Return from Big Bend – Part IV

Okay, we will begin the long awaited Part IV of our trip.  I say long-awaited because here it is Wednesday evening and I should have started on it sooner, like last night.

Javelinas (Collared Pecaries)

So if I am lucky it will get published sometime tomorrow.  I am glad I have so many patient readers waiting in anticipation.  Heck, I even forgot where I left off.  Let me see, hmmm, oh yes, we were about to have breakfast at the Roadside Deli on our second day.  Or was it our third.  Oh, well, it doesn’t matter as long as I can get the story told.  In the meantime,  I can smell Frank Jones’ coffee brewing.

This particular day we were planning on going to do some birding at Sam Neal’s

Northern Cardinal

Ranch.  Of course, we can visit without an invitation, as Sam has been dead for nearly 100 years.  His ranch is in Big Bend National Park.  To get there you enter the park from the west side, go about 20 miles or so, until you come to the Ross Maxwell scenic highway.  You hang a right there and go about 5 miles.  You can see off on the right, the old windmill sticking up.  Thanks to the National Park Service it still works, pumping water to this tiny oasis.  Back in the day, Sam Neal’s family was acquainted with the Homer Wilson family that lived at the base of the Chisos Mountains a few miles away.  They would often travel in wagon to either place to picnic and visit.  Homer Wilson was also a rancher.

There is the obligatory sign proclaiming this to be the trailhead to Sam Neal’s place.  An easy trail of only about 500 yrds takes you back there.  There is not much there

Hermit Thrush

anymore to make you believe that there once was a thriving little farm there.  A few crumbling adobe walls are all that is left of any building.  The rest is all overgrown with mesquite, cottonwood, creosote, greaswood, and various un-recognizable grasses.

But the trail is interesting.  It continues around and through this little area.  In the center of it all, there is a quiet little placein the woods.  It is here that there is

Brown Thrasher

seepage from the windmill, that pumps when there is a slight breeze.  A crude little bench is an ideal place to sit an observe the birds, and that is where I alway like to plant my butt.  I set up my tripod and camera and watch and wait.  We are always rewarded, not only with birds, but occasionally some Collared Pecaries, or Javelinas as they are also known, wander through as they did this day.  My friend, Frank Jones, of the Roadrunner Deli, reminded me that they can be agressive and deadly with their tusks, and will go after small cats, dogs, etc.  This time they were wary of us and didn’t approach closer than about 20 feet.

On a recent visit last fall, we encountered a snake about 6 feet long.  It was an innocent, harmless, bright red Coachwhip.  That did not give Ann a thrill.  Above us

Phainopepla (male - file photo)

a Red-naped Sapsucker was tapping out a tune high in a cottonwood tree.  This trip there was Northern Cardinals, Hermit Thrushes, and Brown Thrashers.  Those are the ones that I have posted photos of here.  We also spotted a female Phainopepla, Orange-crowned Warbler, and a MacGilivray’s Warbler.  There were also several miscellaneous that I listed in a previous post.  We sat there for about three hours enjoying the sights, and the sounds of the birds.  An occasional hiker or tourist would wander through, disrupting the moment, but we patiently waited for all to be calm again.  After all, the park is for everyone.

I hope you have enjoyed the Part IV of our adventerous trip.  I really should have kept a journal so the chronology would be a bit more accurate, but I think I have described it pretty much as it was.  In actuallity, we really made two trips to Sam Neal’s ranch and this is a compilation of both trips.  It is a fun place to bird, as is the Rio Grande Village RV campground that I described in Part I, – or was it Part II. 🙂

Uncommon Brown Thrashers

The Brown Thrasher, (Toxostoma rufum), is listed in my area as uncommon, or that means usually present, but hard to find.  These photographs were taken back in January of 2010, nearly two years ago, at San Angelo State Park.  I haven’t seen any of them since, but as the man said, they are hard to find.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Pertinent photo data is as follows:  Canon EOS 7D, 500mm f4 lens with 1.4 tele-converter, 1/1000 sec. @ f8, -0.3 EV, ISO 640, aperture priority, tripod mounted.

Click on either image to see an enlargement.