December 30, 2017 Tucson, Arizona

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

A Short Stay in Tucson

Slowly heading east to the Texas coast and then on to Grand Isle, Louisiana, I had originally planned to stay and explore the Tucson area for a week or so while waiting for the strange Texas winter weather to moderate before heading that way. I have never been a big fan of city life, I just have no idea how people put up with the congestion. There seems to be road construction everywhere I went and traffic was just too much for me, so I ended up staying only two days.

Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ
Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ

I managed to find the Snyder Hill BLM area just off Highway 86 that I had read about on some blogs.

Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ
Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ

Not a terribly attractive place, located next to the highway, there are decent gravel interior roads, though getting off the highway into the site proved pretty touchy because of the road construction. There are no facilities here, no dumpster, water, or dump station and the folks camped here proved to be a mixed bag. There are some tenters here ( loud music ), but mostly used by self contained RV’s. Common courtesy, at least during my stay, was a little lacking here. The 5th wheel pictured above ran a light show on the side of his rig and found it necessary to run his generator ALL night.

Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ
Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ

These folks across the way from me were nice enough to shut their generator down around 11 PM.

Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ
Snyder Hill BLM Boondock Area, Tucson, AZ

There are many level spots with a little vegetation around them, but all of the nicer ones were occupied so I ended up setting up along the wide main gravel road within the site, as did most others that arrived after me. The price is right ( free ) but I doubt I would stay here again.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park

I drove north to the west section of Saguaro National Park my first day here and did the East section the next day.

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park

I had visited this area several years ago, but still enjoyed the seeing the dense saguaro forests here.

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park

I managed to handle all the dusty gravel roads in the West section of the park with no problems, the East section has a very nice paved eight mile one way loop road. I was there around noon and though the drive is very interesting, the harsh noontime light made me forget about doing any shooting. Definitely would recommend doing the East section in the early AM or very late afternoon.

Phainopepla
Phainopepla

Not much in the way of birds in either section of the park.

Phainopepla
Phainopepla

I saw several Phainopeplas, but shooting a black bird under brilliant blue skies does not produce great results.

Phainopepla
Phainopepla

Still, I had to take the opportunity since I really haven’t had that many chances at this particular bird.

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

The only other bird that showed itself was the Northern Mockingbird.

Pinal Air Park

Pinal Airpark
Pinal Airpark

Driving east on I-10 just northwest of Tucson, you catch a glimpse of some brightly colored tails of some large aircraft, so I went online and found that what I saw was the Pinal Air Park.

Pinal Airpark
Pinal Airpark

Since it wasn’t that far from Saguaro N.P. ( west ), I drove up to investigate.

Pinal Airpark
Pinal Airpark

Unfortunately, you really can’t see all that much once you are there since the area is fenced and to really appreciate the scale of the place and the size of some of the aircraft there, you would need to be able to get inside. The part of the Air Park nearest the road seems to be a boneyard of older commercial aircraft.

Pinal Airpark
Pinal Airpark

Farther away, you can see some of the newer aircraft stored here.

Sweetwater Wetlands, Tucson

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

I drove up I-10 to visit the Sweetwater Wetlands, within the city of Tucson, to check out the birds there. This is a very nice city park where they treat waste water and have created several vegetation filled holding ponds that attract a great variety of birds. Apparently not that many in December it would seem.

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

But after walking all the two plus miles of level gravel paths throughout the park and not taking a single bird shot, just saw a few sparrows and coots, with a couple ducks in the distance, I did come across the most cooperative wild bobcat I have ever encountered. This animal was obviously very habituated to humans.

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

I almost walked right past it, no more than 15 feet away in the shadows on the side of the path. When I realized what it was, I figured as soon as I stopped and put the camera to my face, it would obviously bolt and disappear in the brush.

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

Well, to my great surprise, that certainly didn’t happen … and I got to take as many shots as I wanted as it went about it’s business watching something on the edge of the water ( though it never did make any attempt to catch whatever it was watching ), then surprising  me by stretching out and relaxing, even doing some grooming, while I stood just 20 feet away.

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

Finally it tired of playing wildlife model for me and slowly walked off …

Sweetwater Bobcat
Sweetwater Bobcat

… disappearing into the brush along the gravel path.

Sky Island Highway

Sky Island Highway
Sky Island Highway

I drove the 29 mile Mount Lemmon Scenic Highway ( Sky Island Highway ) on a warm early afternoon where the temperature at the base of the mountain, on the outskirts of the city, was a balmy 78 degrees.

