.We left Del Rio at dawn on Friday to complete the second and longer leg of our drive to Big Bend. For the next 4-5 hours the road was almost empty except for Border Patrol vehicles. People complain that the US border with Mexico is not being controlled well enough but this certainly didn't seem to be the case to us. We passed 6 Border Patrol vehicles on our drive and when we stopped by the roadside for a cigarette break, two of their trucks pulled up within a couple of minutes to check us out.
Our first real break was in the late morning at Marathon. After refueling the car, we drove slowly up the country road to the Post park, stopping along the way to look at birds by the roadside. We spotted Eurasian-collared Dove and Northern Flicker before exiting the town, and soon followed up with Green-tailed Towhees, Lark Buntings, Black Phoebe and Pyrrhuloxia.
PyrrhuloxiaA Red-tailed Hawk looked majestic as she perched motionless on a treetop.
Nearby there was a group of Black-throated Sparrows.
As we pulled into the park, a flock of ducks made a noisy getaway, too fast for us to ID them. They left behind on the water only a group of domestic ducks and a pair of American Coots.
The grass around the picnic area had Killdeer while the trees had Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Yellow-rumped Warblers and a pair of Northern Flickers.
An Eastern Phoebe and a Say's Phoebe were busy catching bugs.
The hillside by the entrance road was quiet except for Mourning Doves and a solitary Cactus Wren but the BBQ area was hopping with Canyon Towhees and White-crowned Sparrows.
We could have happily stayed all day at the Post but Big Bend was beckoning and so we set off on the final leg of our journey, passing Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel and Northern Harrier (and a Border Patrol checkpoint) along the way.
We passed through the Persimmon Gap entry gate and drove up through the park to the Chisos Mountains, marveling at the incredible landscape as we traveled.
We drove up the narrow road into the Chisos Basin.
We had lunch at the lodge, which is overlooked by the huge bulk of the Casa Grande mountain.
We managed to switch our reservation so that we got our three nights' accommodation in one of the Casa Grande rooms instead of in the motel. We were put in a different building from the one we had last time. We were initially disappointed to find that our room didn't overlook the gulley where we had previously seen deer and javelinas. However, our disappointment vanished when we stepped out onto our deck and found we were looking right at the Window, the V-shaped gap in the ring of mountains that surrounds the Chisos Basin. Not a bad view!
There was just enough time before dark to walk the Window View trail and to do the short hike down to the campground and back. Surprisingly, the only birds we saw were a Northern Mockingbird and an Eastern Bluebird. The area around the building, busy on our last visit with Dark-eyed Juncos, Cactus Wrens and Canyon Towhees, this time had only a single Towhee.
Was the lack of birds a sign of what was to come over the next two days?