Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Homeward Bound

Before we started homeward, Cyndi's Dad took a photo of us. Two thousand miles without a shave, and we were still friends.

On the trip home we saw yet more colorful desert flowers.

One of the two longest days of driving was our marathon journey home from Las Vegas to Boise, with lots of birding stops along the way!

As we drove northward through Nevada toward home we went over a fairly high-elevation area. We got out of the car to look at the Juniper trees and geology and when I turned to look back at the car there was a Lazuli Bunting sitting right on the car's rear-view mirror! Though I didn't get a photo of it sitting on the car, it didn't fly far. Here it is on a road sign.

This magnificent Golden Eagle watched us pass through its territory. There's a lot of wide-open space in Nevada.

One wetland at the corner of an agricultural field hosted this Great Egret.

And here is yet another type of lizard, this one clinging to a tree. Cyndi thought it might be a Collared Lizard, and it does seem to have a collar-like marking around its neck.

As the sun set we crossed the border back into Idaho, and this Swainson's Hawk sat high in a tree catching the last warm rays.

I saw 163 species of birds on this vacation, in four states. Thirty-nine of them were Life Birds for me and I list the Lifers here in the order I encountered them:

Gambel's Quail
Great-tailed Grackle
Lesser Nighthawk
Mexican Jay
Magnificent Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird
Hepatic Tanager
Flame-colored Tanager
Bridled Titmouse
Painted Redstart
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Elf Owl
White-winged Dove
Hooded Oriole
Arizona "Strickland's" Woodpecker
Blue Grosbeak
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Gila Woodpecker
Curve-billed Thrasher
Thick-billed Kingbird
Cassin's Kingbird
Gray Hawk
Canyon Towhee
Violet-crowned Hummingbird
Abert's Towhee
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Costa's Hummingbird
Vermilion Flycatcher
Chihuahuan Raven
Varied Bunting
Whiskered Screech-Owl
Black Phoebe
Greater Roadrunner
Cactus Wren
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
Harris's Hawk

The entire list of 163 birds seen, with the photos arranged in a slideshow, can be seen at

Because this blog shows off all my photos I'm never seen, so I thought I'd share this picture Cyndi took of me in Arizona.

Thanks for reading about our trip. I hope you've enjoyed the story and pictures. Next, I have some exciting things to share from my own corner of the world. There's no place like home!

Red Rocks NCA

After a delicious lunch, Cyndi's Dad drove east of Las Vegas, toward the mountains and took us to visit Red Rocks National Conservation Area. Hikers, horseback riders, and rock climbers all enjoy the sandstone formations and mountains beyond. You can see the hiking trails running up the ridge and also along the creek bed.

The Common Ravens enjoy the landscape, too!

The wildflowers here were stunning.

The Orange Globe Mallow grow in my yard. Who would imagine such color in a dry desert environment.

The cactus flowers, like this Beavertail Cactus were equally brilliant.

Cyndi used to spend time here as a youngster, so in addition to enjoying the beauty she enjoyed recollections of fun times spent in this area and told me stories of horseback rides and camping trips in these mountains. She was grinning the whole time. Mountains can do that for one's spirit, I've found.

Here in this wash an Ash-throated Flycatcher came very close to us. By now I was getting more familiar with this sort of flycatcher. Many of the flycatchers do look alike, but where they are found is a clue to their identity. The Ash-throated are more likely to be found in dry desert areas, while the Dusky-capped are more likely to be found in wooded areas.

This White-throated Swift went by and I was very lucky this time. Usually they're gone before I can raise the camera, but this one did a half-circle around me, staring down at the camera so I had time to focus and take one image before it rocketed off. The swifts are closely related to hummingbirds ... both types of bird have very little use for legs and feet and are aerial acrobats.

Cyndi pointed out this flower, Purple Sage. I had heard the word before, but had never seen these wonderful flowers on the sagebrush in the desert. What a colorful show!

Springs Preserve

Upon arrival in Las Vegas the first bird I saw was this Northern Mockingbird. It was gathering food and stuffing it into the mouth of a youngster who was tagging along, hungry but not yet motivated enough to forage for its own meals.

Cyndi's Dad treated us to a visit to Springs Preserve, a nature center and botanical garden and environmental education facility. I had a great time finding birds and enjoying the botanical exhibits.

This lizard ran across the gravel pathway.

I thought the Horsetails made a nice pattern. They remind me of bamboo.

And these yellow flowers caught my eye as well.

There were warblers in the bushes, like this MacGillivray's.

From above, the black cap of the Wilson's Warbler stands out.

