Monday, May 20, 2013

West Texas pt. 2

Alright, back to it.  Wake up in Boot Canyon to find that AJ had not been eaten by a bear or cougar overnight, despite an impromptu 11pm trek to the edge of the canyon after having dumped sardine juice all over his pants.  Quick hike around the campsite before heading down the mountain gave us Cordilleran Flycatcher, Hutton's Vireo (junk birds right over our tents), and another look at the Dusky-capped.  Load up our packs and start heading down the mountain.  So, as horrible as the hike up was, the hike down was completely fucking amazing.  Seriously, it was one of those things you know you won't ever forget.  As we came through the pass, we could see for what seemed to be 100 miles.  The weather was perfect, clear, upper 50's with a perfect breeze, and there were Violet-green Swallows and White-throated Swifts soaring all around us.  It was absolutely perfect.

Cordilleran Flycatcher - two birds just down from our campsite.  Good thing they were calling; I'm shit with empids. 
Hutton's Vireo - all over our campsite, these were life birds for me after unsuccessfully chasing a few in Austin. 
The "Boot" of Boot Canyon - if you want to see a Colima Warbler in the States, you'll most likely see this boot as well. 
Canyon Wren - not a stellar bird for the trip, but I like this shot.
Okay, we had done this hike for several birds, but the biggest target, the bird whose only range in the United States was in this single, fucking canyon had been eluding us.  Colima Warbler.  Other birders had seen it.  Even the birders who had dipped on Painted Redstart, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Townsend's Warbler; these birders had all seen Colima.  I was getting nervous, and had actually started to convince myself that it would be okay if I missed the most obvious fucking bird of the trip when AJ's patience paid off again.  Taking a closer look at what I had been writing off as a singing Nashville Warbler, AJ finally said, "Dude, get on this bird."  And there you go.  Colima Warbler.  PS - if you ever find yourself up there, looking for this bird, do yourself a favor and don't study the iBird song.  Totally different than what we heard.  Finish the hike down the canyon, adding a few new trip birds and lifer Black-chinned Sparrows, and we were straight off to Blue Creek Canyon.  

Violet-green Swallow - shit picture of my new favorite bird.
Violet-green Swallow 
Colima Warbler - Good bird.  1300 miles.
Phainopepla - Having never seen this bird before, I quickly learned that it wanted fuck all to do with me and my camera.
At Blue Creek Canyon, we did a nice desert hike a couple miles up a dry creek bed and picked up another Lucifer Hummingbird, male and female Phainopeplas, Gray Vireo, and a flock of Black-tailed Gnatcatchers.  After a quick bit, we made our way to Rio Grande Village to camp for the night.  As the sun went down, the Elf Owls started up, and we got a good look at one in a nest cavity.  We got up again around 1:30 and got great looks at them around the campsite.  In the morning, I got looks at a Western Screech-Owl that I had heard sporadically calling throughout the night.  We had intended to do a quick hike before hitting the road, but we ended up finding some stellar shit.  Vermilion Flycatchers were junk birds, we found a Lesser Nighthawk, we had Verdins feeding fledglings, and then we found this magical little warbler spot.  Nashville, MacGillivray's, American Redstart, Yellow, Audubon's, Wilson's, Chat, and, amazingly, we had a Golden-winged.  Has to be the best bird of the trip.  Great spot.  We spied on the nesting Common Black-Hawks on the way out of the park and booked it back home.  The last life bird of the trip was a Chihuahuan Raven a few hours down the road.
Elf Owl - Wish I had some size comparison; this thing isn't much bigger than a can of Coke.
Elf Owl - It has been deemed by someone much grander than myself that this individual shall henceforth be referred to as "Francesco." 
Common Black-Hawk - Both birds were in the nesting area. 
Crap picture, but it gives a good look at the flight feathers. 
Common Black-Hawk
So, that's it.  Pretty hard to sum everything up.  Amazing birds, amazing views, and good fucking times with AJ, who always does a damn good job when I start getting pissy after a long day.  Seriously, that dude is the most positive person I've ever met, and his motivation going up the mountain and persistence and patience in pulling out good birds are qualities I lack and admire.  Solid dude, that one.  So, yeah.  Big Bend.  There you go.

Oh yeah, also... watch where you shit.
This lady was under a crapper at Rio Grande Village.


  1. Awesome, dude. Elf Owls?? Those guys are ridiculous. And really, you live in Texas and VG Swallows are your new favorite bird? Come on!

    1. Yea, the Elf Owls were awesome. My girlfriend wanted me to bring one back for her, but I'd imagine that might be frowned upon by the authorities. The VG Swallows ranking may have been influenced by me being on top of a mountain when I was watching them.