Saturday, December 27, 2008

Big Bend Trip Day 5: Chisos & Rio Grande Village

The day's forecast predicted a major change in the weather with daytime temperatures falling to 36F in the mountains and 63F on lower ground. So we decided to spend most of the day at Daniels Ranch near Rio Grande Village. According to park rangers, the ranch should have most of the birds that we had missed seeing because of the closure of the RGV campground.

However, as the morning started off warm in Chisos, we began by birding the Window Trail again.

The very first bird that I spotted was a Rock Wren, a new species for the trip. We were then treated to a noisy display of antics by a group of Mexican Jays. Not to be outdone, several Cactus Wrens sang and posed for photos on trailside bushes.

This Cactus Wren seemed happy to pose ...

but then seemed to have second thoughts.

We also saw Black-crested Titmouse, Acorn Woodpeckers, Pyrrhuloxia, Phainopepla, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Northern Mockingbirds, American Robins and Dark-eyed Juncos.

A White-tailed Deer gave us a good look at its head ...

... and then its rump.

We then drove down to the Valley - where the weather turned out to be bitterly cold and very windy. So much for weather forecasts!

We braved the elements to do an hour's walk around Daniels Ranch and managed to turn up a few good birds. The first to greet us was a Golden-fronted Woodpecker working its way through the cottonwood trees.

Daniels Ranch

The bushes and reeds on the river bank had Black Phoebes, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a Verdin and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker. We also spotted several Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Pyrrhuloxia.


As it seemed to be getting colder by the minute, we decided to drive back to Chisos, doing some from-the-warmth-of-the-car sightseeing along the way.

We drove out to Boquillas Canyon, where an aerial tram used to ferry mineral ore across the river from Mexico.

Later we stopped at Dugout Wells, but the biting wind soon forced us back into the car. The stop was worthwhile, however, because we spotted a flock of Lesser Goldfinch, the only ones we saw on our trip.

We did another brief stop at a water plant on the K-Bar road. There were no birds but we admired several varieties of cactus.

(One of the things that we loved about Big Bend was that there was always plenty to look at. Even if birds were absent, there were often Javelinas, deer, squirrels or chipmunks to admire. Every section of the park offered different landscapes and geological features, plus a huge variety of plant life. Also, the fact that the sky constantly changed meant that the same rocks and mountains also changed their appearance constantly.)

We then drove back up to Chisos, where the weather totally contradicted the forecast by being sunny and warm.

After another good lunch at the Chisos Lodge, I strolled along the Window Trail, accompanied by a flock of Western Bluebirds. Cactus Wrens again posed for photos, as did a Canyon Towhee.

Canyon Towhee

Back at our room, I had an excellent view of a Northern Harrier, which flew down the ravine and passed by only 20' away from and slightly below our deck. I think it's the first time I've ever seen a Harrier from above.

As the sun started setting, several Javelinas and White-tailed Deer wandered past the deck, a nice end to our final day in Big Bend.

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