Date: 5/27/18 6:33 am From: Jaculin Bowman <jaculinb4...> [ILbirds] <ILbirds-noreply...> Subject: IBET No sighting: Big Bend NP
Have any of you ever pondered a visit to Texas and Big Bend National Park? Chris and I were inspired to make this a bucket list trip a few years back, after seeing a report and pictures from Brian Tang. We planned our trip with the Colima Warbler and Common Black Hawk as our only potential "lifers" and we went all in on our targets. The path to the only US breeding ground of the COWA is a steep and narrow path up the Pinnacles Trail of the Chisos Mountains. We trained for three months on the steepest climb we could find in Kane County. We would do the .75 miles -50 foot elevation loop seven times each visit at Johnson's Mound. This practice actually prepared us quite well for the 10.2 mile -2,000 foot elevation loop at Big Bend. Day 1: We started up Pinnacles Trail at 5:00am with headlamps to guide us, the temp was cool and as we ascended the mountain, we were serenaded by Mexican Whip-poor-wills. As we stopped to enjoy the sound, one flew across the trail just 25 feet in front of us (a visual of a prior "audio" lifer). We could see his eyes glowing orange in the light of our headlamps. We continued to our target COWA area, arriving just after dawn as planned. We heard him calling and soon he was foraging in trees right above our heads! We had great audio and good visual of "Lifer #1". Although lighting and the trees made photographs impossible. Heading up the trail we heard an additional four COWA.
Day 2: we had the Common Black Hawk on our minds. Driving south to Rio Grande Village, we parked in front of the known nesting area, but all three nests we could see seemed to be void of any birds. Driving the road we saw COBH flying over head - "Lifer #2"!! We birded the area all day checking the nest area frequently - still no bird on the nest. Stopping at the camp ground convenience store, I asked the clerk if he knew anything about the nest. First thing he says is ...."Do you know there are FOUR nests? That's where she is." What?!? We only saw three. He responds "All I can tell you is the fourth nest is in the back row of trees." Now we're on a mission to find that fourth nest...just as we start to survey the fence line, a car pulls up and the passenger is calling to us "I know where the nest is!" Sure enough if you looked between the fork in the branches behind them perfectly framed was Momma COBH sitting on her nest! Success!!! We spent the next two days exploring the trails of the mountains and desert of Big Bend. It was an amazing trip with beautiful sights, sounds and birds.
We encourage anyone considering this trip to take it. Don't let that mountain intimidate you, if we can do it - so can you!