Monday, January 14, 2019

AZ Rare Bird of the Week

This is my favorite pic of the week.  I'm actually having this framed and hanging it up in my house.
These days, it seems like every week in Arizona, we have a special bird showing up.  Over the past several months, we've added 2 new state birds to our state list, the Ringed Kingfisher and now the White-throated Thrush. Both these birds were first records for the state.

The Elegant Trogon is the cherry on top after finding the main star, the White-throated Thrush.  Although, I will admit the Trogon gets everyone excited.  This photo taken in the rain.
First records draw everyone who I thought had passed away years ago to the current birders that I see on the trails now.  The White-throated Thrush is also an ABA bird which is not often seen in the US.  Therefore, it attracts many birders from Canada and the US who like to play the ABA game. Forget Mexico.  They aren't considered part of the North American ABA game so I don't take the ABA thing seriously.  Yet it is a Mexican bird that is making the news.

The male Elegant Trogon feeds from the Pyracantha bush
While this wasn't a life bird, it was an incredible state bird.  I went right away to observe the bird before the masses arrived.  I was pretty lucky as there were only 20 birders present when I arrived at sunrise. Those numbers don't even compare to the numbers that showed up after its initial appearance.  Hundreds have since observed this bird feed from the berries along the trail. 

The Arizona White-throated Thrush after hitting several ladies with my lens
I tried for a shot, but I kept hitting people in the head with my lens so I gave up:) I observed it well and was fine with the ID-able photo.

A nice close up of a White-throated Thrush, taken in Monteverde, Costa Rica
When a rare bird shows up that I haven't observed often, I have to dig up the data from where I had seen it before. AND I mixed this bird up with my recent observation of a White-necked Thrush in Trinidad which is quite different from the White-THROATED Thrush that is found in Mexico and Central America:)  It appears I had a nice photo of the White-throated Thrush from Costa Rica.  So I didn't need to get a better shot!  I love when I can just be a birder and not have to lug around my camera for that perfect shot. I'm still confused.

A Brown Creeper is new for the 2019 birding tick
Madera and Florida Canyons are where it's at right now in the AZ birding world.  I can't go up to Mt. Lemmon because the highway is either blocked from snow storms OR there are too many people wanting to go up the mountain!  And I have been wanting to do some high elevation birding because Varied Thrushes can still be found here in the state in several key areas of the Catalina Mountains.  I don't have that bird for my state list yet and I am hoping to add it this year.

Townsend's Warbler
But for the moment, I am enjoying the rainy weather.  It's absolutely refreshing to be outdoors.

A curious birder hopes to see this bird closer. 
And while there are birds, I have been working on home projects.  The catio(a patio made for cats) was installed and it's like I'm living in a new home.  I can drink my coffee outside or leave the doors open all day long.  Some people call it an Arizona room, or screened outdoor room.  All I know is that it's wonderful.

Anyhow, I always wonder what amazing bird will show up every new year in Arizona.  This White-throated Thrush did not disappoint.  It's incredible what shows up in this state.  Next week, I join Gordon Karre up in Phoenix as we count water birds around the urban parks and golf courses.  Will we find a rare Eurasian Wigeon or Tufted Duck?   Stay tuned for more!  Until next time:)

Olive Warbler

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Season of Studies

During my weekly count at Reid Park, I capture this cold and wonderful moment
This new year has taken a strange yet welcome turn of events here in Tucson.  Things I had thought about separately are now merging into one big blur. 

Monk Parakeets
First, I need to write about the projects. I have been serious for years about the Monk Parakeets of Arizona.  There was once a feral population back in 2004.  While most people blew the bird off(it's an exotic non-countable bird for listers), I was actually interested in finding out what had happened to them. And like a good detective, I interviewed neighbors over the years who had told me that they had hired someone to "take them out".  I didn't want to get into specifics, but I understood that they were removed from the area.

