March 26, San Diego

On leaving the Rio Grande Valley, we traveled to Big Bend National Park, birding along the way as usual. We stopped briefly at Seminole Canyon State Park, which is known for its cave pictograghs. I was feeling wussy so we didn't make the hike down to the cave, however, I took a picture from the visitor center.

Visitor Center picture of pictographs at Seminole Canyon
We arrived at Big Bend at the beginning of spring break. We found a campsite in the Chisos Basis and then decided to stay there for the week, rather than trying to change campgrounds as we usually do. It was amazing how many people were there camping. Evidently, spring break is the peak of the season for Big Bend. Chisos is our favorite place to stay, so it was no hardship, and we used the motorcycle to make day trips to other areas.

Big Bend views

We took one day trip out of the park on that beautiful highway along the Rio Grande to Presidio. It was a fun road to do on the motorcycle--lots of curves, beautiful scenery, and very little other traffic. We had lunch in Presidio and then came back the same way. Another day trip was down to the Rio Grande Village area of the park. This is usually a very good place for birds, but we didn't see many. Guess spring is running late for the birds if not for the weather--the unusually hot weather continued.

White rock formation on Presidio Hwy

Indian Skirts in Mexico

After we left Big Bend, we stopped for one night in the Davis Mountains. The state park was full (still spring break), but they gave us a spot in their primitive area. It proved impossible to get to this area in the RV. Maybe someone in a 4-wheel drive vehicle could have done it, but not in an RV. Have no idea why they thought we could take the RV down that road. We quit at the first river crossing--dry but huge rocks. On the other side the road narrowed even more and didn't look like anyone had been on it in years! We went back and stayed in the horse camp near the start of the road. No one was there and no one hassled us about being there. We had paid for 2 nights but decided to go on the next day. Guess we need to find out when spring break is every year and plan around it better.

We passed through New Mexico, spending one night in Las Cruces and then on into the Chiracahua Mountains of Arizona. About this time we received e-mail from Johnny Medina (Lara's stepson) saying that his robotics competition was the weekend of the 24th and he would like us to be there. So we stepped up the pace and only spent one week in Arizona instead of two. The Chircahua Mountains are beautiful; we stayed in the Coronado National Forest in the Cave Creek area. Our campsite at Sunny Flat was one of the prettiest we've ever had. This is supposed to be a great birding area in late spring and summer. We were too early for most, but the Mexican Jays woke us in the morning.

Sunny Flat Campsite

Cave Creek

On our way to Patagonia we made what we thought would be a short stop at Coronado National Memorial. We walked up to the visitor center wearing our binocs and a couple of people standing there asked if we were there for the bird walk. We immediately said, "Yes, of course we are. What bird walk?" The guide took us up to Montezuma Pass in his car and gave us a bit of geology and history as well as pointing out birds (not many, too early). Then rather than coming back down the mountain in the car, we hiked back down through an area called Joe's Canyon. It was a great hike with outstanding views. So we ended up being there most of the day. We then spent a couple of nights at Patagonia Lake State Park, where we finally saw the Elegant Trogon. Yea!

View from Joe's Canyon trail

Interesting cliff face

We also spent a pleasant evening with Randy, Ginny and Rachel in Tucson before spending all day on Friday the 23rd traveling into San Diego.

The robotics competition was quite fun. The organizers keep things popping and the energy flowing. The students driving the robots have them pick up inner tubes and place them over the spider arms of the "rack"--a circular rig with lots of flexible arms in three rows. The more tubes they put up in a row or column, the more points they get. They also can use their robots to block the robots of the other teams. Anyway, it was fun and it was evident the kids were having fun too. Johnny's team didn't win the contest, but they did win a couple of team awards that allow them to go on to the next tournament, which is in Atlanta.

Johnny (on left, spiked hair) with robot 1266
Yesterday we went with Lara and her family over to visit with Ashley. Ashley is looking well and we had a good visit. Everyone seems to be doing fine. We'll be here in San Diego another couple of days and then will head north up the coast.

