Avid birders raise $10,000 for Davis Mountains Preserve

DAVIS MOUNTAINS – Texas boasts the biggest, longest birdwatching tournament in the United States with its Great Texas Birding Classic, and this year the event raised $10,000 in grant funding for the Davis Mountains Preserve, a Nature Conservancy property that is home to hiking trails, hundreds of species, and soon, a new wildlife viewing area and water feature.

The 191 teams participating in the 2021 tournament raised $44,000 in grant funds that support birding and bird populations across Texas, but the biggest grant given out is headed to the Big Bend, as $10,000 will go to the preserve in Jeff Davis County. The Socially Distanced Flycatchers birding team supported the Davis Mountains Preserve, and the company Deep South Marine sponsored the grant.

“We are thrilled about this project to say the least,” said Tara Poloskey, the West Texas Education and Outreach Coordinator at The Nature Conservancy. “We’ve been wanting a bird blind, some sort of structure or area where people can come and just sit and enjoy nature right there at the visitor’s center.”

The new viewing area and water feature will not only offer wildlife viewing to visitors, but provide a place for education, stewardship and outreach for the conservancy and a new opportunity for volunteers to work on.

Because of the grant, there will soon be two structures for bird watchers and photographers to see birds make use of the new water feature and bird feeders. Work on the project will begin “fairly immediately,” according to Poloskey.

The Davis Mountain Preserve protects over 33,000 acres in one of Texas’ three “sky islands” where unique flora and fauna thrive in a climate that is unlike the harsh desert weather found at lower altitudes. The preserve is a reliable site to see high elevation birds like the mountain chickadee, and nearly 20 species of hummingbirds that inhabit the Davis Mountains region.

“Rivoli’s Hummingbird is one of the species that people travel far and wide to come see. It used to be called ‘the magnificent hummingbird’ and it’s enormous. There are over 365 species in the Davis Mountains, but it’s totally different than the rest of the Trans-Pecos,” Poloskey explained, in part because of the mountains, canyons, riparian gallery forests and a higher elevation that makes the area cooler and wetter.

The Great Texas Birding Classic, run annually by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, surpassed a total of over $1 million in conservation grants – disbursed over the past 25 years – for nature tourism and avian habitat restoration, enhancement and acquisition projects. “As the tournament continues to grow, we look forward to donating even more towards habitat conservation projects in Texas,” said Shelly Plante, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department nature tourism manager. “It’s thrilling to see so many families, kids and friends connect with nature through the event.”

West Texans are slowly returning to the Davis Mountains Preserve after the pandemic, with the conservancy welcoming the public to visit during limited open days beginning last month. The preserve will be open to the public on July 31 and August 1, welcoming in a maximum of 50 visitors each day for free day-use from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Visits must be reserved in advance, and visitors should email Tara Poloskey at tara.poloskey@tnc.org by or before Thursday, July 29, with your name and approximately how many people are in your group. You must receive a confirmation email in order to visit the preserve. For more information, visit the Davis Mountains Preserve on Facebook.