Urosaurus ornatus Schmidt CG
Desert Side-blotched Lizard Uta stansburnia stejnegeri BB
Chihuahan Spotted Whiptail Cnemidophorus exchanges BR
Trans-Pecos Striped Whiptail Cnemidophorus inornatus heptagrammus BB
Texas Spotted Whiptail Cnemidophorus gularis BR
Plateau Spotted Whiptail Cnemidophorus septemvittatus BB
Checkered Whiptail Cnemidophorus tesselatus BR
Marbled Whiptail Cnemidophorus tigris Marmoratus BR
Short-lined Skink Eumeces tetragrammus brevilineatus BB
Kansas Glossy Snake Arizona elegans elegans BR
Western Coachwhip Masticophis flagellum testacies BR
Red Coachwhip Masticophis flagellum testacies BB
Sonoran Gopher Snake “Bullsnake” Pituophis melaneoleucus affinis BR
Ground Snake Sonora semiannulata CG
Checkered Garter Snake Thamnophis marcianus BR
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Crotalus atrox BR
Black-tailed Rattlesnake Crotalus molossus molossus BR
Mojave Rattlesnake Crotalus scutulatus BR

Birds (an “*” after the common name of the species means that an active nest was found)

Great Egret Casmerodius albus MI
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodius MI
Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea MI
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis MI
Green-winged Teal Anas crecca MI
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos BR
- Mexican Mallard Anas Platyrhynchos mexicanus BR
Blue-winged Teal Anas discors MI
Cinnamon Teal Anas cyanoptera MI
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata MI
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura BR, BB, CG, MI
Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii BR
Harris’ Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus BR, MI
Zone-tailed Hawk Buteo albanotatus BR, BB
Gray Hawk Buteo nitides BB
Red-tailed Hawk* Buteo jamaicensis fuertesi BR, BB
- Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis calurus BR
Swainson’s Hawk* Buteo swainsoni BR, MI
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos BR, CG
American Kestrel Falco sparverius BR, MI
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus BR
Prairie Falcon Falco mexicanus BR
Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo BR
Gambel’s Quail Callipepla gambelli BB
Scaled Quail Callipepla squamata BR, BB, MI
Montezuma Quail Cyrtonyx montezumae DM
American Coot Fulica Americana MI
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus BR, MI
American Avocet Recurvirostra americana MI
Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus MI
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca MI
Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes BR, MI
Solitary Sandpiper Tringa solitaria BR, MI
Willet Captotrophorus semipalmatus MI
Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia BR, BB, MI
Upland Sandpiper Bartramia longicauda BR, MI
Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri MI
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla MI
Baird’s Sandpiper Calidris bairdii MI
Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos MI
Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodramus scolopaceus MI
Wilson’s Snipe Gallinago wilsoni BR
Wilson’s Phalarope Phalaropus tricolor MI
Band-tailed Pigeon Columba fasciata BB
Mourning Dove* Zenaida macroura BR, BB, MI
White-winged Dove Zenaida asiatica BR, BB, MI
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto BR
Inca Dove Columbina inca BR, BB, MI
Yellow-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus americana BB, MI
Greater Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus BR, BB
Barn Owl Tyto albus MI
Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus BR, MI
Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor BR, MI
Lesser Nighthawk Chordeiles acutipennis BR
Common Poorwill Phaelaenoptilus nuttalli BR
White-throated Swift Aeronautes saxatalis BB
Blue-throated Hummingbird Lampornis clemenciae BB
Magnificent Hummingbird Eugenes fulgens BB
Lucifer Hummingbird Calothorax lucifer BB
Black-chinned Hummingbird Archilocus alexandri BR, BB, MI
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilocus MI
Calliope Hummingbird Stellula calliope BR
Broad-tailed Hummingbird Selasphorus platycercus BR, BB
Rufous Hummingbird Selasphorus rufus BR, BB
Red-shafted Flicker Colaptes auratus BR
Red-naped Sapsucker Sphyrapicus nuchalis CG
Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formocivorus BB, DM
Golden-fronted Woodpecker Melanerpes aurifrons BB, MI
Ladder-backed Woodpecker* Picoides scalaris BR, BB, MI
Olive-sided Flycatcher Contopus cooperi BR, BB, MI
Wood-Pewee, sp. Contopus sp. BR, BB, MI
Willow Flycatcher Empidonax trailli BR, MI
Hammond’s Flycatcher Empidonax hammondii BB
Least Flycather Empidonax minimus BR, BB, MI
Gray Flycatcher Empidonax wrightii BR
Dusky Flycatcher Empidonax oberholseri BR
Cordilleran Flycatcher Empidonax occidentalis BB
Say’s Phoebe* Sayornis saya BR
Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans BB
Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus BB, MI
Ash-throated Flycatcher* Myiarchis cinerascens BR, BB, MI
Brown-crested Flycatcher Myiarchus tyrannulus BB
Great Crested Flycatcher Myiarchus crinitus MI
Cassin’s Kingbird* Tyrannus vociferus BR
Western Kingbird* Tyrannus verticalis BR, BB, MI
Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus BB
Couch’s Kingbird* Tyrannus couchii BB
Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus MI
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus forficatus MI
Loggerhead Shrike* Lanius ludovicianius BR, BB, MI
Bell’s Vireo Vireo bellii BR, BB, MI
Gray Vireo Vireo vicinior BB
Plumbeous Vireo Vireo occidentalis BB
Cassin’s Vireo Vireo cassinii CG
Hutton’s Vireo Vireo huttoni BB
Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus BB
Chihuahan Raven* Corvus crypteoleucus BR
Common Raven Corvus corax BR, BB
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata MI
Scrub Jay Aphelocoma coerulescens CG
Mexican Jay Aphelocoma ultramarina BB
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris BR
Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota BR
Cave Swallow* Petrochelidon fulva BR, BB
Barn Swallow* Hirundo rustica BR, BB, MI
Bank Swallow Riparia riparia MI
Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis BR
Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor MI
Violet-green Swallow Tachycineta thalassina BB
Verdin* Auriparus flaviceps BR, BB
Black-crested Titmouse Parus atricristatus BB
Bushtit Psaltriparus minimus BB
White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis BB
Cactus Wren* Camphylorhynchus brunneicapillus BR, BB, MI
Rock Wren Salpinctes obsoletus BR, BB
Canyon Wren Catherpes mexicanus BR, BB
Bewick’s Wren Thryomanes bewickii BB, MI
House Wren Troglodytes aedon BB, MI
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea BR, BB, MI
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher* Polioptila melanura BR, BB
Northern Mockingbird* Mimus polyglottus BR, BB, MI
Curve-billed Thrasher* Toxostoma curvirostre BR, BB, MI
Crissal Thrasher* Toxostoma crissale BR, BB
American Pipit Anthus rubescens BR
Nashville Warbler Vermivora ruficapilla MI
Virginia’ Warbler Vermivora virginiae BR
Colima Warbler Vermivora crissalis BB
Lucy’s Warbler Vermivora luciae BB
Black-throated Gray Warbler Dendroica nigrescens BR
Townsend’s Warbler Dendroica townsendi BB
Hermit Warbler Dendroica occidentalis BB
Grace’s Warbler Dendroica graciae CG
Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia BR, BB
Wilson’s Warbler Wilsonia pusilla MI
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas BB, MI
Painted Redstart Myioborus picta BB
Yellow-breasted Chat Icteria virens BB
Hepatic Tanager Piranga flava BB
Summer Tanager Piranga rubra BR, BB
Western Tanager Piranga ludoviciana BR, BB
Canyon Towhee* Pipilo fuscus BR, BB, MI
Spotted Towhee Pipilo occidentalis BB
Cassin’s Sparrow* Aimophila cassinii BR, MI
Rufous-crowned Sparrow Aimpohila ruficeps BR, BB, MI
Field Sparrow Spizella pusilla MI
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina BR, BB, MI
Black-chinned Sparrow Spizella atrogularis BB
Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus BR, MI
Black-throated Sparrow* Amphispiza bilineata BR, BB, MI
Lark Bunting Calamospiza melanocorys BR, MI
Lincoln’s Sparrow Melospiza lincolnii CG
Vesper Sparrow Pooecetes gramineus BR
Grasshopper Sparrow Ammodramus savannarum MI
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis BB, MI
Pyrrhuloxia Cardinalis sinuatus BR, BB, MI
Blue Grosbeak Passerina caeurula BR, BB, MI
Black-headed Grosbeak Pheuticus melanocephalus BB
Lazuli Bunting Passerina amoena BB
Painted Bunting Passerina ciris BR, BB, MI
Varied Bunting Passerina versicolor BB
Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna BR, MI
Western Meadowlark Sturnella neglecta BR
Yellow-headed Blackbird Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus BR
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaeius phoeniceus BR, BB, MI
Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus BR, BB, MI
Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater BR, BB, MI
Bronzed Cowbird Molothrus aeneus BR, BB, MI
Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius BR, BB, MI
Hooded Oriole Icterus cucullatus BB
Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula MI
Bullock’s Oriole Icterus bullockii BR, BB, MI
Scott’s Oriole* Icterus parisorum BR, BB
House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus BR, BB, MI
Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus CG
Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria BR, BB, MI