Sky Island Highway
Sky Island Highway

Arriving at the end of the road, at the appropriately named summit town of Summerhaven, located at an elevation of 8,000 feet, the temperature was a refreshing 55 degrees. As everywhere else I went around Tucson, this place was crammed with traffic, no place to park …. I can’t imagine what it must be like in the summer up here, when getting away from the scorching desert floor heat must bring a lot of the Tucson population up here.

Sky Island Highway
Sky Island Highway

The highway is an interesting drive, with an elevation change of around 6,000 feet over it’s 29 mile distance. Lots of turnoffs with some spectacular vistas over the desert and the city of Tucson.

Sky Island Highway
Sky Island Highway

I particularly enjoyed the hoodoos that tower over the road about two thirds of the way up the mountain. On this day, the distant vistas were a bit obscured by haze.

To return to my campsite from the base of the mountain, I had to travel through about ten miles of congested road through the city to get to I-10. At 2:30 in the afternoon, this ten miles took over an hour to do, untold number of traffic lights, a little road construction, and bumper to bumper traffic made me lose my desire to further explore the Tucson area. Can’t begin to imagine what that traffic would be like in another hour or so when there would be commuter rush hour traffic joining the parade. I simply do not understand how people can handle this sort of stuff on a continual daily basis.

So I will depart Tucson and continue on my way to Texas tomorrow. Watching the unseasonable cold weather in Texas, I will be stopping in Deming, NM for a few days to wait for the cold weather to break, and to arrange a FedEx delivery of my Revlimid to the Deming Walgreens. It looks like the weather will warm up enough to continue east by Thursday, but if not, I will stay put until the danger of ice or snow has passed.

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January 19, 2017 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Male House Finch
Male House Finch

Time Flying By in the Desert

Yesterday I renewed for another two week stay here in the desert, been here a month now and am accomplishing pretty much nothing! Reading a few books, watching the ever increasing number of finches, sparrows, and doves at my feeder, and doing a little painting.

Though there have been a few grey, cloudy days and even a little rain, the weather here just can’t be beat! Every night, for a month now, the temperature drops to around 50 degrees, then warms back up to the high 60’s or low 70’s during the day, a wonderfully moderate range that just suits me to a  ” T “. If I had to design the perfect climate for year round living ( for me, at least ), this last month would be it. Now that we are into the new year, I am aware the temps will slowly start to rise and I will eventually be forced to move on, but for now, this is just paradise for me.

Male White Crowned Sparrow
Male White Crowned Sparrow

I’ve attached a couple of small dead branches to the side of my tray feeder so I can get some closeup shots of the birds that come in to feed. This is a male White Crowned Sparrow, one of probably a dozen or more that visit each day.

Male House Finch
Male House Finch

A male House Finch. if they weren’t so numerous, they would probably be thought of as a particularly handsome and colorful bird. probably a half dozen of these guys showed up at the tray feeder when I first put it out, now there are probably more than forty at the feeder and on the ground beneath it at any one time.

Male House Finch
Male House Finch

It took a week or so for the first doves to show up, a single pair of Eurasian Collared Doves and 4 or 5 Mourning doves. Like the Finches, the Mourning dove numbers have increased daily and now there are a couple dozen feeding on the ground beneath the tray feeder.

Mockingbird Drinking
Mockingbird Drinking

Since I am in the desert, perhaps the most popular item added to the feeder tray is this old tuna can of water. I usually have to fill this at least twice a day.

Harris's Antelope Squirrel
Harris’s Antelope Squirrel
Harris's Antelope Squirrel
Harris’s Antelope Squirrel

In addition to the birds attracted to a free meal, at least four of these Harris’s Antelope Squirrels have shown up to chow down on seeds scattered on the ground. They appear to peacefully coexist with the ground feeding birds and the birds show no sign of wariness, often feeding shoulder to shoulder with these small rodents.

And finally, last week, a small covey of California Quail discovered the seed beneath the feeder. So far they have been very uncooperative photography subjects so I will hopefully post some shots of these comical little birds next post.

Tray Feeder at Sunrise Viewed from Dinette Window
Tray Feeder at Sunrise Viewed from Dinette Window

This is the view from my dinette window where I can keep an eye on the tray feeder and it is through this window that all of the above photos were shot. As I mentioned in the last post, I have found a quiet, fairly isolated spot here at the Imperial Dam LTVA and that is definitely adding to my enjoyment of this really inexpensive spot to while away the winter. In addition to the exquisite weather, this particular spot is blessedly quiet and peaceful, no noisy neighbors, no vehicle traffic, no intrusive lights … hard to believe I could find a spot where I had nothing to complain about.

