Ann and I returned from our 55th “honeymoon” on Monday, tired but pleased with our trip to the Big Bend. We did find that August is not the ideal month to be visiting there. It is probably the hottest month of the year for the area, which is we already knew, and of course not the best month for birding there. So why did we go?? Simply because we had never been there in August, our wedding anniversary was on the 18th and we wanted to celebrate in our favorite place in the state of Texas.
It all came about on Monday the 12th when I asked Ann. “Honey, why don’t
we spend our 55th down in the Big Bend?” Of course her answer came after I dragged her back out of the car, and said, “Get back in the house. We have to pack first.” She likes the place, too. I went on-line and reserved a cabin at Far Flung Outdoor Center in Study Butte for four nights. We love those little ‘Casitas’ as they call them. Particularly the little porches where one can sit and look at the desert or mountains.
We left on Thursday morning the 15th. Our plan was to make just a simple fun trip with no particular itinerary as places to visit, except to spend a great deal of our time in Big Bend National Park. It wasn’t to be a birding trip per se, but we would watch for a few species in case there would be something interesting. We would get a few fun snapshots and maybe some interesting landscape photos. At over 800,000 acres we probably will have the place to ourselves. Big Bend NP is one of the least visited park, and August might be the slowest month there. Because of heavy oil field traffic to our west on Hwy 67, we opted to take Hwy 277 south to Sonora, then get on I-10 to Fort Stockton. From there Hwy 385 takes us directly into Big Bend National Park south of Marathon. To get to our cabin in Study Butte, we just simply drive out the western park entrance.
So just after entering the north entrance to the park, south of Marathon, we spotted this Red-tailed Hawk perched atop a tree. I slowed down, made a U-turn to go back to see if I could get a photo from across the road. I pulled up on the right shoulder, grabbed my camera with my 500mm lens that was resting on the console. The bird was alerted and started to take off, but I managed to squeeze off a couple of shots before it was completely gone.
Later on I also got this photo of a Swainson’s Hawk sitting on a nest high in a tree.
Both the Turkey and Black Vultures were plentiful. They actually were
pretty when seen early in the morning, warming up for their daily flights. Have a look at these:
We saw numerous other small birds, too, but not as many as would be
seen when weather cools a bit during the fall migration. But we really enjoy the mountainous landscape there. A must place to stop and observe the Rio Grande is the “Big Hill” on Hwy 170 between Lajitas and Presidio. That drive is one of the most spectacular in the nation. The road travels along the river, the hills and cliffs on the right side of the car, then across the river the mountains and cliffs of the Mexican ranges. At the highest point, up a 15% grade, you reach the Big Hill, 450 feet above the Rio Grande. There is a pull-off so one can get great photographs. Ann hates to get out of the car there, let alone take photos, but I managed to promise her a margarita if she would help me out a bit here.
Driving west from there we rounded a curve and we saw two Desert Bighorns lounging on the center line. One was an adult female and the other it’s young. They arose immediately and scampered up the near vertical rocky slope. About 15 feet up they stopped and turned to look back. By then I had stopped the car and grabbed my other camera witht the 100-400mm lens. Now, for about an hour, we had only seen one vehicle. So, as luck would have it, just as I had the Bighorn adult almost in focus, a pickup truck roared past and spooked them a bit. The baby went out of sight, but the adult stayed but changed position so it was facing away. Luckily, I waited a few seconds and it turned it’s head for me to pose for a shot.
We continued on to Presidio, found a Mexican food restaurant that we were familiar with from past visits, and had a great breakfast. We then turned back and went back the way we came. The distance from Presidio back to our room in Study Butte is only around 65 miles, but because of the twisty, winding, mountainous road it takes a little over two hours to cover it. But well worth it with the spectacular scenery.
I am going to mention a lesson that we learned on a previous visit. It is the old adage that you “can’t judge a book by the cover”. For many years previous since the mid 80s we had passed by this place, the Long Draw Pizza. The appearance gives the impression of just being a little off the road dive, maybe a hangout for bikers, or something like that. Check the picture below. Don’t you agree? Anyway, about two years ago we decided we wanted to check out that pizza. It opens at 5:00, Wednesdays through Sunday. We were there at opening time. We went through the door. WOW! There was a whole new world in there. I nice clean, tidy place with a long bar and a bunch of tables. And, best of all, the best pizza we have ever eaten in that part of the state. A little lady by the name of Nancy, runs it, and does all the cooking. Tell her I sent ya. 🙂
The following evening, we ate at La Kiva, another restaurant in Study Butte. We split a large rib-eye steak with all the fixin’s. We also partook of a couple of margaritas, the first on the house because they knew of our 55th anniversary. Hey, it pays to advertise.
Click on any image to see some enlargements.