February 20, Big Bend & Davis Mountains

After leaving Padre Island, we spent a night at an RV park where we had cable so we could watch the Super Bowl. Since we were rooting for Seattle, it was not a great experience. All the bad calls by referees went Pittsburg's way, so we figured Seattle was robbed--even if they didn't play as well as they did against the Panthers. Maybe next year...

We then took off across south-central Texas for Big Bend National Park, another of our favorite places to stay. Along the way, we saw 17-20 Crested Caracara's as well as other hawks and vultures--this is obviously good country for them. Until we saw the Caracara's on Padre Island, I thought they were only in the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona, but they obviously like the Texas desert brushland as well.

Big Bend was wonderful. The weather was great, the birding was great, the hiking was great--you name it, it was great. While we were in Houston, I had gotten a lot of my energy back and we had been walking there and on Padre so I was ready for the hikes. The first two nights we stayed in the Chisos Mountains Basin campground. We took the 5 mile round-trip hike to Window Rock again. I was very pleased to be able to do it without problem. We, of course, had plenty of water, food for lunch and snacks. Being prepared is always helpful. Just before we got back to the campground, we talked to another couple who had done the hike. The fellow had had both his knees replaced 9 months ago--this was his first major outing. I'd say his rehab had gone well. We then spent a couple of nights in the Rio Grande Village campground near Boquillas Canyon. We saw the most birds there--44 different species for the entire week. On our Boquillas Canyon hike down to the Rio Grande river, Mexicans from the border town of Boquillas were selling souveniers. They sat their wares (walking sticks, copper scorpions, painted rocks and crystals) on the U.S. side of the river and then waited on the Mexican side until someone wanted to buy something; then they waded across to take care of business. A cold, wet job! We didn't buy anything, but did leave a donation for the school. As we walked on down the river, the Mexican fellow on the other side started singing "Cielito Lindo"--my favorite!

Casa Grande, Chisos Mountains

Red Rock Formations in Blue Creek Canyon

View of Table Rock from RV window, Cottonwood Campground

Mountain view (donkey ears) from Ross Maxwell highway

We left Big Bend from the western side and at Study Butte took Hwy. 170 along the Rio Grande from Terlingua to Presidio. This is an awesome road and one that we will do again--next time on the motorcycle. The cliffs on the Mexico side of the river were impressive. Bet there's not a problem with people crossing the border illegally here. This was new road for us, always a pleasure to be seeing new sights. From there we drove up thru the Davis Mountains and spent 3 nights in the State Park there. Here I found that another bird that I thought was only in southern Arizona inhabits Texas also. The Montezuma Quail makes its home in the Davis Mountains. We were not fortunate enough to see them. Evidently, a few years back the quail would come down to the bird feeding stations in the park for water and food, but recently there has been enough rain so that they don't come into the park on a regular basis anymore. We did a lot of hiking around looking for them and other wildlife, but no luck. One evening while I was at the bird feeding station for the 4:15 pm feeding a juvenile Red-tail Hawk came and sat atop one of the feeders. It didn't seem to bother the little birds at all, though the White-wing Doves stayed away until it left. Probably the closest I've ever been to a hawk, and no, I didn't get a picture. Another evening, a yearling deer walked into the area for a drink. It kept its eye on me, but knew I wasn't a danger. This is the first time, but won't be the last, for a visit to this particular park.

Speaking of hawks, after I mentioned in my last missive about reading the book "Red-tails in Love," my sister Gaynell wrote that she had seen a PBS special about these hawks, and that the hero of the book, "Pale Male," had his own website--http://www.palemale.com/. I went out and took a look and what a wonderful site it is for bird pictures--all taken in Central Park. The Roosevelt book I have been reading has been very interesting--a time when the word "liberal" wasn't considered political suicide. I'm learning a lot about the time of WWII that I hadn't known or had forgotten. I like it, but it is rather long. Not the quick read that I usually go for. Riley is reading a Tom Clancy book--not a quick read either. That man writes huge books. I've read a couple of his works but they're not particularly "my cup of tea." Riley enjoys them though.

My nephew Gabe and his wife Jennifer are expecting a baby boy in June. When I heard the gender of the baby, I went to JoAnn's and got the fabric for the usual "Sleepy Bear" baby quilt--this time in blue. I got it put together and finished up at Big Bend. Quilts this size are quick and easy. Believe I will wait until we are in Seattle to give it to them; I always worry about mailing quilts.

We are now camped at City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico--another spot you'll have heard us speak of. We are on our way west to meet our friends Dick and Earin in Death Valley. We did some hiking this morning, but once the wind came up, we haven't been tempted to go back out, finding things to do inside instead--like writing this letter.

Love to all,
Margie & Riley

Bird Diary
February 7-14, 2006 Big Bend National Park, Texas
Canyon Wrens
White-throated Swift
Hutton's Vireo
Say's Phoebe
Black Phoebes
Black-tailed Gnatcatacher
House Wren
Rock Wren
Scaled Quail
Greater Roadrunner
Northern Mockingbird
Dark-eyed "slate" Juncos
White-winged Dove
Chipping Sparrow
Chihuahuan Raven
Cactus Wren
Green-tailed Towhee
Common Black Hawks
Red-Tailed Hawk
Turkey Vultures
Black Vultures
Pied-billed Grebes
American Coots
Northern Rough-Winged Swallows
Western Wood Pewee
Golden-fronted Woodpeckers
Wilson's Snipes
House Finch: m & f
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Bank Swallows
Eastern Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrikes
Northern Cardinal: m & f
Hairy Woodpecker
Vermillion Flycatcher: m
Bluegray Gnatcatcher
Ladderback Woodpecker: m & f
Black-throated Sparrow
Mourning Doves
Rio Grande Turkeys

February 15-17, 2006 Davis Mountains State Park, Texas
Sage Thrashers
Rufous-crowned Sparrow: m & f
Pine Siskin
White-breasted Nuthatch
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Black-crested Titmouse
Ladderback Woodpecker: m & f
Bewick's Wren
Chipping Sparrows: m & f
Red-tail Hawk: j
Prryhuloxia: m & f
Dark-eyed Juncos (slate, oregon & pink-sided)
House Finch: m & f
White-winged Doves
Canyon Towhees
Western Scrub Jay
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Curved-bill Thrasher
Northern Cardinal: m & f
Northern Mockingbird
Cactus Wren
Acorn Woodpecker: m & f
Eastern Phoebes
Black Phoebe
Wilson's Snipes
House Sparrows

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