Birding San Angelo State Park


I have never published a post about mine and Ann’s daily trip to the State Park.  Since there is no one presently at the park that really wants to take on the task, we have volunteered to go each day to feed the birds at the blind, and do moderate  maintenance such as weeding, checking the water flow to the pond, etc.  We also clean the windows and watch that the blind hasn’t been invaded by snakes or bees.

Painted Bunting

Since we live only three miles away, it is a snap to go there each morning to take care of those things.  We usually go after breakfast, but we are authorized to go in the gate earlier if we so desire.  It is fun to get there and see what might surprise us upon arrival.  Usually it is just an assortment of hungry doves or finches, but occasionally we have sneaked in to see other wildlife.  A few days ago there was a Wild Turkey, trailed by three chicks beating us there.  On another occasion, I walked back around the fence and almost stepped upon an Opossum.  He was a cutie.  We’ve also seen Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes moving about on the path that leads back to the blind.

Javelina

After taking care of our chores at the blind, instead of heading back to the house, we stay at the blind for a short time to see what comes in.  Then we usually take a slow drive through the park to see the birds that don’t usually frequent the blind, such as hawks and water birds.  We prepare ourselves for surprises and we are usually rewarded. 

fledgling Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

For example, the past few mornings, we have come across a Painted Bunting singing in the top of a tree, two fledgling Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, five Ash-throated Flycatchers, Lark Sparrows, Western Kingbirds, one Blue Grosbeak, one Common Nighthawk with two chicks, at least six Mississippi Kites, one Fox, one White-tailed Deer and two Javelinas.  Plus the usual sparrows, grackles, etc. 

Purple Martin

At the lake shore, albeit a very small coastline now, you can see shorebirds, Blue Herons, Egrets. or American White Pelicans.  A Snowy Plover recently laid two eggs on the parking lot at the Red Arroyo boat ramp.  We have been keeping tabs on the eggs, but I fear that the eggs have been abandoned.  We haven’t seen the parents in about two weeks.  They probably realized, too late, that the surface that they decided to lay the eggs on can get very, very hot.

Snowy Egret

The bird blind itself, can also be very rewarding.  You can sit in comfort and and watch through the windows.  Open them for fresh air if you like.  It was actuallly there at the blind, a couple of years ago,  that I actually got hooked on birding and bird photography.  I photographed my very first Painted Bunting and Canyon Wren there.  At the time I didn’t know how unusual it was to see a Canyon Wren at that location. 

Canyon Wren

So come to San Angelo State Park for a nice pleasant birding experience.

Happy Birding!!  (click on any photograph for an enlargment)

Big Bend National Park


Since we made that short trip to the Big Bend last week, I haven’t touched on it much in my blog.  Now that I have gotten things caught up here a bit, I think I will try to enlighten you a little bit.

First of all, Big Bend National Park is located in Brewster County, Texas.  A

Mule Ears Peak in drizzly rain

Mule Ears Peak in drizzly rain

 few facts about Brewster County.  It is the largest county in Texas.  It is larger than the state of Connecticut.  It is larger than the combined states of Vermont and New Hampshire.  Now mind you, this is a County that I am talking about.  The largest city in Brewster county is Alpine, population a little over 6,000  and it is the county seat.

Mount Casa Grande

Mount Casa Grande

Big Bend National Park covers 801,000 acres.  It is the largest in land area of the national parks, but the least visited.  That honor goes to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  On the busiest day of Big Bend NP it is still less busier than the slowest day in Great Smoky Mountains NP.  It is estimated that on an average day in Big Bend NP there is 200 acres per visitor.  That is lots of elbow room.  But of course, that is by no means a negative against Great Smoky Mountains NP.  I’ve been there twice and I absolutely love it, even though there are more people.  I just wanted to make the point that Big Bend NP is desolate, dry, sparsely populated, but there is a rugged beauty that will leave you in awe.  But you must take care.  Everything there will either sting you, prick you, or bite you.

There are approximately 2 dozen each of mountain lions and black bears.

Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon

You will also see coyotes, javelinas, white-tailed deer, red coach-whips, scorpians, etc.  But will you will also see awesome rock formations, mountains, and deep canyons.  One of the most accessible canyons is Santa Elena Canyon, formed by the Rio Grande river.  The walls tower above you to 1,500 feet and it is less than 100 yard wide.  It stretches about nine miles along it’s length.  The Ross Maxwell Drive takes you right up to the mouth of it.

