Spotting Borregos

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park takes its name from 18th century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and borrego, the Spanish word for bighorn sheep. On our last day there, we took a hike up the Palm Canyon trail to check out wildflowers and do some birding.

We spotted this hummingbird hawk moth along the way.

Further along, we saw a hiker intently watching the far hillside and found she had a group Bighorn Sheep in sight. There were about nine, mainly ewes and youngsters, far across the draw.

Returning, we ran into a larger group, being gawked at by the many weekend hikers. There were a couple of big guys with this crew.

In spite of the Saturday crowds, it was a great finish to a week-long stay. Next is the Pacific Ocean and sea breezes for a new set of adventures.

Posted in hiking, nature, Southwest trip 6, Wildlife Watching | 2 Comments

A Verdin Nest

Recently, I mentioned our new-found interest in nesting birds. Yesterday, we were watching Verdins bounce from limb to limb singing away when I saw one scoot into a cactus and disappear. Another nest?
Here’s the bunch of twigs we saw.

I could see some movement in the bundle of twigs and sure enough, out popped a Verdin.

Sally watched as the Verdin flew off to nearby sage bushes breaking off twigs, and warning me as the bird returned as I kept the camera on the nest.

I can’t brag about the photos but here are a couple of construction in progress.

We watched for ten minutes or so, entranced by the steady work of this little olive-capped bird. Slow birding can bring some lovely experences – it made our day.

Posted in bird behavior, CA birds, nature, Nesting, slow birding, SW trip 2017 | Comments Off on A Verdin Nest

Anza-Borrego Birds

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California and after lots of recent rain, about to pop with wildflowers. Here are some of the early blooms as photographed by Sally.

The sunrises and sunsets here are spectacular.

As are some of the birds. One of the toughest birds for me to photograph is the Verdin. Not only do they bounce from limb to limb, they often seem to be buried in the brush. Here is one that paused for a moment.

This Western Bluebird gave us some great looks on a walk to the Visitor Center.

Likewise, this Say’s Phoebe posed early one morning.

Perhaps the most common bird here is the White-crowned Sparrow.

We are here for a couple of days more, then off to San Diego for family, friends, and birds.

Posted in CA birds, CA camping, Desert birds, SW trip 2017 | Comments Off on Anza-Borrego Birds

Nesting Time

One of our favorite birds has become the Phainopepla. We just love how this guy struts his stuff, posing like a male model, feeding like a flycatcher, whistling and calling like a Northern Cardinal.

The other day at Organ Pipe National Monument, I saw a female Phaina fly out of a bush near the trail with her partner nearby. Peering in to where she departed, I spotted this nest.

Waiting quietly with the dog, I watched her watch me and after a bit, ease toward the nest. She settled in and I took a few shots and left her alone, showing her to Sally a little later. We loved the punk hairdo.

As Vermonters, we tend to forget that February is nesting season along the border, but the next day, a similar thing happened. I saw a Cactus Wren emerge from a Cholla Cactus and watched her scout around for grass and twigs. I went over and found a nest, which was under construction.

Retreating, I watched her return with nest lining matter and then pause before her next venture.

Now really interested about nests, we started to find several others. I peeked into one, jumped back with a shout of surprised, and then carefully looked at a nesting Curve-billed Thrasher. Can you see her?

She’s at the bottom of the dark area, her beak is headed toward the ten o’clock position and her red eye is barely visible behind a tiny branch.

Looking for nests is a good way to sharpen our birding skills and observe bird behavior unobtrusively. It is a nice new challenge.

Posted in Arizona Birding, Arizona Birds, Bird Behavior, bird behavior, bird nests, SW trip 2017 | 1 Comment

A Desert Walk

Yesterday’s walk started out tough. As I walked up the campground road I heard a Cactus Wren and was surprised to see it right beside me, except it didn’t look like a wren. I watched it sing and feed but it didn’t have a curved beak. It appears that is lost the tip of its beack and just had a stub. It was sad to see but it certainly had a lot of early morning pep.

Penny and I took a trail where she could roam a bit off leash and of course, she didn’t help my birding. I did see this American Kestrel way off.

It was very windy and most birds were resting but the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher was very cooperative.

Less cooperative were the cacti. The Jumping Cholla, the reason I wear jeans on these walks, got Penny several times in the foot. Removing them without getting stuck yourself is a challenge.

We were out for a good three hours and the rain showers and wind finally made us head for the van. This Gila Woodpecker, refusing to let us get close, greeted us at the campground.

We earned an early lunch and nap with desert wind and showers buffetting the rig. Can’t help but wonder how long that wren will hold on. Tal es la naturaleza.

Posted in Arizona Birding, Arizona Birds, cacti, nature, SW trip 2017 | Comments Off on A Desert Walk

Get A Room

Yesterday, I got an early start and visited the City of Tucson’s Sweetwater Wetlands, a 60 acre treatment and recharge project set up for wildlife viewing. It is a popular birding site where you can see nearby tractor trailers on I-10 while watching a Northern Harrier hunt for rodents.

