National Park #25: Big Bend, Day 3

Previous Day

Having got our wilderness permit the day before, we woke up a bit before dawn to get on the mountain trail right away.  Backpacking in the heat is always grueling, even more so  when you have to carry all you water with you.  Alison and I each carried 5L of water, weighing in at 11 pounds, in addition to the rest of our backpacking supplies.  Piling on, this would be my first attempt at actively birding while I backpacked when meant I’d be carrying my camera and binoculars.  However, our trip was only going to be one night and any calories expended carrying extra gear would be worth it if we found the marquee bird for the Chisos Mountains, the Colima Warbler.

We began our loop on the Pinnacles Trail (C), quickly ascending from the basin floor.  Beyond the first few miles, the trail was quite shady and we found ourselves shielded from the sun for most of the morning.  Wildlife activity was concentrated into a few hotspots where we found Acorn Woodpecker, Mexican Jay, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, and Black-crested Titmouse among other regular birds.

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Acorn Woodpecker

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A sassy Mexican Jay

Connecting to the Pinnacles Trail, we continued on the Boot Canyon Trail.  As the name suggests, this trail is flanked by rocky cliffs, making it a comfortable hike, even in the midday heat.  Deciding that it was time for a break, we dropped our packs at the Boot Spring Ranch.  Optimistically named, the spring is most always dry but, the surrounding canyon allows for rather lush vegetation to thrive.  Almost immediately after dropping our bags and drinking some water, we began to hear the chirps and chits of warblers.  Within 5 minutes we had tracked down the source of the sound, three Colima Warblers!!  Various birds started trickling through and by the time 20 minutes had past we had added another Colima to our list as well as Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Tanager, and an unexpected bonus… two Painted Redstart.  I can only imagine how spoiled Texas birders must get with colorful Neotropical birds just appearing on their doorstep.

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Colima Warbler having lunch

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An acrobatic Painted Redstart

After getting my fill of Colima Warblers, we continued on the Boot Canyon Trail up towards the Southwest Rim.  Upon reaching the edge, you’re presented with foreground views of the foothills which abruptly end at the Rio Grande River and the Mexican boarder.  We found our backcountry site (D) and, exhausted from the 2,000+ feet of climb and afternoon sun, I dropped my bag, found a rock for a pillow and took a nap.  Aly tells me she did the same although, I’ll have to take her word for it because I didn’t wake up for about 4 hours.  Once awake, we set up camp, made dinner and prepared for bed.

Southwest Rim Campsite

Camp at the Southwest Rim

We continuing sitting around our site until after sundown, listening to the odd call of Mexican Whip-poor-wills.  Before we turned in, Alison thought it’d be fun to get up in the middle of the night and do some stargazing.  We tried to think cool thoughts and dozed off with our alarm set for 3:00 a.m.  Once we woke up and rubbed our eyes a bit, we could see the incredible nighttime vista around us.  The Milky Way was clearly visible and so many starts populated the sky that it made it difficult to locate even the constellations we were most familiar with and an occasional shooting star would zip by.  As we wrapped ourselves in blankets, sitting on the edge of the Southwest Rim, a cute Kangaroo Rat scurried along in the starlight.

Next Day

My eBird checklists:

Pinnacles Trail

Boot Spring/Boot Canyon Trail

Southwest Rim Trail

One comment

  1. Shannon · October 4, 2015

    Sounds like heaven. And yes, we in Texas are very, very spoiled with the neotropical migrants (our year’s list Enjoying your accounts of our favorite park this morning.


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