Davis Mountains Discoveries Reach New Heights

It’s unusual for a birder to visit the Davis Mountains in West Texas in November, but I like it. The grasslands are alive with Horned Larks, Lark Buntings, longspurs, and sparrows settling in for the winter. Ferruginous Hawks have returned in large numbers, and I’m looking forward to seeing eagles—Golden Eagles that will spend the winter hunting jackrabbits and other wildlife on the Davis Mountains Scenic Loop Drive.

I’ve spent much of the day lounging against the Sleeping Lion Formation’s towering, extending granite columns above Fort Davis National Historical Site. The brightness of the late autumn light has prompted me to engage in “passive birding,” allowing the birds to come to me while rereading portions of Fred Gehlbach’s Mountain Islands and Desert Seas. This intriguing study of Borderlands natural history highlights the ecological significance of the Mountain Islands located in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. I wonder about the present severe drought and what it will teach us about the factors that have sculpted the plant and animal populations of these various Mountain Islands between visits from interested Greater Roadrunners and the passing shadows of Turkey Vultures. A Red-tailed Hawk has lingered around for what feels like an eternity while I sit here reading. His talent of concentration is stronger than mine.

The Davis Mountains are a mystery. They are southern Rocky Mountain outliers and northern Sierra Madre outliers in Mexico. They include relic forests constructed during wet circumstances of the later Pleistocene, similar to the famed “Sky Island” mountains of Southeast Arizona and the Chisos Mountains of adjacent Big Bend National Park. They now produce their own weather by sucking moisture from air masses that pass the mountains. The high peaks of Mt. Livermore physically reverse air currents, as seen by distinct concentric rings on a regional weather chart. These mountains are located in West Texas’ “barren regions,” yet they start a mile high and ascend to 8,352 feet. They are surrounded by massive granite palisades. On one side, water is sent to the Rio Grande. On the other hand, they feed an artesian spring that produces about 80 million gallons of water every day. They have the lone Grizzly Bear record in Texas—an elderly guy shot in 1890.

The Davis Mountains are one of four mountain ranges that run from Northern Coahuila, Mexico, to West Texas like ecological stepping stones. The Sierra del Carmens, Chisos Mountains, Davis Mountains, and Guadalupe Mountains are from southeast to northwest. The Sierra del Carmens has the most quantity of forest habitat over 5,500 feet, which is critical for bird diversity. They are around the size of the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona, with 115 square miles of wooded habitat. The Davis Mountains are 70 square miles in size, the Guadalupes are 65 square miles, and the Chisos are just 10 square miles of valuable Pleistocene relic forest. The Sierra del Carmens is about 40 kilometres southeast of the Chisos. These are located 100 miles southeast of the Davis Mountains, which are located 100 miles southeast of the Guadalupe Mountains.

Each of the four ranges has a high amount of variety due to the rugged geography. Mt. Loomis, which stands at 8,960 feet, is the highest mountain in the Sierra del Carmens. Emory Peak in the Chisos rises to 7,825 feet, Mt. Livermore in the Davis rises to 8,378 feet, and Guadalupe Peak in the Guadalupes climbs to 8,679 feet. In response to rainfall, all of the ranges exhibit a similar tiered development of plant kinds, which intensifies at higher altitudes. All contain uncommon, damp Madrean Oak Woodland and are flanked by large desert or grassland “seas” at lower altitudes.

Since the area endured chilly, rainy weather at the end of the Pleistocene, the damp forests of these Mountain Islands have been separated from each other for at least 10,000 years. While there were no glaciers in the border ranges, packrat middens and pollen studies show that pinyon and juniper flourished 2,500-3,000 feet lower during the end of the Pleistocene. These mountains were linked by extensive woods. As heat and drought persisted, forests withdrew up the slope. Deserts in North America are a relatively new phenomena. Many of our desert flora first appeared 4,000-8,000 years ago.

