More about X-Bar Ranch Nature Retreat


Sunrise at X-Bar Ranch Nature Retreat

Click here for X-Bar Ranch Nature Retreat information.  Ann and I made a visit last week and spent a few days birding and photographing.   I had told you about it briefly in a post last week.  Here are some photos that I promised you. 
 
We spent most of our time around the lodge area, about 50 feet from the cabin that we stayed in.  It was amazing how many bird species that we saw in that tiny area.  We could have driven around the ranch on our own, but we will do that on another visit, as we were afraid of missing a new bird.
 
We were the only guests there, so we had the entire place to our own.  Stan Meador, the general manager, welcomed us and saw to our needs, then basically just left us alone.  Stan returned on Tuesday morning, and took us in his pickup truck for a tour of the ranch.
 
Besides the birding opportunities, there is hunting, hiking, biking, and camping.  As a matter of fact, Eddie Salter, a national champion turkey hunter and guide from Hunter’s Specialties had just finished filming a hunt to be shown in January 2012 on the Outdoor Channel.
 
At the bottom of this post I have listed the total species that we saw there.  Click on any photograph to see an enlargement.
 

Painted Bunting

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Northern Mockingbird
Chipping Sparrow
Western Scrub Jay
House Finch in flight
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Canyon Towhee
Northern Bobwhite
 
 
Happy Birding!!
 
Location:     X-Bar Ranch
Observation date:     4/18/11
Notes:     These are our observations at the Lodge April 18, 19, & 20th.<br>from
the north & south ends of the porch!
Number of species:     37
 
Northern Bobwhite     8
Wild Turkey     4
Turkey Vulture     6
American Kestrel     1
Eurasian Collared-Dove     2
White-winged Dove     6
Mourning Dove     10
Black-chinned Hummingbird     4
Golden-fronted Woodpecker     1
Eastern Phoebe     1
Eastern Kingbird     1
Western Scrub-Jay     7
Barn Swallow     2
Black-crested Titmouse     4
Bewick’s Wren     2
Hermit Thrush     2
Northern Mockingbird     6
Orange-crowned Warbler     2
Nashville Warbler     1
Yellow Warbler     2
Yellow-rumped Warbler     3
Spotted/Eastern Towhee     5
Rufous-crowned Sparrow     2
Canyon Towhee     2
Chipping Sparrow     6
Lark Sparrow     2
Savannah Sparrow     2
White-crowned Sparrow     2
Summer Tanager     3
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     1
Blue Grosbeak     1
Painted Bunting     4
Great-tailed Grackle     2
Brown-headed Cowbird     1
Scott’s Oriole     2
House Finch     10
House Sparrow     2
 
 

X-Bar Ranch Birding


As most of you know, Ann and I just returned from spending three days at the X-Bar Ranch Nature Retreat, near Eldorato, Texas.  We had a fantastic time.  Since we are in the midst of the migration, we were able to see quite a  number of birds.  The best part, all we had to do was to sit in an area about 50 feet from our cabin.  There was a small group of trees with a bubbling bird bath near by.
 
I set my Canon 7D on my tripod with a 500mm lens attached.  I kept my other 7D with a 100-400mm lens at my side.  So, between the two, I was pretty well equiped.  From the birding aspect, we saw 35 different species, all in that one little area.  A list is at the bottom of this post.

 

During our stay, one of the owners, Stan Meador, took us on a tour of the ranch.  He showed us a few other areas that could make good birding and photography areas.

Here are a few images that I captured.  I still have a large number of photographs to go through so there will be more posted in a few days.

Scrub Jay
Blue Grosbeak
Hermit Thrush
Summer Tanager

 Location:     X-Bar Ranch
Observation date:     4/18/11
Notes:     These are our observations at the Lodge April 18, 19, & 20th.<br>from
the north & south ends of the porch!
Number of species:     37

Northern Bobwhite     8
Wild Turkey     4
Turkey Vulture     6
American Kestrel     1
Eurasian Collared-Dove     2
White-winged Dove     6
Mourning Dove     10
Black-chinned Hummingbird     4
Golden-fronted Woodpecker     1
Eastern Phoebe     1
Eastern Kingbird     1
Western Scrub-Jay     7
Barn Swallow     2
Black-crested Titmouse     4
Bewick’s Wren     2
Hermit Thrush     2
Northern Mockingbird     6
Orange-crowned Warbler     2
Nashville Warbler     1
Yellow Warbler     2
Yellow-rumped Warbler     3
Spotted/Eastern Towhee     5
Rufous-crowned Sparrow     2
Canyon Towhee     2
Chipping Sparrow     6
Lark Sparrow     2
Savannah Sparrow     2
White-crowned Sparrow     2
Summer Tanager     3
Northern Cardinal     6
Pyrrhuloxia     1
Blue Grosbeak     1
Painted Bunting     4
Great-tailed Grackle     2
Brown-headed Cowbird     1
Scott’s Oriole     2
House Finch     10
House Sparrow     2

 

Going Down to the X-Bar Ranch


Today Ann and I are going down to the X-Bar Ranch to stay until coming back on Thursday.  It is an excellent birding spot so we hope to see some of the birds coming north during the migration.  Click on the above link to see more about it.

