April in Big Bend

April in Big Bend means summer, plain and simple. It’s hot, with temps down near the border already reaching 100 degrees; it means blooming season for many cactus, so it’s time to get out and explore. The South Rim of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park is always a good place to start, and other areas just outside the park yield some exciting plant and animal viewing opportunities.

A hike up 2000 feet from the Basin to the South Rim takes me past some colorful spring blooms:

And so an evening on the South Rim, some 4000 feet above the desert floor, means great views. Here the full moon rises over the Sierra del Carmen Mountains across the river in Mexico:P1050650Another couple is camping in the high Chisos, quietly soaking in the setting sun:P1050661The sun makes a magnificent exit, framed by a wind-blown juniper at 7300 feet:P1050671A rising full moon in the quiet of the evening breeze:P1050647Next morning a panorama of desert badlands stretches to Mexico 25 miles away:P1050638-40 PanOn the way down, I catch a couple of familiar residents, the Arizona Sister butterfly, and a desert lizard:P1050721 Arizona SisterP1050621Back off the mountain, Jodie & I are on the hunt for the spring bloom of cactus, beginning in April and continuing into June. Outside the park, we’re astounded to find a Scimitar Oryx (Oryx dammah), an African antelope now listed as “extinct in the wild” roaming near Santiago Peak:P1050751P1050744P1050748The cactus bloom is not nearly as spectacular as in 2014, but we find a few species showing off their colors, such as Engelmann’s Prickly Pear, Claret Cup (Scarlet Hedgehog), and Rainbow Cactus:

We make a stop near the Rio Grande, in Big Bend National Park, and find a Red Racer making for the shade. He’s about 7 feet long, and has beautiful color:P1050800Nearby, a Vermillion Flycatcher treats us to his color and song:P1050793It’s hard to ignore a flock of Yellow-headed blackbirds when they gather en masse:P1050812And so, our swing through the April desert of Big Bend comes to a close with the sun setting behind the Glass Mountains in the Marathon Basin:P1050739