Thursday, May 10, 2012

Day 2: The Hike... Choose Your Own Adventure

Colima Warbler is one of the birds I have raved about the most over the last year. This little drab warbler is a novelty because it's only U.S. destination is in the Chisos Mountains where it takes considerable work to find it.

To get to the warblers, you have one of two choices:

Option 1.) Take the easier, but longer hike - a 6-mile, gradual climb up Laguna Meadows.


Option 2.) Take the tougher, shorter route - a 3-mile steep climb up switchbacks on the Pinnacles trail.

This reminds me of the Choose Your Own Adventure books I read as a kid.

When a park ranger told Brad that several male warblers had been seen about 4 miles on Laguna Meadows, we decided on option 2.

Brad and I got a late start our 12-mile hike, but the fair weather was pleasant and birds were active. We quickly added Scott's Oriole, Black-headed Grosbeak and Western Wood-Pewee to our trip list.

Along the way we ran into some birders who had heard Colimas about a mile or two ahead. Brad and I kept our ears tuned to Colima's trilling song. At first we confused a Spotted Towhee song for the colima, but soon Brad started hearing something different. And soon we knew we had our bird...

I managed a few ID shots, but we had good views of at least 3 Colimas and heard 2 other males.

The surprises didn't end there. While attempting to get a photo of a Colima, we suddenly heard a Mexican Whip-Poor-Will. Both the Colima and Whip-Poor-Will performed their choruses for us at the same time.

As if this wasn't enough, we found another one of my sought after species, Black-chinned Sparrow. Brad first pinpointed one singing in the meadow. The song starts off resembling a bouncing ball and quickly turns into the sounds of a marble dropping on the floor.

Other highlights along the trail were Townsend's Warbler, Hutton's Vireo, Mexican Jays and more.
Brad scoping out the trail

Mexican Jay

Emory Peak - 2nd Highest Peak in Texas

Walking alonside Pine and Madrone Trees, we got great view of Emory Peak, the tallest peak in the Big Bend and second only to Guadalupe Peak for tallest in Texas.

As soon as we got to a ranger cabin, we came across another surprise...

The Black Bear was hungry, but fortunately not for us. It fed on oats and whatever else it could find near the cabin. We heard later that this bear was emaciated or slowly going hungry. I'm not sure if this was accurate, but it sure looked sluggish and hungry.

We completed the hike seeing some amazing birds. I got three lifers along the way and Brad got the Whip-Poor-Will, which he had been wanting to see for some time.

As always, the view of the Window trail is a fitting end to the long hike. Our feet and backs were sore by the end, but the adventure was truly satisfying. While nearing the end of the trail, I took a moment to take in the scenery and thank God for such a beautiful place to enjoy His creation.
The Window

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