The Texas Mountain Islands chain is significantly more remote than its Arizona/New Mexico equivalent. In a 1974 research comparing the breeding bird populations of four Texas ranges, Roland Wauer and J.D. Ligon regarded distance to more broad mountain ranges to be a crucial determinant in comparative variety. It is 200 miles from the Sierra del Carmens to the huge Mexican peaks of the Sierra Madre Occidental or the Sierra Madre Oriental. Conifer habitat is not met in the United States until the Animas/Guadalupe/Pelenciillo mountains on the Arizona/New Mexico border, which is several hundred miles away. Only to the north, in the adjacent Santiago Range of the Southern Rockies, do the Guadalupes have a proximate supply of higher elevation species.

The breeding bird fauna of the four Mountain Islands varies. Only half (56 species) of the 113 species presently found above 5,500 feet are found in all four ranges. Wauer and Ligon’s 1974 analysis placed the Davis Mountains third in terms of the number of breeding species, behind the Guadalupe and Sierra del Carmens. In their 1998 Birds of the Trans-Pecos, Jim Peterson and Barry Zimmer state that, with greater observer effort and improved access to the high terrain, the Davis Mountains have pulled into a strong first position with 100 recognised or high-potential breeding bird species. Using the same criterion, the Guadalupes gained 11 species, bringing the total to 92; the Sierra del Carmens added 9, bringing the total to 81; and the extensively birded Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park added 10, bringing the total to 73 breeding species. This summer, John Karges of the Texas Nature Conservancy and Kelly Bryan of the Texas State Parks and Wildlife Department released a new update that includes conceivable, likely, historical, and verified breeding to completely compare the ranges. Davis Mountains (102), Guadalupes (97), Sierra del Carmens (88), and Chisos (88) are the new totals (72).

The Davis Mountains were previously unknown among the southern Mountain Islands big enough to support damp Madrean Oak Woodland. Birders have been exploring the rocky valleys of Southeast Arizona for many years in quest of uncommon and indigenous species. Big Bend National Park has a similar allure but needs more work to reach. The Davis Mountains, like Big Bend, are not on the route anywhere; one must make a particular effort to explore their ranges. Perhaps this is part of their allure.

The Davis Mountains are largely private terrain, with century-old ranches that are proud of their management and are off-limits to the public. While birds go to Big Bend and Guadalupe National Parks, the Davis Mountains are often overlooked. Access to the mountains is mostly via Davis Mountains State Park and a major roadway that follows Limpia Creek. The Texas Nature Conservancy’s recent acquisition of 32,000 acres in Mt. Livermore’s upper altitudes and the headwaters of Madera Canyon, on the other hand, is allowing for some intriguing new discoveries. It also gives birdwatchers hope of one day seeing the high highlands of this long-overlooked piece of the Borderlands jigsaw.

One would anticipate a significant Rocky Mountain impact in the Guadalupe Mountains to the north and a strong Mexican Mountain influence in the Sierra del Carmens and Chisos to the south when understanding the ecological riddle of Texas’ Mountain Islands. Due of limited access to higher heights, the exact location of the Davis Mountains affinity has been a closely kept secret. Birders are fast completing the picture with the purchase of Texas Nature Conservancy preserves.

Wauer and Ligon, in 1974, investigated the northern or Rocky Mountain effect and discovered 12 species in the Guadalupes that were not known to breed in the other three mountain ranges. Hairy Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatcher +, Brown Creeper +, House Wren, American Robin, Orange-crowned* and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Western Tanager, and Dark-eyed (Grey-headed) Junco are nine of these upper forest birds. Researchers have discovered seven of these species breeding*, or very likely to be breeding +, in the Davis Mountains thanks to improved access. These Chisos species are yet to be documented.

Cassin’s Kingbird, Western Wood-Pewee, Steller’s and Scrub Jays, Mountain Chickadee, Hermit Thrush, Grace’s Warbler, Pine Siskin, and Chipping Sparrow are among the other species that occur in the two northern ranges but have yet to be reported as breeders in the Chisos or Sierra del Carmens.