Ashley, Lara, Justin & Alyssa

Justin & Alyssa

Love to all,
Margie & Riley

Bird Report

After Brownsville, we went to Mission. On the way, we visited a couple of places in Weslaco; the state park had a lot of water fowl, and the Audubon place had the usual Valley specialties (chachalaca, etc.), including an Ovenbird (new for us). We spent a day at the Santa Ana NWR, which provides very good birding. Unfortunately, it also provides lots of insects. We had spray against mosquitoes but some other biting creature got us that caused me a lot of misery--allergies. We saw lots of birds including the Sora and the Orioles, and the Clay-colored Robin (new for us). We felt like we had had a great day until the bites started itching and stinging. I also found a tick on my neck. Boo, hiss!

Clay-colored Robin
The Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park south of Mission was wonderful for birds as always. We solved a mystery here. When we were here the first time we saw all these speckled blue and buff birds. We asked the rangers and no one seemed to know what we were talking about. This time we walked up to the first feeder and there they were again, and the volunteer standing there said they were Indigo Buntings just growing in their breeding plumage--so pretty. We saw at least one that had all his spring color and was very beautiful. We also saw lots of Altamira Orioles and Green Jays. The Chachalacas were in mating season with the males screaming a call that sounded exactly like "Take it off. Take it off." We asked a park ranger about Green Kingfishers and he told us about the Anzalduas County Park where the kingfishers hung out by the dam on the Rio Grande. We went over to the park several times and on the third Riley saw it fly by and I saw it out over the river. We still didn't get as good a look as we would have liked--sitting on a limb would have been great--but we were happy.

Bentsen SP


On our last day in Mission, as we were getting the RV ready to go, I looked out the rear window and hovering over the flowering cactus behind us was a Buff-bellied Hummingbird! He was so cute and posed for us nicely. Stayed around a good long time so we got a good look. It was great!

We then headed up to Falcon SP, where we took a bird walk that basically had too many people and too few birds. While there, though, we took a day trip back down to Salineno where there is a nature conservancy area where the original owners of the land still live during the winter in their RV. They put up lots of feeders and lots of birds come to them. They have chairs set up where one can just come and stay awhile. Here we saw the Audubon Oriole and the Brown Jay for the first time. There were three Brown Jays--a family unit--one adult, one immature, and one juvenile. They are big birds and fun to watch. The people there were feeding them chicken skins which I didn't approve of. They also put marshmallows out for the birds, which I also didn't approve of. But it's their place so I kept my mouth shut.

In Arizona, we loved the Chiracahua Mountains and plan to go back at a better time for birding. We also stopped at the Whitewater Draw State Preserve and found a few Sandhill Cranes had not yet left to go north, but most had. I was hoping to see thrashers here but no luck. On the way to Patagonia we made a brief stop at our other favorite spot, Ramsey Canyon. We saw the Painted Redstart and Hutton's Vireo, but nothing new. Lovely place.

Patagonia Lake State Park was again a good place for us to find birds. We took their boat trip this time and saw the usual suspects but the boat trip after ours saw Common Black Hawks! Though this would not have been a new bird for us, we had still hoped to see them. However, we still saw four new life birds: the Broad-billed Hummingbird, the White-eared Hummingbird, Cassin's Kingbird, and the Elegant Trogon. One of the other birders was taking pictures and said he'd send us one by e-mail. When we get it, we'll post it on the web. Beautiful bird! Very calm too; he let about 10 of us gawk at him and take pictures for about 10 minutes before flying to a new perch close by.

We stayed one night in Madera Canyon before driving into Tucson. Here we saw two new birds: the Magnificent Hummingbird and Scott's Oriole. The hummingbird visited us at the RV, hovering in front of the yellow lens of the turn signal. We couldn't figure out if he thought it was a feeder or what? but we did enjoy seeing him.

Happy Birding!

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