A Fun Day of Fauna and Flora at Franklin Mountains State Park, El Paso, Texas!


Photo of a park of the Tom May unit of the Franklin Mountains State Park; photo courtesy of Texas Park and Wildlife.


On Sunday, May 24, 2015, a good friend, Bertha, and I decided to take a journey to Franklin Mountains State Park, the Tom Mays unit, to check out the birds and other plants and animals we might find.  The state park covers 24,248 acres and is the largest urban park in the United States, lying completely within the city limits of El Paso.  It is a beautiful place, and despite being in a desert, harbors all sorts of animal and plant life.  I decided to share some of what Bertha and I saw on Sunday.


The first animal we saw was a beautiful male collared lizard in full breeding color.  What a handsome lizard he is!


Bertha and I are both big birders and our first stop was at the bird blind on the Nature Trail.  Just outside the bird blind is a mini oasis for wildlife.  Many bird feeders with a wide selection of seed and nectar are provided for the birds and other animals, along with a seep of water.  We showed up there a bit after noon, which is not the best time to see birds (early morning and as the sun is going down is the best) but we still saw quite a few species, although no quail which is always a favorite   Here are a few photos of the any I took:


Female black chinned hummingbird.  Also saw a male but he wouldn't sit still long enough so I could take a clear photo.


A squirrel and a curved-bill thrasher fighting over a suet feeder.  The thrasher was very persistent and kept pecking at the squirrel, winning on several suet showdowns!


Two white winged doves were having a dove smack down.  Seed was placed in the hollow area of the branch they are sitting on and both doves with wings raised wanted to feed there.  They would smack each other with the raised wing until one gave up.


A favorite bird showed up, a cactus wren (on the left), the largest wren in the U.S.  To the right is a beautiful male house finch and then a ubiquitous white winged dove.


Water is so important in the desert.  The bird blind has a solar powered, recycling water seep that constantly sees bird and other animal activity.  In this photo are two curved-bill thrashers and two white winged doves.


After sitting in the bird blind for over an hour, enjoying the antics of the birds and other animals we saw, Bertha and I decided to hike the nature trail.  Here are a few photos of what we saw:


As always . . . a warning.  Have only seen one rattler in all the times I've been here.  But am ALWAYS aware.



Gorgeous flowers on a barrel cactus.  It's always interesting to see the myriad of wee life that takes advantage of the cactus flower pollen.


Loved the "architectural" structure of this barrel cactus and flower.   Not something you'd want to accidentally brush up against, though!


Bright sunny yellow flower on a prickly pear cactus.


One of my favorite native desert plants is the apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa).  Beginning in late spring and all through the summer, it blooms with single white flowers that then will set into fluffy pink seed heads.  Here, a hairstreak butterfly takes advantage of the flower.  


More apache plume - did I say I LOVE this shrub?


A cholla cactus in bloom.


Bertha and I sat on a bench on the nature trail for a good while, just admiring the beauty of the desert.  We happened to look over the Franklin Mountains and saw the moon looking very bright and ghostly.


At the end of the trail, another lizard greeted us.  This one was a male greater earless lizard, a very common lizard in this area.  What amazing camouflage!


We decided to head over to a picnic area that sits up high and has some of the best views around.  On a very clear day, you can see mountain ranges way over into Mexico.


Love the rock formation in this photo.  The Franklin Mountains are tilted-block fault mountains.  In some areas the rocks are dated at 1.25 billion years old, from the Precambrian eon, and are the oldest rocks in Texas.  Right on the horizon, you can barely see mountains that are a good 50+ miles into Mexico.


Not a great photo, but this is Bertha's and my next hike in Franklin Mountains State Park - up to the Aztec Caves, s fairly short but very steep  climb.  Misnamed by the early pioneers since the Aztecs never lived in this area, the caves have rock paintings (something I'm always totally awed by). And after a desert downpour, a waterfall!  


It was getting late in the afternoon so we decided to head back home.  Even though we drank plenty of water . . . a beer is always welcome after a day of birding and hiking.


Bertha and a cold one . . . (:


I hope you enjoyed these snapshots of a very fun day at Franklin Mountains State Park. If you would like to make Bertha's and my day, please leave a comment.  And any promotion you can do will be greatly appreciated.  Thanks!


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Wow. Just beautiful. Thank

Wow. Just beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your day with us all!

Thank you, Rose!

Many thanks, Rose, for stopping by and commenting. Am glad you enjoyed the post!

Beautiful Photos

Thank you for sharing your photos, I love the collared lizard; very handsome! You did a great job on the photography. Will share around.

Thank you, Diane!

Thank you, Diane! The collared lizard is always a favorite. Don't see them every time so it's always special to spy one. And this was just posing away!

Lizards!!! my favorite photo

Lizards!!! my favorite photo is the one of the lizard :) But all the photos are fantastic and sounds like an awesome hike

Thank you, Gunilla!

