Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Number 68: Monahans Sandhills State Park

Back on December 27th (Wow, time flies) Breck and I visited Monahans Sandhills State Park.  It was very different than any of the others we have visited before.  So many we go to have lots of trees and hiking and usually a lake or river.  Located in a dune field, Monahans really had none of that .

That was not unexpected since it is in a very arid area of Texas.  That said, I don't mean to imply we did not have a great experience there.  On arrival we were met by a ranger that asked us if we wanted to see a Javelina.  Well, of course!

Unfortunately he had been attacked by some wild animal and was very grumpy from his pain.  The ranger closed off the area to keep people away so they could decide how to proceed.  I have since seen a lot more Javelina but this guy was special.

The dunes are the main draw.  You can rent a sled at the Visitor's Center and hike the dunes to take a ride.

Make no mistake.  The hike up is not an easy one.  The sand is very deep and loose and is not easy to walk in.   

We skipped this activity because we had a lot more driving ahead of us on this day and the thought of doing that with our clothes filled with sand was not appealing.  As it was our shoes and socks needed emptying after exploring the dunes.

At first glance you might assume that not much could or would live out there.  No real water source to speak of and not much shade.  But if you looked closely there was evidence of animal life everywhere.

We even saw a few birds out in the scrub like this Say's Phoebe, Loggerhead Shrikes, Meadowlarks, a Red-tailed Hawk and finches.

There were plenty of House Finches, but a tree (tall bush really) near the Visitor's Center filled with Lesser Goldfinches stole the show for me.

After leaving the park we decided to drive through the town of Monahans.   It's a small town with several very old hotels built along the railroad tracks.  This one begged to be photographed.  The Sunset Motel at sunset.

We also spotted this curious coyote along the tracks as we headed back toward Midland for the night choosing to pass on a room at the Sunset.

Getting this park was nice since it helped finish off a park of Texas that is a long way from home for us.  But it wasn't the last one we saw on this trip.  Next up, Big Spring State Park.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Number 67: Lake Brownwood State Park

Over Christmas break when our plans changed unexpectedly, Breck and I took full advantage and bounced around a part of Texas we had not spent much time in.  One of our stops was Lake Brownwood State Park on December 26th.

When we checked in at the Ranger Station we picked up a map of the park and asked the ranger where she suggested we go to see some birds.  She smiled and said, "Anywhere."  So after a quick drive through the park to get a feel for the layout we hit a trailhead.

The hiking wasn't strenuous.  After all, this region of Texas is pretty flat.

Being winter there wasn't much color.  The grasses had gone to seed and the leaves had fallen from the trees.

And the Ranger was right.  There were birds everywhere if you looked closely.

Bewick's Wren
Field Sparrow
Most of them were pretty familiar to us also being found in south Texas.

Eastern Bluebird
And most of them where found at the edges of trail where the trees met the tall grass.  No your eyes are not playing tricks on you. This Ruby-crowned Kinglet is upside down hanging from his little black legs and turning his head around as he spots a bug.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
But the jewel, the bird I most wanted to see, the one I would add to my Life List having never spotted or photographed one before, popped out midway through our hike.  This is a Spotted Towhee.  Isn't he gorgeous!  Love that red eye.  And what a nice splash of color against the mostly brown limbs.

Spotted Towhee
When we finish our hike we drove down to the lake.  Too cold for swimmers and picnickers so we had the grounds to ourselves.

Yet another park that I bet is packed in the summer months.

The day was late and my lens began to struggle to get enough light for a good shot, but I did find this guy in a patch of setting sun.  He's a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and quite the cutie.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
And as we left the park we had to stop in the road to allow a flock of Wild Turkeys to cross the road.  I considered this a bonus with 12 of them giving us a good look.

Wild Turkey
This Red-tailed Hawk stood out in the sky as the sun set in the background.  As we watched he spotted something on the ground and dove from his perch and out of sight.

Red-tailed Hawk

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Number 66: Bonham State Park

I am so far behind in my state park posts.  This park, Bonham State Park, goes back to October 23rd. Of last year!  Why so delayed?  Breck and I have done a lot of travel lately.  I myself have been from one end of Texas to the other visiting many small parks looking for birds to photograph.  

In fact our trip to Bonham in North Texas came on the tail of a business trip to Dallas.  It was a very cloudy day, not great for pictures, but it helped to keep the temperatures down for hiking.

It was also extremely windy making the lake choppy and whipping the flags pretty consistently.

There were a lot of trails that wove through the woods.

Some through rocky terrain with low growing trees and others through tall deciduous forest.

There were several CCC structures throughout the park: picnic tables, small foot bridges, and benches built from local stone.

We didn't see a lot of wildlife, but what we did see was interesting.  I almost walked right into this guy's web that spread across the trail.

There were areas of tall grass along the trail bordering the woods.  These were the only spots we saw any birds.

And even though we saw birds here, they were very quick and not easy to get pictures of.  In fact, all I have to show for birds is this lone Carolina Chickadee.

There were plenty of places for a picnic along the lake, though there were not many folks out on this windy cloudy day.  I imagine in the summer it is a different story.

This guy was hanging out at the area but needed to fend for himself with no one to toss him scraps from their lunch.

Our last trail of the day wound through tall pines and was the last place we spotted any wildlife.

An armadillo.  He was scavenging in the dry leaves for grubs or beetles or whatever it is they eat.

Nice park for the area.  As I said before, I bet it's quite busy in the summer with swimmers and fisherman.  Probably not one I would return to, but only because it is a long way from where we call home.