Big Bend: The Big Hike to Boot Springs

Colima Warbler

The third day of my trip to Big Bend National Park, the group started the hike up the mountain trail to Boot Canyon. In spite of the fact that my right knee issues had slowed me down, I intended to do the entire hike, which was advertised as a ten-hour expedition up and back, but I’m sure it took me longer than that! The decision whether to continue down to Boot Springs was at the halfway mark with the spectacular view of the “Boot”, and I figured I wasn’t coming back to do this again, so the only way to go was onward.

The object of what is always lovingly referred to as a “forced march” in birding was to see the elusive Colima Warbler. As it turns out, those of us who made the trip to Boot Canyon saw four or five of these individuals, but I don’t remember encountering any on the way up to the decision point, so my election to go the entire hike was fortuitous.

Chisos Basin, with the lodge in distant view…

On the way, we encountered this Black-Crested Titmouse, a species seen almost on the entire trip, but nevertheless a bit challenging to capture, so I was glad to have a picture of this individual.

Black-Crested Titmouse

One thing I discovered, though, on this hike, was that my decision to take the biggest lens may not have been wise. Actually, the Tamron lens barely survived the trip: by the end, the rubber gasket on the focus wheel was loose to the point where I could barely take a picture. I ordered a replacement, but I haven’t attached it yet. Instead, ever since I got back from the trip I’ve been using my Canon 100-400mm lens and, combined with my best camera, I think this is the way to go, so I’m reluctant to pick up the Tamron again although I’m sure I will before I decide what its ultimate fate will be.

But the biggest problem on this particular day was that somehow, on the way down to Boot Springs, my settings on the camera changed, and I was oblivious to the fact that I was shooting on “M” which I guess is the manual setting I never use, until long after the stop at Boot Springs where we encountered all these delightful warblers availing themselves of the water feature. In effect I had nice photographs of some rocks because they required no attention to shutter speed. So there I was in heaven at least looking at these amazingly beautiful birds, but not capturing them entirely with the camera. I am surprised that I was able to salvage the photographs you see here, which are certainly not of high quality but at least you can see what the birds look like. Something to learn from an exhausting hike situation. Be Over-Prepared. Or don’t forget to check your camera settings after: adjusting your pack, tying your boots, grabbing your water…

Anyway, in addition to the Colima, the Lucy’s and the Hermit were lifers for me.

Lucy’s Warbler

Some other species I’ll likely not see again…

Rock Squirrel
Threadleaf Phlox

The Slate-throated Redstart was a very hot item, and I’m sorry I didn’t get a decent picture of it, but it’s here anyway as a memory. Apparently this bird is more common south of the Rio Grande.

Variable Dancer
Eastern Fence Lizard

So all in all it was an exhaustingly beautiful experience, one I will always treasure, and I survived! Now if I can just get through the rest of my pictures from this trip before I go on the next one. More to come. Summer is upon us.

6 thoughts on “Big Bend: The Big Hike to Boot Springs

  1. What a beautiful place! How unfortunate to have your camera settings moved out of position. It’s one of the problems with hicking, I’ve lost lens caps, viewfinder paddings and also what happened to you. Good thing that you had many that are very good. Thank you, Lisa. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, H.J.! Yes, it was overwhelmingly beautiful country. I adore desert anyway, but the vistas and the vegetation was magnificent. As for the compromised photos, I guess now I know why I shoot in raw! Lol. 🙂

  2. Colima .. BRAVO! He and zone-tailed hawk are the reason we want to go there in spring. Glad you were able to tick them off your life list. Great series, Lisa. Happy birding!

    • Thanks, Shannon, and I hope you get to see these beautiful birds in the spring! The Zone-Tailed was surprising to see sitting – I’d seen it in flight before, but this time it was pretty amazing.

  3. Oh no! That sounds like something that I would do. Well, at least you got to see some beautiful country and rare birds, even if not all the pictures met your usual standards. That looks like a rugged hike you took.

    • Thanks, Jason! At the very least the trails were in decent shape, but I remember encountering some young people starting up as we were coming down and wondered how far they were thinking of going. I am just glad I took pictures because I am sure I didn’t get to stop and look at half the beautiful things we passed along the way.

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