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Park Pick: Avian Haven

A new blind at Davis Mountains State Park is attracting human and bird visitors.

By Linda Hedges

For decades, birders have flocked to Davis Mountains State Park. Many hope to glimpse the stunning Montezuma quail, a secretive and localized species that inhabits grassy undergrowth in the park’s oak-juniper woodlands. Others come to see brightly colored summer residents like the yellow-and-black Scott’s oriole, the rosy-red summer tanager or the azure-hued blue grosbeak.

Still others come to hone the finer points of bird identification on the abundant earth-toned sparrows of fall and winter. Regardless of skill or interest level, all birders — even nonbirders — will enjoy the park’s new bird blind.

“Park visitors rave about it,” reports Superintendent Tommy Cude. “I have heard from many that it is the best bird-viewing facility in the entire state. It’s beautiful, functional and has a relaxing feel. It’s enjoyable just to be there, whether birding, photographing or even reading a book.”

Davis

The Davis Mountains bird blind was built to fit in with the park's other buildings.

Why is the bird blind so popular? Perhaps design is key. The white stucco facade feels harmonious with the park’s other buildings, most (including the Indian Lodge, a full-service hotel) constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Simply put, it fits.

An adjacent water feature and strategically placed feeding stations attract a wide variety of birds. Park visitors can sit on barstools or stand inside the shelter as they watch their unsuspecting quarry at close range through large glass windows, carefully angled to minimize reflection. Interpretive panels, a field guide and sightings list provide additional resources.

“We began a ‘Montezuma Quail Watch’ log to allow visitors to plan their observation times according to the birds’ most recent schedule,” says Tara Poloskey, who leads interpretive programs inside the blind’s roomy interior. “Birders appreciate all the help they can get to see these beautiful but elusive birds.”

Photographers may prefer the building’s exterior patio, which features small openings of varying heights to accommodate camera lenses.

Superintendent Cude is particularly pleased that the structure was constructed entirely by park staff.

“It was a team-building labor of love that the entire staff is very proud of,” Cude says. “The building boasts a rainwater catchment system as well as solar panels that power ceiling fans and the water feature’s pump. We are extremely grateful to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and the Bratten Foundation for funding this very worthwhile project. The blind is dedicated to the Francell family for their longtime commitment to conservation.”

quail

Bird-watchers at the park treasure sightings of the Montezuma quail.

Other activities at Davis Mountains State Park include picnicking, camping, hiking, backpacking, horseback riding and mountain biking. Overnight lodging is available at the historic, 39-room Indian Lodge, located within park boundaries. Skyline Drive and two scenic overlooks provide panoramic sightseeing opportunities, and 20-plus miles of trails allow visitors a chance for exercise and nature study in some of the state’s most scenic terrain. The park’s interpretive center tells the story of the Davis Mountains through exhibits and serves as a nexus for ranger-led hikes, programs and other activities, many of which focus on the area’s bird life.

To reach the park, travel one mile north of Fort Davis on Texas Highway 17 to Texas Highway 118N, and then west on Texas Highway 118N for three miles to the Park Road 3 entrance. For more information, call (432) 426-3337 or go to www.tpwd.texas.gov/davismountains.

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