January 30, 2019 Imperial Dam LTVA, California

Sunrise
Sunrise

Same Old, Same Old

Sunrise Over Imperial Dam
Sunrise Over Imperial Dam

Some wonderful sunrises this week as clouds rolled in for a few days. But I am getting bored. One (of many) of the worst parts of having this rotten disease (myeloma) is having to be anchored to a nearby medical facility for my chemo treatments. Before MM, I was able to move around freely and explore the desert in the winter, as in, leave here and check out the birds in Sierra Vista or Portal, then move on to Texas if I had the notion. No more.

Sunrise Over Imperial Dam
Sunrise Over Imperial Dam

The images above were taken on two different mornings as I nursed my morning coffee.

A New Bird Deterrent Besides the Bees

Merlin
Merlin

I was out and set up to shoot some bird images this morning and about fifty Mourning Doves had descended on my feeding grounds when they all suddenly bolted and scattered in all directions. The cause of the commotion was the Merlin pictured above after he made his unsuccessful run through the feeding area. For the next hour, every time a few birds would return he would blast though again scaring everyone off. I gave up after an hour of this and took the shot above before retreating to the motorhome.

Mourning Doves
Mourning Doves

I remember wondering, about a month ago, whether I would ever get any birds in here this year. Now I have about 50 Mourning Doves, 30 or so Gambel’s Quail, and …

Red-winged Blackbirds
Red-winged Blackbirds

… a dozen or so Red-winged Blackbirds showing up every morning. My experience with the hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds that mobbed the feeding station in Salineno, Texas, where I volunteered a few winters ago, made these guys my absolute least favorite avian visitor.

Red-winged Blackbirds
Red-winged Blackbirds
House Finches
House Finches

Have a fair number of House Finches coming in, but nowhere near the number that were here last year.

Gambel's Quail
Gambel’s Quail

And finally, the Gambel’s Quail have graduated to using the platform feeders. Up until now they fed exclusively on the ground, but this one pair has figured out that the food is more plentiful up off the ground. I get a big kick out of watching these guys scurry around and bicker among themselves, and when they are this close it is fascinating to listen to all the constant conversations they have amongst themselves.

February 22, 2015 Five Days at Buenos Aries NWR, Arizona

Grasslands of Buenos Aries NWR
Grasslands of Buenos Aries NWR

Buenos Aries National Wildlife Refuge

Wednesday morning I left Why at 9 AM and drove east on Route 86 to Three Points where I topped off the gas at the intersection of Routes 86 and 286, then drove south on 286 to the Buenos Aries NWR Visitor’s center. Spoke with the volunteers there to find an accessible spot for camping, one where I know I could turn around with my rig, and they directed me to Road # 277 off the Sasabe/Arivaca Road.

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

Buenos Aries NWR campsite
Buenos Aries NWR campsite looking east

Pulled in about 1/4 mile on that road and set up camp around 2PM, all alone out here which is both good and bad. I get a little nervous when completely isolated though I love the solitude. ( This changed a few days later when neighbors arrived and filled the next 5 spots up the road, but since the sites are hundreds of feet apart, privacy was still not an issue ) As you can see from the campsite photos, this place is a major change from sites of the past few months. Wide open spaces, no cacti, fantastic distant views, and lots of grass. Incredibly, once again, I have a very strong Verizon signal here in the middle of nowhere and there obviously is nothing here to interfere with satellite reception.

View out the windshield
View out the windshield

The wide open spaces view across the grasslands to the mountains to the west is impressive and the same goes for the view to the east. Certainly a change of pace from the “ Green Desert “ views of the past few weeks as I am now in the “ semi-desert/ grasslands “ of the NWR. From what I read this entire valley between the two north/south running mountain ranges was all clear grasslands until fire suppression measures allowed all the mesquite trees to establish themselves. Must have been something to see.

Drove the Prius back down to the refuge headquarters and did the Antelope Loop Road, but didn’t see a thing.

Sasabe/Arivaca Road

Open range
Open range

The Sasabe/Arivaca Road is posted with several ” Open Range ” signs and this gal seemed to know she had the right of way. ( Loved the white eyebrows on her ) Fortunately, and also unfortunately, this road, from the intersection with Route 85 through the town of Arivaca, is a  paved road desperately in need of repaving, so I was going slow enough to see her in time to avoid a collision. There are potholes as deep as 10″ everywhere on this stretch of road and if going anywhere near the speed limit, there are so many of them, they can’t be completely avoided. In the motorhome, I had to all but crawl through some sections of this road to avoid losing a tire.

Sasabe, Arizona

Sasabe storefront
Sasabe storefront

Since I was in the area, I drove down to Sasabe, a depressing tiny village on the border, took a few shots of the colorful, rundown buildings.

Sasabe church
Sasabe church
Sasabe doorway
Sasabe doorway

Can’t imagine what it would be like to have the misfortune to be born and raised in a place like this.