We have Western Kingbird in Idaho, too ... and it was nice to recognize a familiar kingbird after trying to sort through so many kinds in Arizona. It is the white outer tail feathers that make it so recognizable.

There were Verdin here, too.

And, this Black-chinned Hummingbird posed perfectly against a blue sky. If the light is just right the black gorget will shine a deep dark purple color.

Driving to Las Vegas

Our next destination was Las Vegas, where we would stay with Cyndi's Dad and second Mom. It was a long drive through the desert, but we stopped a couple of times to enjoy the environment.

The scenery changed from Saguaro to these Joshua Trees.

Here's an overview.

And, closer up, you can see many kinds of desert plants grow here.

Many of the cacti were in bloom, and Cyndi took a lot of photos!

Here are some of my pictures of the cactus blooms.

This next plant is Bladder Pod, and I later learned that the plant stores carbon dioxide in the pods on the stem, so they can use it whenever they need it.

There were many kinds of wildflowers along the way.

Most exciting for me, though, was noticing this bird ... one I had never seen before, the Harris's Hawk. We stopped and tried to walk back to get a better view of it, but it would have none of that and flew off as we walked along the road.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Saguaro National Park

We visited Saguaro National Park on our way to Las Vegas.

The Saguaro stretch for miles. These are some very old cacti.

When they die they leave these skeletons in the hot sun.

In the mornings they were covered with large white flowers with yellow centers.

I already showed this petroglyph with a picture of a California Bighorn Sheep at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum ... but this was just one of a large assortment of these rock writings.

Here's a view from a bit further away.

And further still. I imagine the creators of this rock art must have done it in the wintertime, when the temperatures would have been more conducive. It was quite hot while I was there. Maybe above 90 degrees.

We drove on a dirt road through Saguaro National Park, which I'm not easily persuaded to do with my street car. The road was in fairly good shape. We saw some birds in the Mesquite and stopped to investigate. Though quite far off they were obviously Gnatcatchers with a black cap. Sorry they're so hard to see in this photo, but it was exciting to see the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher for the first time. They didn't seem to mind the hot and dry desert environment.

As this lizard ran across the road it curled it's striped tail forward over its back. Both Cyndi and I immediately thought it was a scorpion. It really had the mimicry perfected.

And, my favorite image from this hot, dry place ... even here hummingbirds thrive. The Costa's Hummingbird lives in the desert and displays a gaudy purple moustache-like gorget.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

We visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. It is a fun and fascinating mix of botanical garden, nature preserve, aviary and zoo. Different plant environments can be experienced in close proximity to each other. One has to wonder, as an iguana wanders by, if it was brought here to be seen, or lived here first and just appreciates the diverse plant life. This one walked past me as I was photographing a bird high in a tree.

Of course, the birds are free and uncaged, outside the aviary. This Hooded Oriole simply lives here. They're often found in urban environments in tall trees.

Many of the plants here were in bloom. This one might be an Agave.

Here's a white Yucca flower.

This next one is a Golden Barrel Cactus (if I recall correctly ... they're all labeled in the gardens ... I highly recommend a visit).

A few larger animals are in enclosures, but they have a very natural feel. The California Bighorn Sheep have steep walls that they can climb ... to a point.

Here's a petroglyph (more about that in the next blog post) from nearby Saguaro National Park.

The cat Cyndi saw in Madera Canyon from our cabin had white spots on the back of its ears, and this Bobcat has white spots on the back of its ears, too!

The River Otter has two viewing platforms ... one from above, and one through a glass wall to view it underwater from a short underground tunnel.

This shady rest area in the butterfly garden was my favorite spot to sit, as it became hotter and hotter as the day went by.

Another cool place, in more ways than one, was the aviary. This was quite large, and had some neat birds I had not seen before. I don't add captive birds to my Life List, but I always enjoy seeing birds (and getting out of the hot sun).

Normally I'm not big on non-native birds, either ... but in an aviary, why not a parrot? There are escaped or released introduced parrots living wild in many cities, like Miami, San Francisco, and Tucson.

We were not fortunate enough to see the Black-bellied Whistling Duck in the wild, but we did get to see them here.

This one is more often seen than heard, Bobwhite. And, it's the specific race of Bobwhite found in southern Arizona.

There was a separate aviary filled with hummingbirds. This was the first time I'd seen a hummingbird nest.

None of my wild Broad-tailed Hummingbird photos show of the color of the gorget the way this one shows. It's all about how the light strikes the bird, and this one would frequently rest on a branch near a bench, so I just sat and waited for it to visit.