Monday, June 13, 2016

The Wrath of Khanh

Rock Wren
Captain's Log: Stardate 5/23/16.  On a mission to find the elusive Montezuma Quail, Khanh explored the nether regions of Southern Arizona. A wildfire prevented us from going to the Peña Blanca region which has an extremely healthy population of this bird. We had to reroute to other areas near Portal where they were being seen on a regular basis. I gave him homework assignments from within Madera Canyon(where he was staying) as to where they hung out.  I was catching my "zzzzz's"

I plotted coordinates to the old Jasper's Yard(now Bob Rodriguez's place) where a pair were being seen daily. I encountered good friends Mary Jo, Melody and Jackie to help us aide in any recent sightings.  We spoke with Edith.  We spoke with visiting birders.  And we did our best to find this secretive quail. 

Magnificent Hummingbird
But first we headed to Madera Canyon where I heard them calling from a hillside.  Instead, we saw this Magnificent Hummingbird. 

Western Tanager
It wasn't until we reached the George Walker House that we'd get Khan on an active pair foraging in a neighbor's yard. 

Vast and wide expanses of rock and canyons we had traveled for a reliable look at one of the most difficult birds to capture on camera.  

And of course, while we were exploring, we found lots of wonderful birds to keep us going. 

Black-headed Grosbeak
Khanh was intense!  He was so focused on the quails that he almost missed these amazing snakes!  I used to cringe at snakes but I may be changing my mind about them.  For on this trek, I wasn't scared at all.  I was curious.  For the first time, I actually thought they were beautiful.  I didn't jump or scream. I just watched to make sure they crossed the road safely. 

Knobloch's Mountain Kingsnake
It has taken me years to get over my fear of snakes.  And please understand, if one jumped out at me, I would still scream in the most unmanly way possible:)  These two species of snakes are absolutely stunning. 

The Gophersnake was 4 feet long!  It was hard to capture the whole snake in my lens!

While we waited for the Montezuma Quail, we found lots of other thirsty birds needing a drink. 

Curve-billed Thrasher
Patience.  It's all about patience.  

Painted Redstart
Other quail showed up like the Scaled and Gambel's Quail....but no Montezuma.  Of our 3 quail species here, the Montezuma is THE most secretive. 

Female Gambel's Quail

Then we heard a male Montezuma Quail calling.  His call marks his territory but also lets the female know where he is.  Khanh grabbed his camera and secretly followed Jackie to an area of grasses where they were creeping around.  He saw them.  And they saw him.  

Stock photos of Montezuma Quail
And like magic, they disappeared after realizing there were people watching them.  Khanh never did get pictures but I DO know he'll be back one day to capture amazing photos of these birds.  For now, here are the birds he truly focused on for this trip.  Elegant Trogons, Owls and the Montezuma Quail. 

Elegant Trogons are tricky as well, but with patience and timing, these birds are likely to be found

We had a great time searching for birds and I hope we get to do it again someday. 

I see a sequel in the making.  Probably something like, "The Search for Quail"  It would make a great two parter.  For now, I need to sleep forever. Until next time.....


  1. Well you may not have seen the bird you were searching for but your did see a lot of lovely birds indeed.

  2. What amazing photos. Not a fan of snakes either, but getting better about having the non poisonous ones around.

  3. We enjoyed our visit there two weeks ago and thrived in the 110 F temps. We me, not the Swedish wife. I was saddened by all the African bunch grass invading Mount Lemmon. There is no way humanly possible to reverse this damage and people should blame government and scientific ignorance decades ago for deliberately utilizing this grass to shore up all their road cuts as opposed to better engineering and permanent infrastructure.

    On another note, I should have visited that place you are always photographing over there in Tucson, but couldn't remember the name. Beautiful pics as usual

  4. Superb photos Chris and an exciting trip :) Must admit I am not over keen on snakes - they are ok (from a distance!!) but some are very beautiful to look at!

  5. Success!!! And amazingly Trogon photos as well. Such a wonderful variety of birds on this trek, Chris. Marvelous photos! Love the snakes too.


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