Monday, December 16, 2013

Montezuma Quail

Yesterday, we were treated to a BEAUTIFUL Sunday in the Texas Mountains, crisp and cold early rising to the 40s and 50s in Fort Davis.  We headed north 10 miles past McDonald Observatory (24 miles north of Fort Davis) to the Nature Conservancy's Madera Canyon Trail, since it is open to the public every day of the week, and has easy (and free) access at the Lawrence E. Wood Picnic Area off Hwy 118.

The Madera Canyon Trail is 2.4 miles (rated moderate) and is a site on the Far West Texas Wildlife Trail, a collaborative project between our own Texas Mountain Trail and Texas Parks and Wildlife.  Would you like your own map?  Click here for purchase information.

Owned and maintained by the Nature Conservancy's Davis Mountains Preserve, it is open to foot traffic 365 days a week. (To protect the sensitive landscape, pets are not allowed on the trail.)

The Nature Conservancy offers this description of the trail:

"A moderately difficult hike, the trail offers views of Madera Canyon, Pine Peak, Mount Livermore (the highest peak in the Davis Mountains), Sawtooth Mountain and the whole of the upper watershed for Madera Creek.  At one point, the trail drops down into Chico Canyon, where it follows the creek and takes hikers past a historic stock tank.

Hikers traverse stands of stately ponderosa pines, pinion-juniper woodlands and grassy meadows.  Wildlife that may be present, particularly at dawn or dusk, includes gray foxes, ringtails, western scrub jays, acorn woodpeckers, Montezuma quail, golden eagles, Davis Mountains cottontails, javelina, white-tail and mule deer, mountain short-horned lizards and, rarely, mountain lions.  At dawn, visitors may listen for the bugling of elk in the fall or the chorus of coyotes any time of year.

We were lucky enough to see Montezuma Quail...first one, then two, then several right at the trailhead, and later in the hike at elevation, we saw many more.  The wonderful birding website from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology says this about the Montezuma Quail:

"The Montezuma Quail usually crouches and stays still when danger threatens, and then explodes into flight from a leaping start if the danger comes too close."

That's EXACTLY what happened to we hiked along we never saw them in the grass, then as we approached....all of a sudden, there was an "explosion" of birds taking to flight.  What fun!

More views of the trail:

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