Big Bend National Park & the Texas Hill Country Apr 23—May 03, 2018
Posted by Barry Zimmer
In the late afternoon, we settled in behind the leader’s cabin to do our checklist for the day. We had already had a very productive day traveling from San Antonio to Concan, located in the heart of the Hill Country, and still had a visit to the Frio Bat Cave upcoming after dinner. Our first stop near Sabinal had yielded Golden-fronted Woodpecker, magnificent Scissor-tailed Flycatchers (we would tally an impressive 51 for the day), Couch’s Kingbird, nesting Cave Swallows, Black-crested Titmouse, and more.
A short distance down the road, we visited Cook’s Slough. This nature preserve is always very birdy, and today had been no exception. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Crested Caracara, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Great Kiskadee, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Verdin, Lark Sparrow, Olive Sparrow, and numerous, flashy Painted Buntings topped the list. So we had much to review as we gathered outside around the picnic table, tallying the day list before dinner. Just as we finished our list, a wheezy, buzzy song tumbled down from the oaks over our heads. Kevin and I both shouted “Golden-cheeked Warbler!” almost simultaneously. Within seconds we had located the source of the song, a brilliant male Golden-cheeked Warbler moving about the trees over our cabin. We all enjoyed superb views from as close as 15 feet away of this iconic Hill Country bird that nests nowhere else in the world. What an introduction to the Hill Country and to our Big Bend & the Texas Hill Country tour!
Our first day finished with the aforementioned visit to the Frio Bat Cave. There we witnessed the incredible exodus of over ten million Brazilian Free-tailed Bats pouring out of the cave entrance before dusk. Raptors (Red-tailed and Swainson’s hawks and at least one Merlin) feasted on the swarms of bats like they were part of a flying buffet. It is, in my opinion, one of the great natural history spectacles in the world. Around the cave entrance, we were also distracted by the likes of Vermilion Flycatcher, Bell’s Vireo, Canyon Wren, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, and Black-throated Sparrow. After dark (with bats still pouring out of the cave), we did a little night birding. Chuck-will’s-widow and the McCall’s subspecies of Eastern Screech-Owl capped off the day. In all, we tallied 93 species that first day, and it set the tone for a superbly successful tour.
Read Barry’s full report in his Field Report.