From Las Cruces, New Mexico, we drove to Lajitas, Texas. Because we didn’t have a full map book for Texas, we didn’t fully appreciate what the road from Presidio to Lajitas might entail. By the time we got to the sign that warned of 15% grades ahead, we were committed. Luckily the hills were not very long and the longest one was downhill, and we have good engine braking. Doug was unfazed; Wendy was not as calm, but she kept her eyes open the whole way. We decided that we would chose another route when we left.
The Maverick Ranch RV Resort was quite pleasant. There was lots of space between units and good views.
We explored the Lajitas area and did some birding at the boat launch area. Here’s a photo of Wendy on the banks of the Rio Grande. The opposite shore is Mexico. Lajitas historically had a river crossing here, but not nowadays. The river is quite low right now. We learned that all the water that is in this part of the river comes from Mexico; the American Rio Grande water has been over allocated.
We also found some good birding in the marsh right beside our RV park, but the best local spot was at the golf course. The golf course was built on an old slough, and the ponds have been preserved. The most surprising bird we saw was a Common Loon. We heard it’s distinctive call and recognized it’s shape. It looked different in non-breeding plumage, but there was no question it was a loon. We went back a few days later to get a photo to confirm its identity, which was good, since a loon had not ever been recorded for that area. Unfortunately the photo is only good enough for identification purposes, not for the blog. Doug did however, get some good shots of other birds. Here’s a Ring-necked duck.
And an interesting view of a Song sparrow.
We just loved watching the Vermilion flycatchers, and they always seemed to be perched as if to say, “Look at me!”
Just as we thought we had seen all there was to see, this Ash-throated flycatcher showed up.
We went birding in Big Bend National Park with a guide. It was a cool day and it started off a bit slowly, but our guide was a former park ranger, so we learned a lot about the geology of the park as well. The photo below was taken at Santa Elena Canyon of the Rio Grande. One side of the cliff is in the States, the other in Mexico. We saw some phoebes (Black and Say’s) and few sparrows here, not a lot of birds, but we were earlier than anybody else and we had the whole place to ourselves.
We visited four sites on the west side of Big Bend National Park. Most of the time, Doug travelled without his camera, so we have no photo of the Crissal thrasher. (Although it probably wouldn’t have made a difference, because the thrasher was mostly in the back of the mesquite.) We learned the difference between blue-gray and black-tailed gnatcatchers, and had a good look at a Great horned owl.
Doug carried his camera for one of our stops (Burro Mesa Pour-off) and he got a good photo of this Chipping sparrow. (A pretty common bird, but we agree with our guide when he says that every bird is special.)
Here’s a bird that was on our “list” before we arrived: Pyrrhuloxia, otherwise known as the “P- bird,” because it’s name is so hard to pronounce. We saw our first ones back in Lajitas, but none of them looked as good as this fellow posing on a cholla. Pytthuloxias are related to cardinals but are much grayer, with longer pointed crests.
A few days later, we drove back into the park. This time, we drove to the Chisos Basin. The Chisos Mountains were formed from violent volcanic activity and are unlike any mountain range we are familiar with. The Window hike trail started downhill, and continued gradually dropping. Our goal was the gap you can see in the photo below.
The trail flattened out a bit in the middle, although it was always downhill.
Another view of “The Window.”
Along the way we saw Northern Cardinals,
and Mexican jays.
Usually we only hear the Canyon wren’s song, but this one gave us a display on a rock just below the trail.
Here’s a photo taken by a friendly photographer who was there at the same time as us in front of the “Window.” The window is a natural gap in the rock that drains the Chisos Basin. You can see the small stream at our feet just above the pour off.
So this is enough for one blog post. We’ll post shortly about the rest of our stay in Lajitas. More hiking, and birding as well as mountain biking.