I saw about 35 species in an hour but I also saw wildlife – or wild life. So this post might be PG or NSFW.

Moving along one of the paths that line the marshy lagoons, I noticed movement up ahead behind a tree and through my binos saw a big racoon – no make that two racoons. It was 8:30 in the morning.

I felt like a paparazzi as I watched and fired away with the Canon but they could care less. After about ten minutes, I slowly walked by them and if racoons can have a sheepish grin, this couple did. I left them to enjoy their cigarette and coffee or whatever.

It is nice to see a public facility so open and accessible – and such a neat teaching tool about wildlife and water reclamation. And its nice to think that in about two months, there will be three to six baby racoons to enjoy the place.

Posted in Arizona Birding, Arizona Birds, SW trip 2017, Wildlife Watching | Comments Off on Get A Room

A Morning Hike

Penny and I are in Tucson staying at a nice county park – Gilbert Ray Campground – where yesterday morning we took a short hike up Brown Mountain.

Before we left the campground, we saw several Phainopepla (harder to spell than find here) and a covey of Gambel’s Quail, who scurried off.

The trail was lined with thorns and of course, Penny had to check them out. She ended up with a paw full of quills from a fishhook barrel cactus which got me as I removed them. Here she explores what I think is an ocotillo.

A pretty Northern Flicker graced the top of a big saguaro cactus.

Several Lesser Goldfinches just sat there and let us walk by.

This Curved-bill Thrasher was having a cactus fruit breakfast.

Coming back down, we had some nice views but the winter sun was heating things up – although starting at 55 degrees and ending at 71 is pretty nice. It not hard to see why the campgrounds are filled with northern visitors.

Bienvenido a arizona.

Posted in Arizona Birding, Arizona Birds, hiking, SW trip 2017 | 3 Comments

Too Many People, Not Enough Birds

The Southwest is packed with travelers – perhaps it’s the lower fuel prices, the need for some fresh air after a putrid election season, or just the boomers spending their kids’ inheritances, but I’ve had a challenge getting camping spots and sometimes seem to spend more time planning than birding. But why whine, the weather is great as are the birds. This Bewick’s Wren thrilled us at Patagonia as it sang and was answered by a buddy.

We’ve been seeing Green-winged Teal since Texas and they never fail to impress us with their markings.

On the other hand, sparrows in general are our nemisis – we’ve gotten better on gulls and terns but these are the next challenge.

This Dark-eyed Junco is a lot different from its eastern cousins.

The Western Bluebirds were delightful to see on an early dog walk in Payson, Arizona.

Curved-bill Thrashers are amazing morning songsters with quite a repertoire rivalling the Northern Mockingbird.

This sunset at Patagonia Lake is typical of the evening and morning light show in the skies of the West.

The van windshield is replaced and we start moving west starting at Organ Pipe National Monument and then Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. California here we come.

Posted in Arizona Birding, Arizona Birds, SW trip 2017 | Comments Off on Too Many People, Not Enough Birds

Sweet Penelope Sue

Our Vizsla, aka Penny, just turned 13 last month and is having a wonderful trip.

When not sleeping on the floor between the driver and passenger, she is curled up as close to the gas furnace outlet as she can get.

She is known for pointing anything but wild birds. Here she is with an Arizona Tree Lizard a few years ago.

Saturday, she discovered that there was a bird at our friends’ house where we were visiting.

As part of the plan suggested by the vet to keep her healthy and less hyper, I am giving her pills for anxiety. We ran out and were awaiting a shipment.

So a few days ago, we decided to take a short drive to go into Patagonia for some shopping and mail pickup. We stopped at the Post Office, and the Sally did a little grocery shopping at two stores. Then she hit a gift store. I waited, catching up on email, and after a while, turned to see if Penny was staying cool – and found the van dogless.

The next two to three hours were spent searching. We suspected that she slipped out at one of our stops. Sally walked up and down the back streets talking to dozens of folks. I drove the van all over, visiting the posrmistress, the marshall’s, the public works guys, and dozens of others. People were wonderful but no red dog in sight. At Sally’s suggestion, I called the park but they had no loose dog.

We were just devastated, fearing the worst, when my cell phone rang and the park ranger told me that Penny was with our campsite neighbors. The imp had snuck out of the van as we prepared to leave and we drove off forgetting that her brown snout is always up under the dashboard. She had been watered, fed, walked and had had a much better afternoon than we did.

Perhaps there are enough anxiety pills to share.

Posted in SW trip 2017, Vizsla | 1 Comment

Whitewater Draw

One of the amazing sites, and sights, of birding Southern Arizona is Whitewater Draw, the winter home of thousands of Sandhill Cranes. I’ll just let these pictures tell you of our visit.

We were enthralled by the way the cranes just appear as specks high in the sky and spiral down in twos or threes, hundreds at a time. As a pilot, I marvelled at the way they spilled lift, descended in close formations, and picked out a precise landing spot among the thousands already resting. It was an unforgettable day.

Posted in Arizona Birding, Arizona Birds, MA Birding, Sandhill Cranes, SW trip 2017 | 1 Comment