Warblers and the Big Bend National Park

" A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."
- Maya Angelou
Clearly the famed poetess was not a birder...
It has a number of songs, Maya. It's song can sound like this in this area and and like something else over here. It, evidently, also has something called a chip. So, those of us new to this complicated world of birding are kinda grateful that...it doesn't have an answer. Or...maybe they do. Somewhere. Metaphorically.
It was decided on my last trip to Texas six months ago that a return in the spring was a must. Amazingly enough, I had not burnt the snarky bridge with Greg "greglasley" Lasley in Dripping Springs. As the plane's wheels hit the tarmac, I was greeted with a welcome bouquet of Texas wildflowers in bloom everywhere. ( Christ, now I have to do plants as well...) When we pulled up in his driveway, things got off to a good start with a lifer for me - the resplendent Question Mark, jumping around with some other Nymphalids. A hug with his brilliant wife Cheryl and a petting for each of the cats, Joshua and Jericho. Jericho helped me unpack.
Before we took off for the Southwest, a day with Eric "ericisley" Isley at Hornsby Bend. The trip was even more special for me when Greg made another quick airport pick-up for another hardcore iNater Mark "maractwin" Rosenstein from Cambridge, MA. ( He looked so much better out of that Scuba mask and neoprene...) I think I added five new dragons and damsels that day. Such cooler names in the Ode world than butterflies - Spot-winged Glider, Prince Baskettail & Cobra Clubtail. Like violent, gang-member names. No wimpy butterflies allowed.
We had a long drive to Big Bend from Austin but Greg knew all the stops to see stuff along the way. Saw my first Black-bellied Whistling Ducks in some nondescript creek in some nondescript town. My first Eastern Black Swallowtails at a pull-out overlooking the Pecos River High Bridge. Hard to run through cactus with a butterfly net.
Mark was quite the birder as well. To have he and Greg using those things called binoculars was a great bonus for this novice. I helped Mark with his butterflies and suppled pithy, unsolicited witticisms for all: those are what I carry around my neck into the field, to help me survive the hostel wild, while making me more hostel to others.
Greg had been coming to Big Bend since the early 70's. Mark and I scored that this year was an exceptional flower bloom: they'd received in the region a good enough soaking in early April. The anchor composite bush, Damiana, spray-painted the far mountains yellow, visible a good 50 miles away. Claret Cup cacti and flycatchers slamming your brain here and there with vermillion. Mark finally got his Greater Roadrunner, a lifer for me as well. Plus 23 other's darting cross the road. Fantastic, snarky bird with a cavalier agenda - my kinda pet. Does Purina make Lizard Chow?
Met the Webers, Jim and Lynn. Charming naturalists I'd met on the prior trip in November, who were organizing the Colima Warbler Survey. This event only happens every few years. They also had been updating the Butterfly List for the park.
Greg was overwhelmed daily with where to take us. " You really need ten days to see everything." We had four and I can safely say we never had a dull moment. Long hikes, camera's ( mine: a Barbie, theirs: Adult, assing-kicking monsters ) constantly clicking. Camaraderie each night back in the lodge, all iNating madly before we'd lose the signal. Fun to gloat about the Black Bear they all missed after dinner.
Greg's good friend Chuck "gcwarbler" Sexton joined us. OMG, the dude is charismatic, smart sprite in the field! He helped me with my plants. How does someone constantly smile when they speak and teach. A complete honor to...listen...to him. A day hike into Pine Canyon on the first day of the Survey for Colimas was superseded by a rare sighting of a Western Pygmy Owl. Lunch at a great filigree waterfall revealed many lifer's at the mud: Golden-headed Scallopwing, Meridian Duskywing and the endemic Chisos Skipperling - Piruna haferniki - named after a good friend/mentor of mine here in San Francisco John Hafernik, who surveyed the region in the late 1960's and discovered this species.
Met a good friend Chris Tenney there who was 18 weeks into his Butterfly Big Year.
He wrote about the encounter: http://www.butterflybigyear.net/
I couldn't really add anything the next day birdwise to the survey except...trying to be quiet....which Mark reminded me I...wasn't very good at. "Oh, was that the Owl? No, Liam, still a dove." Saw beautiful tanagers and finally a good look at the Colima - a not-too-showy little thing darting about the canopy. One of the most limited ranges for a bird in the U.S. I tried not to be too enthralled with the lichens on the ten-mile hike cuz I'm supposed to be a birder on...a bird survey...looking up. With the other...birders. Lynn was...patient.
The day before I flew home, an event I'd been looking forward to the whole trip. An iNater-palooza at Hornsby Bend. Met sambiology ( who'd driven down from Dallas three hours away) , ncorley & cullen. gcwarbler & ericisley joined me, Greg and Mark.
I'd brought just a few t-shirts from Ken-ichi and luckily Scott had given Cullen some as well. There was not a living organism that did not have a expert on the trail that day.
As I flew home over West Texas, I was reminded of that foreboding vastness I saw from a car window all week. You are supposed to look wherever you place your steps out there because of rattlesnakes. Caution - never one of my strong attributes. Like a gang of Roadrunners, iNaters help each other on a daily basis around the world see things, which are both exciting and scary, beautiful and real, and dream of seeing,all from the safety of their computers. Like those birds, we devour the horizon with our eyes.
Thank you Mark and Greg for occasionally telling me where to put my feet and and for all the times I...didn't listen...to birds.
Lifers: 31 Butterflies, 18 Odonates, 14 Rep/Amphs, 8 Mammals and 45 Birds. And a bazillion Plants...

