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.

Pedernales Falls

White-Winged Dove

White-Winged Dove

I’m taking a breather from warbler migration (and so, it seems, are the warblers, for the moment, at least) to start visiting pictures taken last week in Texas,

Western Scrub-Jay

Western Scrub Jay

Our first full day of birding in Texas began at Pedernales Falls State Park. At that point all the birds were all new, even if we had seen them before. Pedernales has two blinds from which you can get excellent views of the birds that visit their feeders. It was the perfect introduction to species we were to see again and again nearly every day of the trip, no matter where we went.

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

The day was overcast and taking pictures through the slanted glass of the blind made some of these pictures fuzzy. When we entered the largest blind there were two photographers ensconced in the side bays which are completely open to the outside with no windows in the way. Neither one of these gentlemen, and I use the term loosely, offered to share his spot for a moment. I did not bother to ask, figuring my large lens spoke volumes already. But it became frustrating when a male Painted Bunting appeared and all those click-click-clicks were not mine.

Black-Crested Titmouse

Black-Crested Titmouse

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As birds would have it, I walked over to the other blind, which had a less accessible, smaller hole, but it was open, and shortly thereafter a male Painted Bunting came to the suet feeder and put on a show for me. These are two of more shots than I can count. Although I would later get photos of this species in better light, I will always treasure these for their intimacy.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Feel free to click on any photo to see an enlargement.

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One quick aside: I was pleased and surprised to see the Clay-Colored Sparrow from the last post on top of the feeder pole this evening when I got home. It’s nice to know he’s still enjoying his visit.