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Monday, November 5, 2012

Big Bend is well-named

We arrived home from our ten-day Big Bend National Park trip late yesterday and I'm still trying to process all that I saw and experienced there. It was a wonderful trip and I highly recommend it for birders or just for people who love Nature in the raw. It is a wild and ruggedly beautiful place. And big. Very, very big.

Seeing birds there is not that easy, at least at this time of year. I think it would probably be easier in spring or summer when the birds are more vocal and active, but since I haven't been there at those seasons, I can't say for sure. Autumn is a bit of a challenge because the birds tend to be quieter and more hidden, and it's often difficult to pick them out in this environment of rocks and cacti, but sometimes you get lucky.

I did manage to add six new birds to my life list and probably could have added a lot more if I were a better identifier. There were a lot of warblers there in the areas that have cottonwood trees and I have no doubt there were some that I had not seen before that I was unable to identify. I did take lots of pictures and some of them are of birds that I wasn't able to identify in the field. I'm hoping a closer examination of those pictures may help me to add one or two more to my life list.

I'll be posting many of those pictures here in coming days and weeks, but for now, let me show you just one wonderful bird from the trip, one of the last birds that I photographed there.

This hawk perched on a dead limb of a cottonwood at the Daniels Ranch picnic area right next to the Rio Grande. My back was turned to the bird as I was observing and photographing a Golden-crowned Kinglet in a nearby tree and I wouldn't even have noticed it but for a helpful fellow birder who called my attention to it. The bird perched there for a long time and I took perhaps twenty pictures.

I wasn't entirely sure at first which hawk this was, but after consulting several of my guide books and looking more closely at my pictures I decided it was a Krider's Red-tailed Hawk, the light color phase of that wonderful creature. I can only remember ever having seen one before and it was not nearly as light as this one. There are so many variations of color in that species, ranging from almost black to almost white. Mother Nature does love to confuse us.

In this view, you may be able to discern just a bit of the reddishness of the tail feathers.

Seldom does a hawk sit still for me for this long. I was ecstatic!

I have about four hundred pictures from the trip, not all of them birds. A lot of them are rocks or mountains or vegetation and a few reptiles and butterflies. I look forward to sharing some of them with you in future posts. Meantime, as wonderful as the trip was, it is good to be home.