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Monday, July 7, 2014

Green Gulch and Panther Junction: Varied Bunting and Scaled Quail

[Big Bend National Park, TX. June 2014]

Most visitors to Big Bend will (and should) make the Park Headquarters at Panther Junction their first stop. Not only is there a wealth of information available from the Rangers but in the surrounding area some typical desert scrubland species may be seen such as Pyrrhuloxia, Curve-billed Thrasher and Scaled Quail.

The first left coming out of Panther Junction (this will be on the way to the Chisos Basin) there is a nice stretch of road (appropriately named the Chisos Basin Rd) that goes through an area called the Green Gulch. There are pullovers for parking along the way where stopping to bird will yield a different mix of species including Varied Bunting [which was a target species for this blogger]:

Varied Bunting seen in the Green Gulch

Belonging to the North American Bunting group in the vast Cardinalidae family, this is a Mexican songbird that barely (but fortunately) crosses into the southern reaches of the US in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.

Varied Bunting seen in the Green Gulch
The male Varied Bunting is a striking bird -- a melange of blue, purple, red and black that, in sum, impart a bit of a mysterious look -- the light and angle of view making the colors stand out or blend in together.

Varied Bunting in song

Varied Bunting seen in the Green Gulch

Although brightly colored, Varied Bunting can appear to be almost black from a distance. It certainly doesn't help that it prefers to remain hidden and rarely takes a break from its usual habit of being inconspicuous.

Varied Bunting seen in the Green Gulch

During this Blogger's quick trip, the Varied Bunting was found reliably at two locations: at the Green Gulch and Sam Nail Ranch.

Varied Bunting seen in the Green Gulch

 Much more conspicuous in desert scrub are the Blue Grosbeaks which can be found quite commonly:

Blue Grosbeak seen in the Green Gulch

Another delightful species, a cousin to the wrens, was observed in the same area: the Blue-grey Gnatcatcher.

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher seen in the Green Gulch

Gnatcatchers are exclusive to the New World and at Big Bend both the Blue-grey as well as the Black-tailed species can be found.

Curve-billed Thrasher seen at Panther Junction

At the Park Headquarters, a Curve-billed Thrasher was observed -- it was vigorously (nay, fiercely) fending off a Pyrrhuloxia that had strayed too close to the Thrasher's territory; not surprisingly given that June is still in the midst of their breeding season.

Scaled Quail seen near Panther Junction

Further along from Panther Juntion, Scaled Quail were observed with their young in tow. One look at this species and the origin of its name becomes abundantly clear.

Unlike the extreme physical exertions required to see Colima Warbler, there are a wealth of other species that can be found at Big Bend by simply driving around, stopping and observing.

1 comment:

Bob Pelkey said...

Amazing documentation for your quick trip, Hemant.