The amazing first Texas nesting records for Gray Flycatcher and Dusky Flycatcher were reported on the new Davis Mountains and Madera Canyon preserves in 1990 and June of 2000, respectively. Additionally, nesting Western Kingbirds, Mountain Bluebirds, Green-tailed Towhees, and Red Crossbills have had their ranges expanded. The Northern Pygmy-Owl was formerly assumed to be restricted to the Sierra del Carmens, but fresh data supports breeding in the Davis Mountains. Northern Saw-whet Owl, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Greater Pewee sightings throughout the summer may be of interest. This summer, a third Texas record of Brewer’s Blackbird for the Davis Mountains was documented—the only one of the four ranges where this species breeds.

Birders are especially delighted by recent data confirming that the Davis Mountains have a Mexican Mountain affinity comparable to the famed Chiricahua Mountains of Southeast Arizona. Inspired by important discovery between Mt. Livermore and the headwaters of Madera Canyon in 1990 and 1991, the Texas Nature Conservancy enlisted the help of local specialists to further examine and census what would become the new Davis Mountains and Madera Canyon Preserves.

Initial survey results, coordinated by Kelly Bryan and John Karges and done by some of Texas’ most seasoned observers, have been astounding. The first Texas record of a nesting Buff-breasted Flycatcher, with active nests for two years at multiple places on the mountain, is noteworthy. Other noteworthy discoveries include nesting Magnificent Hummingbirds, Painted Redstarts, and Virginia’s Warblers. Lucifer’s Hummingbird is very likely to be reproducing (juveniles sighted at feeders). The presence of White-eared, Blue-throated, and Berylline Hummingbirds over the summer season, as well as reports of a pair and later a solitary grey hawk hanging near Limpia Creek for most of May and June this past summer, may be of interest. A male Colima Warbler has been sighted on territory singing for a female that has yet to appear for the second season in a succession.

Despite multiple summer recordings of males calling high in the Davis Mountains, the Dusky-capped Flycatcher picked the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park to identify its first Texas breeding site in a friendly, continuing contest amongst observers marking new records for the Mountain Islands. Based on a 1992 sighting in the proper season, would the Davis Mountains score soon for a probable nesting Olive Warbler? This summer, a male Slate-throated Redstart, a breeder in the Sierra del Carmens, was heard singing in June. There seems to be an infinite number of options and forecasts being recorded right now. This provides for some thrilling birdwatching in the Davis Mountains!

Finally, although the Davis Mountains only provide a fraction of the habitat for many of the highlighted species, dispersing birds are successfully breeding here. This past summer, a couple of Spotted Owls flew in and out of a rocky fissure appropriate for nesting high on Mt. Livermore’s rocky shoulder. Despite the fact that no chicks were sighted later in the season, breeding is quite likely.

As habitat diminishes and environmental circumstances change, these isolated populations may be critical to the evolution and conservation of these species. The Davis Mountains, as Fred Gehlbach pointed out in Mountain Islands Desert Seas, “require more attention.” The Nature Conservancy’s dedication and unique private land management strategy for the Davis Mountains and Madera Canyon Preserves, located high in the Davis Mountains, is on target.


  • The Geologic Setting

The Borderlands are accurately described by Fred Gehlbach as a “carpet of interacting flora and animals expertly weaved on a geologic loom.” Here in the Davis Mountains, the loom is robust. On the south and northeast slopes of the Davis Mountains, rugged palisades surround the entry. The volcanic cliffs rise approximately 1000 feet above the road in places. The alternating lava and ash-flow tuff strata are best visible in Musquiz Canyon, which rises from Alpine on SH118 and runs north of Wild Rose Pass on SH17 to Kent and Balmorhea. Cactus, Rock, and Canyon Wrens are drawn to the rough environment. Red-tails, Prairie Falcons, and Zone-tailed Hawks hunt for prey in updrafts.

