This year I’ve birded alone a lot. I’ve also hired many experienced guides to help me find specific targets. Overall, I’ve had excellent guides and I’ve become friends with many of them. I hired Raymond to help me find Colima Warbler, a bird that can only be seen high up in the Chisos Mountains at Big Bend National Park.
If you’ve been following my blog, you may recall that my worlds collided in May at Magee Marsh in Ohio, when I met Raymond VanBuskirk. Birder, guide, DANCER, and now I can add to the list, incredible human being.
From the instant Raymond picked me up in El Paso, we settled into the easy rhythm of old friends. There are people you just have an affinity with, they speak your language. Ray-Ray is that guy.
He’d read on my blog that I had been eating horribly during my Big Year and how distressed I was about my options on the road. For our trip, he prepared our food in advance. It was organic, fresh, healthy and delicious. I was blown away! He even brought a French press to make us coffee in the mornings!
We headed for Big Bend National Park, listening to a special jam and dancing in the car all the way!! Can’t recall ever having that much fun on the way to a chase.
We stayed at the Chisos Mountains Lodge in order to be at the trailhead for Colima Warbler. It was a good thing because we planned our hike for a 3:30 a.m. start. Anybody who has ever hiked this trail to the top and back knows how difficult it can be. Mind you, less than a week before, I had hiked up the Ruby Mountains for Himalayan Snowcock and went to 3 other states in one week.
It was a pleasant, cool morning. We quickly saw our first of several Western Screech Owls and took this as a good omen. We also saw several meteors, a Vinegaroon, deer, as well as Black Bear scat on the trail. Less than a 1/2 mile up though, I started to feel dizzy and my heart was racing. All of the obstacles I’ve faced this year and now my body was letting me down. I’d just been pushing it too hard. I seriously thought I might have to stop! Raymond was patient and encouraging and soon I bounced back and made the strenuous climb.
As the sun was rising, we could hear the loud calls of Mexican Jays everywhere. We heard our first Colima pretty quickly after we reached the top. It took us about another hour to actually see one. I was glad that we weren’t too late in the season. As if that wasn’t enough, Raymond found a White-eared Hummingbird!! There were a ton of blooms so we ended up seeing a total of 6 species of Hummers. What a nice surprise. 2 difficult species in one day!
Feeling high from our success, we decided to drive the 10 hours to Houston and try to see the Jabiru Stork that had recently appeared near Anahuac NWR. It was a lonnnng day.
We arrived at the stakeout early morning. Many experienced birders were already present. The bird had not been seen since the previous day at noon. It was not looking good for us. We put in the time but at some point I mentioned Black Rails and one of the locals told us he’d heard them nearby at Anahuac a few days before. We made a detour to the refuge and Raymond did it again! Black Rail clearly heard by a group of us and number 713 for me.
We never did see the Stork, unfortunately. I’ll have to settle for having seen Jabiru in Belize.
It never feels good when you dip on a bird but we had a heck of an adventure and 3 fabulous additions to my list. Til next time Ray-Ray!!!
Oh yea, there certainly will be a next time.