Mammals

Desert Shrew Notiosorex crawfordi BR
Raccoon Procyon lotor BR
Badger Taxidea taxus BR
Striped Skunk Mephitis mephitis BB, DM
Hooded Skunk Mephitis macroura BB
Coyote Canis latrans BR, BB
Kit Fox Vulpes macrotis BR
Gray Fox Urocyon cinereoargenteus BR
Rock Squirrel Citellus variegatus BR, BB
Mexican Ground Squirrel Citellus mexicanus BR
Spotted Ground Squirrel Citellus spilosoma BR
Texas Antelope Squirrel Ammospermophilus interpres BR
Gray-footed Chipmunk Tamias canipes CG
Eastern Gray Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis MI
Eastern Fox Squirrel Sciurus niger BB
Bannertail Kangaroo Rat Dipodomys spectabilis BR
Ord Kangaroo Rat Dipodomys ordi BR
Merriam Kangaroo Rat Dipodomys merriami BR
Desert Woodrat Neotoma lepidis BR
Porcupine Erethizon dorsatum BR
Blacktail Jackrabbit Lepus californium BR
Desert Cottontail Sylvilagus auduboni BR, BB
Eastern Cottontail Sylvilagus floridanus MI
Peccary Pecari angulatus BR, BB
Elk Cervus canadensis BR
Mule Deer Odocoileus hemonius BR, BB
Whitetail Deer Odocoileus virginianus BR
Pronghorn Antilocapra americana BR, DM