”Big Bend Sound Delights” is a 21-minute audio podcast commemorating my mid-March visit to Big Bend National Park in Texas. Along with bees buzzing, great insect choruses, and the gurgling of the Rio Grande, enjoy the songs of Canyon Wren, Cactus Wren, Mexican Jay, White-winged Dove, Greater Roadrunner, Great-Horned Owl, Elf Owl, Western Screech-Owl, and more!
Below are resources from my previous post on Big Bend, allowing you to listen to some of the recordings without narration:
Canyon Wren singing and bees buzzing around the flowers of a Mexican Buckeye. Recorded by Lang Elliott at Big Bend National Park, Basin area, 10:30am, 11 March, 2017.
I arrived in Big Bend National Park on March 9, accompanied by my field assistant Beth Bannister. The Park was super-crowded because of college students on their spring break, but we were fortunate to obtain a camp spot in the popular Basin Campground, high in the Chisos Mountains.
For two days we explored the Basin area, particularly the trail that leads down a steep-walled canyon to the “Window,” which provides a terrific view of the desert lands to the west. This is a habitat where Canyon Wrens abound, and their beautiful downward-cascading whistled songs are heard at every bend in the lower portion of the trail.
Though early in the season, Mexican Buckeye trees were in full bloom, their pretty pink flowers attracting hoards of honeybees. We spent two days in the Basin area, and on the second morning I captured the wonderful recording featured at the top of this post … gobs of bees buzzing around a Mexican Buckeye, with a Canyon Wren singing from an outcrop nearby.
On the third day of our visit, we headed toward Cottonwood Campground, which is located down along the Rio Grande in the southwestern portion of the park. We managed to snag a nice camp spot and then spent several days there, also visiting Santa Elena Canyon a few miles upstream.
While there was quite a lot of songbird activity in the campground (including a number of Vermilion Flycatchers performing flight songs), I ended up focusing my attention on night sounds, in particular the calls of two small owls … Western Screech-Owls and Elf Owls … both species being quite vociferous at this time of year. At less than six inches in the length, the Elf Owl is North America’s smallest owl!
I obtained my best Elf Owl recording in the middle of the night, just a short distance from the campground. Although I couldn’t see what was happening, it is clear that a second individual arrives about midway through, provoking an excited call-series:
Elf Owls calling at night from a mesquite flat next to the Rio Grande River, near Cottonwood Campground, Big Bend National Park, Texas. 11pm, 14 March 2017. © Lang Elliott.
Although wind prevented me from getting good Western Screech-Owl recordings on most nights, I struck gold during a visit to the Santa Elena Canyon parking lot on my last night in the Park. This lovely recording also includes a small landslide in the Canyon itself!
Calls of a Western Screech-owl with alandslide about halfway through. Recorded along the Rio Grande River near Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park. Listen also for the hoots of Great-Horned Owls and occasional chuckles of a Rio Grande Leopard Frog. 8:40pm, 14 March, 2017. © Lang Elliott.
On my last morning in the Park, I walked out into the dry desert and homed-in on a lone Cassin’s Sparrow, singing beautiful high-pitched songs at first light. Although drably-colored, this desert sparrow’s song is lovely to behold in the semi-darkness:
The lovely dawn singing of a lone Cassin’s Sparrow, in desert near the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park. Distant Great-Horned Owl, Mourning Dove, and White-Winged Dove can be heard in the background. 6:31 am, 15 March, 2017 © Lang Elliott.
I’m quite happy with the results of my visit to Big Bend, although I had to work hard to get good recordings. Wind was the biggest problem, but we were fortunate to experience a couple of calm nights and mornings and left the Park in good spirits.
I will soon be working on my podcast for Big Bend and it will include a number of additional recordings, so please stay tuned!
Those Elf Owls laughing at each other or everyone else were just pure hilarity. I know they don’t mean to be funny, but they really are!
Lynn: I’ve been hearing them most everywhere I go in Arizona … and they’re always hilarious. Wait ’til you hear the recording I got at Las Cienegas Conservation Area to the SE of Tucson. A whole family fluttering around their nest tree in the dark, calling and cavorting, no doubt with great enthusiasm and good cheer!
The Elf Owl is ornitomusica pure
Agreed! : >)
Superb! Thank you, Lang.
You’re welcome Dan! I just finished recording in Organ Pipe. Have also been spending time with Christine Hass … she let me use a room to finish the podcast. Now exploring. Dropped by Las Cineagas Conservation Area to the SE of Tucson and got great Roadrunner coos … better than what we snagged at Big Bend. Plus close Poorwill and more Elf Owls.
This is making me cry with longing to be back there again, used to live in El Paso and go to Big Bend at least a few times a year. Paradise.
Wonderful again. Thank you!
You’re welcome Saille!
You now know why I loved the southern Arizona Sonoran desert sounds. Then when you got up into some of the desert mountains, which are like Islands, even more sounds and of course the vistas are spectacular. Kitt Peak area towards the south is a great spot. The desert has so much variety!!!! I am very much enjoying travelling show.
For Sonoran Desert sounds, I camped at the Alamo Canyon Campground in Organ Pipe and got some really nice recordings. Still looking at other spots, but having a difficult time homing-in on good ones. Vekol Valley Rd looked good in the Sonoran National Monument (at an old ranch with several watering tanks), but there’s major drug smuggling there, coming from the Indian Reservation, so I’ve decided not to even check it out.
Another podcast so soon, well done, thanks.
You’re welcome Fintan. Next in line: The Sonoran Desert. Which will include cacti singing in the wind. Might be a couple of weeks before I am able to pull it off.
A great production! And some really special recordings, like the pair of Western Screech-owls, the Roadrunner, and even the rockslide. Keep up the great work.
Yup … we did very well recording-wise. Makes telling the story a lot easier for sure.
Very enjoyable, Lang!
Thanks Marie! I trust all is well with you as spring unfolds in upstate New York (I definitely miss hearing the peepers).
Oh, and those landslides sounded really dramatic and scary. The birds didn’t even pause to take note. lol
Must have been “business as usual” for the owl. Now, if I had been up in the canyon at that point, I think I would have had a heart attack.
Loved this soooo much, Lang! Just beautiful and felt like I was there with you guys.
Susan: That’s the idea … to bring you along on the adventure!
The recording with narration is absolutely superb! I feel as if I’m there being guided along a tour of the park. Many thanks for adding so much wonder to my morning. Lang, you are only getting better and better!
Thank you Sara … I had the advantage of great recordings for this one. It will be hard to keep the bar this high.