Thursday, July 31, 2008

Clown Quails and Sweat

Up with the sun…again (that Michigan time vs. west Texas time really works in your favor. It is not hard getting up with the sun in west Texas if you get up at 6am in Michigan. I thought a trip to the top of the mountain via Skyline Drive would be nice. The sunrise up there is very pleasant. It is even more pleasant when you know you saw two Montezuma Quail (#605) on the roadside on the way up. At first, they looked like rocks. But, the one was striped. When I stopped the car, they were not sure what to make of it. They shuffled off into the grasses. I managed some quick photos before they left. I saw them again on the way down. I was pretty satisfied now. I knew those little farts where going to be some of the toughest birds to find on my whole trip. My entire mood was different. Yes folks, I saw a bird, and I was on the top of the world!

From the State Park, I moved on to Big Bend National Park. By the time I arrived at lunch time, temps where well into the 90’s. It was really, really hot. Like an oven. So why in the world did I even come here? The only location in the United States to find Colima Warbler is the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend. That’s it. No other place has them. If you want them in the US, you go to Big Bend and you do it when they are breeding.

I chatted with Mark Flippo at the interpretive center in Panther Junction. He is the bird man on staff. I mentioned that I was here for the Colima Warbler and he gave me 15 minutes of solid information on it and other birds, including the Flame-colored Tanager that had been photographed there a few days before.

With the whole day ahead of me, I set up camp (where it is probably 5000 feet above sea level), ate in the shade, and thought to myself “Damn, its hot!” So what can you do when its hot? Go someplace “really hot” and then go back to where it is only “hot.” I headed off to Castolon, a small historic section of the park on the Rio Grande River. It was 110 degrees according to my car’s thermometer (which is generally pretty accurate). I asked the woman at the store (yes, they have a store there!) what I might see at Santa Elena Canyon. “Dirty water.” Nice. The canyon really was impressive. The Common Yellowthroat was a surprise. I didn’t expect the little bit of marshy habitat that was there. The Sam Nail Ranch was neat too. Just a little oasis in the desert from the days when Sam Nail ranched the area. His well keeps the trees alive (remember I was in a desert; not many trees!). When I returned to my camp, the 95 degrees wasn’t so bad. But, it was still too hot to cook, so I ate at the lodge. I also purchased a locally made ceramic coffee mug. I try to get one from a key vacation stop when I travel. I now have mugs from North Carolina, Texas (two actually), Alaska, Florida, Arizona, and Montana.

I slept poorly. The winds were a bit rough over night. When they died down in the early morning, Common Poorwills were calling.

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