Friday, March 29, 2013

Texas Birds at the Tanks

If you are ever in the El Paso area, I would highly recommend checking out Hueco Tanks State Park. This "island in the desert" is made up of massive piles of rocks, boulders and rock formations situated around the Chihuahuan Desert.  The park has a rich historical background as it has been the home of many different cultural groups, some of which date back to over several thousands of years ago. The park contains several archaeological sites and numerous pictographs in various places throughout the park. 


Birding, rock climbing, and hiking are the most popular activities at the park. The park implements stringent regulations as an effort to preserve and protect (and restore from overuse) the delicate cultural remnants of the park. Entrance to the park is tightly controlled (only a small number of people are let in each day) and reservations should be made well in advance. The park offers guided tours for all the activities, which allow access to a significantly larger portion of the park. The area known as "North Mountain" is the only portion open to those exploring on their own.  This is the area we explored on our visit.


My husband, son, and I  met up with a group of friends from home for a few days of bouldering (which is a form of rock climbing). I spent most of the time exploring with the tot, looking for birds. Hiking with the tot turned out to be a bit difficult due to the terrain, so I spent a lot of time looking for for birds in the trees along the bases of the rocks.

Verdin (lifer)

The park is known to be attractive to birds as it contains trees (oak-juniper woodlands), large rocks that provide shelter, and often times water that collects in the "huecos" (a spanish word meaning hollow) that have formed in the rocks. The park was heavily populated with feathered friends and there was always one species or another close by for me to observe. I was happy to have the opportunity to see many new western species (please feel free to let me know if I misidentified any of these:)

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Kinglets were everywhere and seemed rather friendly. They frequently came within just a few feet of me and didn't seem bothered by my presence.

Say's Phoebe (lifer)

This Say's Phoebe was holding on tight to some sort of creature that it may have found swimming in a hueco.

Chipping Sparrow (lifer)

Sparrows were also everywhere. I'm not very good at identifying sparrows, but I believe most of the ones I saw were Chipping Sparrows.

House Finch

I encountered this Scaled Quail meandering through the brush. I also saw a beautiful Gambel's Quail but was unable to get a photo of the loud, but elusive little fellow. Trying to find the boisterous quail brought back memories of playing Marco-Polo as a child.

Scaled Quail (lifer)

This small nest looked really interesting as it had the shed skin of a long snake woven through out it.



White-throated Swifts, one of the fast flying birds in North America, are commonly seen here.

White-throated Swift (lifer)

I saw a number of Canyon Towhees at the park as well. This one was hoping for a cool drink, or even just a drip.

Canyon Towhee (lifer)


Each afternoon I had a peaceful retreat to this boulder as the tired tot took his siesta.


As I sat motionless, enjoying the beautiful scenery, quite a few birds stopped by.

Canyon Towhee

House Finch

I've read that there are several different subspecies of Dark-eyed Junco and thought this may be a Pink-sided (it had pink sides)...

Dark-eyed Junco (Pink-sided???) (lifer)

Black-throated Sparrows are sharp looking birds with their distinctive black and white patterns.

Black-throated Sparrow (lifer)

Turns out I was sitting near one of the few huecos that contained a small amount of water.


Seemed fitting that Rock Wrens were a common sight on the rocks.

Rock Wren (lifer)

I think my favorite experience was hearing the song the Canyon Wren echoing through the rock canyons. On our first day, we heard this novel sound blasting from the enormous rock structures; I was eager to learn who sang this interesting song.

Canyon Wren (lifer)

The next day, as I sat in my quiet spot on the boulder, the now familiar song blared from a crevice directly behind me. I turned to find this small fellow singing his big song.

Canyon Wren

For more info on Hueco Tanks...check out http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/hueco-tanks

Next up, Franklin Mountain State Park!