Adventures in Acrylics

Brown Pelican Acrylic
Brown Pelican Acrylic

I have finally found the inspiration to attempt to resume my painting efforts. Although I had a little success selling watercolors and oils at my art gallery back in New Hampshire, I had only sold one or two small acrylic paintings. I have to admit I just found the medium difficult to handle, thus I would always fall back to doing oils and WC’s.

But with no large, well ventilated art studio now that I am full timing, oils are kind of out of the question and I really want to try and figure out how to handle these very frustrating acrylics.

Truncas Barns and Burros Acrylic
Truncas Barns and Burros Acrylic

So I thought  I might post some ( rather sorry, kind of embarrassing ) progress shots of my venture into acrylics. My reasoning being this might force me to continue working on these paintings rather than give up in frustration as I normally would … and I am getting very frustrated at this point. But if I have a small audience waiting to see a finished painting, my sense of pride will force me to continue on until I achieve some kind of satisfactory result. Hopefully, somewhere down the line, I will get to show you a couple of decent, completed, acrylic paintings.

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December 18, 2013 Falcon Lake, Texas

Full moon over Texas
Full moon over Texas

Another nice day at Falcon State Park in Texas, sunny with temps in the 70’s. Spent a few hours in the morning in my blind at the campsite without a lot of luck. The clouds of blackbirds and grackles descending on the feeders are driving most of the desirable birds away, and my efforts at discouraging them also seem to have a negative impact on the birds I am trying to attract, I may just have to give up.

Eurasian collared dove with white winged dove
Eurasian collared dove with white winged dove
Eurasian collared doves
Eurasian collared doves

 

 

 

 

 

Discouraged, I took a trip over to the Salineno feeding station to see what the action looked like there. While there I had a nice conversation with the volunteer couple and got their help identifying my two small mystery birds. They had a couple of Altimira orioles and an Audubon oriole show up while I was there, along with a ladder backed woodpecker, all birds I had not seen at my site. The problem at this spot is that the action is just too far away for my getting any good images. It is set up as a great spot to sit back and observe the birds fairly close up, maybe with some binos or a small scope, but it just isn’t set up for taking quality images of these small birds.

I feel like I am being watched by a cardinal on my RV mirror
I feel like I am being watched!

Back home while working on the computer, the male cardinal that has been coming to the feeders all week took up a new home on my mirrors and windshield wipers, seemingly very interested in what was going on inside my motorhome.

Northern bobwhite quail
Northern bobwhite quail

Got a quick shot of some northern bobwhites ( quail ) through my window as they were scratching around under my feeder for scattered seeds. These are new birds for me and quite attractive, I guess I will have to delay my departure tomorrow morning ( heading for the beach in Port Aransas ) and see if I can entice them back in here and get some good shots of them from the blind.

 

Mockingbird
Mockingbird
White winged dove
White winged dove
Eurasian collared dove
Eurasian collared dove

 

 

 

 

 

Pyrrhuloxia
Pyrrhuloxia

 

 

 

 

December 10, 2013 Falcon Lake, Texas

Brown thrasher
Brown thrasher

This morning started to show some signs of the overcast skies breaking a little and the forecast called for it to warm up a little, so, seeing that my feeder setup was attracting some attention, I guess today would be a good day to start getting serious about getting some decent bird shots. For the first time on this trip, today I will set up the photo blind!

My bird photo studio
My bird photo studio

 

 

The blind allows me to get closer to these small birds than I otherwise could and also gets me closer to the ground resulting a in a better perspective than when shooting from a standing position, kind of getting down to their level.

 

 

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

 

Pyrrhuloxia
Pyrrhuloxia
Mockingbird
Mockingbird

 

 

 

 

 

Prryhuloxia portrait
Prryhuloxia portrait
Brown thrasher portrait
Brown thrasher portrait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Javelinas
Here comes trouble
Prryhuloxia
Prryhuloxia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green jay
Green jay
Pyrrhuloxia
Pyrrhuloxia
Green jay
Green jay
Prryhuloxia
Prryhuloxia

 

 

 

 

 

Green jay
Green jay
Prryhuloxia female
Prryhuloxia female
Prryhuloxia
Prryhuloxia