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West Texas Adventure

Part 4:  The Colima Death March

Was up and going in plenty of time, and the big treat was added while putting my lunch together at the car:  a calling Elf Owl!  (Unfortunately he didn’t keep calling for the recorder…)  It was just barely light when I started out, and I was really leery of the fact that the trail was going down to begin with (because that meant I’d be coming back up in the heat of the day), but it shortly started climbing, and starting early was really a great idea:  the weather was lovely, nice and cool, and going slow, it was no problem tackling the trail; in fact, all things considered, it was a pretty easy trail overall!  I stopped every 20 minutes and rested for five, adding the usual Basin stuff for the day.  As I got into oak woodland and some conifers (in fact, I swear some of the trees looked like Ash Junipers), I picked up Hutton’s Vireo for the trip, as well as tons of Spotted Towhees.  I was surprised to kick up a Roadrunner this high up, but at one rest stop a couple of Band-tailed Pigeons flew over, so I was glad to get them!  White-throated Swifts chattered overhead at one point, and on one of the switchback rests I pished afterwards, getting quite a bit of action, but I couldn’t believe my eyes:  way lower than they were supposed to be was my life Colima Warbler!!  I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a dispersing juvenile (the photos even showed a malar stripe), but I was shocked!

   

Leps showing up in the wee hours before dawn included a shy Crambid Moth (left) and a Dainty Sulphur (right)!

   

Fungus on a tree (left) and scenes along the Laguna Meadows Trail (once the sun came out)

Leps on the way up...

       

Golden banded Skippers (hard as I tried, couldn't turn any into the Chisos Banded...)

    

Juvenal's Duskywing (worn left, fresh right)

   

Life Colima Warbler, well below where they’re supposed to be (probably a dispersing juvenile)!

I still wanted to check out Laguna Meadow, since I was so close (a couple of guys passed me who had started at eight, and it was already 9:30, I think!), so I kept plodding along until I reached the top of the world, and what a view!  A Broad-tailed Hummer perched on a dead limb, and during the course of the hike I kept hearing something that sure sounded like Blue-throated, but I’ve been fooled by ground squirrels before…  Continuing on ahead I had a marvelous vista of the chaparral-covered hillsides (plenty of Black-chinned Sparrows to go along with it), and then came upon a little pine woodland.  As I approached, this time I couldn’t believe my ears: another Colima was singing!  I pulled out the recorder and was able to get a knockout recording (and looks on top of that)!  And I wasn’t even near Laguna Meadow!  A hiker came bouncing down the stairs at that point and asked if I had seen anything good, and I pointed out the singing Colima to him; he wasn’t a birder, so I had to point out the significance that this is the only place in the US you can see this bird, and you have to make the climb!  He was duly impressed and tried to call it in by calling “Pretty Bird!”  Unfortunately I had to burst his bubble that it really wasn’t all that pretty, but the rufous cap and yellow butt sure added color!

   

Scenes from the top

Some of the secretive bush birds include Black-chinned Sparrow , Spotted Towhee  , and Canyon Towhee 

   

Left:  Broad-tailed Hummingbird  Right:  grove where the adult Colima showed up

Inside the grove with stairs heading up the hill

       

Realm of the Colima Warbler, found nowhere else in the United States!  

Dragging myself up the “stairs”, I came to another woodland and saw a little building through the trees, which had to be the composting toilet, which meant I was actually in Laguna Meadow!  It’s funny how nothing really turns out how you visualize it:  I had pictured this broad expanse of real meadow (kind of like Yosemite), but it wasn’t a meadow at all:  just an area that leveled out and had a lot of grassy undergrowth, but you were still deep in the forest!  I made it as far as the first little primitive campground, where another hiker plodded by (this was her first time as well, and she was gonna attempt the whole loop) and then a couple who had spent several days camping and backpacking up in the mountains.  As I left to head back I scared a White-tailed Deer in their direction, but thankfully ran into no predators during the course of the hike (actually, apparently someone had a Mountain Lion right outside their room)!

