Lifer 301…..My Virginia Rail

In the world of birding, a lifer is a bird that an individual has seen for the first time in his or her life.  When I got into serious bird photography about ten years ago, I was only interested in photographing them.  In that vein, as I captured them on film, I found that I needed to be able to tell people what I was photographing.  I then started buying various guides so I could learn about the different species.  I also found that there are 383 different species just in my local area of the Concho Valley.  In my edition of Stokes Field Guide to Birds of North America, there are 854 species in the country.  Now get this, as of February 26, 2018, there are 648 species that can be seen in the state of Texas.  That is according to the Texas Birds Records Committee of the Texas Ornithological Society.    Wow!!  that is around 75% of the entire national count.  So if you want to see bird, Texas is the place to be.

Right now we are in the middle of spring migration.  Birds are moving north from Mexico, etc, to their northern homes.  Some stop here, others keep on moving more northerly.  So, the odds of seeing more unique birds is really great this time of year.  In the fall this is all reversed.

Anyway, as the years have gone by, I adopted the habit that most birders have, of keeping track of how many of these birds I have actually seen and have learned to identify.  Most I have photographed.  Others, I have observed closely with the help of more expert birders.  I have accumulated the “life list”.  I saw number 301 a few days ago.  It was my very first Virginia Rail, a very rare bird for the San Angelo area.


Virginia Rail

At the time, we, Ann and I, were watching for a Sora, another marsh bird, that had been reported.  We had arrived early, with a burrito and coffee, at the area where the Sora had been reported.  It was a small marshy area with reeds and cat-tails; the perfect habitat.  The Sora is a very shy bird that doesn’t like to show itself often.  So patience is the key.  We sat there for about 45 minutes while we finished our breakfast.  We were about to leave, when Ann saw a little movement.  We got some teasing little peeks through the grasses, then….what the??  I saw an orange bill.  Hey, wait a minute, Sora’s don’t have orange bills.  A few seconds later, the Virginal Rail, pictured above finally ventured into the open.

The Virginal Rail and the Sora both winter in Mexico and east along the gulf coast.  They then migrate to spend summer the northern states.  It was during this migratory trip that they decided to stop off here in San Angelo.  Possibly traveling companions.  Anyway, a few minutes after this exciting event, the Sora that we were originally looking for came out of the reeds at almost the same location.



So, getting a ‘tofer’ made for an exciting morning.  Getting great photos of each added a little sugar.  You can see my entire Life List by clicking on that button at the top of this page.

Until the next time



A Hawk, a Woodpecker and an Owl

Friday we decided to make the rounds of some our favorite local spots again.   We saw around 30 species so the birding is getting back to normal, despite not having many duck species yet.  I did get some nice photos that I will post here for your enjoyment.

The Red-tailed Hawk was very co-0perative, probably had just eaten so he posed readily for me about 30 feet off the ground.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

This Ladder-backed Woodpecker, actually was hanging beneathe limb, but I decided to rotate it for better viewing.  It still looks very natural.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

This photo below is a young Great Horned Owl.  I was surprised that he was so wide awake and alert.  He was definitely staring me down.  Love those eyes.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

On another note, we heard that there was a Sora, a water bird, in a pond at San Angelo State Park.  We had been told that if we couldn’t see it in the reeds, we should clap our hands and it would answer.  So we decided to give it a shot and drove out there.  We didn’t see the bird, but decided to try the clapping thing.  Sure enough on about the third attempt, this loud clapping came from the reeds.  It was very unmistakable.  Here is a photo of a Sora that I took a couple of years ago at Big Bend National Park.



Click on any photo to see an enlargement.

Adventures from the Big Bend – Tuesday – Day 2

After a good night’s sleep in our cozy casita at Far Flung Outdoor Center, we woke early to a pleasant, partly cloudy sky.  Actually, it was pitch-black out when we got up, so the partly-cloudiness came a bit after that.  We wanted to drive to the eastern side of the park near Boquillas Canyon.  The Rio Grande Village RV Site is located near there.  It is one of the prime birding areas in the park.

Vermilion Flycatcher

But I am getting ahead of myself.  First we needed to eat.  Our destination for that little endeavor was Frank Jones’ Roadrunner Deli.  We had eaten there on on our last trip to the Big Bend and were thrilled.  A little non-descript place with 4 tables inside and a few outside.  The is behind the counter and covers the wall, and I think a few little items are written in the margins.  And a large menu it is, as he is open for breakfast and lunch from 7:30 until 3:00PM.

I opted for a pair of eggs over medium with crispy bacon and toast.  Ann was still a bit under the weather and she just had hot tea and toast.  The price was great and we left there pretty well sated.


We left there to head for Rio Grande Village, a distance of about 65 miles from the western to the eastern side of the Big Bend NP.  That national park is one big place, covering around 750,000 acres.

Turkey Vulture

The Rio Grande Village RV Park was vacant.  No RVs or campers yet, as the “snowbirds” hadn’t started to arrive yet.  They are the people from the north that spend the winter in Texas.  We spent a couple of hours just driving slowly through the area.  The were birds galore.  We saw our first ever Sora, which is a little bird that lives in the reeds and marsh grasses.  There were hundreds of my favorite little bird, the Vermilion Flycatcher, plus assorted other species, finches, woodpeckers, warblers, sparrows, etc.  And, of course, we can’t leave out that ever-popular Turkey Vulture.


On the way out we spotted this Javelina along with another, along the side of the road.

Threatening showers over Chichuahuan Desert

I hope you are enjoying this trip as much as Ann and I had.  Watch the next few posts for more from our adventure.  And of course, click on any image to see and enlargement.