Big Bend National Park Thanksgiving 2012

Varied Thrush Christmas Mnt. Oasis Photo Stephan Lorenz

California Sister Photo Stephan Lorenz


After finally managing to load the car by 5 am we rolled out of Houston and headed west along familiar I10. We didn’t stop much except for gas and passed through Alpine in the early afternoon, turning off the main road towards the Christmas Mountains shortly thereafter. Arriving at the Christmas Mountain Oasis we parked and explored this beautiful patch of habitat. We were the only ones there until Carolyn Ohl arrived to replenish the feeder with grapes and it didn’t take long for the Varied Thrush to make an appearance. It passed by the grapes and flew into a tree, disappearing from view. Yet a few minutes later we were able to observe it out in the open, sometimes being chased by a mockingbird, until it settled on a bare branch to preen, with the soft light of sunset accentuating its colors. A quick stroll in the evening got us close to a Western Diamondback.


We stayed for the night at the oasis and wandered about a bit in the morning. We saw the thrush one more time and added Green-tailed Towhee. The feeders were visited by at least three Anna’s Hummingbirds. We continued south into Big Bend and after crossing the park set up camp in Rio Grande Village. The cottonwoods here had the usual assortment of feeding flocks with Brown Creepers and Black-throated Gray Warbler present every day. We walked the short nature trail.


We woke up right around 5 am and prepared a quick breakfast before heading off to the mountains. We hiked up the Laguna Meadows Trail, cut across the Colima Trail, and walked down Pinnacles after climbing Toll Mountain. The mountains were full of birds with Pine Siskins constantly above and near the top of Laguna Meadows I heard the distinct “kip kip kipping” of a Red Crossbill doing a circle in the stratosphere, alas I couldn’t spot it. Along the Colima Trail we found a massive feeding flock that contained Bushtits, more Ruby-crowned Kinglets than one could count, and single Townsend’s Solitaire perched up on a snag. A warbler appeared briefly alongside a Yellow-rumped Warbler and from the brief glimpse it looked like a Black-throated Green instead of the expected Townsend’s, but after seeing a Black-throated Green last Thanksgiving and a Black-throated Green in the Davis Mnts. In August I am beginning to doubt my luck, it must have been a Townsend’s. The rest of the hike was relatively quiet, except for a Red-naped Sapsucker and White-breasted Nuthatch a Boot Spring’s. Before hiking down the Pinnacles Trail we climbed Toll Mountain, which turned into a rough affair of crawling through dense shrub across steep rocky slopes. We returned to the trail utterly scratched, full of spines. Heading down the last bird of the day was a Golden-crowned Kinglet.


Tired from the previous day and pretty beat up we took it slow. Just before noon we finally arrived at the trailhead into Pine Canyon and took our time on this beautiful hike. The birds were relatively slow with a single Red-naped Sapsucker and a Band-tailed Pigeon that conveniently flew into a bare tree right overhead as we ate lunch. On the hike out we found a good flock of Chipping Sparrows and a huge flock of Lark Buntings along the road. Another visit to the Hot Springs was in order before the evening turned strange, let me just summarize “my tent that my brother was using flew into Mexico, including mattress and sleeping bag, fortunately minus my brother” enough said.


After a cramped night of all three of us sleeping in the remaining tent I woke up early and wandered about Rio Grande Village finding Brown Thrashers, Common Yellowthroat, White-throated Sparrow, and my first Winter Wren for the park, in addition to Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Driving through Marathon we stopped at the cemetery and caught a quick glimpse of the Williamson’s Sapsucker flying out of its favorite tree only to disappear in the distant neighborhood. Arrived in Houston 10 pm.

Winter Wren Rio Grande Village Texas Photo Stephan Lorenz


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