Monday, April 1, 2013

Out On A Limb

Sometimes I find myself out in the middle of nowhere searching for a bird.  Of course, there are the wins and the losses known as "dipping" or "finding the target bird".  I've gotten to the point now that I will find what I find and try to get the best observation and documentation that I can while out in the field.
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
The wins are absolutely thrilling.  A strange bird flew into the bushes. It was a sparrow.  Or was it a towhee??  I needed to be sure because the behavior was different.  During this day, both Kathie and myself found ourselves in Box Canyon in the Santa Rita mountains. For this one particular bird, I pished and pished with all my heart.  And the bird came out.  For several minutes, we looked at one another.  It was indeed a sparrow....just not one I had seen before.  Large.  Angular bill.  And an interesting looking crown. And so it would be that I would spot the Rufous-crowned Sparrow. A lifebird.
Black-throated Sparrow
If I find my "target bird" on that outing, everything else for that day is gravy.  Then I begin to play with my photography more on random things like the Black-throated Sparrow.  In Arizona, we have almost every sparrow possible(minus a few) and it's rather exciting and frustrating all at once.  While they can be tricky to ID, they make me a better birder.
Red-tail Hawk with Loggerhead Shrike
Sometimes I(we) dip on the target birds.  And I will get frustrated.  When that happens, I find that taking creative shots from already known birds helps take the edge off of the hunt. We will travel hours into strange places to find those uncommon birds.  During our visit into Box Canyon, Kathie blew out a tire on the dirt road.  What normally would have been a stressful moment turned into a fun practice changing tires.  It felt good changing that tire.  And at the end, no stress involved.
Cooper's Hawk
Back at home, the hawks continue to circle my feeders.  I'm trying to attract Orioles, but not when there are Cooper's flying around!  But still, I do like their visits:)
Savannah Sparrow
And yet another sparrow....the Savannah Sparrow. We've hiked and hiked miles upon miles.  If my Doctor gives me a hard time about exercise, I'm going to give her an ear full:) This passion requires one to be in somewhat good shape.  I've met several people now who love birds but can't get into the difficult/dangerous areas needed to view them.  An older man sat with reflective eyes on a concrete slab and asked if we had seen the Rufous-capped Warbler at Florida Canyon.  He couldn't climb the huge slippery rock to access the upper canyon trail.  I could see that he really really wanted to climb up that slippery rock.  If it hadn't been for his spouse, he may have tried the hike up that slippery rock:)  It's the same one that Kathie fell from. I am reminded to seize the day now because who knows what tomorrow will bring.
I was thrilled that Kathie finally found her Arizona Woodpecker.  Lovely birds, they are.  But even better with a sillouette shot next to the agave stalk.
These trips must be calculated precisely.  We never waste time searching for birds, but why drive all those miles without a plan?  Maybe not having a plan is better, but then again, missing out on some rare birds can be a kicker.
Box Canyon before the blowout
Arizona is full of diverse habitat.  I am sometimes astonished at just how large this state is!  And there are times, I will pause to feel the wind against my face.  Why else hike?  Why else spend money on gas?  Isn't there something bigger out there than birds?  Birds are awesome, but so are the landscapes, wildlife sightings and random lunches/dinners in bizarre diners.
Roosevelt Lake
Finding the target birds within nice camera range can be difficult and not always possible.  In my next post, I'll write about those lifebirds who escaped my camera lens.
Recently, I've made treks to the Grand Canyon to find the nesting CA Condors. 7 miles of hiking! I brought camelbacks for the trek.  I dipped on the Condors, but picked up Red Crossbills, Common Goldeneyes, American Crows, Pygmy Nuthatches and Pinyon Jays.  So one trade is made for another.  Sometimes you are alone.  Sometimes you are with a friend.  And sometimes you spot a friendly rival birder on the road beeping their car at you as they drive off to their next secret destination.  I then wonder, "So what did they see?"  On our time in the mountains of Flagstaff, I'd dip on pictures of the Rough-legged hawk and Evening Grosbeaks!  Drats:)  But I did see some awesome elk up close:) Sometimes, I am much too difficult on myself.  "What are those bird sounds?  Who is that? Stay put!"  My friends have a good time as the views and hikes are great.  Plus they learn something in the process.  Sometimes they wonder where I am taking them, but I always assure them that it's legit.  Plus the game is afoot.  Keep the eyes and ears open for anything that moves! And it becomes a game of exercise for the brain and body.  It's exhausting at times. While I'm with Kathie, I'm the student.  When I'm with photographers/friends, I tend to be the teacher.  No one is left out on a limb.  Together we play, learn and grow.  And thank the bird gods for those Sibley Guides!!!
Loggerhead Shrikes may dart.
European Starling
European Starlings may watch.
But the adventures will continue......