Thanks, Gunilla! Seems the collared lizard is many people's favorite - always one of mine (:

Franklin Mountain State Park

Catherine, you really should be a writer! You could even do your own photos. Really enjoyed "visiting" the park with you. Thanks for sharing!

Thank you!

Thank you, Sharon - at least I think that's you! Not sure why your name turned to "anonymous". Am so glad you enjoyed the visit to our lovely park (:


How fun for you and Bertha! How fun for us that you shared! I loved the photos, but the bird photos were the best. That is quite a collection of birds, and it is neat that they put in a blind for you. The vistas were very impressive as well. Wonderful post, and thank you again for taking me along with you on your journey. I learned all kinds of things.

Thank you, Julie and Blu!

Thank you, Julie and Blu! I often take Seamus on hikes when it's not too hot. Wanted to take him this time but he is not real good about sitting for very long in the bird blind. Wish there had been quail at the feeders but no such luck this time. Want to do another post in the fall of maybe just birds during the fall migration. It's awesome then!

Franklin Mountains

What an adventure. I like that little collared lizard! He should do commercials for Geico ;) Thank you, Catherine. Shared of course.

Thank you, Anna!

Hahaha . . . I agree about the Geico ad, Anna. Much more handsome than the Geico gecko! Thanks for stopping by, commenting and fall your shares.

Loved the photos

Catherine, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing your photos from your hike with Bertha. It looks like you two had a wonderful day enjoying the beautiful desert. Seeing the birds fighting would've been amusing to watch. Your photos captured the action well. Thanks for sharing!

Thank you, Debbie!

Yes, we did have a great day, Debbie. Perhaps some of it looked somewhat familiar with your Tucson ties? The dove smack down and the thrasher harassing the squirrel was VERY amusing, indeed! Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

I love nature!

I loved all the photos, such a gorgeous place. Thank you for sharing.

Wondrous nature!

Wow Catherine.....you had me right there with you! Wonderful photos and your descriptions were awesome. Thank you for sharing your wonderful afternoon. And, Bertha is quite lovely....cheers!!

Got my desert-loving heart a-pining!

Wow, this is an awesome post! Fabulous photos, and so many beauties in the photos. I would LOVE to go hiking on that trail, and be looking forward to hiking to those Aztec Caves next time. Thanks for sharing this, Catherine! Maybe I'll dream of the desert tonight, which would be great. Treats to the Noble Pup of El Paso! :)

Great photos!

Great photos!

I have to admit, I enjoyed

I have to admit, I enjoyed those lizard pics as well. Looks like the collared lizard (I'll call him Fred) was going to win the staring contest. I'm always amazed to see such beautiful colored blooms in the desert. It's such a harsh environment, yet somehow nature manages to overcome. I thoroughly enjoyed the post, Catherine...and I am NOT a fan of the desert, so well done!

Looked Amazing!

Loved reading this post Catherine - what a truly stunning place to spend a day. My favorite of all the photos has to be the flowering barrel cactus - gorgeous! Of course the end of the day photo of a cold glass of beer wasn't too bad either! Glad you had a wonderful day and saw so much that nature has to offer.

Thanks for sharing.

Catherine, thanks for taking

Catherine, thanks for taking me along too! The photos and blog make me interested to see the sights in the desert! What a great way to spend the day!

Looks like a Great Hike!

Really looks like you had a great time - and this was a neat way to get out in Nature! Loved it all - and really good photos! Ever find out what Indians or Indigenous people left the paintings in the caves? - I have read about some of the native Indians in different parts of the country - actually I just looked it up online and I was right - in the Western part of Texas around El Paso there were (are?) Pueblo Indians. I find it all very interesting. I have gone hiking in parts of Southern CA where the Chumash Indians lived and seen some rocks etc. that they left - but not in Caves.

Thank you for sharing,

Thank you for sharing, Catherine. Those are amazing pictures. I wish I will get a chance to visit Franklin Mountains State Park one day.

Beautiful Post about a beautiful place

It appears that you timed your hike in the desert perfectly. What a show of wildlife and wild flowers! Thanks for sharing this glimpse at El Paso area.

Where The Wild Things Are!

I am always amazed by what goes on in the wilds as I go about my life in the city. Thank you for sharing a part of your wildlife landscapes with us. Truly love seeing what you saw! I particularly love seeing desert flowers. Such beauty!

The Dessert

Catherine...Thank you for showing me your dessert photos. I have never been to that part of our wonderful country and your tour was awesome. Especially loved the lizard...and the hummers.


Wow! I had no idea how beautiful the park is! The views and wildlife were a real surprise! Your pictures were so professional! I will definitely find time to explore the park. I am so glad I found the post on twitter. Glad to see you and Bertha having a nice day together.

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