Due to the fires here in west Texas that you have probably read about, we haven’t been out much because of the smoke in the air.  We have a fire that stopped at our northern city limits, before the wind changed and started moving it north.  As of this writing it has burned 130,000 acres and is still moving north.  Fortunately, so far there have been no loss of life and property damage has been minimal.  It has managed to skirt around the city of Robert Lee.

We did get out for a little bit yesterday morning to check on the bird blind at San Angelo State Park.  Here are a couple images that I was able to get.  I hope you enjoy them.  Of course, click on either of them to see enlarged image.

Black-crested Titmouse

 

Cotton-tailed Rabbit

 Most likely, this will be my last post until we return.  I’m hoping to have a few more images for you.

X-Bar Ranch – The Hike


Ann and I spent three wonderful days down at the Live Oak Lodge at X-Bar Ranch.  We had the place literally to ourselves.  No hunters yet, and no other guests.  So we spent most of the time eating, sleeping or watching birds.  However, on Tuesday we decided to take a little walk.

When we had checked in on Monday, Christy and Stan Meador, our hosts were pointing out different things to do.  Christy mentioned the various trails that would be open, as there were no hunters around.  During that conversation I thought I had heard the words “green trail’  and “six tenths mile”.

Dark-eyed Junco

So, when Ann mentioned that a walk would be fun, I interjected that the Green Trail would be great because it was only .6 tenths of a mile.  Heck, we have a little route around our neighborhood that we figure is a mile, and we handle that with ease.  This would be a piece of cake, right??  Not!!

We set off at approximately 10:45AM.  We had light jackets because it was a little cool and windy.  I had a camera slung over my shoulder.  Ann had binoculars.  We carried no water, because, heck, it was only six tenths of a mile., right?  We had drank up before we left, though.

We got to walking along, me taking the occasional snapshot along the way.  The trail was well marked.  No way could we get lost, so were just enjoying the day.  The trail is pretty rugged in places.  Hilly, not real steep, but rocky in most places, as it follows some water runoff areas or washes.

Spotted Towhee

 After about thirty minutes, I thought we should be very close to the end of the trail, because this trail was only six tenths of a mile, right?  Well we kept walking and were starting to get a little worn.  I am 76 years old, just recently recovered from a back fracture, and Ann is 72, so I began to think that maybe we unknowingly bit off more that we could handle.  Any time now we expected to see the cabins.  We walked more.  No cabins in sight.  We were both starting to really get concerned.  We were getting warm as the temperature started to climb, and had shed our jackets.  Also we were getting  very thirsty.  After about an hour or maybe a little more, we knew something was very wrong.  We knew we were on the trail, as it was marked and easily to follow.  We also knew by then that it was longer that we originally thought, but how much longer, we had no idea.

Finally, we got a glimpse of something in the distance.  I borrowed Ann’s binoculars and discovered that the cabins were still about a mile or more away.  We were stunned, and wondered how could this be.  We knew even if it was a mile, that the trail wouldn’t be in a straight line.  There were too many switch-backs in the hilly trails.  I tried to sit down on a rock to rest a minute while we were trying to decide whether we should try to call someone on our cell phone.  We decided that no one could reach us very fast, even if we found someone to contact. 

So we hugged each other a bit, prayed to the Man upstairs and decided there was only one way out, and that was just to go ahead, one step at a time.  I knew that if I sat down again, I wouldn’t be able to get back up.  There were very few places to sit, anyway.  Only an occasional rock.  By then I was using the only walking stick we had, plus a piece of tree branch that we had picked up.  Ann was making it without any aid, though with difficulty.   How she done it, I will never know.   In places, we were literally leaning on each other.  Plus we were chastising ourselves for being so foolish.

Northern Cardinal - female

After what seemed forever, actually about two hours and a half, we finally made it to the last gate.  It was similar but not exactly like a cattle guard.  For me, just getting across that was a struggle.  But make it, we did.  Thankfully, we sat down on a chair by the patio.  I found that God looks after fools and drunks……….. and we were sober.

Afterwords, we found trail maps in the lodge.  There are four trails a person can take.  The shortest is a mile and a half.  We DID NOT take that one. 

We got a valuable lesson that day.  Do not attempt such an undertaking unless you are absolutely sure of the facts, then go prepared.  In retrospect, we also should have let someone know where we were going.  But, what’s done is done.  On Wednesday, we didn’t leave the lodge.  We just sat on the patio and watched and photographed birds.  I needed to use the walking stick anyway, because I pulled a muscle in my hip during our hike.  But I am feeling great again.  No more hiking again for awhile, thank you very much.

By the way, Ann did not want me to tell this story.  She thought it would make us look stupid.  Maybe or maybe not.  After all, we just misunderstood what was said and did not get confirmation.

By the way, the length of the Green Trail is three miles……….

Happy birding! 🙂