A Scouting Trip to Madera Canyon

By the end of the week, being short on supplies, I decided to do a trip up to Green valley and hit the Walmart there, a 100 mile round trip. I haven’t been near a grocery store since leaving Yuma a little over 2 weeks ago. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone and check out Madera Canyon on the way since I would like to spend some time exploring that area, supposed to be quite the place for bird photography.

There are no private campgrounds anywhere near Madera Canyon so I checked out what on Google Earth looked like possible boon docking sites on Proctor Road just at the entrance to the canyon.  I drove down Proctor Road in the Prius and found  2 ( out of 10 ) possible sites I might have been able to get into on this VERY near impassable narrow rough road. No place to turn around a rig with a toad if those 2 sites are occupied. I would definitely not risk going in here with my motorhome. I then drove up to Bog Spring Campground off the road into Madera Canyon. This is a very nice, shaded campground but with sites suitable only for small rigs, also pretty near impossible to ever find an empty site, it being very popular with the locals.

In the hour and a half I spent exploring all the roads, parking lots, and picnic areas in Madera Canyon, not only did I not see any birds, I never even heard a bird! This place is truly beautiful and, at 5000′ elevation under a dense canopy of trees, an incredible change from my desert surroundings of the past several months. But where were the birds! This spot is supposedly a world renown birding location, so I guess I am just here at the wrong time of year. The total lack of anywhere nearby to camp means i will be skipping Madera canyon and continuing on east in Arizona.

Arivaca Cienga Trail

Saturday morning I drove through Arivaca to the Arivaca Cienega Trail parking lot and walked the trail. This is supposed to be a prime birding area because it is a natural wetlands area fed by several springs. Over the course of a couple of hours and a mile and a half of easy walking, I saw a couple of white-crowned sparrows and a probable marsh wren .. that’s it. A local couple told me the water levels were way down this year and they thought this probably could explain the complete absence of birds. It did seem odd that this desert oasis should be so devoid of life, since water is so very scarce in this desert environment.

Camping in the refuge

Since I was out in the Prius, I drove past my campsite and explored a little farther down the dirt road ( #277 ) I am camped on. I am on site #41 and the next four sites heading north ( #40-#37 ) on this road are suitable for big rigs, with sufficient room to turn around. Beyond that, there are many more campsites, but the condition of the road and the campsites deteriorates. I wouldn’t venture farther in than site # 38 in a big rig. There are many campsites scattered all over the refuge, all on back roads, and most difficult to access with a big rig. If coming here I would recommend checking in at the Visitor’s Center and inquiring as to which sites might be accessible for the rig you are using.

Buenos Aries NWR sunset
Buenos Aries NWR sunset

This campsite, being situated on a rise in the valley between mountain ranges to the east and the west, was a great vantage site for desert sunsets, and there were two particularly nice ones while I was here.

Buenos Aries NWR sunset
Buenos Aries NWR sunset

The above shot was a bit of an accident as it was taken when I rested the camera on the roof of the Prius before getting the tripod out of the car. I hadn’t noticed the sunset reflections on the roof and back of the car when I was taking the shot, but thought it actually added something to the image when I was processing it later.

Buenos Aries NWR sunset
Buenos Aries NWR sunset

I really liked the more subtle colors of in the sky to the south of the actual sunset, shown in the image above.

Buenos Aries NWR sunrise
Buenos Aries NWR sunrise

And of course there also were magnificent sunrises..

Final opinion of the refuge

Sunday morning I took one more trip around the Antelope Loop Road in the refuge and once again came up empty. Overall, I would have to say I was quite disappointed in the refuge as a place to spot and photograph wildlife, but was delighted in the campsite here, a very nice place to stay and just enjoy the wide open spaces around you.

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December 24, 2014 A Tough Moving Day

Quartzsite sunrise
Quartzsite sunrise

Quartzsite down to Imperial Dam LTVA

Vapor trails from the many commercial planes headed east toward Phoenix provide a different look at sunrise this morning. These sunrise shots were taken with the rugged mountains of The KOFA NWR providing stark contrast to the colorful morning sky.

Quartzsite sunrise
Quartzsite sunrise

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

Quartzsite sunrise
Quartzsite sunrise

After taking my morning dose of sunrise shots, I started packing things away and getting the motorhome ready to travel. As much as I hate to leave this spot, I must continue south for some even better opportunities at bird photography as well as to check out new places.

Female Costa hummingbird
Female Costa hummingbird

Being ready to go by 9AM, I couldn’t resist the temptation to spend a last hour or so shooting hummers in the morning light before traveling.

Costa's hummingbird
Costa’s hummingbird
Costa's hummingbird
Costa’s hummingbird

This spot has really whetted my appetite for more and better opportunities to work on my hummingbird photography. I have planned to eventually make my way to Sierra Vista this winter where I have had the pleasure of shooting hummingbirds at Beatty’s Orchards in the past, before I had my 600mm lens.

