Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 3 & 4: Hawks, an Oasis and Some Good Life Birds

I got busy over the last few weeks and it's a little dated now, but I figured I would go ahead and sum up last month's trip to West Texas.

Brad and I spent our last full day in Big Bend birding Dug Out Wells, Rio Grande Village and Christmas Mountain Oasis.

Dug Out Wells and Rio Grande Village did not disappoint. At Dug Out Wells, we found a Gray Flycatcher hawking insects in the desert and we picked up some good year birds, including Yellow-headed Blackbird.

Rio Grande Village was a hot spot for hawks. I finally added Common Black-Hawk and Zone-tailed Hawk to my life list. Zone-tailed Hawk was a true nemesis bird that I tried to find all last year. Brad spotted my life bird soaring above the horizon near the Rio Grande.

On two previous trips to Big Bend, I never made it to Rio Grande Village to see Common Black-Hawks, which nest in a protected area.

This time I made a point to make the special trip to see the hawks. A pair of hawks were nest building at the time, so it was very easy to find these majestic raptors.

The hawk below is carrying a branch to its nest. I imagine by now the parents are attending to chicks.
Common Black-Hawk
Christmas Mountain Oasis was fantastic. Carolyn-Ohl Johnson greeted us at her bird sanctuary and showed us great hospitality. She even was kind enough to let me borrow her 100-400 L-Series lens to get some closer shots of the birds below.
Green-tailed Towhee
Scaled Quail
Lucifer Hummingbird
The highlight of the evening was watching male and female Elf Owls in action at dusk. The female Elf Owl peeked out of her nest hole several times while waiting for the male.

Elf Owl (Female)
Then, the male Elf Owl showed up. I love the angry look of these miniature owls. It reminds me of the Angry Birds game.
Elf Owl (Male)
Brad and I spent the last part of our trip attempting to find some rare birds - Hermit Warbler and Rufous-capped Warbler, but we dipped (didn't find) on both birds. However, I picked up one last lifer on the Chisos Basin Nature Trail - Hepatic Tanager. At first, I thought it was just a Summer Tanager, a common summer resident. But upon further inspection, Brad pointed out that it was indeed a Hepatic. The two tanagers are superficially similar in appearance, but upon further inspection, you can distinguish the two.

Check out the comparison of the two species below. Can you tell which is Hepatic and which is Summer?

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