Saturday, December 27, 2008

Big Bend Trip Day 3: Marathon to Big Bend

On Friday we set off mid-morning and covered the 40 miles to the Big Bend National Park entrance before noon. We were immediately surrounded by beautiful desert scenery and were soon welcomed by a pair of Say's Phoebes, Common Ravens and three Greater Roadrunners.
Say's Phoebe
Common Raven

As we were in no hurry to check in to our hotel, we drove southeast to the Rio Grande Village campground, the prime birding site in the park. On the way, we stopped off for a picnic lunch at Dugout Wells, another well-known birding spot.

It was quiet for birds but we did see Northern Mockingbirds, Pyrrhuloxias, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Spotted Towhee and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker. I also ran into our first Javelinas of the trip.
The view from Dugout Wells

Javelina at Dugout Wells

At Rio Grande Village we were extremely disappointed to find that most of the campground was closed because of recent flooding. So we were not going to be able to explore the birdiest site in the whole park!

Our disappointment was tempered a little by great views of a Vermilion Flycatcher, a bird that we'd only seen once before (at Anahuac NWR) and one of the species that we most wanted to see at Big Bend.

Vermilion Flycatcher

The only other birds that we turned up were Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

The disappointment that we felt at the closure of most of the Rio Grande Village campground vanished as we drove into the Chisos Mountains, where we were to spend the next three nights.


Approaching the Chisos Mountains

Whoever decided where to situate the resort certainly had an eye for locations. The buildings are clustered at about 5,400 feet in a basin surrounded by woods, cliffs and rocky peaks.


At one end of the Basin, a short trail leads to an overlook from where you can see the Window, a gap in the cliffs that lets you look through onto the desert below.


The Window

Through the Window

The Window trail was to provide us with lots of good birding over the next three days. A quick walk along it on this first afternoon yielded views of several birds, including Western Bluebirds, Canyon Towhees and Acorn Woodpeckers.


Acorn Woodpecker

The deck behind our room looked out over a small ravine that was a popular morning and evening route for Javelinas and White-tailed Deer.

From our deck

The first of many deer we were to see in the park


The resort is very well-organized. The hotel rooms are comfortable, the cleaning service is excellent and the main lodge has a good, reasonably-priced restaurant with great views over the Basin. It has a nice gift shop and there is a small store and a visitor center nearby.

We reserved our room in July but you need to book accommodation much further in advance for peak periods, including Christmas and New Year. There are no TVs or phones in the rooms, and there is no cellphone service in the park.


Isaac said...

I am so jealous. You're prompting me to start planning a trip out there in February/March before it gets hot. Great shots of a beautiful place.

Jeff said...

It was even more beautiful than we'd expected, Isaac. Luckily, we chose a week when the park wasn't busy. I imagine that there are a lot more people there in the spring.

Isaac said...

I've been there during both the spring and summer. Both were pretty busy times.