The Rosy-faced Lovebird was once considered an exotic bird.  Today they number in the tens of thousands around the Phoenix area.
On January 1st, I did a study with Magill Weber on the exotics that have established themselves in the state.  I have been ebirding my data on the Monk Parakeets for several years with detailed data. Gordon Karre has also followed up on reports around the Phoenix area. A couple weeks ago, an AZFO(Arizona Field Ornithology) member by the name of Kurt Rademaker found an old report of mine and asked if I would be interested in writing up a paper and organizing a census.  He is also the same person who is responsible for getting the Rosy-faced Lovebirds on the state list. 

the Nanday Parakeets of Tempe, AZ do not show signs of breeding.  These birds were escapees who have managed to survive Phoenix's harsh climate
I know Monk Parakeets well. I grew up with them and I raised them with my Mom from egg. But to do a paper on 4 or 6 random parakeets found around the Phoenix area?  No.  So Magill and I both decided to visit several of the historical areas where Monks had been seen in smaller numbers. For years, I have been searching for this colony.  Every year, a Monk or 2 would show up in random spots like a hotel or person's backyard. I knew that they weren't escapees and that they were coming from a large colony somewhere in the Phoenix area. So we followed the electronic trail. We needed answers.

I needed breeding evidence to seriously consider this request.  And by pure accident, we found TWO colonies of Monk Parakeets in an area south of Phoenix.  It was like the Holy Grail for me and finally answered the 8 year question that had bothered me for so long.  Where did the Arizona Monk Parakeets go?

It is a serendipitous moment that I won't soon forget. I'm supposed to be the "navigator" but everyone knows that I am terrible at it:)  Magill asks me, "Where do I turn?"  Me, thinking I know the directions, tells her to turn down the wrong road in the wrong direction.  Classic me.  Then a flock of Mourning Doves flies over her vehicle? NO! WAIT! A flock on Monk Parakeets!!!! We both pull over and gather our whits. It's something we both witness for the first time in Arizona.  Monk Parakeets calling from all over the place! We have a moment and witness something very rare and special.  There was evidence of breeding as a parakeet flew out carrying a branch to a secret nest on private property.  And there was evidence to prove that the colonies were feral/wild as they flew away as I approached them.  We are hoping to have the first of our population census at the end of February.

This January, I helped with a CBC count in Pinal with Keith Kamper.  Keith had access to private property along the San Pedro river and I was immediately interested.  

a private piece of conservancy land  after a fire in 2018 is full of brush piles, perfect for sparrows
 Part of the riparian area had burned thanks in part to an ignorant resident burning brush during the driest month of the year!  But not all things are terrible.  The fallen branches and trees created brush piles for hundreds if not thousands of sparrows!  It was amazing!

Blue-throated Hummingbird, Madera Canyon
In a couple weekends, I'll be working with Gordon Karre on his water bird count up in Phoenix.  Over the course of February, I'll be working with Tucson Audubon in the grasslands to count the declining populations of Chestnut-collared Longspurs. 

Mexican Jays on a cold day at the Santa Rita Lodge feeders of Madera Canyon
Along the way we'll be meeting old and new friends alike discovering new things.  In March, I'll be giving a lecture in Wales about Arizona birds. Then the busy season of guiding happens.  My friends will have finished their birder's casita and I'll be there to guide when needed. 

Olive Warbler in Madera Canyon
Birding requires a strict budget with strict planning.  I think in one day I was working on the details of my Wales' trek, talking to Gordon about our lek trek in April AND planning for a pelagic in Maine with Kathie Brown for a very special photo shoot this summer.  I love it but I am definitely not a casual birder.  There are goals!  On top of that, a budget and savings account are needed!  Any extra cash flow goes into the treks.

American Kestrel
I've also been working on other projects.  In winter, I really enjoy being outdoors.  I've finished the hummingbird part of my garden which has plants that are favored by butterflies and hummingbirds.  I utilize plants with red, orange and yellow tubular flowers. Plus I hung up some solar lights on a curved metal piece for honeysuckle to climb, another popular treat for my Broad-billed Hummingbirds.

a confiding Greater Roadrunner at Sabino Canyon
January is a great time to get any artificial nests all situated.  As you may recall from this blog over the years, we have a pair of Great Horned Owls who nest during this time every year under our Ironwood Trees.

Great Horned Owl nest
Over winter break, me and a couple friends fixed up their nest box.  We now wait.  She will begin to lay eggs either this month or next.

friend and co-worker Mike secures the box securely against the Ironwood tree without damaging the bark
And at home, I have put up Lucy's Warblers nest boxes to help promote nesting in my garden. If you have a mesquite or several, it's a great idea to get a couple boxes from Tucson Audubon.  They're 5 dollars a box.  If you live in Arizona, I highly recommend checking it out. They're easy to install. Lucy's Warblers will begin to arrive in March and will begin their nesting right away.

