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Common Black Hawk at Rio Grande Village

We got up early on the second day of our West Texas birding trip (June 14, 2016) and drove across Big Bend National Park in the predawn from the Chisos Basin to Rio Grande Village arriving right at sunrise. I had hoped to search for owls in the campground but it was already too late when we arrived, so I just enjoyed the great birding in the campground. Trevor found a comfortable place to read a book while I ran around with my camera and photographed birds that I rarely get to photograph like Painted Bunting, Vermillion Flycatcher, Verdin, and Greater Roadrunner.

Desert and western riparian birds, such as Painted Bunting, Greater Roadrunner, Verdin, and Vermillion Flycatcher, were abundant and tame at Rio Grande Village in Big Bend National Park.

Birds were abundant and tame and the morning light was great for photography. I wish I had a dozen more days to take photos in that campground. After about an hour and a half, I had seen no sign of my main target (and life) bird—Common Black Hawk. I had read online that they nest in the Rio Grande Village area. I asked one of the park maintenance people and she instructed us to drive toward Daniel’s Ranch (west down the only road) and watch for the signs. It turns out, you literally stopped at the sign with the bold title: “Common Black Hawk”. (Oddly enough, the bird illustration on the sign looks a lot more like a Zone-tailed Hawk than a Common Black Hawk). I’ve had some stake-out life birds before, but I’ve never stopped at a permanent sign posted to mark the location of the species. We stopped at the sign and within 15 seconds of scanning spotted an adult Common Black Hawk perched in a tree. The nest was about 100 feet away, but we never saw any activity around the nest proper. I was really glad to finally see and photograph my first black hawk, even if it was the ultimate stakeout.

At the end of the short road, where a grove of trees no stands where Daniel's Ranch had once been, we saw a Gray Hawk perched next to what seemed to be an active nest.

After enjoying and photographing the hawks, it was about 10am and getting hot. We decided to drive back to the Chisos Basin to get ready for our climb toward Colima Warbler.

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