Big Bend and Beyond

Saturday, April 9
Today we visited Big Bend National Park. It was a long drive, but we got started at 4:30am, delayed by 2 potty stops. The first stop was Panther Junction Visitor Center where I asked about good birding spots. We’d already researched the locations, but I wanted the inside scoop. Cottonwoods Campground got added to our list. Our next stop was Chisos Basin. We hiked one short trail, but before we could start out on it some other hikers, seeing our cameras, told us to go down another trail to see some bears in a tree! We quickly got down the trail and sure enough, there was a mama and a cub in the tree foraging on the flowers. Another cub was sitting on the ground nearby. We stayed for about twenty minutes or so, saw a few deer, one was a buck with only one antler, and then we headed back to our original trail. That trail was Windows View trail and only about a quarter mile long. It was a pleasant walk. We saw a Scott’s oriole and a Cassin’s finch. Two new species for us. Next was Sam Nail Ranch trail, another shortie. We found an offshoot off that trail and took it out of curiosity. It led to a dry wash where we walked for a bit before heading back to the Ranch trail. We saw what we think was an ash-throated flycatcher. Leaving that location we drove down to Cottonwoods Campground and had lunch. We shared a picnic table with a group of other park visitors and chatted about birds. Once we’d stowed our food, we walked around the perimeter of the campground. We saw some vermilion flycatchers, and a Bell’s vireo – another new species. Next up was Rio Grand Village, on the other side of the park. We stopped in at the visitor center and talked about birding and we were directed toward Daniels Ranch. We walked down to the Rio Grand River then backtracked toward the campground. In that area we saw Bell’s vireo, a roadrunner, and a common black hawk sitting her nest. We met a very nice older man named Chris whom we chatted with about the hawk and birding in general. On the way out we gassed up at the campground and got some cold drinks. While Alan pumped I chatted with the cashier who told me the temperature had gottten up to 100° today. On the way out of the park Alan spotted a hawk and stopped for some pictures.
Holiday Inn Express, Ozona. 4.8. very clean, bed was just right, quiet overnight.

Sunday, April 10
Today we head to Bosque del Apache NWR for a few days. We had breakfast at the hotel, took our time and got organized, then headed to El Paso. Along the way we entered a new time zone. In El Paso we got gas at Costco (they beat out Sam’s Club by 8¢), and went to lunch across town at L&J Cafe. It was a restaurant recommended by my friend, Helaine. We the mini sampler between the two of us and it was perfect. The place is very authentically Mexican, the atmosphere was just right and not kitschy. It was VERY busy, and for good reason. The food is delicious and the service is attentive without being bothersome. Highly recommend this restaurant. We made it to Bosque just after 3:30 and took a short drive around. We saw some waterfowl and a couple phoebes but that was all. Since it was mid-day (for birds that is) we headed to our hotel. There was a funky smell when we entered the room, but we must have gotten used to it after awhile. We had dinner (rice and chili) in our room. The a/c doesn’t seem to be working. Gonna be a long night.
Holiday Inn Express, Van Horn. 4.8. Almost exactly like the hotel in Ozona. Very clean, bed was just right, quiet overnight.

Monday, April 11
We both slept poorly. We decided to change our plans; I got a room for tonight at the Holiday Inn next door, then checked us out of our current hotel early. After a big fail at McDonald’s for breakfast we picked something up at Burger King then headed to the refuge for the morning. The refuge was pretty quiet. There where the usual suspects- coot, shovelers, great bue herons and yellow rumped warblers. At the visitor center we saw gamble’s quail, white crowned sparrows, and a pair of Anna’s hummingbird. We may have gotten a Lucy’s warbler (new), but won’t know for sure until later. On the way out of the north loop Alan spotted a roadrunner up in a tree with a lizard in its beak. It was mournfully calling for a mate. I discovered that I did a fair enough imitation of that same call because he perked up when I vocalized the call. I did that a few times then left him alone. Lunch was at Yo Mama’s Grill, always good eating there. We drove up to Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. These are primarily the ruins from up to 600 years ago when the Spaniard monks settled in with the natives to convert them to Christianity, and built churches and small villages. Some of the native Pueblo ruins are over 1,000 years old. We visited the Abo site first and I chatted with the ranger there about the history. Then we drove to the Gran Quivira Site, which was massive in area when compared to the Abo site. It stits atop a high knoll overlooking the vast plains. A church there was started and then suddenly stopped. Another, smaller, church was completed nearby. We gassed up on the cheep in the nearby town, then drove back to Socorro to check in at the Holiday Inn. We stopped at Walmart first and bought some pre-made salads for dinner, and a banana for breakfast. There were a couple of small tables with chairs outside at the hotel, so we had a pleasant dinner al fresco. We decided to check out Tucson Birding Tours, so I filled out the form on their website. Afterwards, Alan took off by himself for the refuge. I took care of paying some bills, and working on photos. Best Western, Socorro. 3.0. There was a funky smell to the room, the a/c didn’t work, and the beds were uncomfortable. The microwave was ancient, it worked, but was not reliable.

Tuesday, April 12
We took it easy this morning and finally got on the road at 8:15. The ride was fairly uneventful, except for the dust storms. The winds have been 30+ mph and really cranking up the sand and dust. You can see them in them in the distance, and hope they subside before you get there, but they don’t always. We drove through several. We went straight to our hotel, checked in. “The Lost City” was playing at the theaters, so we killed some time and went to see that. Dinner was at a Chinese restaurant nearby. We heard back from Filipe at Tucson Birding Tours and made arrangements for a 1/2 day of birding + one night tour. He texted me that David would get back to me to confirm the date and times
Holiday Inn, Socorro. 4.9. Clean, comfortable, quiet, nice service. One bath towel and one washcloth were missing, but the gentleman up front was great about getting what we needed.