The Davis Mountains’ stunning beauty is the living remnant of one of the most powerful foci of volcanism along an arc stretching from Mexico to Montana. Thirty-five million years ago, pressures that had previously buckled and forced the majority of the Rocky Mountains upward eased. Western North America started to expand where it had previously been constricted, allowing lava to flow through weak spots. Lava poured softly out of cracks and fractures in various places. The Davis Mountains’ topography was formed by debris ejected from two calderas with a force much greater than Mount St. Helens.

  • Plant Life

The Davis Mountains State Park and Vicinity Bird Checklist provides an excellent summary of the plant ecosystems of the Davis Mountains and their link to bird distribution. It’s worth noting that plant distribution throughout the four Mountain Islands follows a stepping stone pattern of variety.

Mexican Pinyon grows on the three southern Mountain Islands (Davis, Chisos, and Sierra del Carmens). The more familiar pinyon, which reaches north into the Rocky Mountains, may be found in the Guadalupes. The Davis Mountains lack Douglas Fir, although it may be found in the Guadalupes and Chisos, while the Sierra del Carmens have a near Mexican relative: the Coahuilla Fir. Arizona Cypress, a magnificent tree found across Arizona’s border mountains, is found exclusively in the Chisos and Sierra del Carmens, not farther north. Harvard Agave is a common agave in the two northern areas, whereas Parry Agave is found in similar habitat in the southern ranges. The Davis Mountains are home to six main plants: White-leaf, Emory, and Chisos Red Oaks, Mexican Manzanita, the previously mentioned Mexican Pinyon, and Scarlet Bouvardia. Livermore Sandwort, Fringed Paintbrush, and an invertebrate called the Palmer’s Land Snail are all indigenous to the Davis Mountains.


  • Davis Mountains State Park (DMSP)

This is a pay zone. The 27-hundred-acre Davis Mountains State Park allows public access to the Davis Mountains’ foothills and is an excellent spot to begin birdwatching. The park’s 1997 checklist, which is accessible at the entry station, has 358 species. Most visitors begin their birding adventure in the campground’s oak ecosystem, which is home to Acorn and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Curve-billed Thrashers, Tufted Titmouses, and Black-headed Grosbeaks. During the warmer months, Common Poorwill may be seen at night on the road that leads to the beautiful overlook. A wildlife centre with exhibits and a large feeding area is located at the bottom of this road. Photographic opportunities abound since there is a blind next to the nature centre with seating for 12 or more to see the practically continual activity of Chipping and Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Green-tailed Towhee, and Pyrrhuloxia. A raucous group of Scrub Jays might arrive at any moment. The campsite is frequented by a herd of javelina.

  • DMSP: Montezuma Quail: In The Wild and Feeding Sites

The Montezuma Quail is the actual treasure to look for at the nature centre feeders, which are most often seen in the mornings and nights. This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful birds in North America. Their flamboyant plumage earned them the traditional moniker “Harlequin Quail.” Davis Mountain State Park is the best spot in the United States to view Montezuma Quail. They like the oak forest environment, where lush grass masks their movements. Montezuma Quail are becoming uncommon due to the disappearance of tall grasslands throughout most of their territory. It’s pleasant to come upon them in the outdoors. They will sit very motionless when startled, unlike the Scaled Quail, which also lives in this region. Walking through the dry arroyos above the campsite at Davis Mountains State Park and on the tiny route that follows Limpia Creek, you may almost tread on them. They may feed on the bulbs of lily family plants and sedges found here, as well as the lush grass cover on which they rely. Look for recent diggings, particularly after the summer rains, when the plant bulbs swell up. If you can’t spot quail in the wild or simply want a closer look, go to Davis Mountains State Park’s feeding stations. To increase your chances of spotting them, inquire at the admission station about timings and places.

