Big Bend National Park Bonus Trip — May 6–13, 2017

Registration starts on January 22nd

The Carolina Bird Club is pleased to offer a trip to central and southwest Texas, including the Edwards Plateau, Davis Mountains State Park and Big Bend National Park. We'll be looking for many species of western birds and focusing on the few that can only be seen there. May is great as the birds have returned but it isn't seriously hot yet (above 95 degrees).

We'll fly into San Antonio on the afternoon/evening of May 5th, with White-winged Doves and Great-tailed Grackles at the hotel. On Saturday morning, we'll head west to Texas Hill Country and Kerr Wildlife Management Area. Our two top priority species here are Golden-cheeked Warbler, easy to see, and Black-capped Vireo, a notorious bush skulker. Central Texas is the only area in the U.S. where these birds are expected. Some others we should see include Black-chinned Hummingbird, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay (a recent "split" from Western), Bushtit, Ash-throated Flycatcher and Rufous-crowned Sparrow.

Next stop is South Llano River State Park for Scissor-tailed and Vermilion Flycatchers, Green Kingfisher, Scott's Oriole, Canyon Towhee, Black-crested Titmouse, Verdin and Rufous-crowned, Lark and Black-throated Sparrows. We'll check the overpass at I-10 for Cave Swallow. This is the Mexican sub-species, a possible split from the Caribbean and Florida birds. We'll stay in Fort Stockton.

On Sunday, we'll drive to Davis Mountains State Park, where we'll stay for two nights. We'll be in a great area for Montezuma Quail. On the way, we'll stop at Balmorhea Lake for Clark's Grebe. Aguja Canyon is next, good for Greater Roadrunner (22 seen on the 2015 trip), Verdin, Western Kingbird, Curve-billed and Sage Thrashers, Scaled Quail, Pyrrhuloxia, Bell's Vireo and Varied Bunting. Birds in and around the park include Phainopepla, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Canyon, Rock and Bewick's Wrens, Western Tanager, Cassin's Kingbird, Canyon Towhee, Western Tanager and Say's Phoebe. This park is one of the best spots for Montezuma Quail, which sometimes come into the park host's feeding station. We'll keep an eye to the sky for Golden Eagle, Zone-tailed Hawk, Prairie Falcon and White-throated Swift, and see Elf Owls nesting in poles in the campground.

After we leave for Big Bend on Tuesday, we'll stop in the Christmas Mountains at a feeding station with nesting Lucifer Hummingbirds nearby. Then, it's on to the National Park for three nights in the Chisos Mountains. Along with the aforementioned birds, we can see Gray Hawk, Black-headed Grosbeak, Spotted Towhee, Blue-throated Hummingbird, Bronzed Cowbird, nesting Black Hawk, Scott's Oriole, Hutton's Vireo and Black-chinned Sparrow. The star of the park is Colima Warbler, and this is the only spot in the U.S where you can expect to find it! A ten-mile roundtrip hike is required, but we'll start early and take all day if we need to.

One of the nights will be spent driving a few of the roads looking for Common Poorwill, which often sit on the pavement waiting for a meal to fly by, as opposed to the typical nightjar feeding method of flying with an open mouth. Big Bend is the darkest National Park in the lower 48. We'll be there at full moon, but we'll nonetheless look forward to some stargazing.

After birding the park on Friday morning, we'll start our way back toward San Antonio, stopping at Seminole Canyon State Park. Along with looking for birds, we'll go on a guided tour of 4000-year-old pictographs. That evening will include a site where we'll watch over a million Mexican Free-tailed Bats emerge from a cave for their nightly feeding. It's an amazing spectacle. Along with it, Red-tailed and Harris's Hawks come by for the buffet. On Saturday, we'll go to Lost Maples and Kickapoo Cavern State Parks. Both are also good for Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo, just in case we missed one of them. Kickapoo is also good for Gray Vireo. We'll return to San Antonio for the night and fly home on Sunday the 14th.

The price for the trip is $1,530 each for double occupancy, and $635 for single supplement. This includes nine nights of lodging, ground transportation, entry fees, bat viewing and guided birded each day. You pay for airfare to San Antonio, any personal spending, two breakfasts, and other meals, except at Big Bend, which includes two lunches and three dinners. The trip is limited to seven participants. A deposit of $500, due by February 1st, will hold your spot, with the balance due by March 1st. If you must cancel, a full refund will be given by March 22nd. Cancellations after March 22nd allow for a refund only if someone is found to take your place.

The leader for the trip is Ron Clark. If you are interested or have any questions, contact him via email.He will send you the registration form and other info. You can also get a species list from the last trip and photos. Registration starts on January 22nd.