Lucy's Warbler nesting box
I have a regular job, but it seems that every year, I am pulled more and more into the birding world. I don't mind it.  It provides escape, something I much need these days.  The world sometimes feels like it's tearing itself up.  I don't recognize my country anymore and it's the wild spaces that prevent me from going crazy. But now even that is a mess!

During a moment of anxiety, in the middle of the ridiculous government shutdown, caused by the orange baboon, I needed to breathe and walk in the snow landscape of Madera Canyon. He's a complete idiot.  The wall is an ecological disaster that will cause great harm to the wildlife here. AND currently, I have friends who are not getting paid at their National Park Jobs.  And the National Parks are getting trashed.  It's horrible. I see it.  It's not made up. Now I can't even escape it.

So I walked and found this perfect moment. My talented friend Kathie Brown wrote this beautiful poem based on the pic below, 

"When sunlight through the forest streams
and plays its little dancing beams
like golden fingers in the creek
this woodland magic makes me seek
the beauty of these Nature places
which soothes my soul and then erases
the worries that the world imposes
on our hearts and mind, exposes
why we need this quiet place, 
this woodland glen, this open space, 
We leave renewed and refreshed 
From all this lovely wildness."
~Kathie Brown, 2019

rare snow event in Madera Canyon
I'm glad I'm not alone in this world and that others are also going through this madness as well. This poem brought a smile to my face. In other news, the blog has hit one million views. Thank you for following! Until next time......

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Las Aventuras: Bookends

One of my favorite moments from this year in the grasslands as Pronghorn come to get a sip
As a person who has blogged for about 8 years, I have seen myself transform into many things.  Over the years so much has happened.  There has been so much change. I began as an amateur gardener and photographer.  I am none of those things anymore. I miss that carefree me, but I love that I am more certain of the work I do now. With certainty comes calculation and focused study. 

a very cold Red Fox in Maine
As I have begun branching out into the world birding arena, I have experienced frustration, joy, excitement, fear and anxiety.  This was the year I'd learn to leave my comfort zone, challenge my fears and face the changes that are happening around this world. 

watching youth get excited about birds in the Caroni Wetlands of Trinidad was a hopeful moment
For me, Trinidad was a wonderful exploration into a world of beauty and the unknown. This was a culture I was unfamiliar with and it was out of my comfort zone. Just when I thought I was free of all the child learned fears I had been taught; I discovered they were still there inside.  And when unleashed, I found myself out-of-control in the middle of a rain forest panicking.  It turns out that I was my own worst enemy.  Everything had been fine really, but I had unwittingly caused my own torture.  Afterwards I was embarrassed by my outburst. Thankfully, a kind man told me to take a deep breath and that it would be ok. While people spoke English on the island, I didn't speak their English and it took time to understand. I've traveled and lived all over the world and this was a first for me. 

the guide means well but this capuchin was not having it.  He was throwing branches at us to let us know to stay away. This wasn't the first encounter I've had with this species.  Once I had a mango thrown at my head on Coiba Island!
But not all things were a fiction of my mind. Over the years, my experience anywhere has told me to be cautious. I experienced a drive-by-shooting and heard daily stories of people having their throats slit at random which included my host's cousin while I was there. To make things worse, I was near a church where the daily funerals happened.  Was this really what it was like for a Trinidadian every day? Like everyone else, I learned to lock myself indoors at night and tread lightly during the day alone with my hidden camera gear. A dog barking at night scared me but a dog on the property made me feel safer. With 3 dead bolts on my door, I knew not to answer my door after sunset. Most of all, I learned what frustrated locals were suffering at home on a daily basis. Crime, like drug trafficking, happened anytime and everywhere. It was exhausting to be vigilant at all moments.  Thankfully, Asa Wright brought me comfort while I was there.  I could bird freely without worries. But outside of the property lines, it was a whole different world.  

My amazing room at the Asa Wright Center.  I loved it!
The Asa Wright Center was magical and safe. Locals and tourists joined together here and had dinners. It is a very special place. I met some incredible people who made my experience on the island amazing. And I am thankful for their friendships. 

The Scarlet Ibis were one of the many Trinidadian Highlights
Even after everything I have written, Trinidad was one of my favorite trips this year.  It was here that I learned how to cook again in the kitchen.  It had always been there, but I had gotten lazy in the US. Being on a budget forced me to cook and it brought me joy. 

