Wow! What a birding weekend. After being stuck on Texas bird #489 for several months, I scored five new Texas birds in three days. Here's how it happened.
Two weeks ago Honey and I were visiting my Dad up in the pretty but birdingly boring Missouri Ozarks where I grew up. On the way home to Weslaco I was seriously contemplating swinging over by Big Bend National Park and checking it for fall migrants. I had a Red-faced Warbler on the Pinnacles Trail a few years ago during August. Or maybe we would hike up little birded Pine Canyon. Well, we didn't go cuz I decided it was too far out of the way. Then a few days ago there's this post on TEXBIRDS. Eric Carpenter had found a first Texas record for Fan-tailed Warbler in little birded Pine Canyon. Holy moly, That should have been my bird!
Well we couldn't leave for a few days, but we finally managed to get away on Thurs, four days after the warbler was first found. We pulled into Big Bend at 10 PM and drove up the dark, rough road to Pine Canyon and set up our tent at one of the primitive campsites. Honey slept like a baby as always while I tossed and turned thinking about my strategy for finding the bird among the expected hoard of noisy birders. Fantailed Warbler is an ABA mega-rarity from Mexico that seldon stays long for viewing. Not many birders have it on their life list. I chased a couple in Arizona only to come up empty handed.
Much to my surprise we were alone at the trailhead as we started the two mile hike through high desert vegetation just before sunrise. The rising sun beautifully illuminated this uncommonly visited canyon in the park.
The first good bird was this female/juvenile Lucifer Hummingbird. I had failed to twitch one in Texas despite a half dozen trips to Big Bend,
As we climbed the canyon became more narrow and lush with oaks and madrone. The second new bird for my Texas list were three Whip-poor-wills that flushed ahead of us. Not exciting but a bird I had missed previously in Texas. We went up a bit higher. I did a few Northern Pygmy Owl toots to attract birds. Through the years I have found passerines to be very responsive to pygmy owl calls in the higher elevations of the park. Well, not only did the did I get scolds from the Black-crested Titmice and Bewick's Wrens in the area, I was amazed but not totally surprised to hear a return call from a Northern Pygmy Owl. There are only two previously accepted records for the state, both from Big Bend. The call was the double toots of the gnoma subspcies, native to SE Arizona and Mexico. I whistled some more calls and soon saw the fiesty, diminutive owl who was being mobbbed by even fiestier Acorn Woodpeckers, Scott's Orioles and titmice. With a little work we managed to get a few record shots. A very good bird for Texas!
The rest of the morning was spent searching for the Fan-tailed Warbler at the end of the box canyon know as the Pine Canyon Pouroff. Four other birders joined us and after three hours of searching and waiting we managed brief but OK views of the Fan-tailed Warbler. I've seen many of these in Mexico so we decided to leave and head back home. The only warbler I'm missing on my ABA list is Kirtland's Warbler which just requires a trip to Michigan in the summer. I'll get it someday. Four new Texas birds and an ABA lifer all in one day. Pretty cool. But I'm not done yet. When we got home Sat. afternoon and checked TEXBIRDS I learned Martin Reid had found a Long-tailed Jaeger in San Antonio at Braunig Lake. Oooh, I need that for the Texas list. So guess what I did this morning.