The Chisos Mountains is the center-piece of the park.  Towering to an altitude of around 8,000 feet they are hard to miss.  The center of the range is bowl shaped and the floor of it, at an altitude of 5,000 feet, is referred to as the Basin.  There you find the Lodge with excellent accomadations.  Also camping facilities.  There are hiking trails galore in the Chisos, with one that will take you up to the south rim where is there is sheer 2,000 foot drop-off, and a view where you can see forever.

The Window

The Window

Two of the most photographed sights in the Chisos are Mount Casa Grande and The Window.  The Window is a large V-shaped opening on the west side of the mountain range.  All of the water that falls in the Basin drains down through that opening.  At the pour-off there is a steep, very slippery, drop-off.  The sunsets that can be seen through The Window are a sight that you won’t soon forget.  And the view isn’t bad either.  You can see for 50-60 miles to the west from that 5000 foot elevation.

When we made the trip last week, we were unable to get reservations at the

Mountains in the Mist

Mountains in the Mist

Lodge in the Basin.  It books up several months in advance.  We however, had nice accomadations outside the west park entrance in Study Butte.  Our first day we traveled up into the Chisos and the Basin.  We ate lunch there, done a little birding, then we left and proceeded to tour the Ross Maxwell highway.  There are a lot of interesting sights along there, including some awesome scenic view pull-offs.  We stopped at the store in Castolon for a break, then proceded to Santa Elena Canyon.  After doing a little photography there we headed back to Study Butte, for dinner at La Kiva restaurant.  Then back to the motel where we sat outside our rooms and watched the sun set over the mountains to the west.

On Tuesday, we drove back in to the park, all the way over to the east side, to Rio Grande Village.  Nearby is an equally impressive Bouquillas Canyon, but because of muddy conditions, and because we had seen it on two other occasions, we by-passed taking that trail back to the entrance.  Rio Grande Village is an RV park.  There was a massive, devastating  flood in Big Bend NP nearly a year ago.  The Rio Grande was 24 feet over flood stage, the worst flood since the park opened in 1944.  It took quite a toll on the infrastructure, and you can still see the signs of the damage.  But on the other hand, there are great signs of recovery, too.

So, that’s about in on my travelogue.

Happy Birding!!

more photos at www.zellertexasphotos.com

Back From the Big Bend


Wow!!  What a great time we had.  The trip started when we left San Angelo on Sunday morning.  We had a lot of drizzly, wet, and very foggy on the way

Big Bend Moutains

Big Bend Moutains

 down.  When we did get to Big Bend National Park we were greeted to scenes like this one.  The foggy clouds drifting in and out among the mountain peaks.  So since we couldn’t see the birds for awhile I decided to take advantage of the beautiful scenes and get some nice images of the vistas.

The weather was pretty much like this through Monday evening.  But we really dodged the showers.  The sun would come out in sporadic bursts and we would catch sight of various birds and wildlife.  We saw several javelinas, a red coachwhip snake, a coyote, a couple of antelope and mule-eared deer.

Later Tuesday afternoon we saw this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk sitting atop a

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

sotol.  He was maybe a 100 yards off the highway, far enough that he wasn’t disturbed by our presence.  I had time to unload my tripod and 500mm lens and get set up.  I took a few shots of him sitting there, then after about 5 minutes he must have spotted some dinner, so he took off.  I was ready for him and got off several shots of him in flight.  One is pictured here.  Then furthur on we came across this meadowlark, sitting on a barbed-wire fence, just singing his heart out.  I had my 500mm resting on

Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark

 the floor between the front seats, so I just pulled to the side of the road.  I hand-held the camera for this shot, as I knew I wouldn’t have too much time to make the photograph.  In actuallity I really wasn’t sure if this is an Eastern or a Western Meadowlark.  I just decided to go with the Western for the sake of “convenience”.

During our stay we stayed at the Chisos Mining Company Motel in Study Butte.   A very nice clean and inexpensive accomodation.  We ate our evening meals at a nearby restaurant by the name of La Kiva.  So named becaused it is partially “under-ground”, it is built into the bank of Terlingua Creek.  Excellent food and drink.  Think “margarita”.   It just so happened that Tuesday was Kareoki Night.  I was somehow talked into doing my part to entertain the locals, and rendered my version of a couple ballads.  It went very well, considering I hadn’t sang in public in about 25 years.

So it is good to be back, but I can be ready in a couple of hours, if  someone wants to invite me to go again.

Happy birding!!

More photos at www.zellertexasphotos.com