This summer we have been hitting the road and heading to the state parks in our area , taking a look at the stories behind these places right in our backyard.
This week we head to the Davis Mountains State Park, where birders from across the country flock to search for an elusive feathered friend.
For Ann Collins, birding is a peaceful practice.
“It’s also an addiction,” says Collins. “It’s like the first time I ever went birding I was hooked for life. I got home and the first thing I did was buy a good pair of binoculars.”
Collins – and the friend that’s joined her on this day – are full-fledged birders. Just a couple of the many that flock to West Texas each year, from amateurs to professionals, looking to spot any of the 230 bird species that fly through the park.
In something called a “bird blind” — where birders can stake out and hide out of sight, as they’re trying to spot feathered fliers — park superintendent Wanda Olszewski looks out into the tree stands of the Davis Mountains. Next to her stands Tara Poloskey, a park interpreter.
They say this is the “prettiest little bird blind in Texas.”
The two are sitting on the other side of an adobe wall, with four windows. On the other side: chirping birds.
“It’s enough insulated from people, they can’t really see you so they feel comfortable getting close to you,” Poloskey says.
Stocked with bird seed, fresh water and plenty of trees for birds to perch, this is what Tara calls a bird oasis. From woodpeckers to hummingbirds, hundreds of species of birds fly through this park each year. The park is strategically located on the western edge of the central flyway.
“That is almost a vertical line straight into Canada and they come straight down into Mexico,” Olszewski explains.
Many of the birds spotted in the park are migratory. But there’s one year-round resident that draws in the most hardcore of birders: the Montezuma Quail.
“Often birders will have lists, long lists, and that’s the one that they haven’t gotten.”
“It has a white and black head, named after Montezuma the Aztec, looks like they have a headdress, shiny blue,” Poloskey says. “And then they have like a brown mohawk.”
The Montezuma Quail isn’t a rare breed, but they are incredibly difficult to spot.
Tara says there’s a trick to finding birds like the Montezuma Quail. “What I have found is that if you’re looking for the bird, you won’t find it.”
In the Davis Mountains state park, you don’t have to be an avid birder to enjoy the views and colorful birds flying through. The bird blinds and people like Wanda and Tara make it easy for beginners to spot and identify birds.
And you might even spot a few birders while you’re at it.