59 miles today
The bottom line is that I want to get out of Texas - fast. The days are very predictable and monotonous, and I want this long stretch to end. Minus the birding I did today (see below), there really isn't any consequential birding to speak of during this 2 week stretch. Yes, the Davis Mountains are a birding location, but they are a very energetically expensive birding location. Looking at the weather, it stacks up REALLY well for me the next week if I skip the Davis Mountains.
May 9 - Ride west to Van Horn, TX - 70 miles - Winds calm
May 10 - Ride northwest to Fort Hancock, TX - 68 miles - Winds calm
May 11 - Ride northwest to El Paso, TX - 55 miles - Moderate wind from SW (crosswind)
May 12 - Ride north to Las Cruces, NM - 45 miles - Moderate NW wind (headwind), but ride is short
May 13 - Ride west to Deming, NM - 61 miles - Moderate east winds (tailwind)
May 14 - Ride west to Lordsburg, NM - 60 miles - Moderate east winds (tailwind)
May 15 - Ride southwest to Portal, AZ - 53 miles - SSE winds (crosswind), short ride
The big kicker are the east winds forecast for Southern New Mexico for May 13-15 (east winds would help push me west). This is a minor miracle as the prevailing winds in that area are westerly, and these east winds would make my transit through New Mexico much easier. If I could get through the next 2 days (May 9, 10), I would be in a fantastic position to make it to through Texas and New Mexico without losing a single day to wind. This truly would be incredible. It would also put me into Arizona 2 full weeks ahead of when I thought I would get there. I'd be arriving at the prime time to find nesting species as they'd be singing a ton!
The bottom line is that I think I will skip the Davis Mountains to keep moving. I may regret this decision, but I just want to keep pushing west and out of Texas.
Since my ride from Fort Stockton to Balmorhea was relatively short, I had some time this afternoon to check out Balmorhea Lake. This spot has attracted any number of rarities over the years, so one never knows what he/she is going to find in this desert oasis. There was a ton of wind ( > 20 MPH) all afternoon. This made birding tough, but I was still able to scrape out a few nice birds. There were lots of Western and Clarks's grebes (#362, #363), and I was able to find a single Brewer's sparrow for #364. Other birds at the lake this afternoon included Osprey, Crested caracara, Ruddy duck, Spotted sandpiper, and Black-necked stilt. There were also numerous Audubon's warblers, the western subspecies of the Yellow-rumped warbler. Despite the howling winds, it was a nice afternoon of birding. The biggest surprise was the Western tanager than flew across the street as I rode back into town. I normally associate this bird with much greener/higher elevation areas, but I guess even they need to cross this terrain as they migrate.
Terrain to North of Balmorhea lake
Davis Mountains behind Balmorhea Lake
Balmorhea is a town of ~500 people. There aren't a ton of places to stay or eat, but I did find a killer Mexican restaurant in the Bear Den. After eating gas station donuts for lunch, the real food I had at the Bear Den was very welcome. I am looking forward to my breakfast of cold Chunky Soup out of the can - yum.