Birding in the Big Bend


Ann and I are back after spending a delightful four days in the Big Bend area of west Texas.  The weather was great, actually better than normal, as the temps barely reached the 100 degree mark in the afternoon.  Cool nights made the sleeping easy.

On Monday afternoon, after arriving in Marathon, Texas, to stay the night, we decided to go to the nearby Post Park, a very nice birding area.  We saw several species there and also met another friendly birder, Dean Hansen, who was helpful in identifying some of the birds.  It was there that we picked another one for the life list.  A Red-breasted Nuthatch.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo to show you.  By the way, it does not have a red breast, instead it was more yellow.

Yours Truly

Yours Truly

Cholla Blossoms

Cholla Blossoms

We stayed Monday night at the historic Gage Hotel in Marathon, then Tuesday morning took the 75 mile trek south into the Big Bend National Park.  After stopping at the park headquarters at Panther Junction we made the drive up in to the heart of the Chisos Mountains to where the Basin Lodge is located.  We didn’t intend to stay there, but the trails leading from there make for great scenics and birding.  There was a black bear alert for a mother and four cubs that had been seen nearby, but as luck would have it, we didn’t get to see them.

Cactus Wren - singing a welcome song at the Panther Junction park headquarters.

Cactus Wren – singing a welcome song at the Panther Junction park headquarters.

Later that afternoon, we headed out of the west side of the park into Study Butte, where we had reservations at one of the little ‘casitas’ at Far Flung Outdoor Center.  That was to be our home for the next three nights.  After unloading our luggage and settling in, we headed to the La Kiva restaurant.  Happy hour at 5:00 featuring one dollar margaritas.  We shared a 12 ounce T-bone and were back at the cabin by 7:00 to sit on the porch and enjoy the desert evening.

Scaled Quail, also known as Blue Quail.

Scaled Quail, also known as Blue Quail.

Wednesday morning we were ready to head to Rio Grande Village RV Campground on the far east side of Big Bend NP.  It is one of the prime birding areas of the park, and it did not disappoint.  We saw several birds to add to our burgeoning list of birds we’ve seen in the park.  We learned of a rare nesting pair of Common Blackhawks that were nearby.  The area is roped off by the National Park Service in deference to a possibility of some newborns.  One of the below photos is of one of the hawks eating a lunch, while the other adult in the second image is watching over the nest.  We believe that there may already be eggs there, or will be soon.

Common Blackhawk - eating lunch

Common Blackhawk – eating lunch

Common Blackhawk - watching over nest in lower left of photo.

Common Blackhawk – watching over nest in lower left of photo.

That is all for this post.  In a few days I will tell you about the rest of the trip and another lifer.  Enjoy the photos, and click on any of them to see enlargements.

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28 thoughts on “Birding in the Big Bend

    • Thank you very much, Jane. The wren of course, had a nice blue sky behind it. As for the quail, I shoot using large apertures with my long lens, and it produces beautiful bokeh. Very blurred out colors.

  1. Sounds like a wonderful trip, Bob. Great photos – I love the quail and the Cactus Wren in particular. And the Cholla and the Blackhawks… You have a way with raptors! 🙂

  2. Just wanted to chime in that I love the Great Blue Heron you have for you banner!! It seems so nice that a species so majestic and regal is also so widely distributed and enjoyed!! You are doing great things with your photography!! The time I lived in Texas we were quite inland and so I did not get to see wading birds then but that was a long time before I would have been properly appreciative I think. All things in their proper time!! Very much enjoying what you have shared on your site.

  3. One of our greatest excitments at our northwoods cabin was the night we had a momma black bear and 3 cubs in our back yard, tearing up the birdfeeders! It seems so funny to hear of birds that I’m so used to seening daily – like the red-breasted nuthatch – to be a rarity in another part of the country. They are tricky to photograph as they never stay still very long. I have one here at my home that I’ve almost gotten to eat out of my hand. Great photos, as always! What a wonderful life of adventure you lead!

    • Thanks for the great comment, Amy. I agree, what sometimes is a rarity in one place, it is very common in other areas. That’s what makes birding exciting.

  4. Your serenading wren warms the heart! And a blackhawk siting; so fortunate. Sorry you didn’t get any shots of the nuthatch. Ours is such a regular at the feeder — as I watch from the swing, no less — I should do more to capture him in a photo.

    Glad you had a successful (restful?) trip. Wish I could have been there too!

  5. We have a momma bear running thru our yard this spring, happy birding to you and Ann, and keep the birdie images coming, i really love your great images, MJ

  6. So glad you and Ann had a good time and while it is good you did not meet up with a momma bear, that would have been a great photo op! I think I am just as glad you did not have that opportunity! Thanks for sharing the photos and info; I look forward to more.

    • Yes, Cindy, I well remember. We stopped there at Sam Neal’s Ranch again, saw several birds there as usual. Got some nice shots (I think) of a Yellow-breasted Chat. I missed a Varied Bunting.

  7. Bob,
    Enjoyed the hawks. I wonder what he was eating although I am not sure I want to know. I’m sorry you missed the bears, but at least you were not their dinner. See you soon.

  8. What delightful photos..the Blue Quail is so exceptional..the scaled feathers are fabulous, the Cactus Wren makes me homesick for Arizona and I have never heard of the Black Hawk. For folks who have never seen the desert in bloom, your photo of the Cholla Cactus is amazing..Glad you are back, I know you and Ann had fun..

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