  • DMSP: Bird Banding Station

An excellent effort by Davis Mountains State Park employees and volunteers at a banding station situated near Limpia Creek is contributing important baseline data for the Davis Mountains. Kelly Bryan founded the station in August of 1992. During the spring and autumn migration seasons (August-November and March-May), competent volunteers, most notably David and Linda Hedges, Marty and Russ Hanson, Bill and Mickey West, and Priscilla and Elgin Schaefer, have carried out operations. By the autumn of 1999, 39,053 net hours had been completed over the course of 897 days. Thirty-one of the 143 species collected at Davis Mountains State Park were previously unknown. They have now been included to the checklist. Over 19,000 birds have been banded by over 6,000 visitors! Northern Mockingbird, Wilson’s Warbler, Chipping and White-crowned Sparrows, House Finch, and Pine Siskin are among the most prevalent species. Eastern migrants, notably warblers and flycatchers, are among the unusual species. Painted Buntings and difficult-to-identify species, such as autumn Clay-colored Sparrows and many Empidonax flycatchers, are popular with tourists. Banding sessions take place 3-4 mornings each week. For further information, please contact the Park office.

  • Fort Davis Townsite

A surprising variety of species may be found in residential settings, especially in older neighbourhoods behind the Fort Davis County Courthouse. You’ll also get to visit some historic houses as you walk around. In the winter, the high school’s ball fields may attract mixed flocks of McCown’s and Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Horned Larks, and a variety of sparrows.

  • Fort Davis National Historical Site

This is a pay zone. This landmark is within walking distance of town and is one of the best-preserved border Forts in the Southwest. The vegetation behind the Fort is characteristic of the Davis Mountains’ foothills, with juniper-oak woods and notable rock outcrops. Say’s Phoebes often nest under the eaves of the Visitor’s Center and adjacent structures. In season, large cottonwood trees near the Fort are ideal for seeing Vermilion Flycatchers, Summer Tanagers, and Yellow-billed Cuckoos. During spring migration, the picnic area and the new-leafing oaks behind the Fort (as you climb up the canyon or on the route connecting to the state park) are excellent spots to look for a variety of warblers and possibly rarities. Keep an eye out for raptors on the cliffs. Rock outcrops are ideal habitat for Rock, Cactus, and Canyon Wren.

  • Limpia Creek

Limpia Creek’s lush paradise is one of the greatest places in the Southwest to watch Common Black Hawks. Several pairs may be spotted off SH 118, but be cautious of traffic, park legally, and stay off the road. One couple has been quite consistent between town and Davis Mountains State Park. Another has been observed on a frequent basis from SH 17 approximately 2.5 miles north of the interchange with SH 118. Wauer and Elwonger’s Birding Texas provides excellent guidance for active regions. Summer species to look for include the Black Phoebe, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Painted Bunting, and Orchard and Bullock’s Oriole. In the winter, watch for the Vermilion Flycatcher, three bluebird species, Green-tailed and Spotted Towhee.

  • Madera Picnic Area – SH 118 North

Birders looking for a taste of the upper country can go north on SH118, seven miles beyond the turn-off to the famed McDonald Observatory, to the Madera Picnic Area. A dense ribbon of Emory Oaks follows the drainage from a rocky slope above Mt. Livermore down to this little woodland region. Hepatic Tanager and Grace’s Warbler may be seen in the summer, Wild Turkey or Prairie Falcon at any time of year, Williamson’s Sapsucker and Mountain Chickadee in winter, and a variety of warblers in migration, including MacGillivray’s, Townsend’s, Black-throated Gray, Hermit, and Virginia’s. Virginia has lately been confirmed as a breeding bird at higher altitudes. Please respect private property and, no matter how tempting it may seem, DO NOT CROSS FENCES. Respect today, ideally, will sustain goodwill toward birders as more people go to this region.

