RSS

Tag Archives: five-striped sparrow

SE Arizona – Day 3 – Sycamore Canyon and California Gulch

After an interesting night at Motel 6 in Nogales, AZ we got off to an early start heading west along Ruby Rd. toward Sycamore Canyon and California Gulch.

Sycamore Canyon
Sycamore Canyon

As soon as we pulled into the Sycamore Canyon trailhead parking lot we heard a Thick-billed Kingbird calling from the top of one of the trees. We found it within a few moments as an Acorn Woodpecker was trying to chase it away from it’s perch.

Thick-billed Kingbird
Thick-billed Kingbird

Bell’s Vireos were calling everywhere around us and I finally got some decent shots of them! An Eastern Bluebird pair also made a nest out of an abandoned hole in one of the Sycamore trees just above the parking lot. The male and female were actively catching insects and taking them back to their nest.

Bell's Vireo
Bell’s Vireo

Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird

We pretty much could have just stayed in the parking lot all day without getting bored with as much activity going on all around us. But we decided we better start hiking up the canyon before the mid-day heat became any more unbearable. We took care not to brush up against all of the Poison Ivy growing all along the creek.

Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy

Not even 75 yards down the trail, my friend yelled at me to not take another step and quickly grabbed my arm. As soon as she did, I heard the all to familiar sound of a Rattlesnake just a few feet away. I’m not sure how I didn’t hear it but I’m truly grateful for my friend’s quick reaction time in stopping me! I breathed a sigh of relief and realized this was a great opportunity to take video of the Rattlesnake!

Although the creek was relatively dry within the first half-mile that quickly changed farther down the Canyon. Pockets of water provided a home for the native fish, Sonoran Mud Turtles, Leopard Frogs and many different species of Dragonflies and Butterflies.

Playing with Leopard Frogs
Playing with Leopard Frogs

Since there wasn’t much bird activity I took the opportunity to photograph our other winged friends that seemed to be begging for our attention.

Mexican Amberwing
Mexican Amberwing

One of the larger ponds held lots of native fish that I’m still trying to identify. While I was watching the fish swim about I took notice to a Sonoran Mud Turtle along the edge of the pond.

Sonoran Mud Turtle
Sonoran Mud Turtle

Nick caught a Black-necked Garter Snake a little way down the trail and brought it back for all of us to look at and photograph. Not much later he came back with a gravid female Lesser Earless Lizard!

Black-necked Garter Snake
Black-necked Garter Snake

Lesser Earless Lizard
Lesser Earless Lizard

After a quick little break of playing with dragonflies and reptiles we hiked up the Canyon a bit more where we heard a Northern Pygmy-owl calling. It didn’t take very long for me to find him as he had lots of Bewick’s Wrens mobbing him certainly not appreciating him being so close to their nests. We all got spectacular views and I took one of my favorite photos from the weekend.

Northern Pygmy-owl
Northern Pygmy-owl

It was a beautiful day to be in Sycamore Canyon. Not a drop of rain and reasonable temperatures despite it being the middle of summer.

Sycamore Canyon
Sycamore Canyon

Since it was the middle of the day, we took a quick break back at the parking lot to eat lunch and I even fell asleep in my chair while I was waiting for the Eastern Bluebirds to return to their nest! It was close to 2PM before we decided to pack up and head over to California Gulch.

California Gulch
California Gulch

We took the long way around through Warsaw Canyon and Clayton Canyon. We were treated to a few Montezuma Quail with a juvenile along the way. While we were photographing and enjoying the scenery a US Customs and Border Protection helicopter circled around us for a few minutes. Clearly they were running all the license plates of our vehicles and to make sure we weren’t hustling drugs or illegal immigrants across the border. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a helicopter in that area let alone one that took such keen interest to what we were doing.

Sonoran Barrel Cactus
Sonoran Barrel Cactus

We drove past the southern entrance to California Gulch and I immediately noticed two individuals walking rapidly into the Gulch. I tried to grab my camera to get a photo and so I could get a closer look but they quickly disappeared around the mountain… There were no vehicles in sight and we never did see the two people again. Most likely they were Mexican immigrants trying to get into the U.S. but we’ll never know for sure.

We continued on our way to the north parking lot where everyone typically enters the Gulch. Just as we were pulling into the parking lot we spotted a male Lesser Earless Lizard sunbathing on one of the rocks.

Lesser Earless Lizard
Lesser Earless Lizard

Due to the steep mountains surrounding the Gulch, the sun was just going down as we hiked to the bottom so it did not provide the lighting conditions I had hoped for. Five-striped Sparrows were singing all around us and it didn’t take long to spot one up on the hillside.

