Wednesday, May 20, 2009

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
May 20, 2009

Bulletin #79 – West Texas – Big Bend Nat’l Park #2

Hello friends,

I had my first trip to west Texas. I went with Ed Arenson from Denver and we used Darrell Vollert as our guide. His web site is

We spent the 2 days in Big Bend National Park.

There were several species of warblers in the park. The most important is the Colima Warbler (Vermivora crissalis). This was a lifer for me. It can only be found in the Chisos Mountains in the park and requires a vigorous hike into the mountains to find them (8 hours and elevation from 5400 to 7200 feet). I hauled the camera and tripod all the way around and was rewarded with a few good photos from the 10 different birds we found. Here is the first one we found. This warbler is gray with brownish back and flanks and yellow undertail.

Finally with the last one, he stayed close for a decent photo. I didn’t want to have to do that hike over again.

We also saw several Lucy’s Warblers (Vermivora luciae) and had one feeding a fledgling, but I was unable to get any photos as they stayed hidden in the mesquite trees. This was another lifer however.

I was surprised that we found a female Townsend’s Warbler (Dendroica townsendi). They usually winter on the west coast of Mexico. She stayed about 15 feet away and worked in the pine branches.

Just outside the park, we also found a Virginia’s Warbler (Vermivora virginiae). This female is somewhat similar to the Colima, but is all gray and doesn’t have the brownish wash on the back and flanks. They have yellow above the tail and below the tail. The male would have a yellow area on the breast. The female here doesn’t. This was another life bird for me. Here is a second photo showing the yellow under tail.

I also got photos of 2 new vireo species. The first was the Bell’s Vireo (Vireo bellii). This bird was seen at both campgrounds along the Rio Grande in the park. He is IDed by the wing bars, yellowish flanks and dark line through the eye.

The other was Hutton’s Vireo (Vireo huttoni). This bird is drab gray, with 2 wing bars and pale lores. Perhaps it is best IDed by its voice.

The most beautiful bird found in the park was the Varied Bunting (Passerina versicolor). The male is multicolored with a blue head, red nape of neck and purple breast. This was another lifer for me and the last of the 5 bunting species for me to photograph.

In the Christmas Mountains just outside Big Bend Park, I picked up 2 hummingbirds. The first was a male Lucifer Hummingbird (Calothorax lucifer). This was another life bird and it can only be found along the Mexican border, with this area the most reliable place to find it. The male has a purple throat and curved bill.

The other was the male Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri). It also has a purple throat, but there is a black chin between the straight bill and the purple.

Here is a nest of the Black-chinned Hummingbird with 2 babies. I waited for ½ hour to try to get a photo of an adult feeding the babies, but they wouldn’t come to the nest when I was near it.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald


photos copyright 2009 David McDonald

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