Posted by robberfly robberfly, May 09, 2015 20:18

Observations

Photos / Sounds

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What

Prince Baskettail Epitheca princeps

Observer

robberfly

Date

April 27, 2015

Photos / Sounds

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What

Painted Schinia Moth Schinia volupia

Observer

robberfly

Date

April 27, 2015

Photos / Sounds

What

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus forficatus

Observer

robberfly

Date

April 27, 2015

Description

Spectacular bird!

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What

Texas Patch-nosed Snake Salvadora grahamiae ssp. lineata

Observer

robberfly

Date

April 27, 2015 02:23 PM CDT

Description

Fantastic moment, right after the Rat snake. I thought it was a Garter Snake. Greg walked me through the difference..

Photos / Sounds

What

Striped Bark Scorpion Centruroides vittatus

Observer

robberfly

Date

April 28, 2015

Photos / Sounds

What

Giant Desert Centipede Scolopendra heros

Observer

robberfly

Date

April 28, 2015

Description

Found below a trash can...
It was not pleased with our discovery...:]

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What

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis

Observer

robberfly

Date

April 29, 2015

Place

Uvalde, TX (Google, OSM)

Description

Beautiful first...

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Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus

Observer

robberfly

Date

April 30, 2015

Description

Male

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Red-spotted Admiral Limenitis arthemis

Observer

robberfly

Date

April 30, 2015

Description

A glorious lifer - one of many on this walk...

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What

Retama Parkinsonia aculeata

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 1, 2015 09:48 AM CDT

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Arizona Sister Adelpha eulalia

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 2, 2015 12:57 PM CDT

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Greater Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 2, 2015

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What

Alligator Juniper Juniperus deppeana

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 3, 2015 07:13 AM CDT

Description

My new favorite tree,,,,

Photos / Sounds

What

Colima Warbler Leiothlypis crissalis

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 3, 2015

Description

The Star of this trip. The Colima Survey: a bird with one of the narrowest ranges in all of the US.
I've been surrounded by Birders for days and...tried to be quiet...tried...as we listened for this. Hard to photograph as it worked just below each tree's canopy. Finally got this round of cruddy shots. Walked 10 miles for this today. My feet are burning.
Wonder if I'm a "Birder" now...

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Juniper Hairstreak Callophrys gryneus

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 3, 2015

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Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 4, 2015

Description

Fuertes Race...

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Black-tailed Jackrabbit Lepus californicus

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 4, 2015

Description

Mark wanted a good picture all week of this creature. Last day here we got a very cooperative one on the way to Cattail Falls...

Photos / Sounds

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What

Common Cactus Dodger Cacama valvata

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 4, 2015 12:11 PM CDT

Description

Known from Chisos Mohntains. They were buzzing and mating everywhere today.

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Observer

robberfly

Date

May 3, 2015 09:34 AM CDT

Photos / Sounds

What

Ornate Box Turtle Terrapene ornata

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 2015

Place

Texas, US (Google, OSM)

Description

Amazingly eyed it about to cross road. We moved it back down after a few shots into protected habitat. Wow, wow, wow: a Native Turtle!

Photos / Sounds

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Pronghorn Antilocapra americana

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 5, 2015

Description

Finally a good shot of this American Icon...

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What

Scaled Quail Callipepla squamata

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 5, 2015

Description

Beautiful morning light...

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Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 5, 2015

Description

Amazing this species was a lifer for me less than a week ago and today I witnessed it mud-puddling in abundance.

Photos / Sounds

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Observer

robberfly

Date

May 6, 2015 11:32 AM CDT

Description

Having a Ladybug Smoothie...

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What

Great Purple Hairstreak Atlides halesus

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 6, 2015 11:31 AM CDT

Description

Beautiful female!

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What

Soapberry Hairstreak Phaeostrymon alcestis

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 6, 2015

Description

Saw these in abundance after seeing my first in the morning...

Photos / Sounds

What

Green Skipper Hesperia viridis

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 6, 2015

Description

An amazing way to end the day. Greg was bringing a gift to his friend Mike. He dropped Mark and myself off where he'd seen this species prior. We found it rather quickly. Weird-looking Hesperia for this Californian.

Photos / Sounds

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What

Human Homo sapiens

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 7, 2015 09:44 AM CDT

Description

Texas iNat Walkabout. Top ( clockwise to right)
cullen, maractwin, ericisley, robberfly, sambiology, ncowey, greglasley & gcwarbler.

Photos / Sounds

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What

Painted Bunting Passerina ciris

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 7, 2015

Photos / Sounds

What

Flag-tailed Spinyleg Dromogomphus spoliatus

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 7, 2015

Description

Spectacular creature. Greg pointed out the back-facing spines on the hind legs - literally a "bear trap" that locks the prey in when captured. I layed on the ground for this perspective. The lifer was my Thrill-of-the-Day.
Fourth shot a cool window into iNat group.

Photos / Sounds

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What

Question Mark Polygonia interrogationis

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 7, 2015

Description

I fly home in the morning and this was the first creature I iNated in Greg's yard when I arrived. So beautiful.

Photos / Sounds

What

Common Spotted Whiptail Aspidoscelis gularis

Observer

robberfly

Date

May 7, 2015

Comments

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Quite envious of your Big Bend adventure, but so grateful that I got to meet you and the others on that one day. Next year -- more days! :) Oh, and East TX has a lot of plants too. ;)

Posted by sambiology about 6 years ago (Flag)
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We had a great time in Big Bend, Liam...I certainly enjoyed it and will look forward to our next adventure!

Posted by greglasley about 6 years ago (Flag)
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Feel like I was a little robber fly on your knapsack - GREAT story! Thanks for sharing...

Posted by hawkilitle about 4 years ago (Flag)

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