After birding Marathon on November 30, Catherine Winans headed to Big Bend National Park on December 1 with a few target birds in mind. With her permission, here's her note with observations from Rio Grande Village (Daniel's Ranch) and the Chisos Basin:
Matt and Heidi,
As promised, here is my Big Bend report, keeping in mind that I was target birding and did not make any complete surveys. Let me know if anything does not sound right.
About halfway between Panther Junction and RGV about ten quail on the side of the road quickly ducked into the brush. My impression was Bobwhite, but the maps in National Geographic suggest that Scaled would be more likely. [Scaled is the most likely quail in BBNP, though Gambel's becomes common further west. Bobwhite in the Trans-Pecos region tend to be small populations that have been released for hunting on private ranches. -h]
At Daniel Ranch, a juvenile Gray Hawk, 2 Black Phoebes, 1 Marsh Wren, 3 or 4 Yellow Rumps, 2 Common Raven, 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, 1 Verdin. One Coot at the silt ponds, and two Inca Doves. Quite sure I heard a Rock Wren on the hillside, but could not see it.
In the campgrounds, 3 or 4 Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, 7 Cardinals, 2 Great Blue Herons, 2 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, 2 Roadrunners, more Ruby-crowned Kinglets.
It took me four hours to find one Black-throated Gray Warbler. The ones reported last week were with flocks of Yellow-rumps. There were not as many Rumps as I expected, a few singles, and a couple of small flocks. Finally found a few foraging birds in the grove behind the store, Yellow-rumps, Ruby-crowneds, and the lone male Black-throated Blue. [Fantastic sighting! Last report of Black-throated Blue Warbler out here was 23-24 September 2011, but while fall records are slightly predictable, this may be the first December record for the region!]
I did not see any male Vermilions. I think one female, but looked away and she moved before I had a good look.
So I did not get to The Basin until 2:45. Immediately remembered how much I love it there and booked a room for the night. I decided to skip The Guadalupes this trip, since I no longer needed Sage Thrasher. I looked for Black-chinned Sparrow for two hours. There was very little bird activity, a couple of calling Mexican Jays and an Acorn Woodpecker. Two Say's Phoebes and a Flicker near the dinning room just before dark. I was out at first light. White-winged Doves calling. Then four Mexican Jays flew in and landed in a tree for nice looks. A Cactus Wren calling. Several Ruby-crowned Kinglets. A Pyrrhuloxia was rustling around in the brush below a bush a few feet off the trail to the campground. I moved closer and he hopped up into the bush. I realized there was a second bird in the bush and got my binoculars on it in time for a good five second look at a Black-chinned Sparrow.
Three Black-crested Titmice near the cabins.
Then home in time to have a late dinner with my husband, daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons.
It was a great trip. Thanks so much to both of you for the good birds and great company.
Send me a picture and keep in touch.