Big Bend Birding: Off The Grid

“In order to see birds, it is necessary to become part of the silence.” ~ Robert Lynd

The Big Bend is a fantastic place for getting away. It’s a long haul for us to get there — 10 hours and 600 miles. There is no internet, no cell towers. From the basin campground where we stay, it’s even a generous hike to get to any accommodations save a toilet. All kinds of people come to Big Bend National Park for all kinds of reasons, but the main one is simple: to get off the grid.

At night, it’s dark, really, really dark — one of a handful of dark skies left in America. Once our eyes adjust to a world without artificial light, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by a sky that fills our visual periphery, bright stars and clusters and planets in every little nook and cranny. It must be what our forebears experienced before civilization surrendered to a 24/7 world thousands of years ago. Gazing out with naked eyes at the arm of the Milky Way galaxy where we live, we can reset once more to our place within our world, humbled by our remarkable yet unremarkable smallness.

Without the constant harassment of digital notifications (email, texts, news alerts), we instantly relax, become more in tune with nature, and circadian rhythms restore to diurnal days and restful nights.

For our family outings, bird is the word. In the great expanse of the Chihuahan Desert, the Chisos Mountains basin, hot springs of the Rio Grande, and cottonwoods at the base of the Boquillas range, we added 26 new species to our annual count, most of which we can only get when we go to Big Bend Country.

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Catcus Wren

Cactus Wren

Canyon Towhee

Canyon Towhee

Say's Phoebe

Say’s Phoebe

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

Black-crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmouse

Mexican Jay

Mexican Jay

255 Cactus Wren
256 Winter Wren
257 Rock Wren
258 Canyon Towhee
259 Greater Roadrunner
260 Brewer’s Sparrow
261 Townsend’s Warbler
262 Acorn Woodpecker
263 Mexican Jay
264 Black-crested Titmouse
265 Rufous-crowned Sparrow
266 Bewick’s Wren
267 Sagebrush Sparrow Lifer!
268 LeConte’s Sparrow Lifer!
269 Chihuahuan Raven
270 Black Phoebe
271 Say’s Phoebe
272 Verdin
273 Sage Thrasher
274 Lesser Goldfinch
275 Golden-fronted Woodpecker
276 Pyrrhuloxia
277 Ladder-backed Woodpecker
278 Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
279 Curve-billed Thrasher
280 Black-throated Sparrow
281 Phainopepla

In the Big Bend, wildlife doesn’t care what the rest of the world is doing. For just a few days, we didn’t either.

~ Shannon @ DirtNKids

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21 thoughts on “Big Bend Birding: Off The Grid

  1. I’ve never been to Big Bend, but everyone I know who’s been there says, “You must.” When I see the photos people post from the area, there’s no question it’s a must-see. Some day.

    I enjoyed all the photos, but the cactus wren is a darling. Well, and the jay. I’m glad you had such a successful trip, despite the occasional “obstacle.”

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    1. Hi Linda. Thanks for the birdie feedback. Both the wren and jay are regular sounds in The Basin; you always know where they are for sure! It’s a long drive — we do it in one day to get their fast, but you can split it up into a couple of days .. easier on the ole bum. Big Bend State Park (which we’ve not visited yet) west of the NP is an equally beautiful place to be, we hear. However you go, you’ll want to spend several days exploring the park. There’s a lot of driving space in between attractions.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your beautiful words transported me right there to the star-studded skies and bird-burdened boughs, and I vicariously enjoyed your sojourn very much. Our souls simply need to get away from all the cacophony and commotion, probably more often than we allow.

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    1. Thank you, Tanja. I must say that my posts are pretty thrown together anymore; as soon as we landed back in reality, life took over as it usually does. I really long for the time I could write more thoughtful posts (or finish those lumbering in the drafts folder). You’re too right though .. we need to break away more often than I care to admit.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL Just like kids. Always doing what you don’t want them doing.

      I had a PERFECT shot of a phainopepla if not for the stick entirely obscuring his beautiful red eye. Doh!

      I have to admit, their lack of cooperation paired with my tenacity has made me a better user of the camera/lens in the moment, since I (still) don’t post-process images. Instincts for setting lighting, focal depth, and aperture combos are usually good, and sometimes I don’t even bother with the shot. Better to get a good, long stare at a beauty with the field lens than experience the frustration over less-than-optimal conditions (and subjects).

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    1. I already knew of the ‘favorite spot’ status, which is the reason we extended the invitation to you to come too. Sadly, not enough time to find your geocache again. Perhaps next time.

      Beautiful mockingbird! We saw so many gorgeous feathered species, but only a few (above in this post) were willing subjects to be photographed. Most confounded me with sticks and brush and quick flight ruining a capture. No time to fiddle with computer post-processing; gotta get ’em as I see ’em.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have been to the Big Bend area once back in 2010 with my in laws. They own land near Sanderson and go down every year right now for mule deer season. Should be returning tomorrow. It is an amazing area and we were there in March so we go to see the cactus blooming. The desert is an awesome place to drop off the planet for a spell 😉

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  4. We’ve been to the Big Bend area, but not stayed there. Only drove around there 2 times out of Fort Davis, where we were for our honeymoon. But we want to go back some time.
    Have a great weekend,
    Pit

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    1. Fort Davis is a splendid place for a honeymoon! I hope you get back, Pit. If you have a small camper, you should try for staying in the Chisos Basin. Fantastic camping and trailheads just a short distance walk — or drive — away.

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      1. Good morning, Shannon,
        We’re not the camping or rv-ing people. But don’t I remember correctly that there are cabins to rent, too, in the Chisos Basin? We’d really like to go back. It was a winderful area to explore.
        Have great Sunday,
        Pit

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      2. Yes! The lodge (I hear) is a comfortable stay — provided you can get a room. They’re booked up months in advance. You’d have to leave the grounds to get to totally dark though — minimal lighting why the campground is so divine.

        There’s a link at the end of this post with a short time lapse embedded. Very indicative of what can be seen with the naked eye looking up.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh, one more thought: we liked the fact that at night-time it was lights out in Fort Davis, to keep ambient light down to a minimum. We have something close to that here in Fredericksburg, because of Enchanted Rock being so close.

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      4. Eve and I stayed once at the Chisos Mountain Lodge. The rooms are perfunctory and overpriced, but still often booked up months in advance because they’re at a good location inside the park. All other rooms are outside the park.

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