Monday, December 8, 2014

From The Darkness We Rise

A first time photo of a Ross's Goose at Las Aventuras.  While I've seen this bird many times, I haven't been within photo range. Note smaller bill sans the "smile" of the similar looking Snow Goose

Days free are spent on the road before the sun rises.  It's really one of the truly peaceful times before dawn breaks.  No waiting, chasing, or wondering if that rare bird will show up. It's just getting there while listening to the radio with my hot cup of coffee. As the sun begins to rise, a man with his crazy obsession for birds begins yet another quest. How will this day shape up?

A ray of light shines hope on our search for the Brown Thrasher
Once I arrive, I scan the dark path ahead. It's enveloped by fog. Rabbits and mice scamper across the trails. No humans anywhere to be seen except near the entrance where old men have decided to meet for coffee.  Warm mist rises from the waters. It's here I stand in the chilly air watching geese bathe.  My first target bird(the Ross's Goose) is revealed. I snap my pics behind a bush as I watch this beautiful bird preen its feathers. Early morning is a precious and finite time period with birds. One can't spend too much time on one bird without risking the dreaded dip on other target birds! Birds will "park" themselves in one spot overnight before taking off the next day. I had to move quickly and find the elusive Brown Thrasher.  Like most thrashers, they are much more visible and vocal during the earlier hours of day. 

Gila Woodpecker
I stand with another birder as we wait.....and wait.....and wait for this bird. It's almost a requirement for this particular bird.  Finally, the bird makes a brief appearance several times and then disappears for good. While not the best views I've had of a Brown Thrasher, I decide to move on. I am able to add it onto my Arizona list. 

The San Pedro River flows!
Another trail.  Another bird. This time, I went looking for a feral Ring-necked Pheasant.  Birders suspect that someone released this bird within the city of Gilbert. For several weeks, this bird has done well in this human created riparian area.  This is definitely not a common bird around Arizona except maybe along the agricultural fields of the Yuma/California border

Anna's Hummingbird
Blackbirds have put on some amazing shows this past week. They always flock in great numbers.  Sometimes a Cooper's Hawk chases them.  Other times it's the Northern Harrier.

Mixed flock of Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds
Hundreds of years ago, people wrote about millions of birds clouding the skies for days! never allowing the sun a chance to shine on the people below.  Can you imagine? 

Yellow-headed Blackbirds at sunset
In Tucson, Yellow-headed Blackbirds will flock in the thousands.  And there's nothing quite like getting caught up in the middle of their microburst.  

Meanwhile, the photographer has to put his camera down for the moment or he fears the risk of losing that brief sighting of a rare bird.  It can be a bit frustrating at times, but he knows that not every bird will pose nicely. 

House Sparrow
Understanding the meaning behind "competitive" birding has been quite the learning experience. It's a huge commitment of time. Artist and photographer have to sometimes take a back seat. Home improvements are put on hold (some of the cleaning may not always get done).  Money goes towards gas and travel instead of clothes and other fancy things.  Evenings are spent planning.  Mornings are early to rise.   

Northern Flicker
But when December 31st arrives, this birder will wake up on January 1st a normal man again. Or so he says....:)

Neotropic Cormorant
So I chase the silly birds, the real birds(the ABA kinds) and everything else in between.  If it has wings, it's game. And between breaks, I stop and take it all in. What an incredible journey!

Domestic variety of Muscovy Duck
So as the month of December continues and the birding gets extremely competitive, I remember several things to keep my sanity. It's all about the friendships, birds and experiences gained.  

Huachuca Canyon
At one point this weekend, we couldn't bird anymore.  The rain began to fall and I stood there smiling. Perfection.  As the darkness takes over, I prepare to rise again.  Each day with a new challenge.  Each day a reminder that life is truly wonderful. 

I've been into doing video clips while on my trips.  Here's the latest creative endeavor from my phone.  Music from the Mockingjay.  The song is called, "The Hanging Tree."  Until next time.....


  1. Lots of birds but the second landscape is a beauty.

  2. You do push yourself so much however in doing so we benefit as your photographs and sightings are wonderful. I loved the video.

  3. What a music score with the yellow headed blackbirds!
    You say it all here "It's all about the friendships, birds and experiences gained."

  4. Hi Chris, another great outing. Congrats on your sightings.. I love the Brown Thrasher.. Beautiful birds and images, enjoy your day!

  5. Great shots of the ray of light and of the Ross's Goose! I really like the effect of the fog in the first photo!

  6. Great video, Chris. Your Northern Flickers are a little different from ours since ours is a Yellow Shafted one instead of the red...

    We have Brown Thrashers at our feeders in Spring/Summer. They are quite common in our area.

    I had never seen a Ross's Goose before. They do look like Snow Geese though, don't they?


  7. A wonderful post... and your images are fantastic.

  8. A great capture, the Yellow-headed Blackbirds are fascinating.

  9. January 1, normal. Why? Time to start a new challenge. Besides we'd all miss your photos and journeys. I learn a lot. Love all those yellow-headed blackbirds on the wire.

    BTW, did you intentionally put word verification on?


  10. Chris, beautifully and artfully photographed and written. You already know I wish I was there! Keep that inner birding fire burning!

  11. What an amazing selection of birds.

  12. That one image just steals the show!!! The one with all the yellow-heads on a wire!.........priceless

  13. A lovely post Chris with some wonderful photos. As always your passion and commitment shine through :)

  14. Wonderful birds and landscapes. I hope you don't wake up too normal. :-)

  15. That music is so hauntingly beautiful, Chris. Loved the video! Loved the photos and narrative too, as always. beautiful shots of the birds....where did you go? Huachuca Canyon? I have been wanting to go on another birding jaunt. It's such a busy time of year...maybe in January! :-) I'd love to see the San Pedro full of water too! :-)

  16. That's a beautiful selection of bird images, Chris, and nicely backed by your sensitive narrative, but it's the first and last 'landscape' images that really capture my imagination.

    Best wishes - - - - Richard

  17. Appreciate that you've been able to take time to share this amazing journey with us. Thank you.

    When we were staying in Port Aransas TX, an old man at one of the places where I birded told me that he remembered as a child seeing so many migrating birds that the sky would be dark (I was ecstatic at the number of birds I was seeing in POrt A and he was, essentially, saying 'this ain't nothing' ;>) I wish we still could.

  18. An enjoyable post as usual! Those Blackbird images are amazing. When you are there and able to hear them as well it must be incredible.

  19. A lot of beautiful and interesting photos.
    A very good video also !

  20. Beautifully written and photographed post. I love that flock of Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

  21. Nice post - I like the woodpecker.

    I'll wake up on the 1st of Jan without any real prospect of getting humming birds on my 2015 list - boo!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  22. Hahaha! My birdo partner Pilchard sees the 1 January as the day to start a new year bird list!!!! I think that's HIS definition of 'normal'!!! Love your photos, as always - so cool to see so many RED hot birds!

  23. Wow! these are really beautiful! The photography just keeps on getting better and better. I enjoyed.

  24. I've never seen steam coming off the water because of the heat. Awesome first shot. Happy Holidays!


Thanks for stopping by!