Thursday, May 8, 2014

May 8 (Day 128) - Route adjustments/thoughts and Balmorhea birding

Today represented the first significant deviation from the route I outlined a few days ago (you can see that route here). I decided to pass on Alpine and instead make more distance west to the town of Balmorhea. I was mainly using Alpine as a spring board to reach Fort Davis in the Davis Mountains. However, it represented a large southern jibe from which I would then have to tack back North to reach Fort Davis. In the end, it was a rather circuitous way of reaching Fort Davis. Reaching Fort Davis from Balmorhea is more straightforward as it is a direct 35 mile shot south on Route 17. The biggest issue that I have at the moment is that I would have to climb 1800' feet in these 35 miles, and I am not sure if I want to attempt this ride for 2 reasons. First, is the difficulty of the ride I just described. Second, I would be going up to Fort Davis to possibly find 2 birds: Montezuma quail and Common black-hawk. I actually think that I am more likely to find the quail in the Chiricahuas in Arizona. This means I am really shooting to get only 1 bird, but I could potentially get Black-hawk in Arizona as well.

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. 

1 comment:

  1. Skipping the Davis Mtns is a good decision. The extra day(s) it buys you can be spent looking for black-hawk in AZ/NM if necessary. Montezuma Quail not difficult in the Chiricahuas. - Dave