Fresh produce markets inspire and I become inspired back home and find my own way of getting fresh produce.
When I rented my apartment outside of the Asa Wright Center, I went shopping daily for fresh vegetables. Now because of Trinidad, I eat fresh food every week and am naturally losing weight because of a healthier diet. 

The amazing Oilbirds of Asa Wright!
After a near month in Trinidad, Micheal and I headed over to Maui for a relaxing vacation. And while Hawaii was also magical, I came face-to-face with humanity's need to destroy and replace. It was incredibly beautiful and sad at the same time.  I felt hopelessness on a couple of these islands as the endemic birds face the uphill battle of global warming and mosquito infection/malaria.  So when I found my endemic lifers, I didn't feel joy. I felt this huge empty sadness and anger.  

the 'Apapane is one good looking Hawaiian endemic!
Leaving my Tucson world of birds was a good thing. Developing global views of the birding world outside my comfort zone gives me a deeper understanding of this planet. Every step I make outside of my comfort zone brings me one step closer to enlightenment. For all the good that this world does, it's also outweighed by more habitat destruction and population growth.  And that weighs heavily on me. That carefree birder I knew only a few years back is gone.  I'm not quite jaded yet but I am not as naive as I once was. 

a security detail goes ahead of me as we count birds like Red Warblers in this private sector of Malinche
On a special trek, I had a security detail come with me to bird an off limits area of the Malinche volcano in Puebla. It was such an honor to be able to bird this area and also add invaluable ebird information to this private forested sector of the volcano.  A special thank you to my host sister for arranging this incredible day of "work". 

I do research in the local gardens around Tlaxcala and find a migrating Nashville Warbler
The drug wars are on the rise again.  The issues in Venezuela, Mexico, Trinidad and other areas are real. The US is the major reason for this bloody war south of our border.  Travel in these areas can be tricky.  I really wanted to see an amazing sparrow found outside of Mexico City.  The bird is endangered and found in a very sketchy area. For the first time since becoming a birder, I hired a guide to help me access this area safely.  We were right on the border of a drug route and it required the "safety in numbers" rule. It was an amazing day out but it made me upset.  This isn't the Mexico I grew up to love. Tlaxcala, one of the safest states in the country, has now experienced some crime.  My friend and sister told me that Tlaxcala used to be safe.  I remembered those times fondly.  At a dinner, she warned me to be careful with my equipment.  "Guero, things are not the same.  People are now getting robbed in daylight. Be careful." But while I was there, I was the giant with all smiles because I genuinely feel my happiest there. If there were no borders, I'd own a home in this beautiful little village.  I love the people.  I love the culture.  And I feel at home. I could take people on bird walks here and they'd have fun.  For the most part, it's really a safe state to explore!

Happy and fresh produce with Delfina!  She makes my favorite cream of pea soup!
However, when someone says to me that bird watching is fun, I get a little irritated. Yes it can be fun, but it's called birding and it requires a lot of strategic savvy.  And quite a bit of it is NOT easy. I've spent hours upon hours researching all these places organizing the work.  

We discover the southern most range of Evening Grosbeaks in central Mexico and it blows my mind away!
And if there is one connection to everything else about this blog post, it's that Tucson has witnessed a rise in crime. It's not just happening everywhere else. It's also happening in our backyards! My neighborhood has seen an uptick in homeless people and theft. Why?  Drugs, like meth, are out-of-control. It has forced my hand to upgrade security measures on our place in midtown Tucson.  So I budgeted in $$ for a better car and a new secured patio which then cut into this year's birding budget.  All of it is good. But one has to go with the ebb and flow of things.  There are no short cuts in this life. Safety and security are important things.  From plenty of past experience with our crazy criminal neighbor and theft in the neighborhood, I can tell you that the police are not reliable in this city.  So we have to fend for ourselves most of the time.

Black-legged Kittiwake in Glendale, AZ!!!  Worthy of a state chase!
Stepping aside from the human condition, I'll now show you some of the rewards and highlights from these incredible treks and why I would go lengths to see these birds. I began my year with my lifer Black-legged Kittiwake in Maine with friend Kathie Brown. It was cold outside and simple.  I knew that it would be the most relaxing and stress free bird outing of the year.  I felt a calm before the storm, even though we were birding from within the historical cyclone bomb of Maine! The blizzard was the most peaceful thing I had felt this year because for one glorious moment, I forgot about the orange clown who is ruining my country, the attacks on public school teachers and the undoing of environmental protections. While I traveled throughout this year, I went on a major teacher strike to save our public schools,did some guiding to make up for the loss of my work paychecks, sold some of my photography and had several articles published in magazines. The birding kept me sane!  We did some amazing fund raising for Tucson Audubon.  And at the end, I added a rare Black-legged Kittiwake to my Arizona state list.  It was a fitting way to end my 2018 birding year. 

