Birding the Big Bend


Since this blog is about birding, among other things, I thought it would be nice to show you the list of what we spotted during our visit to the Big Bend area last week.  Actually, Sid and Suzanne Johnson, reminded me that they would like to see such a list.  We birded in several areas of Big Bend National Park, plus a few spots outside of the park.  A few more we saw in nearby Big Bend Ranch State Park.  So without further adieu, here is, in no particular order are the 38 species.

  • 3  Turkey Vultures
  • 21  Common Ravens
  • 5  Mockingbirds
  • 2  Red-tailed Hawks
  • 7  House Sparrows
  • 1  Common Black-hawk
  • 9  Greater Roadrunners
  • 1  Merlin
  • 3  Hermit Thrush
  • 8  Black-throated Sparrows
  • 7  Black-chinned Sparrows
  • 9  Savannah Sparrows
  • 6  Loggerhead Shrikes
  • 2  Green Heron
  • 2  Golden-fronted Woodpeckers
  • 7  Western Meadowlarks
  • 11 Vermilion Flycatchers
  • 20 White-winged Doves
  • 1  Northern Flicker
  • 6  Olive-sided Flycatchers
  • 5  Cactus Wrens
  • 1  Curve-billed Thrasher
  • 20 Common Grackles
  • 2  Eurasion Collared Doves
  • 2  Pyrrhuloxia
  • 8  White-crowned Sparrows
  • 3  Hermit Thrush
  • 2  Northern Cardinals
  • 3  Gambel’s Quail
  • 1  Great Blue Heron
  • 5  Orange-crowned Warblers
  • 4  Eastern Wood Pewees
  • 1  Eastern Phoebe
  • 1  Orchard Oriole
  • 3  Song Sparrows
  • 2  Loggerhead Shrikes
  • 5  Red-winged Blackbirds
  • 1 Red-naped Sapsucker (see photo below.)

Since we are still novices, in my opinion, I think that there were probably many more, that we could hear but couldn’t readily identify, as there were also many that we could see, but weren’t quick enough to make definite IDs.  For example, I feel certain that I may have seen a Green-tailed Towhee, but couldn’t confirm it, although they are reportedly quite numerous in that area.

Red-naped Sapsucker

 This sapsucker was photographed at the ruins of the Sam Nail ranch.  Near the ruins is a still-working windmill that pumps a trickle of water into a copse of trees.  It is a little haven for many species of birds, plus an occasional Javelina.  It is about 500 yards off of the Ross Maxwell Highway that skirts the western side of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend NP.  Ann and I had to hike in, carrying my tripod and cameras, plus our binoculars, etc.  Click on the image to see an enlargement.

Photo Data:  Canon EOS 7D, Canon 100-400mm zoom lens, 1/400 sec. @ f7.1 plus 1/3 EV adjustment,  ISO 3200.  Spot metering with aperture priority.

It was very shady in the area, which accounts for the increase of 1/3 EV adjustment.  Also notice the ISO 3200.  There was very little noise in the original photo, which I took care of with Topaz DeNoise software.  The bird was about 20 feet above me, so I had to hand-hold the camera.

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20 thoughts on “Birding the Big Bend

    • Thanks, David. I do have a photo of a Merlin somewhere. I’ll see if I can dig it out and post it in the near future. As for the list, as birding goes, it really is not that great considering it took four days. I know a lot of better birders that would scoff at that. But for the novice that I am, I am satisfied that I had a lot of fun doing it. 🙂

  1. My wife and I also love visiting Big Bend.

    Sometime ago you said that you use Adobe Photoshop Elements for processing your images. Do you still use it and do you use anything else in addition to Topaz DeNoise.

    • Hi Dave, thanks for writing. I also use Focus Magic for sharpening up images. But get the plug-in if you can. Using the stand-alone version sometimes deletes the EXIF data in the image. I don’t know why that is.

  2. Amazing, Bob! So many birds in one trip! I like the sapsucker photo. Looks like they are related to woodpeckers. 3200 with very little noise is great. I use Nik Define 2.0 for noise that I can’t live with.

    • Thanks, Karen. Wait until you see tomorrows post. I think you will like it. BTW, I used to use Nik Define, but I discovered Topaz DeNoise and I was amazed that you can remove the worse noise you can come across and still not lose any detai with it. I love it. Of course, my Canon 7D has a lot to do with it, too. Very little noise at high ISO.

      I think the sapsuckers are related to woodpeckers some way. They certaifnly look like them. I made the same mistake when I first saw one.

    • No, Melissa, when Ann and I go birding she keeps up the list. That is what birders do. It really is addictive. Like going hunting or fishing, the fun is in the chase. It is always so much fun to see how many species a person can see and identify.

      Personally, I am after the photographs. I want to photograph them all, but of course that is impossible.

      That lise may be impressive to you, but actually other birders can see many more on a trip lik that,than Ann and I do. We still are novices.

    • Thanks, Syl. I came up with a lot of pictures, but a lot of them are of the same bird. If you look at my reply to Melissa, you might understand. For example, to get a good picture of the sapsucker, I took about 50 pictures. Half of them I deleted,and most of them were quite good, but who wants to look at a post with 50 pictures of the same bird, just slightly in different positions. 🙂

  3. What a list! Gosh, I am just lucky if I can identify two or three birds each time I go to the park. Impressive that you can positively ID and keep track of the # of each when you post lists like this. And what an interesting bird – I thought it was a woodpecker before looking at your caption. Neat!

    • Don’t feel bad. The first time I ever saw one, I thought it was a woodpecker, too. About my bird IDs, heck, three years ago, before I really got into birding, I thought there was only four species, sparrows, ducks, hawks and pidgeons. 🙂

  4. Good morning Bob,
    Glad you had a good trip to the
    BB and got home safely. It will be wild out there thiscoming weekend. The Sam Nail Ranch has always been one of my favorite places to catch my breathe and just linger in paradise. Is the adobe ruins of his first house still there? Sadly, the park people have been pushing down some of those old walls, re safety reasons they say. Enjoyed your report. Stay cool. Ross.

    • First, thanks for reminding me of the error in spelling the Sam Nail ranch. What was I thinking? I knew better and I will edit the change.

      The adobe ruins are still there, but a bit hidden in the brush. I agree, it is a special little oasis. But some people don’t know how to appreciate it, they just tromp through, not knowing or caring what they are experiencing.

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