  1. How are you working fulltime (teaching) these days --and still able to do so much birding???? Curious minds are wondering!!!! ha....

    Great choices of photos today... Can't wait to hear more about your Grand Canyon hike/trip....

    What about a blowout????

  2. Warto wydawać pieniądze na paliwo do samochodu, żeby zobaczyć jaka przyroda jest cudowna. Życie dzięki temu jest ciekawsze i piękniejsze. Ty kochasz ptaki i jeździsz tam, gdzie one mogą być i to jest cudowna pasja. Ja dzięki temu mogę zobaczyć je na Twoich ciekawych zdjęciach. Pozdrawiam.
    It is worth spending money on fuel in the car to see what nature is wonderful. Life is thus interesting and beautiful. You love birds and ride wherever they may be, and this is a wonderful passion. I am so that I can see them on your interesting photos. Yours.

  3. just wonderful finds, again. the rufous is beautiful. the squirrel is so cool! and with a buddy, even changing a tire can be fun.

  4. So many greatsolutely shots but I adore the one of the Shriek!

  5. Your series of photos is great Chris!

  6. So many adventures:) That is a cool shot of the darting Shrike! I saw my first Black-throated Sparrow last week; cool bird!

  7. You really do push yourself yet still have fun along the way.

  8. Wonderful pics as always, wonderful adventures!

  9. Your sparrows are amazing. I've only seen one of the two varieties downunder - both imports - but hopefully we'll crack the other one some time this year ... My strategy is to go out without any expectations, that way EVERYTHING is gravy!

  10. Wow, a Grand Canyon hike! Love all your birds Chris, especially the stare down between the Hawk and shrike. I wish I was a good pisher, I am not sure if it even works for me.Happy Birding!

  11. Hola muy chulas las fotos.. Qué bonita es esa ardilla tan gris.. Un cordial saludo..

  12. I love the sound of your Grand Canyon hike! Some great birds and great images on this post Chris.

    I know of pishing, but it's not something we do over here in UK for some reason. Sounds like a technique I out to learn!

  13. The shot of the Red-tailed hawk and the Loggerhead Shrike is wonderful. I wonder if they were daring each other to move on! :-) The Shrike coming straight at the camera is great too! I love seeing all your finds and enjoying the look of the habitat and lay of the land here. It encourages me to get out more and at least TRY...not just to bird, but to embrace Arizona! We went on a drive last Saturday. I posted the wildflower photos but I have to tell you, I had a moment of pure JOY as we drove into an area completely untouched by any human (aside from the dirt road we were on)...pure, pristine and wild. The vistas were astounding, and it almost took my breath away. I can't wait to go back! For someone who has always loved Virginia and Alabama--streams, woodlands and rich foliage--it was a great moment!

  14. Box Canyon was a blast and I was thrilled to show it to you! However, I was glad to have you there to help me change my tire. I know we will have many more birding adventures and one day soon you will be far ahead of me in birding knowledge and bird species seen! I am pleased to be part of your journey! Thanks for being my friend!

    1. Thank you for taking me "under your wing" and encouraging me to push myself. It's great to have a friend to share the experiences with:)

  15. now that is one cool Shrike photo! Definitely looks inbound!

  16. I want to go with you too, even if i will not be shooting the birds. I love the adventure and the other wildlife, flowers and weeds. I like most that silhouette.

  17. I think your life is an adventure Chris :) thank goodness for enthusiasts like you :)

  18. I just commented on Kathie's blog that you and Kathie have the most amazing adventures and then read about them on your blog too. Arizona hold many special treasures including the two of you!

  19. You do have great adventures, love the hawks, too bad about the condors, but there is always a next time.

  20. Dipping out can be a real pain - but if everything went to plan it would be like visiting a zoo. I had a trip yesterday evening when fate went the other way - found about 4 species I was not expected to see and the "rare" one I was looking for - its the opposite of a dip out!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    PS: glad you like my wordy post - out on another sea trip tomorrow!

  21. Glad to know "the adventure continues!" Many great shots here, love the composition and lighting of the Black-throated sparrow and the Arizona woodpecker, and of course your last shot, the open, winding road :)


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