Here's the thing.  Birding in Arizona is pretty epic.  If you're a birder looking for a great place to live, I highly recommend this state.  I mean LOOK^^^at these crazy birds!  A little Mexico, east coast and California coastal stuff going on here!  Plus a first record of a Ringed Kingfisher!!  I took some of these pics, like the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Short-eared Owl and Slate-throated Redstart, in other areas because they were difficult to get pics of......the Ferrug, I didn't want to disturb because they are skittish. 
In Arizona, I added 18 new bird species to my state list.  In Pima county, I added 11 new birds. And for my life list, I added 120 new life birds. 

This is just some of them!
This post is dedicated to Barb Padgett and Bernie Brouchoud who passed away this year.  Barb was a supporter of Tucson Audubon and the Magee Marsh.  This year, Kathie and I plan to honor her by visiting her bench in Ohio. Barb was always there for me and donated money to my fundraising events.  Plus she was a fellow Trekkie.  I mean a really really good Star Trek fan!  We shared in lots of discussions. My only wish is to find her a Yellow-headed Blackbird for her memorial.  She never saw one and joked that I made them up. I'm sorry Barb that we never met in person but I am thankful for our fun discussions.

And Bernie was a guy I knew growing up.  He was vital in the creation of Woodland Dunes.  I knew I was on nature's side when I heard a council member, who I knew well, speak of building lots of factories in Bernie's established Woodland Dunes.  I didn't agree with the guy then and kept my mouth shut because I supposedly didn't know anything. I was a stupid kid. Secretly, I hoped Bernie would win and protect this land that I used as my playground.  I knew the forests well around that area. We had forts. We knew where the deer hid. Monarchs and snails and birds loved this little woods. Then one day, my playground forest and her little winding creek were wiped out and buried for "progress". I was stunned by the emptiness.  It was GONE! Bernie's land was next to "mine" and in jeopardy but thankfully Bernie won. And those factories?  Yeah, most of them are empty buildings now because the jobs went elsewhere. We wiped out a creek and a woods for nothing.  But for all the fights, Bernie won against the establishment and today Woodland Dunes is one of our finest landmarks. Thank you Bernie and Barb for your contributions to the important preservation of this planet. 

I'll always cherish this moment.  I helped Bernie get his last North American warbler, the Hermit Warbler  I was able to properly say good-bye to him.  It was a very special day for both dad and his son.  And it meant the world to me. It seems like just yesterday that he was here. Time flies by so quickly. Bernie taught me so many things as a kid AND adult about birds.  I won't forget his lessons. 
What can I say about 2018? The more I experience with the birds; the more I know.  Birds bring people together.  Birds make us see things that are happening around us.  Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Sometimes I feel like I'm becoming a bird.  I want to be outdoors all the time and not caged up inside a room. In November, I had a hard time piecing together a general outline for birding next year. Today, I am happy to say that I have several projects lined up for 2019 that will take me into the summer.  I had to juggle a tighter budget for this next year which made things a challenge. However, it's going to be an exciting ride!

I'm wishing you all a wonderful new year! I think January will mark a new milestone for this blog as we hit a million views.  Thank you for following and being a part of the weekly adventures! 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Her Maiden Voyage

Black Rosy-Finch
With one semester completely and successfully finished, it was time to get back on the road again.  During our holiday luncheon, all I could think about was the break.  And the birds. 

Good people working together to help enrich the lives of young people. It's never easy keeping a smile but break gives us that much needed downtime to recharge our batteries. 
Now that the holidays are here, CBC(Christmas Bird Count) counts are happening all over the country. I mentioned to you all last weekend that I was supposed to do a count up on Mt. Lemmon for our local CBC.  Unfortunately, my car of 10 years had other ideas and her power steering went out early in the morning.  I promptly cancelled my participation and spent the day buying a new vehicle.  Ah the joys of new car payments!  She's a white SUV that goes by the name of Betty White.  Her code name is Manakin.  

a wintering Greater Pewee in Reid Park continues
Feeling bad about my failed CBC count on Mt. Lemmon, I helped with the Tucson count at my local patch.  Then it was off for some amazing Arizona birds!