30 comments:

  1. Such happy birds enjoying all that sunshine! Sweet!
    Wishing you a most wonderful Easter weekend Tammy!
    xo Catherine

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  2. Wow... Great posting! Its great to mix travel and birding. Lots of cool scenery & lifers here!

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  3. Hey Tammy!

    Great photos--I think you called all your IDs spot on as well--and commentary.
    To be honest, I've always thought of El Paso as a fly-over area, but this park looks beautiful.

    Great post, thanks for sharing.

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  4. you got to see a ton of birds that we don't see here on the eastern side of texas. AWESOME! love the black-throated sparrow (saw them recently on chris' arizona blog). also love that scaled quail! wow!

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  5. Great photos of many different birds, very well photographed Tammy.
    I wish you happy Easter.
    Greetings Irma

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  6. Great shots. Always good to get a lifer but you got loads there. Sounds like a great place.

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  7. This area is so different from the lush, watery areas you usually photograph. Everything looks so parched! I'm so happy you were visited by so many different kinds of birds, they must have heard you were coming :)

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  8. dit is geweldig dat is puur genieten daar.

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  9. Wow what a great selection on birds you were able to see there. And so may lifers, congrats on your sucess.And again great photography as usaul

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  10. Hi Tammy .. Beautiful place .. I like this desert aspect .. Birds very interesting, different from the usual you usually shoot .. This very well .. congratulations

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  11. And I thought I was doing well in your State Florida, buy my goodness Tammy this is a fantastic post, and the number of lifers!!!
    I can't waite to see the rest.
    Take good care and of the Tot as well. Gordon.

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  12. Wow, I had no idea!! Maybe next year!!

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  13. Texas must be a great place for birding. I hear great things about it.

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  14. All beautiful shots! My favorites are the Chipping Sparrow and the Rock Wren!

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  15. Wow what an awesome place! I could see how the huecos would make that a fantastic place to bird, especially by sitting still. Very cool, congrats on all those lifers! That first Black-throated Sparrow is definitely one of my favorite shots, and that nest with the snake skin is so neat.

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  16. What a wonderful post, Tammy! It brought back memories of our time living in west Texas. Fantastic scenery!
    Congratulations on the new life birds!
    Simply great photographs!

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  17. Tremendas fotos Tammy. Como siempre, eres buenísima. Un saludo desde Extremadura.

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  18. Hi Tammy !
    It seems to be a great trip you have done nice pictures

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  19. This post was the best Easter gift ever..it was a feast of wonderful shots....so many lifers Tammy....We have lots of Chipping Sparrows here...I still love your header and your avatar pic with your wee one. He will get older very quickly and be way ahead of your running so fast!!! Enjoy him now, they grow up too quick!! Oh and I love the Phoebe. cheers and Happy Easter from Nora

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  20. Amiga Tammy, gracias por acercarnos a ese lugar tan maravilloso y mostrarnos esas especies de aves.
    Saludos!!

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  21. Great to see pictures of the exciting birds, a great series you show us.

    Ottar

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  22. Hola Tammy bellas imagenes de aves que has realizado en esta excursion.Un fuerte abrazo

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  23. What a wonderful post Tammy... many thanks for sharing it.

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  24. I'd say your time was well spent. It looks like a great place to explore!

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  25. Wow, what an awesome amount of lifers! Looks like a super place Tammy!

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  26. Hi Tammy!
    Stunning birdserie from a beautiful landscape.
    Greetings from Sweden
    /ingemar

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  27. Congrats Tammy!!! That is wonderful. Glad you found all of our special birds. You are so lucky. That Scaled Quail and Canyon Wren still evade my camera:) Pretty exciting when you rack up a bunch of lifers all at once:)

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  28. I knew you weren't in Florida when I saw the mountains in the background ~:)
    Congrats on the lifers and fantastic captures Tammy.
    Happy bird trails n tales

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  29. What an interesting landscape!

    Tot or not, you struck gold with so many lifers & fantastic captures to boot. Wow!!!

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I greatly appreciate your comments!