Verdin
Verdin

This little guy, not much bigger than the hummingbirds, made an appearance this morning just as I was getting ready to leave. This is a Verdin, a common bird here in the desert my bird book tells me, and this is a first for me.

 I ‘m Dreaming of a Smoky Christmas

Actually, I’d prefer it weren’t. The trip down Route 95 to the Yuma Proving Grounds and in to the Imperial Dam LTVA ( Long Term Visitor’s Area ) is only 60 or so miles and I figured I only needed a couple of hours to make it down there by noon. About 20 miles north of the Imperial Dam Road I couldn’t help but notice a large plume of black smoke coming from somewhere in the vicinity of where I figured I was headed. It became larger and darker the farther south I drove.

Around 11 AM I turned west off Route 95 and headed in towards the Yuma Proving Grounds and directly into the source of the smoke. This can’t be good! And, sure enough, about 7 miles in from Route 95, with my final destination just 2 miles away, there it is, a patrolman stopping traffic in front of me, his patrol car parked across the road blocking the way into the Imperial Dam LTVA. He tells me this is a “controlled burn ” and they can’t let anyone pass ( the Yuma paper the next day said it was a wildfire ). I explained that I was pulling a Toad and couldn’t just turn around on the 2 lane road and am unable to back up with the Toad  attached. There was a small dirt parking area just across the bridge behind his patrol car where it looked like I might have a chance to make a U-turn if he would allow me to do so. Since there were other vehicles stacking up behind me, he reluctantly decided he would let me give it a try, and I was able, just barely, to make my U-turn and head back the 7 miles to Route 95.

Now I have to ask, why, if it was a controlled burn, would it not have occurred to officials to place a person, or at least a sign, seven miles back at the intersection, so that people wouldn’t have to drive in and be turned around. This road closure wasn’t just a half hour thing, this was an all day and night thing. Why don’t our government officials ever act in a way that least inconveniences citizens instead of figuring out the most inconvenient method to proceed with most of the time.

To add insult to injury, the ” detour “, for me at least, added 50 miles and two hours to my trip, where I was just 2 miles short of my destination, and included driving into the city of Yuma, and battling the last minute rush traffic of late Christmas shoppers in my motorhome with the Prius in tow.

Imperial Dam LTVA

The LTVA is poorly signed and difficult for a first timer to really figure out. Being Christmas Eve, the ” office ” trailer was closed and the Campground Host, when I finally found his spot, was off duty, and the only self pay station, didn’t even mention the concept of an LTVA and had a fee of $20/night, as opposed to $40 for two weeks, or $180 for six months, that are the published rates for the LTVA. So, frustrated, I decided on taking the criminal approach and proceeded on in and found a spot to set up camp, gand will go back to pay the Campground Host at the first opportunity.

My first impressions of this place are a little disappointing, it compares very unfavorably with the last campsite south of Quartzsite, and the thick acrid smoke enveloping the area certainly doesn’t help. But I plan to hang out here a few weeks and explore the area a little before moving on. More on the LTVA in the next post.

December 20, 2014 Quartzsite, Arizona

Female Anna's hummingbird
Female Anna’s hummingbird

Wonderful New Neighbors

Gave the dogs a long needed bath, then packed up and left Shady Lane RV Park around 10 AM and headed south down Route 95 to the 14 day BLM area at Mile Marker 99, drove in about a 1/2 mile and set up camp next to a wash and a group of saguaros.

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

hummingbirds
Welcome visitors

Set out the hummingbird feeder on one of the windshield wipers as soon as I arrived and was all but immediately greeted by several hummingbirds.

Anna's hummingbird
Anna’s hummingbird
Anna's hummingbird
Anna’s hummingbird
Anna's hummingbird
Anna’s hummingbird

I am amazed that out here in this stark desert environment, without a single shrub flowering or any flowers in bloom, that these guys can be thriving as they seem to be. What do they subsist on when there doesn’t appear to be any nectar to gather, other than that from people camping out here and putting out feeders?

Female Anna's hummingbird
Female Anna’s hummingbird
Anna's hummingbird
Anna’s hummingbird

Well, however they survive, I for one am awfully glad they are here, it has been quite a while since I have been able to do some bird photography, and I really enjoy trying to capture these little guys.

Anna's hummingbird
Anna’s hummingbird

These guys were all shot through the front windshield with my 200 – 400mm lens, while I relaxed in my recliner. Thus they aren’t as sharp as I might like and the colors are dimmed and greened by the windshield, so tomorrow I will try and get serious and set up the feeder out in the wash I am parked next to and try and get some good stuff ( hopefully ).

South Quartzsite Sunset
South Quartzsite Sunset
South Quartzsite Sunset
South Quartzsite Sunset
South Quartzsite Sunset
South Quartzsite Sunset

A fairly dramatic sunset this evening as well, I think I am going to like it here!

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