Tuesday, June 2, 2009

David McDonald Photography
Friendswood Texas
June 2, 2009

Bulletin #80 – West Texas – Big Bend Nat’l Park #2
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 here.

We spent 2 days in Big Bend National Park and the adjacent Christmas Mountains.

There were several flycatchers that I photographed. Most interesting were the many Vermilion Flycatchers (Pyrocephalus rubinus). In fact Kutac in his book of birding locations in Texas said that Rio Grande Village in Big Bend NP had the most of this species he had ever seen. I had good photos of the beautiful male already, so was interested in other plumages.

Here is an adult female with a large caterpillar in her mouth. She has a pink wash on her belly. These are small birds at 6” in length.

Here is a first year female Vermilion Flycatcher. She has a yellow wash on her belly.

And here is a juvenile being fed by its mother. The second photo is by itself. It really has no distinguishing features and we might not have known what it was until the mother returned to feed it.

Here is another flycatcher that resembles the female Vermilion above. This is the Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya). It is larger at 7.5”, but has the tan wash on the belly.

We heard this Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) call in the trees and located him. This is one of the few bird songs I know, as we had pairs of these birds nest in a bird house over many years when I was growing up in Canada. His back is to us in this photo, but the typical coloration of a myiarchus genus bird, with brown back, rufous on the wings and yellow
belly is obvious. The bushy crest is also nicely seen.

Lastly is a Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus). This bird can only be IDed by voice as several other species are so similar. There were several birds flying around in the tops of the cottonwood trees along the Rio Grande, but I was only able to get a back view once again.

Also in Big Bend NP is the Mexican Jay (Aphelocoma ultramarina). Sibley suggests that the populations in Big Bend and Arizona might ultimately be different species, so I wanted to get photos of these birds as I already had the AZ birds. He states that the Texas birds have ‘richer blue’ heads than the AZ birds. Here is the AZ subspecies for comparison. It is much paler

The next bird is an American Pipit (Anthus rubescens). I have several photos of this bird in basic (non-breeding) plumage as they winter in the Houston TX area. However in alternate (breeding) plumage, they develop a rufous wash on the breast. So here is an alternate plumaged bird.

On the drive to the park from Alpine Texas, we found some Eastern Meadowlarks (Sturnella magna) on fence posts, a typical perch. These western range birds are quite different and are another likely split as Lillian’s Meadowlark. The guide said that the song was different from that of the eastern birds.

We also found several Pronghorn Antelopes in fields along the road. This was only my second time to see these beautiful animals and never so close to the road. It was especially a treat to find them in a field of verbena wildflowers in the middle of the desert.

Happy birding and photography,
David McDonald
photos copyright 2009 David McDonald
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