  • Davis Mountains Scenic Loop Drive

Prairie Falcon and Golden Eagle sightings are possible on the loop drive, which takes you through McDonald Observatory, Madera Picnic Area, and then across open ranching area as it circles the Davis Mountains. The Point of Rocks Picnic Area is an excellent stop, and Mountain Plover is listed as a probable species by Wauer and Elwonger in Birding Texas. On the winter, mixed flocks of horned larks, longspurs, and sparrows may be seen in the open ranching fields.

  • Texas Nature Conservancy – Davis Mountains and Madera Canyon Preserves

These new preserves are not yet available to the public, but entry may be arranged via the Friends of the Davis Mountains Preserve, which holds planned member activities on the grounds. Consider planning your vacation to coincide with one of these events. Contact the Fort Davis Office or, better yet, join Friends of the Davis Mountains Preserve to stay in contact. With enough notice, a group visit may be feasible, subject to other activities and affects at the preserves.

  • Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute

This is a fee area four miles southeast of Ft. Davis on the way to Alpine. The site has an interesting variety of desert flora as well as natural walks. Typical desert and grassland species, as well as raptors, may be found here.

  • Balmorhea State Park

This is a pay zone. There are 298 species on the park’s inventory. The Davis Mountains’ artesian springs feed a massive swimming pool (great fun!) where local fish swim alongside you. Water is carried onto the land by massive cottonwood trees, which might be ideal for migrants. The park biologist monitors recent sightings and may have active feeders. A Cienega has been rebuilt for native fish, and you may see a Pied-billed Grebe as well as various ducks, herons, and waders here.

  • Balmorhea Lake

This 600-acre lake is known for producing a variety of regional rarities, especially during migration. This is an excellent place to complete out a trip list with American White Pelican, Clark’s and Western Grebe, King or Virginia Rail, or, in winter, Common or Red-throated Loon or Bald Eagle. Mudflats are ideal for migratory shorebirds. Examine the weedy and agricultural lands around the lake. Take Houston Street (signposted in the middle of town) for approximately four miles south to the lake. (For a good map and species overview, see Wauer and Elwonger’s Birding Texas.)


While birding may be enjoyable throughout the year, the best times to visit are during spring migration (April and May) and autumn migration (September and October) (more extended: July through November, peaking from August to September). Hummingbirds have become more numerous and diverse, and mid-summer is an ideal time to see over ten different kinds. Winter is an excellent season to view longspurs and up to 20 different kinds of wintering sparrows. A variety of raptors, including Rufous and Anna’s Hummingbirds, spend the winter here. After nesting begins in mid-summer, Montezuma Quails may be difficult to locate and seldom visit feeders.


Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 378
Ft. Davis, TX 79734
(800) 324-3015

Davis Mountains State Park
Texas State Parks and Wildlife
P.O. Box 1458
Ft. Davis, TX. 79734
(915) 426-3337

Texas Nature Conservancy
Ft. Davis Office
P.O. Box 2078
Ft. Davis, TX. 79734
(915) 426-2390


Bridges, Mark. 2000. Volcanism and the Davis Mountains: a driving tour of volcanic history. http://www.cdri.org/Discovery/News.html.

Bryan, Kelly B, Pansy Epsy, and Jody Miller. 1997. Birds of the Davis Mountains State Park and Vicinity: A seasonal checklist. Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., Austin, TX.

Gehlbach, Frederick R. 1981. Mountain Islands and Desert Seas, Texas A&M University Press, College Station, TX.

Hagelin, Julie C. 1998. “A Closer Look: Montezuma Quail.” Birding, October, 1998.

Hedges, Linda K., and Kelly B. Bryan. 2000. “Limpia Canyon Bird Banding Station: The First Seven Years.” Flyway 6/7L16-17. Texas Partners in Flight.

Karges, John. Fall, 1999. Horizons. Texas Nature Conservancy, Ft. Davis, TX.

Karges, John P., and Kelly B. Bryan. 2000. Bird Use and Conservation Importance. The Nature Conservancy of Texas’ Davis Mountains Project. Ft. Davis, TX.

Kricher, John C. 1993. Ecology of Western Forests. Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA.