The USS Betty White made her maiden voyage up to the northern boundaries of the state just outside of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to search for 2 new Arizona birds, the Black and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches.  It was a 2-for-one journey with friends Gordon Karre and Barb Meding.  

Just part of one of the flocks that zipped up and down.  They reminded us of our wintering lonspurs in the grasslands
For several years, I've always gone with Gordon in his vehicle because my car wasn't big enough to carry all of our equipment.  I should note that I purchased that car before I was a birder.  And I'm not one to sell it off because it didn't fit my needs right away.  She was a good car.  The Bea Arthur was a reliable vehicle that gave me many years of joy. 

A birder has to be careful observing birds.  With this location, I had a little vertigo.  The hillside was quite steep!
I was sad to let her go. Why name the vehicle?  I don't know.  It's what I've always done.  Plus I love/d what Bea Arthur and Betty White stand/stood for in their lives.  Not only are/were they great actresses, but Bea served in the military as a young person. And Betty White continues to be a champion for animals.  Barb thought she had passed and I thought I was going to have a heart attack.  Betty is a national treasure! She is immortal!

The very tricky Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch was a skulker for us and did not like to pose on the ground for the camera so I had to catch it in flight.   Fish or bird?  You tell me. 
Anyhow, it was so much fun.  And I was a proud driver taking my friends up to the top of the Echo Cliffs searching for these beautiful birds.  I felt like an adult!  I laughed when Gordon spilled black coffee over my place mat.  Having been an owner before of a new vehicle, I laugh at those first "oh no's!"  The first ding, the first spill, the first scratch etc.  At what point, do we let that OCD nature go?  With Bea, it was after a pork green chile incident that leaked out into my seat(and stained it forever!) because my friend didn't cap her tupperware container properly.  And then it happened again when a friend was backing out and rubbed against my car giving it a "cute" little dent.  So now, I'm a little more relaxed with everything.  Just no dents, dings or scratches on Betty for awhile please:)

A nice side-by-side comparison of the two species. They are similar and were tricky to pick apart. 
It was an incredible morning out.  Not only was the landscape gorgeous, but so were the birds!  Rosy-Finches in Arizona are a treat!  The challenging part was picking out the one Gray-crowned in the bunch.  They can look similar together. 

There were 2 large flocks that would rotate in and out of the area we were standing.  I think we got to observe both flocks twice with a 5 minute interval between their visits. I'd move once they flew to a new spot to get different angles of the birds.  

They feed from the Russian Thistle on the hillsides.  But to keep these beautiful birds there for birders to observe, people are continually throwing oilseed sunflower seeds to keep them around a little longer.  These birds love cliffs and as you can imagine, they can make it difficult for birders to get a good view.  So we employ our own tactics that keep them around a little longer.  

What a thrill to see these birds up close!  My first time was also with Gordon during our Sandia Crest journey to New Mexico.  In fact, that's where most people go to see all three species.  While we are in the southern most range for Black Rosy-Finches, they are not commonly seen like this for birders.  There's usually a once-a-year sighting by a couple birders.  However, a Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch is RARE!  Their range is the largest of all the Rosy-Finches but it doesn't dip quite down into AZ. However, they are suspected to enter the state in areas that are difficult to reach for birders. With that said, there are a few historical records including one from 2013 in a remote area of the state. The area we visited was much more accessible!

After we had that amazing observation, we went for the California Condors of Marble Canyon on the Navajo Bridge. I wanted to see the rare wild born California Condor in the area!  There was a Condor volunteer there monitoring the four birds in the canyon.  With his scope, he pointed it in the direction of the wild born bird and I was super excited!  It made me so happy.  I love condors.  Their location is also quite beautiful. And seeing a wild born one on the cliffs and not from a zoo gives me hope. As long as hunters use lead bullets, these birds will have to be monitored for lead poisoning.  Hunting for food is fine, but it's gross to think of lead in your own food.  Why not use copper bullets if you like to kill things for pleasure?  The Condors eat the lead filled carcasses left behind by the hunters.  There are 3 major threats to Condors.  1. Lead poisoning  2. Golden Eagles/Coyotes 3. Telephone Wires

Then, in a random twist for our trek back home, we took a ride to Winslow, Arizona where we had to take it easy.  

The USS Betty White promises many more treks.  Our next trek will take us into California but until then, I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season.  Until next time!