Birding Big Bend

I can’t think of a better way to start a new year than birding with my family. As we reset our annual species count for the new year — as we’ve done the three previous ones — our first-week-of-the-year trip to Big Bend National Park resulted in several birds we would not otherwise have seen living along the Texas Upper Gulf Coast.

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna’s Hummingbird

As I put the finishing touches on the post for our trip (which was three weeks ago, already!), I felt it best to highlight the birding part of it separately to keep the rambling under 1,000 words. It’s hard enough to do when writing about such a wonderful place as Big Bend, much less adding birding detail and 10 more photos.

The longer a post gets, the more difficult it is to get it finished. I desperately need to check something of my very long to-do list.

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren

The first few days of our trip were cold, the entire area shrouded in what seemed to be perpetually parked clouds. It turned out that the days with no sun or wind were the best for spotting birds. Photographing them in such dim lighting conditions turned out to be secondary to viewing them in my field lens.

Rock Wren

Rock Wren

Unlike us, birds really don’t care much about the weather. As long as they have a reliable food source, they persevere any harsh conditions brought on by nature, while also avoiding the predators that call them ‘food’ and all the habitat constraints and obstacles we’ve created for them.

Life is hard in the desert; it can be made harder for them by us. Many of Big Bend’s birds call this desert home all year ’round.


Pyrruloxia (Male)

Vermillion Flycatcher

Vermillion Flycatcher (Male)
For me, this bird screams ‘West Texas!’

We are greatly looking forward to going back again this year. Enjoy these favorites from our week. If you’d like to see more, simply click on a photo to flip the album.

Black Phoebe

Black Phoebe

Say's Phoebe

Say’s Phoebe Lifer!
These guys just won’t stay still.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

We chased a lot of different birds with the kids but didn’t necessarily ID them. They don’t call sparrows ‘little brown jobs’ for nothing. Not recognizing a bird’s sound was the biggest detriment to ID success. It’s the downside to birding an area whose species are yet unfamiliar.

But we’re always learning…yearning for more feathered nuggets of delight. We got ’em!

Check that box.

Big Bend NP: Desert Clarity…Coming next.

26 thoughts on “Birding Big Bend

    1. Many Europeans flock here in April for the migratory species that pass through here. It really is a sweet spot to live, for us birding types. Glad to have found you on WP. Looking forward to your posts! ~ Shannon


    1. The birds this trip were two giant leaps over AMAZING. So many ‘lifers’ added quenched a thirst but leaves us longing for more. If you stopped short of the other Big Bend post, you’ll want to come back another time for a longer read. It’s word-y. (

      Always delights me to have you comment here, Christy. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That Pyrruloxia is amazing! I’ve never seen (or heard) of that bird before. I’m enjoying watching some seriously fat robins hop around my yard recently, but that’s about all. Really hoping to get more shrubs and trees planted in the garden this year to provide more habitat for different birds. I’d love to see some migratory come though. I saw a waxwing for 1 day over the fall, got very excited. As always, great pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I too am in love with the Pyrroloxia, Melissa, but the Great-horned Owl was my bird of the week (that picture is in the previous post)!

      Always glad to hear people making their backyards more bird-friendly, and birds do a lot of good in a home garden. Staying away from chemicals and keeping seed-heads intact through the winter (yes, this means weeds too) goes a long way toward inviting species to a yard. I agree…waxwings are splendid. They look like miniature paintings!


  2. OMG, not sure where to start. What an awesome trip!! Glad to see you add quite a few lifers!! I love that Say’s Phoebe photo and who doesn’t love a roadrunner! What a great annual family/birding trip (or should I say birding/family trip). Thanks for sharing – now I’m off to view the full album 🙂


    1. Only my fellow birdie-lovers leave such loving comments! Yes, it was great family trip, awesome birding aside. There something for everyone in BBNP; kids had a ball! Have a great weekend, Matthew. ;D

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey Shannon,

        Yes, definitely be out birding for the Global Big Day! Each year our bird club does a Big Day. Doesn’t matter where in the state you are, everyone who’s a member of the club can submit their sightings for the day and we compile a list of all species. Since I pick the date and organize for our club, this year it will coincide with the Global Big Day 🙂


      2. Yay! Big Day for us coincides with the first week of Cousin Camp (when I take my brother’s kids for the week). My effort may be half-a**ed, but it will be full-hearted.

        Oh, to be a part of a Bird Club…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What a totally successful birding adventure! Isn’t it so exciting when you get so many lifers, Shannon? I am sure you and your family had a wonderful time in Big Bend. And your photos are stunning. how great to have snapped the male Pyrruloxia. Enjoyed your post, as always.


    1. Successful doesn’t even begin to describe our week! Many, many lifers we’ve been longing to see in Texas since we started birding in earnest 2013. The kids had a wonderful time with lots of hiking, climbing, mud-play, river-rafting, and even a natural hot springs soak in 40-degree temps. Adventure!! Hopefully will have the post finished by Monday. Can’t wait to share the photos and info for this magical place.

      Cheers, Jet. Thanks for coming by with your happy comments, as always. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d always thought a bird must feel cold a lot of the time, but then I read a book about feathers that pointed out that the opposite is true, and that birds have to be careful not to overheat, especially while flying.

    Good to hear, but not surprising, that you had a good time in Big Bend.


    1. Our backyard birds seem to enjoy the cold snaps the best. Our viewing pleasure indoors increases as temps plummet. As yet, we keep waiting…

      Have you read ‘The Thing With Feathers: The Surprising Life Of Birds” by Strycker? If you haven’t, it’s well worth the read; another birding blog bud turned me onto it. Even my kids enjoyed it. Strycker set a record last year, seeing more than half of the world’s 10,000 or so species in 365 days. My hero. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a drive: 10.5 hours by I-10 through Ft. Stockton. We came back through Fort Davis (visited the observatory there). This year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. You and your husband SHOULD go!!


Say something. You know ya wanna.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s