Peterson, Jim and Barry R. Zimmer. 1998. Birds of the Trans Pecos. University of Texas Press, Austin, TX.

Peterson, Jim J., Greg W. Lasley, Kelly B. Bryan and Mark Lockwood. 1991.

“Additions to the Breeding Avifauna of the Davis Mountains.” Bull. Texas Ornith. Soc. 24 (2): 1991.

Spearing, Darwin. 1991. Roadside Geology of Texas. Mountain Press Pub. Co. Missoula, MT.

Snyder, Noel and Helen Snyder. 1991. Pp. 136-141 in Birds of Prey. Natural History and Conservation of North American Raptors.

Warnock, B. H. 1977. Wildflowers of the Davis Mountains and the Marathon Basin, Texas. Sul Ross State University, Alpine, TX.

Wauer, Roland H. and Mark A. Elwonger. 1998. Birding Texas. Falcon Press, Helena, MT.

Wauer, R.H., and J.D. Ligon. 1974. “Distributional relations of breeding avifauna of four southwestern mountain ranges.” Pp. 567-578 in Transactions of the symposium on the biological resources of the Chihuahuan desert region, the United States and Mexico (R. Wauer and D Riskind, eds.). Proc. Trans. Ser., National Park Service; no 3. Washington D.C.

The Nature Conservancy of Texas and Friends of the Davis Mountains Preserve

Concerned environmentalists around the nation applauded the news release published by The Nature Conservancy of Texas headquarters office in San Antonio on January 7, 2021. This was one of the most important steps in preserving essential ecosystems in the Davis Mountains, a largely obscure but vital link in the chain of rich biodiversity that characterises the Mountain Islands of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. The Nature Conservancy of Texas announced the acquisition of 32,000 acres of the historic “U Up U Down” McIvor Ranch in the Davis Mountains, which included the unique environment of Mt. Livermore’s arid windblown peak as well as the lush headwaters of Madera Creek.

The Conservancy maintains a stake in 14,000 acres as a preserve, with the other 20,000 acres sold as big ranch tracts to conservation purchasers with a legally enforceable commitment to conservation. The initiative represented nine years of hard labour and provided a novel answer to the ever-growing issue of family ranch dissolution. Land fragmentation from development was quickly becoming a danger in this gorgeous site with a year-round excellent climate.

The McIvor family formerly owned the current site of McDonald Observatory, which they gave to the University of Texas in order for this world-renowned institution to be built. By keeping the ranch intact under stringent conservation rules, they also safeguard the dark sky that allow for observation. The Nature Conservancy manages access to the newly established Davis Mountains Preserve and the smaller Madera Canyon Preserve.

The objective of Friends of the Davis Mountains is to “assist the Nature Conservancy in establishing broad-based community participation with the Davis Mountains Preserve and to promote a permanent conservation ethic for the Trans-Pecos Region.” The organisation will serve as the hub for preservation interpretation and stewardship, volunteer activities, education initiatives, research assistance, and community participation and outreach projects.

Currently, the Friends of the Davis Mountains reserve hosts four to six programmes every month. Hiking, birdwatching, trail maintenance, and nature walks are among them. In December of 2000, a Christmas bird count will be undertaken. You can help by becoming a member for as little as $25.00. The Nature Conservancy may be reached at P.O. Box 2078, Fort Davis, TX 79734 (915) 426-2390.

Email: [email protected].

Peg Abbott owns and guides trips for a small birding and natural history travel company known as Naturalist Journeys (www.naturalistjourneys.com). She’s been creating itineraries and guiding trips for over 20 years, first with the National Audubon Society, and later with a small travel company and a variety of conservation organizations. In any given year you can find her from Alaska to Argentina, or most anywhere in between. Birding holds a great sense of inspiration for Peg, as does a sense of place. She is active in conservation issues and is a master bird bander. In between journeys Peg raises and trains horses on a small farm in Bozeman, Montana. She can be reached at [email protected].

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