    

Laguna Meadow, which is actually just an area of grassy undergrowth in the forest!

   

   

Left:  Young Mexican Jay      Right:  Moth (possibly Mericisea gracea) hiding under a piece of bark

The hike down was a piece of cake for the most part, and the Colima was still singing away and gave great photo ops this time!  Since the sun was coming up the butters were becoming more active, and once I looked at the pictures and referenced the book, I was pleased to discover I had added several life butters, including the mega-endemic Chisos Skipperling!  Tons of Red Satyrs bounced along, but along with them were the very similar Meade’s Woodnymphs, also a life bug!  Desert Cloudywing also turned out to be a life bug (at least that’s what I’m calling it until told otherwise), and I carefully checked out each and every Golden Banded Skipper I ran across to make sure it wasn’t a Chisos, and none were… L  A tiny little guy who bounced by and landed turned out to be a Scudder’s Duskywing (again, until told otherwise), but he was pretty beat up.  Also ran into these outlandish blue-winged grasshoppers, and one Reakirt’s Blue had every color in the rainbow in his wings!  Nothing common about that guy!

       

The Colima Warbler preens and sings after a bath!   

   

Painted Lady

       

Meade’s Woodnymph (left and center) compared to the similar and more common Red Satyr (right)

   

The endemic Chisos Skipperling

   

The not-so-endemic Dun Skipper 

   

Scenes on the way down

    Hutton's Vireo (normal song and scold)        Excited song

    Mystery tanager:  Western or Summer? (Recorded outside my room in Chisos Basin)

   

Northern Cloudywing on right

You can see how far up we’ve climbed from the trail down below!

       

Vesta Crescents

You can see the trail cut out of the mountain; I have no clue what the gray matter is, but it almost looked like volcanic soil!

   

We’re about halfway down at this point...

   

Desert Cloudywing has a white face, which Northern Cloudywing apparently doesn’t have.

   

These cool-looking rocks were along the trail--quartz?

   

Beat-up Scudder's Duskywing

   

More scenes coming down

   

Left:  Drusius Duskywing    Right:  Ash-throated Flycatcher

   

Acacia Skipper

   

Still coming down...

   

I'm guessing on these guys, but the best matches seem to be Cockerell's Blue-winged Grasshopper (left) and Ebony Grasshopper (right)

   

Orange Skipperling

The dorsal side of this Reakirt’s Blue is showing every color of the rainbow!

I was right to be leery of that last stretch, because by now the sun was hot and you had to climb those stairs; I thought I was gonna die or throw up, one of the two!  But once I collapsed over Bippy I dumped everything and poured water all over me, then turned on the AC with a Coke, then decided to unload everything and crash until dinner (and I figured today’s hike deserved splurging at the restaurant)!  Had a wonderful meal at said restaurant, then wheeled down to the store for ice and water, and took one last swing around the Window View Trail in hopes of a Lucifer Hummer at one of the few agaves still in bloom.  Nothing except the young Scott’s Oriole that always seemed to be there, but did have another cool striped grasshopper!  On the way out two Mockingbirds were facing off in the parking lot (wish I had a video of the thing, because it almost looked like a dance, the way they’d “sashay” back and forth), but the interesting thing was that they were both young birds (or looked like it, anyway—they both had a gray wash on the breast).  A tourist interrupted their confrontation, and the one closest to me almost flew in the car!

Crawling up that last stretch towards the cottages

Another romp around the Window View Trail

   

Striped Grasshopper 

       

A White-winged Dove prances past...

   

A couple of Mockingbirds sashay back and forth in a standoff (you needed a video to appreciate it…)

   

The guy on the right nearly flew into the car when a tourist showed up!

Since that decided the next day’s plan (if you haven’t seen the Lucifer yet, you need to hike the real Window Trail, the book said), we drove down to the campground to find the trailhead, and thankfully they have trailhead parking (or at least it appears that way).  On the way back to the lodge, I couldn’t believe it:  a Gray Vireo was singing right next to the road!  And my recorder was back in the room!! L

Input all the data and crashed for the evening. 

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