Big Bend National Park, Day 3.

It was our third and last day in this amazing park, and the sights just kept on coming. We stopped first at one of the old, abandoned ranches, Sam Nail’s, and the old well acting as a water source worked as advertised. The place was abuzz with birds as the sun came into the valley. Here’s a female Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens).

Female Phainopepla

And here’s her potential mate, a shiny black male Phainopepla. “The name “Phainopepla” comes from the Greek for “shining robe,” a fitting characterization of the shiny, jet-black plumage of the adult male.” “They are not related to North American flycatchers; their nearest common ancestors are the waxwings, which also have a glossy, silky look to their plumage.” “Phainopeplas have digestive tracts specialized for eating mistletoe fruit. These berries are low in nutrients, so the birds have to consume lots of them. The berries spend only about 12 minutes in a Phainopepla’s intestine, and the birds may eat 1,100 berries in a day.” Yikes!

Male Phainopepla

Here’s a spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus), close cousin of the eastern towhee we see in Estabrook Park, and equally hard to photograph. Anne worked like crazy to help me capture this image. “It’s right there! The bright red bird near the ground,” she whispered fiercely.

Spotted towhee

Next up, we’ve got a bluebird, and imma gonna go with female/immature western (Sialia mexicana).

Female/immature western bluebird

Then we drove the scenic road to the Santa Elena Canyon, and on our way back out, while I wasted my time taking yet another black phoebe picture, Anne spotted our first greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus). Now that is one cool bird!

Greater roadrunner

After that hike, Anne dropped me off at the Cottonwood campground to see what I could see while she grabbed us some lunch at the nearby camp store, and this is who I found: a Javelina! Aka a collared peccary (Dicotyles tajacu).

Collared peccary aka javelina

Finally, we hiked up the wash to the Lower Burro Mesa Pour-off, and a fellow hiker spotted this astounding creature, the first tarantula I’ve ever seen in the wild, likely a “Texas brown” (Aphonopelma A. hentzi). What a sweetheart!

Texas brown tarantula

Wow! What a day, eh? Tomorrow, we’ve gotta go home, sadly, so I probably won’t have anything for you, but I might be back in Estabrook the day after. Wish us luck!

Published by Andrew Dressel

Theoretical and Applied Bicycle Mechanic, and now, apparently, Amateur Naturalist. In any case, my day job is teaching mechanics at UWM.

One thought on “Big Bend National Park, Day 3.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: