The remarkable Carolyn Ohl-Johnson and her equally remarkable Christmas Mountain oasis reserve
Today was our last full days birding with Jake in Texas, before driving to El Paso to drop him at the airport and, hopefully picking up our long-time birding friends Bob & Sue. We’d read on the internet before we travelled about the amazing desert oasis reserve, created by Carolyn Ohl-Johnson, at Christmas Mountain. The reserve lies on the north west edge of the Chisos Mountains and was first created in 1996. It is a magnet for migrating birds as well as home to some very special hummers – Lucifer Hummingbird. It’s not an easy place to find, the final four miles being up a rocky dirt track and you have to book well in advance with Carolyn – but the effort is worth it. Our visit coincided with their ‘Big Sit’ and by the time we came to leave they were up to 43 species – shooting for 50. It didn’t take us long watching the feeders to glimpse our first Lucifer, as it darted in to feed, but it took us another couple of hours to manage even a grab shot. We left Carolyn’s oasis, with several new additional species, and headed for Fort Davis and the splendid ‘old colonial’ Hotel Limpia. An afternoon of birding brought us, what I suspect will be, one of the highlights of our Texas tour – a mini twitch to find a superb Lewis’s Woodpecker. This north-west and central States species winters in small numbers as far south as Texas but this individual kindly decided to wait around for us to see it.
The star bird of Christmas Mountain, Lucifer Hummingbird – a rare breeding Mexican overshoot, with it’s distinctive iridescent purple frilled throat-patch
Other good birds seen at the oasis included Black-headed Grosbeak
In the afternoon a ‘mini twitch’ delivered us one of our Texas highlights – Lewis’s Woodpecker, at Prude Ranch
A touch of ‘old colonial’ luxury, in marked contrast to our usual motel accommodation, the Hotel Limpia at Fort Davis – ending our Texas leg of GABRAT in style!