Five-striped Sparrow
Five-striped Sparrow

Also in the area were many Varied Bunting families of males, females and juveniles. We also had a Yellow-billed Cuckoo on the way back to the cars. I took a couple of photos at very distant range but nothing noteworthy enough to post here. We then headed about .2 down the road to the Oro Blanco Mine where the infamous Buff-collared Nightjar returns every summer. We met up with Melody Kehl and her tour group and thankfully we did as it provided many more eyes and ears to hopefully locate the Nightjar. With just a little bit of remaining light in the sky someone shouted out they heard the Nightjar. We all rushed over just quick enough to see it fly off into the wash. We tracked it down for a bit and got a couple of fleeting glimpses of it flying away as we followed it’s call. Unfortunately there were zero photo ops so I came back without any photos. 🙁

Feeling a bit defeated we headed back into town. About 40 miles outside of Nogales, along Ruby Road, we saw a HUGE Black-tailed Rattlesnake just spread across the middle of the road. At first I thought it had been run over but as soon as we all jumped out of the car it started moving off the road perfectly fine. I didn’t get any photos since my camera was already packed away so I grabbed my iPhone to take video.

 

Posted by on August 6, 2009 in Photography Adventures

1 Comment

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Back from Arizona

I know some of you have been following where I’ve been in REAL-TIME on my Photo/GPS upload page. To see actual locations and images I uploaded from the road while in Arizona check these links out:

Sat, Aug. 23
Sun, Aug. 24

As you can see I was very close to the border of Mexico while at California Gulch and again when I was near Palominas, AZ. Fortunately I did not run into any illegal “smuggling” of immigrants or, worse yet, drugs. The only real scare I had was when I was almost caught in a thunder storm whilst at California Gulch (by myself). With it still being monsoon season, it can be clear blue skies one second and a thundering downpour the next. That said, you have to be extra cautious especially when you’re at the bottom of a narrow canyon over a mile away from your vehicle. This time I made it back to the car – narrowly averting a potentially harrowing experience.

Here’s a photo I took right as I got back to my car of a giant Cumulonimbus forming:

Monsoon coming in

Highlight birds from California Gulch include Five-striped Sparrow, Nashville Warbler and an entire covey of Montezuma Quail along Ruby Road! I didn’t get the best Five-striped Sparrow photos that I had hoped for but I’ll be back next summer to try for better ones.

Five-striped Sparrow
Five-striped Sparrow

Nashville Warbler
Nashville Warbler

Canyon Wren
Canyon Wren

Montezuma Quail
Montezuma Quail

Montezuma Quail (juvenile)
Montezuma Quail (juvenile)

I spent both Saturday and Sunday mornings photographing Cassin’s and Botteri’s Sparrows. I actually had much better luck with Botteri’s than Cassin’s. On several different occassions I had a Botteri’s Sparrow fly within 10′ of my vehicle.

Botteri's Sparrow
Botteri’s Sparrow

Cassin's Sparrow
Cassin’s Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow

Lark Sparrow
Lark Sparrow

A slow sunday. I got to Upper Carr Canyon around 11AM where I photographed a Greater Pewee. I was hoping for Buff-breasted Flycatcher as well but no luck. On the Comfort Springs Trail I had a beautiful GRACE’S WARBLER in full view….but the camera wouldn’t focus. So you can file that under the “one that got away”. /sadface…

Greater Pewee
Greater Pewee

I also made a quick stop at Mary Jo Ballator’s Ash Canyon B&B to get some better Hummer shots. Lots of Rufous Hummingbirds migrating through now. As a side note: I initially went up Miller Canyon to photograph the Hummers at the Beatty Guest Ranch. Tom, Sr. was there and told me that he no longer allowed photographers with flash setups like I have (Fresnel Lens, etc.). I was quite shocked by this. He went on to say that most photographers don’t know what they’re doing and hurt the birds. I reminded him that I have photographed the hummers right next to him in the past with the same setup – not to mention the fact I already have photos of all the hummers so I wouldn’t be holding the trigger down! He wouldn’t give-in so I said I understood and left.

The following shots were taking at Mary Jo Ballator’s. In the hour I was there, I only took 15 photos.

Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird

Since the Huachuca Mountains weren’t being very productive I decided to drive out to Willcox in search of Baird’s Sandpiper at Lake Cochise. Success!! A couple hundred Wilson’s Phalaropes adorned the lake as well. Quite a sight to see all of them turning in circles as they feed. I took some side roads on the way back to Tucson in hopes of raptors (ie. Zone-tailed, Common Black-Hawk). Only saw Red-tailed’s and a pair of Harris’ Hawks.

Baird's Sandpiper
Baird’s Sandpiper

Wilson's Phalarope
Wilson’s Phalarope

Harris's Hawk
Harris’s Hawk

 

Posted by on August 25, 2008 in Photography Adventures

1 Comment

Tags: , ,

SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline